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Best Cordless Weed Eater

By: Carl Laron on April 25, 2017

Cordless weed eaters beef up

Cordless weed whackers bring a lot of positives to the job of trimming grass -- push-button start, no emissions, no engine maintenance and (relatively) quiet operation. Their run time is limited, but the best models can keep going long enough to handle a typical suburban plot. If you need more than that, you can keep a charged spare battery on hand, but for larger properties, a gas-powered string trimmer might be a better choice. Of course, run time isn't an issue with a corded electric string trimmer, but your range is limited by the need to be able to reach an AC outlet with your extension cord. Corded electric weed eaters are lighter and cheaper than cordless models, and those are certainly pluses, but tend not to do as well in reviews -- both expert and user.

Finding a top weed whacker among cordless models was a cinch for this update, as experts and owners have nothing but praise for the Ego ST1501-S (Est. $200). This 15-inch model with a straight shaft is the top-rated cordless electric string trimmer at ConsumerReports.org, and is also named a Best Buy. Despite its light weight, that site's editors note that it's the most powerful battery model they have tested, even able to handle tall grass and weeds, something that's beyond the capabilities of most cordless trimmers. Handling is also well liked.

Other experts agree. At ProToolReviews.com, Clint DeBoer sings the praises of the Ego ST1501-S, describing it as a "Pro's tool for home use." He tests it on his own property over a two week span and is impressed by the power. "There is a substantial amount of torque on this trimmer, and you can feel it as you work—and you can hear it as the motor refuses to bog down," he says.

Handling and ergonomics on the Ego ST1501-S are a plus as well, DeBoer says. Though he longs for an anchor point for a shoulder strap, he notes that the trimmer "felt good in the hands and was easy to both lift and maneuver." Starting is effortless and controls are simple. One small nitpick is that there is a longer "soft start" than he would prefer and that the trimmer takes about a second to get up to full speed, but once it gets there, "cutting power is impressive." Based on DeBoer's testing, Kenny Koehler names it the very best battery powered string trimmer in ProToolReview.com's battery-powered weed eater roundup.

A 56 volt, 2.0 Ah battery and charger are included with the Ego ST1501-S. If you already have other Ego Power+ tools, you can use that battery instead and opt for this weed eater as a bare tool, the Ego ST1500-S (Est. $180). Spare batteries, Ego BA1120 (Est. $130), are also available. You can also find configurations with higher capacity batteries, such as the Ego ST1504-S (Est. $330), which ships with a beefy 5 Ah battery.

Run times will vary with speed and the trimming task, and, of course, with the capacity of the battery. But even with the base 2.0 Ah battery in the ST1501-S, Ego estimates between 25 and 45 minutes and user feedback indicates that that's about right -- many say that they get more than 30 minutes without issue.

Speaking of user feedback, most owners indicate that they like their Ego ST1501-S very much. Though some feedback was originally posted at the Ego site, we see a rating of 4.7 stars based on more than 450 reviews at HomeDepot.com, with 97 percent giving it a recommendation. The biggest complaint is with the bump head -- which allows you to feed out additional line by tapping the cutting head on the ground -- not working reliably. This was an issue with a previous model that most say has been addressed in the current one, though a handful say that they are still not pleased with its operation.

While HomeDepot.com is the primary retailer of Ego power tools, they are available elsewhere as well. Feedback at these retailers is beginning to accumulate, and what's there is similarly positive. At Amazon.com, various configurations of the Ego string trimmer are grouped together, but as a family, they draw a 4.6 star rating based on around 250 reviews.

The Ego trimmer is covered by a limited five-year warranty (three years for the battery and charger) for home use, and one-year for professional use.

The Ryobi RY40220 (Est. $150) is an interesting alternative to the Ego. In expert testing, it proves to be just as adept in trimming, edging and even in handling tall grass as the Ego. In a free article at ConsumerReports.org, Ed Perratore says that in limited testing, it rivaled the power of mid-level gas weed whackers. It's also more versatile -- the line can be set to between 13 inches and 15 inches -- and can accept attachments (including a blower, cultivator and edger) that let it do more than just trim grass. It's less expensive than the Ego, too (though prices can go up quickly if you opt for some of the extra gardening tools), which helps it earn Best Buy honors from ConsumerReports.org.

TheSweethome.com likes it as well, but that's based on value and versatility rather than performance. "This is a solid trimmer, but it can't power through the tall stuff like our main pick," Mahoney says in naming it a runner up.

User satisfaction, while good, is a cut below that of the Ego. While most owners are pleased, we saw far more negative feedback regarding units that failed than with the Ego -- leading to a 4.2 star rating at HomeDepot.com, with 84 percent of the more than 940 weighing in offering it a recommendation. Like the Ego, this weed eater features a straight shaft. It's covered by a five year warranty for residential use, but only 90 days for commercial use.

For even less, the Black & Decker LST420 (Est. $100) gets pretty decent feedback, at least among users that are realistic in their expectations. This trimmer has a relatively narrow clearing path of 12 inches, and just a single trim line, so it's really only suitable for light duty work, and that's borne out in reviews that say that things can be quite a slog when faced with tall grass or weeds. Still, most users are pleased with this straight-shaft model. It earns a 4.4 star rating at Amazon.com based on nearly 1,400 reviews, and a 4.4 star rating at HomeDepot.com based on more than 200 reviews, with 89 percent offering it a recommendation.

Battery run times are modest, just 20 to 25 minutes, owners say, but the trimmer comes with two batteries, so as long as everything is charged up in advance, you still should have sufficient run time to deal with a typical urban or smaller suburban property -- at least one that's not overgrown. The weed eater is part of the Black & Decker 20 volt Max system, so it can accept batteries from other tools in the system, and conversely, its batteries can be used in compatible tools. The LST420 is covered by a two year residential-use only warranty.

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