Table of Contents
- Best Top Handle Chainsaw Reviews 2019
- Makita XCU02PT 18V X2 (36V) LXT Lithium-Ion (5.0Ah) Cordless 12″ Chain Saw Kit, Teal – Best Seller
- Husqvarna T435 12-Inch 35.2 cc X-Torq Gas Powered Chain Saw – Top Pick
- DEWALT DCCS620P1 20V MAX Lithium-Ion XR Brushless Compact 12 in. Cordless Chainsaw Kit (5AH) – Best Value
- Tanaka TCS33EDTP/14 32.2cc 14-Inch Top Handle Chain Saw with Pure Fire Engine – Runner Up
- Hitachi CS33EDTP 2-Stroke Gas Powered Top Handle Chain Saw with PureFire Engine, 14-Inch – Also Consider
- Best Top Handle Chainsaw Buying Guide 2019
Best Top Handle Chainsaw Reviews 2019
Whether you are trying to do some work around your house or need the proper tools for a commercial landscaping job, it helps to have a good chainsaw. Of course, there is actually a wide range of different types of chainsaws, and not all of them are suitable for the toughest of tasks. That is why we have put together a list of the 5 best top handle chainsaw reviews of 2019. Then, we also provide a helpful buyer’s guide and FAQ, so you can make an informed decision. The Makita and Husqvarna take our top spots for their respective classes, but you have to keep reading to find out the best value.
Makita XCU02PT 18V X2 (36V) LXT Lithium-Ion (5.0Ah) Cordless 12″ Chain Saw Kit, Teal – Best Seller
- Makita-built motor delivers 1, 650 FPM chain speed for faster cutting
- Two 18V LXT Lithium-Ion batteries (included) deliver power and performance without leaving the 18V LXT platform
- Low NOISE level at only 87 dba) and zero emissions for operator comfort
Our list is full of companies with top tier reputations and histories that stretch back over a century, and Makita falls right in line with that description. Granted, the company actually originated as a manufacturer of electric motors, which is part of the specialty that allowed them to ascend to such a lofty position within the market. Though they are far more well known for their professional-grade power tools, Makita actually has a full lineup of outdoor lawn care equipment too. That said, the company definitely stays within its wheelhouse in this regard and does not really venture out into the gas-powered market as much except for their commercial-grade products. Still, this list is primarily focused on high-end consumer-grade and tweener professional-grade equipment. This is a large part of why the Makita top handle chainsaw we reviewed it an electric model, but unlikely many electric chainsaws, the Makita XCU02PT is still able to reach the best seller position despite its relatively high price point.
The build of a chainsaw is generally not seen as one of the primary considerations when choosing a product due to the fact that most people have a tendency to think of gas-powered options. However, the rise solid electric handle chainsaws definitely force us to consider the components within this particular segment of the market. Thankfully, the Makita climbing chainsaw continues the tradition of high-end electronics that allows Makita to entertain such a respected position within its market. For one, this is the only arborist chainsaw that we reviewed which features a wide variety of failsafes with Makita’s Extreme Protection Technology– something that is especially beneficial for tools that undergo rigorous use like climbing chainsaws. On top of that, the XCU02PT handle chainsaw also uses a brushless motor which significantly extends the lifespan of the product. These features allow the Makita XCU02PT handle chainsaw to perform exceptionally well while still maintaining one of the quietest operation volumes that we found. Altogether, this combines to make a top handle chainsaw that works exceptionally well in municipalities that have more stringent requirements on the types of outdoor lawn care tools that you can use, in both the volume and emissions sphere. Finally, it is a bit surprising for the market in general, but perhaps less so for the best selling option, but the Makita XCU02PT climbing saw is the only option on our list that comes with an electric brake. This may be one of the more overlooked features, especially for those who plan to use their chainsaw up a tree, because it stops the chain from continuing to spin once you release the throttle.
There is no real getting around the fact that in the semi-professional chainsaw market, electric options have a tendency to fall a bit short in comparison to their gas-powered counterparts when it comes to cutting power. Thankfully, Makita is able to put their experience in manufacturing some of the better electric motors to work in order to ensure that the XCU02PT top handle chainsaw can keep up with any consumer-grade option on the market. For instance, the Makita arborist chainsaw has the fastest chain speed we reviewed from an electric climbing chainsaw at 8.3 mps. To be fair, the Makita XCU02PT handle chainsaw is a bit more limited in some respects thanks to its 12” bar, but this does at least make it a bit easier to maneuver when climbing. To further accentuate this ease, the Makita climbing chainsaw employs a number of features which makes adjusting the chainsaw fairly easy which is a veritable necessity if you are trying to use the handle chainsaw while in a tree.
- Is an electric chainsaw
- Has Extreme Protection Technology
- Has a chain speed of 8.3 mps
- Is easy to use
- Has a brushless motor
- Has an electric brake
- Is a more expensive top handle chainsaw
- Only has a 12” bar
Husqvarna T435 12-Inch 35.2 cc X-Torq Gas Powered Chain Saw – Top Pick
- X-Torq Delivers lower fuel consumption and reduced exhaust emission levels in accordance with the world´s most stringent environmental...
- Adjustable oil pump Allows you to control oil flow depending on application and weather conditions
- Chain tensioning from the side Allows quick and convenient chain tensioning
If one were to consider which is the oldest and most experienced chainsaw company on our list, chances are more than a few would guess that it is Husqvarna due in part thanks to their long-standing reputation within the outdoor lawn care equipment market. That said, it is highly unlikely that most people would guess by how much this company outpaces its competitors in terms of its storied history. While many top-rated chainsaw manufacturers have been in existence for around a century, Husqvarna can trace its roots back to the 17th century when they manufactured firearms. To be fair, Husqvarna did not actually start making chainsaws until the late 1950s, but they have quickly ascended to one of the top spots within their field. In fact, it would not be too far out of line to suggest that the Husqvarna T435 is easily the most professional-grade top handle chainsaw on our list. When you consider its capabilities, especially when compared to the other options we reviewed, it is not difficult to see why we rated it our top pick– even if it is not necessarily ideal for all situations.
Out of all the arborist chainsaws we reviewed, none of them can really come close to the kind of power that the Husqvarna T435 top handle chainsaw provides. To be fair, that should not be too terribly surprising given that this is a gas-powered model, though you will definitely have to pay for that power quite literally at the price of this professional-grade model. Still, the 35.2 cc 2-stroke engine is easily the largest engine that we reviewed and can generate a good bit more cutting power than even the other options which are relatively close in size. Part of this has to do with the fact that the Husqvarna climbing chainsaw employs its X-Torq engine which provides a solid amount of cutting torque. In fact, this is actually the only handle chainsaw we reviewed which is confident enough in its cutting power to provide its torque rating of 1.57 nm. That said, the T435 arborist chainsaw is not simply content to rest on cutting power alone, especially considering it is a gas-powered model that requires a fuel and oil mixture. As such, the engine has been designed in such a way as to minimize the emissions released from the engine while also conserving the amount of fuel consumed in its operation. While the fuel-efficient cutting power is nice, it is just as convenient that the Husqvarna climbing chainsaw can adapt to the situation needed. This is actually the only top handle chainsaw we reviewed that allows you to use different cutting bars and can accommodate a list-topping 14” bar for thicker trees and branches.
When you are judging a gas-powered top handle chainsaw, it is important to understand that it will almost inherently be a bit less convenient than an electric model. Whatever you gain is raw performance and cutting power, you have to give up some elements of ease. For instance, this is easily one of the messier options on our list thanks to the need for a fuel and oil mixture. On top of that, this is by far one of the least convenient options we came across thanks to the inability to tighten the chain without the use of a tool. However, the Husqvarna arborist chainsaw is well aware that it is likely to generate significantly more dust and debris in the course of its use and makes it a point to put the air filter in the top-rear of the tool so you have easier access and can change it quickly and easily. On top of that, the T435 climbing chainsaw easily has some of the best vibration dampening features with its LowVib technology making this one of the smoother operating top handle chainsaw that we encountered– especially for a gas-powered model. The Husqvarna T435 handle chainsaw also employs one of the better chain brakes that we saw with an excellent sightline that allows precise awareness of the operation without sacrificing any safety.
- Has a 35.2 cc engine
- Has an X-Torq engine
- Has a quick release air filter
- Has LowVib features
- Has a good chain brake
- Has a 14” bar
- Is the most expensive top handle chainsaw reviewed
- Not the easiest to maintain
DEWALT DCCS620P1 20V MAX Lithium-Ion XR Brushless Compact 12 in. Cordless Chainsaw Kit (5AH) – Best Value
- Low kick back 12" Oregon Bar and chain: for construction and outdoor cutting applications
- HIGH EFFICIENCY BRUSHLESS MOTOR: maximizes run time and motor life
- Tool free chain tensioning and Bar tightening knob: for proper Bar clamping force
DEWALT is one of the more well-known power tool manufacturers on our list, but much like the other electric option we reviewed, is known more for contractor tools than it is outdoor lawn care tools. That said, DEWALT does have the advantage of being a company founded almost a century ago. On top of that, DEWALT actually got its start with circular saws that were used for industrial wood cutting. While this is technically a horizontal integration from chainsaws, this market is one DEWALT has been a part of for nearly as long as the circular saw category. That said, some recent corporate changes have dropped DEWALT a bit in the grand scheme of things, but it also allows them to offer an electric chainsaw at a much cheaper price than the rest we reviewed.
Whenever you look for a cheaper alternative, especially in a tool market, you should expect to give up something in return. While the DEWALT climbing chainsaw is not the most powerful that we reviewed, it is still able to generate a surprising amount of cutting power. For one, the DEWALT top handle chainsaw features a chain speed of 7.7 mps which is second for our electric series. On top of that, the DEWALT also comes equipped with a brushless motor which significantly extends the lifespan of the motor. The motor is also a high-efficiency model which allows for the use of a single battery pack, keeping it lighter than the other electric chainsaw we encountered. While the bar may only be 12” long, it is at least an Oregon anti-kickback bar that is then complemented with an Oregon anti-kickback chain.
As mentioned prior, the DEWALT is the lightest electric chainsaw on our list which will definitely help reduce user fatigue when using it for extended periods of time. However, the DEWALT climbing chainsaw comes with a couple of convenient features, one of which has to be the chain brake. Aside from the fact that it is larger and placed higher than most, it also features some of the best sightlines that we found as well. In terms of continuous maintenance, the DEWALT handle chainsaw also comes with some of the more common features. The automatic oiler ensures that you do not have to worry about the chain as much, though it is also noted for leaking oil, sometimes a great deal. The DEWALT top handle chainsaw also comes with two knobs to tighten down different aspects of the tool. The first, and more familiar, knob is used for toolless chain tensioning, but the second actually allows you to adjust the bar itself, an uncommon feature.
- Is an electric chainsaw
- Is the least expensive top handle chainsaw reviewed
- Has a chain speed of 7.7 mps
- Has a brushless motor
- Is easier to use
- Is the lightest top handle chainsaw reviewed
- Only has a 12” bar
- Will leak oil
Tanaka TCS33EDTP/14 32.2cc 14-Inch Top Handle Chain Saw with Pure Fire Engine – Runner Up
- 14-Inch top handle chain saw with 32.2cc commercial grade pure fire engine to provide a clean, powerful performance with less fuel...
- Half throttle choke with purge primer bulb for easy start and warm up
- Automatic gear-driven oiler and a side access chain tensioning providing quick and convenient chain adjustment
Tanaka is an interesting company because, like another company we reviewed, it actually did not get its start in the tool itself but in the power source instead. However, instead of focusing on electric motors like some others, Tanaka got its start making small engines. That being the case, it should come as little surprise that the Tanaka top handle chainsaw is a gas-powered model. It is also worth noting that though Tanaka is a family-owned company, it is now backed by Metabo, the same company which parents the Hitachi Tools branch as well. Though it may not be one of the more experienced companies on our list, the specialized focus in small engines does grant it a somewhat lower entry.
It really should not come as much of a surprise that a corporation founded on the manufacturing of small engines would also make a decent top handle gas-powered chainsaw. To be clear, this is not to suggest that the Tanaka is suitable for truly commercial-grade work, but it is more than capable to handle consumer-grade projects. This is largely because the Tanaka comes equipped with a 32.2 cc 2-stroke engine that can put out 1.6 hp. This is actually tied with another gas-powered option on our list and is more than enough power for a fair number of projects. This power is only made better with the inclusion of an anti-kickback Oregon chain that is further reinforced with the inclusion of a sprocket-nosed bar, a bar design that provides further protection from kickbacks. Just make sure that you do a thorough inspection of the Tanaka ahead of time as the QC can be a bit iffy.
Arguably the one area where the Tanaka handle chainsaw is not terribly convenient comes with its overall weight which is one of the highest on our list. This will make carrying around the Tanaka arborist chainsaw for long periods of time more tiring than most of the other products we reviewed. Thankfully, the Tanaka climbing chainsaw did at least include an advanced anti-vibration system in its body design to help reduce the development of user fatigue. On top of that, the Tanaka handle chainsaw also comes with some of the nicer maintenance features. For one, this top handle chainsaw has a side-access chain tensioner, but this is further complemented with an automatic oiler.
- Is a less expensive top handle chainsaw
- Has a 14” bar
- Has a 32.2 cc engine
- Has an automatic oiler
- Has 1.6 hp
- Has an advanced anti-vibration system
- The heaviest top handle chainsaw reviewed
- Not the best QC
Hitachi CS33EDTP 2-Stroke Gas Powered Top Handle Chain Saw with PureFire Engine, 14-Inch – Also Consider
- Gas powered 2-stroke top handle chain saw is CARB compliant and ideal for pruning, shaping and hobby work
- 32.2cc, 1.6-horsepower, low emission, purifier engine is commercial grade
- 14-Inch sprocket-nosed bar with Oregon chain
Out of all the companies on our list, Hitachi is likely one of the few that is not known for its power tools, though they have been making power tools for some time. That said, Hitachi is far more well-known as a consumer-grade electronics and business OEM manufacturer. This has a couple of important implications, though it should be noted that the Hitachi Tools brand is actually owned by the Metabo corporation, much like another product on our list. Interestingly enough, these two chainsaws are remarkably similar in some ways, though their flaws are a bit different.
The Hitachi top handle chainsaw is a gas-powered model that features a solid 32.2 cc 2-stroke engine which can generate 1.6 hp. On top of that, it also comes equipped with a solid 14” bar that features a sprocket-nosed design. This is important because it helps the Hitachi arborist chainsaw from kicking back, something that is only complemented with the inclusion of an Oregon chain. It is worth noting that even though the Hitachi handle chainsaw is a gas-powered model, it actually uses a commercial-grade purifier engine. This means that you will not have to worry about using this product in emission restricted areas, though you still may run afoul of noise limitations.
By all appearances, the Hitachi climbing chainsaw offers a solid build, though it is one of the heavier options on our list. This does mean that you are liable to feel a bit more fatigue after extended use, especially if you have to use it in a tree. On the other hand, the Hitachi top handle chainsaw makes it a point to limit this issue a bit with the inclusion of an advanced anti-vibration system. On top of that, the Hitachi arborist chainsaw also features a side-access chain tensioner, so you do not have to worry about spending additional time lugging it around while tensioning the chain. One issue is that you can wear this chainsaw out if you are not careful and treat it like a traditional commercial-grade product.
- Has a 14” bar
- Has a 32.2 cc engine
- Has an advanced anti-vibration system
- Has 1.6 hp
- Has a side-access chain tensioner
- Has a sprocket-nosed bar
- The heaviest top handle chainsaw reviewed
- Not the most durable
Best Top Handle Chainsaw Buying Guide 2019
For top handle chainsaws, the classification of type really comes down to how the tool is powered with the two options being either gas-powered or electric. While some power tools and outdoor lawn care equipment still has a wide chasm, the consumer-grade handle chainsaw market has narrowed considerably in a relatively short time. A big part of this has to do with the fact that manufacturers are figuring out how to better transfer the electric power in a battery from the motor to the actual functioning components. This allows electric climbing chainsaws to often compete with gas-powered chainsaws, though this is definitely a bit limited in terms of market. For instance, there is no commercial-grade chainsaw that is powered by electricity due to the inability to maintain consistent cutting torque.
As mentioned prior, electric and gas-powered arborist chainsaws are generally not equal in terms of their cutting power. While there are a fair number of factors that go into determining how much cutting power a chainsaw has, the biggest factor to consider is the amount of torque the chainsaw can generate. When it comes to gas-powered chainsaws, they generally have the advantage since combustion does not have a “powering down” option. Of course, this can create problems in other areas, especially if the internal gears and other components are not strong enough to withstand the stress placed on them by the combustion. It is fair to note that this generally does not occur in the engine itself and will instead be more of an issue with the drive that actually spins the blade around the bar.
This is often seen as one of the primary factors when it comes to a top handle chainsaw’s cutting performance, and while it does play a major role, it is not always the best measure for the true cutting power. This is because a chainsaw can provide a decent chain speed with no load and suffer a significant drop in cutting power once it actually meets the resistance of wood. That said, chain speed is still a vital spec to use when choosing a climbing chainsaw if for no other reason than it will affect how much resistance the chain has to deal with. Basically, the faster a chain saw’s chain speed, the quicker it can remove the displaced wood chips and sawdust. The build-up of this material can significantly increase the load placed on a chainsaw and ultimately reduce the cutting power.
While we may generally think of maintenance as an activity done before or after the use of a product, chainsaws often require some form of minor maintenance to be done while in use on the spot. The most common and ubiquitous maintenance required for a top handle chainsaw is the application of oil on the chain. This allows the chain to move easily along the bar and helps prevent the chain from getting stuck in the wood being cut. Of course, chainsaws also often have to deal with the chain slipping free from the bar. As such, many manufacturers make realigning the chain a relatively simple measure with the inclusion of a tool-less chain tensioning system.
Which Type to Use?
When it comes to picking between an electric or a gas-powered chainsaw, the decision may not seem as clear cut as first envisioned. For one, both types of chainsaw are fairly maneuverable and both weigh about the same amount. This means that portability and situational uses are rarely going to determine which type you need. To be fair, it is a bit easier to maintain and get started an electric chainsaw when compared to a gas-powered model, because you do not have to worry about a proper fuel mixture for an electric chainsaw. However, the job itself will definitely impact which type of chainsaw is best for your needs.
In this regard, the amount of cutting you have to do and the difficulty of those cuts will weigh heaviest in your decision about which type of chainsaw to get. As already discussed, gas-powered chainsaws have a bit of an advantage when dealing with tough wood compared to electric chainsaws. For this reason, you should likely not turn to an electric chainsaw if you run a commercial lawn care company unless you work in a residential area that has strict requirements of noise levels or emissions. Likewise, if you are looking for a chainsaw to help cut down trees or trim thick branches on your personal property, chances are that you may not need to worry about the hassle of a gas-powered climbing chainsaw.
What Are Good Safety Features?
Despite how inherently dangerous chainsaws may be, they do not always come equipped with the best safety features. One of the best safety features to look for is a clutch brake, though these are actually fairly common. A clutch brake will stop the chain from cutting almost immediately after you release the throttle or trigger of the chainsaw whereas a chainsaw without a clutch brake will continue to spin until inertia slows it down naturally. The other primary safety feature found on almost all chainsaws is the chain brake which is used to prevent the chain from whipping back at you in the event that it breaks. Though pretty much every chainsaw has a chain brake, the most effective ones are those with an opening to provide an eyeline while you work.
What to Look for?
Clearly, when you are buying a top handle chainsaw, you want to make sure that it has the power to handle your jobs. For a gas-powered model, this is generally a bit easier to determine since the engines are often easier to judge. In this instance, you will want to get a gas-powered arborist chainsaw with an engine that is at least 30 cc, larger if you are looking for a model that can handle commercial-grade work. With electric chainsaws, this consideration is a bit trickier, because manufacturers are not terribly open about sharing the specifics of their motor or drive’s capabilities. The voltage will not necessarily help you in this regard, because few electric chainsaws use the lower voltage motors that smaller power tools occasionally do.
One thing to consider is how easy it is to maintain the continuous function of the chainsaw, specifically the oil and chain tension. This is not inherently the most important feature when it comes to how well the chainsaw will cut, but it definitely plays a role in how long it will take to accomplish a job. Granted, some chainsaws are better left to experienced individuals, as their design might provide for solid cutting power but will likewise be better served with good form too.
In the end, there is a wide range of different solutions for large brush, limbs, and trees that need to be trimmed or cut down. If you need significant power in an electric model, the Makita is easily your top option–though it is a tad expensive. On the other hand, if you have professional jobs and need the ripping power of a gas chainsaw, the Husqvarna has got you covered. Of course, sometimes you simply need a solid option that is not too expensive, which is where the DEWALT comes in handy. The Tanaka and Hitachi are remarkably similar, which only makes sense considering they are nearly identical products. However, the Hitachi is more likely to leave the factory floor in better shape than the Tanaka, but the Tanaka has a tendency to last a little bit longer than the Hitachi.