80 Volt Cordless. Let that sink on for just a minute. Not EIGHT… EIGHTY.. I know what you are thinking. “HOLY Schnikes! That’s a BIG battery!!” Yes, the folks at Kobalt did not mess around when they came out with a follow up to their popular line of 40 Volt lawn tools. The new 80 volt Max lineup includes a 21” mower, a straight shaft string trimmer, leaf blower and 18” chainsaw. Yes, an 80 volt CHAINSAW! In case you can’t already tell, I’m excited to roll these babies out and give them a whirl! I’ll cover the mower and string trimmer in this column, and the chainsaw and leaf blower in upcoming installments.
Kobalt 80v Mower
Before I start, full disclosure: I am a guy who loves the IDEA of electric lawn tools, but after a parade of pitifully under-performing, complete and utter disappointments in the past, I come to this review with a good deal of skepticism. I know that these tools will most likely perform relatively well out of the box, but what about in the long term? Before unpacking the first tool, I hit the interwebs in search of some back-story.
Of course, there was no long-term data on the new 80V Max lineup, so I went out and dug up some info on the 40 volt models. There are a couple of reviews of the 40V tools on youtube from over a year ago, and luckily Youtube reviewer Pete Deichmann has posted one-month and one-year updates to his initial video. It sounds like he is feeling really good about his Kobalt 40V Max lawnmower. That’s encouraging! Let’s see what the 80V model can do!
I decided to give the 21” mower a straight-up workout right out of the box. We live on a farm, not on a nice suburban lot, and we have had A LOT of rain lately. I took the mower out to have a go at a damp, tall lawn.
The first thing I noticed was the height adjustment. One lever adjusts all four wheels! What a concept! AND, it was smooth and easy to adjust, unlike my gas mowers. I hit it hard, and set it at “2,” with the mulch bag installed. This would choke my gas mowers, for sure, and I wondered if I would kill the Kobalt on it’s first time out. Let’s see!
The first thing that freaked me out was the “power” button. It has a soft switch with the electronic “power” symbol on it. It hums to life like a jet turbine revving up. Digging into the tall, damp grass, the Kobalt automatically picked up speed to match the load. Impressive! The batteries lasted about 20 minutes a piece under these brutal conditions. Luckily, the mower comes with two batteries, and recharge time is between 20-30 minutes. I ran through 5 cycles, with no drop off in performance. I have used it several more times under less rugged circumstances, and the batteries can last considerably longer, depending on the conditions. It comes with a detachable bag and side discharge, which gives you all of the mulching and non-mulching options you might want.
I have got to say that I LOVE this Kobalt mower. Everything about it appears to be well thought out and well engineered. The fit and finish is top notch, using steel in all of the places you want to see steel, while managing to keep the entire tool relatively light. There is no wrestling involved with this mower. It pushes and pulls lightly and it is extremely well balanced. I was really impressed that it handled our lumpy farmhouse lawn like a champ, and would have no trouble recommending it to folks with lawns of all sizes.
Kobalt 80v Trimmer
But wait, there’s more! Lowe’s house brand, Kobalt, has more to offer in the 80V Max line. The next tool to undergo major abuse around the farm was the straight shaft string trimmer. Like the mower, the string trimmer features the easy push-button electronic start. This time, rather than a variable speed drive like the mower, it features two operating speeds. The low speed is perfectly adequate for trimming and edging the lawn. For tougher weeds and grass, the higher speed proves as effective as any comparable gas trimmer. The lower speed drastically increases battery life, but even on the high setting, the trimmer held charge long enough to get most typical yard jobs done.
It also has an adjustable cutting path, which allows you to cut a swath either 14” or 16” wide, again, depending on how big the job is, and how long you want the battery to last. It also has a standard universal adapter to accept any of your existing gas trimmer attachments. The recommended string size is .80, and it comes loaded with the green, twisted heavy duty line.
Unlike the mower, you are actually carrying the battery with the string trimmer and the weight of the battery became noticeable. Still, it actually feels a little lighter than comparable gas trimmers, and the tool is well balanced, although for me, it took some getting used to. I think for big jobs, I would want to use a harness to carry some of the weight on my shoulders, and it does include a loop for attaching a strap.
My favorite feature of this tool is the noise level… I was able to run the 80v Trimmer while listening to a standard pair of Skull Candy ear buds, rather than my usual noise-canceling headphones. There is simply no comparison when it comes to the sound. There is no need to listen to that screaming gas trimmer any more!
As I said early on, time will tell the story of the durability of the batteries long-term, but I’m thinking that for the average homeowner, these Kobalt 80v Max tools are going to be a real benefit. No hard starting, no engine tune ups, no storing gas in the garage… just a hassle-free mowing and trimming experience!
The Kobalt 80v Cordless Mower runs about $500 from your local or online Lowes:
The Kobalt 80v Cordless Trimmer (tool only) runs about $169 from your local or online Lowes:
Cordless Trimmer (with battery and charger) about $249 from Lowes: