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  • Echo CS-400

  • Ryobi RY3716

  • Makita XCU03PT1

  • Husqvarna 435e II

  • Ryobi RY40530

Product image of Echo CS-400
Echo CS-400

In a crowded field of quality options, the Echo 400 really stands out. A pro-grade, 40cc chainsaw, it was powerful and heavy-duty enough to cut easily through everything we put in front of it. The 18-inch bar makes tackling large projects so much easier. The power and extra bar size give it a bit more weight than some of the other contenders, but during testing it was still maneuverable enough to trim branches and clear brush out of the way as I moved through the woods.

All of the chainsaws we tested cut up pine firewood easily enough, but it was in our small slice test that the Echo really stood apart. I was cutting 1- to 2-inch slices off of large (14 to 18 inch diameter) sections of a hardwood beech tree, which is the perfect size for cutting boards and tabletops. All of the saws were able to complete this task, but the Echo made it easy, cutting straight and smooth. It pulled itself through even this moderate hardwood without my needing to apply any extra pressure.

I always know that a product is great when I keep coming back to it. Even though cutting down trees wasn’t officially part of the testing, I did have five dead trees that I needed to take down in my backyard, two of them about 16 inches at the base. The Echo was the chainsaw I trusted to get the job down without any hiccups, and it didn’t let me down. This is a saw that will be a workhorse for a moderate to heavy use homeowner for years to come.

Pros

  • Power

  • Guide bar length

  • Ease of use

Cons

  • Price

Product image of Ryobi RY3716
Ryobi RY3716

Easy to start and maintain, this 37cc gas-powered Ryobi chainsaw is a mid-sized workhorse. It is well balanced, not too heavy, and easy to maneuver through branches and brush without getting hung up.

In terms of cutting ability, it made it through all our tests without much trouble. There were a few times it noticeably slowed down through some of the harder woods due to its somewhat lower-powered engine, but it finished everything with some help.

The Ryobi RY3716 also comes standard with a valuable safety feature, particularly for inexperienced users: a tip guard. Tip guards prevent you from being able to cut with the very tip of the blade, which is where the ever-dangerous kickback comes from. If you’re confident and comfortable with safely using the tip of the blade, the tip guard is easily removable.

As one of the lowest priced options that we tested, this Ryobi feels like a quality saw perfect for a low to moderate use homeowner looking to trim branches or brush, or buck some softwood firewood like pine for outdoor burning. If you’re planning on cutting a lot of larger logs or trees, or dealing heavily in hardwoods, this may not be a good choice.

Pros

  • Price

  • Ease of use

Cons

  • Underpowered for heavier use

  • Not supported by a dedicated dealer

Related content

Product image of Makita XCU03PT1
Makita XCU03PT1

With a 14-inch guide bar and 36V of power, the Makita XCU03PTI chainsaw is one of the smaller saws that we tested in either category. This said, it performed well in all of our tests.

It is able to cut through hardwoods of appropriate size, albeit a bit more slowly than some of the others, and has no issue bucking pine firewood. Its low weight makes it easy to maneuver through brush, and it is quiet and comfortable to use. And even at the lower size range, it has the important kickback chain brake.

The Makita XCU03PTI saw has a few unique features. Firstly, it is part of the overall Makita battery system, which means that rather than having one massive battery like the others, the Makita chainsaw holds two 18V batteries. These are the same batteries that Makita’s drills, circular saws, reciprocating saws and other tools use. If you’re already invested in the Makita 18V LXT ecosystem, then this could be a great option, particularly if you’re only looking for lighter-use applications.

The Makita is the only saw we tested that didn’t need a tool to tension or replace its chain and bar. The locking and tightening mechanisms are built right into it, making it easy to do out in the field without worrying about dropping nuts (which I did with a different saw), but the components were made of plastic, and I can definitely imagine them breaking rather easily.

This was the second-most expensive battery saw that we tested, next to the Stihl. If you’re already on the Makita battery ecosystem, then I would seriously consider this saw. If not, there are other electric chainsaws for far less money with equal or more power and bar length.

Pros

  • Lightweight

  • Easy to maneuver

  • Part of the Makita 18V LXT ecosystem

Cons

  • Price

  • Underpowered for some applications

  • Plastic components that can break

Product image of Husqvarna 435e II
Husqvarna 435e II

Husqvarna is one of the most highly recognized chainsaw brands. Unfortunately, Husqvarna’s 435 is the only saw that I had actual problems with.

Out of the box, I simply couldn’t get it to start and stay running. When I was finally able to coax it into running for a few minutes, it didn’t cut consistently. Its chain kept starting and stopping as I was cutting.

Knowing the reputation of the brand, I did a little research and maintenance, and found that adjusting the carburetor got it going. Once I got it running, it ran fine, and performed as well as the other saws in our tests. I had no further complaints while I was actually using it.

Normally, I would say that this was an anomaly—maybe it got knocked out of whack during shipping. However, as it turns out, my father in-law’s Husqvarna does the exact same thing. The carburetor gets out of tune after using it, and he has to adjust it several times per cutting session. In scanning through reviews on the Lowes website, several people mentioned similar issues out of the box.

Despite the reputation of the brand, I’m not sure that this is a saw I would trust.

Pros

  • Cut well once tuned

  • Easy to maneuver

  • Supported by dedicated dealers

Cons

  • Mechanical problems out of the box

  • Some history of issues

Product image of Ryobi RY40530
Ryobi RY40530

The Ryobi RY40530 is one of the smaller saws we tested, and it is priced to reflect that. Like our other small saws, this one performs well within its weight class, completing all of our tasks, even if it took a little bit more time to do so.

To be clear, I would not want to spend all day bucking firewood with this saw, but it’s got plenty of juice to cut up fallen branches or smaller trees.

My disappointment with this saw is the lack of a kickback chain brake in front of the handle, an important safety feature in preventing injuries. Even though this saw has less power, kickback still happened during our testing, and I would have felt much more secure with that chain brake adding a layer of protection.

I do not recommend purchasing a chainsaw without this safety feature.

Pros

  • Price

  • Performs well for its size

Cons

  • Lacks chain brake

  • Underpowered for some applications

Meet the tester

Jean Levasseur

Jean Levasseur

Contributor

Jean Levasseur became a professional writer over a decade-long career in marketing, public relations, and technical writing. After leaving that career to stay home to care for his twin boys, Jean has continued to write in a variety of freelance roles, as well as teaching academic writing at a local university. When he's not reviewing tools or chasing toddlers around the house, he's also an avid fiction writer and a growing woodworker.

See all of Jean Levasseur's reviews

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