Kobalt 80v Cordless Chainsaw Review – Goodbye Volatile Liquids and Hello Lithium

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Last month, I tried out two of the new line of Kobalt 80 volt MAX cordless lawn tools, the mower and string trimmer. I gave them a serious workout – to coin an old (and politically incorrect) phrase, I “beat them like a rented mule,” and they stood up to all of the abuse that I dished out. This month, I’m taking the 80 volt MAX 18” cordless chainsaw out for a day of work around the farm. How will it stack up against other electric chainsaws, and more importantly, my 18” gas saw?

As I said in my review last month…I am a guy who loves the IDEA of electric yard tools. BUT, after seeing a LOT of underperforming electric lawn equipment in the past, I approach them with a good deal of skepticism. Kobalt was nice enough to provide their new lineup for this review, and the mower and the string trimmer were a really big (and pleasant) surprise. Out of the box, the chainsaw, like the other tools, felt very sturdy. The 80 volt battery, which I have nicknamed the “power brick,” adds some heft to the saw. Like my gas saw, it is just under 14 lbs. The balance is very similar to a traditional chainsaw.

The 80V "power Brick."
The 80V “power Brick.”

Now, this is not a lumberjack chainsaw, but it does do a really good job trimming trees, clearing small saplings, etc. I cut down a couple of sizeable Mulberry trees, and did not feel at all that the saw was underpowered for the job. The battery lasted long enough to get the trees down and cut up. Of course, charging and swapping batteries is not going to be convenient out in the timber or woodlot, but around an acreage or large yard, this is a great saw for occasional use. In terms of performance, it definitely belongs in a class with gas chainsaws, rather than older, wimpier electric models.

The battery placement gives this saw a balance just like a gas saw.
The battery placement gives this saw a balance just like a gas saw.

Swapping batteries may have it’s downside, but getting away from a gas saw certainly has a huge upside as well. For most peeps, owning a gas chainsaw means keeping the gas tank cleaned out between uses, or risk a major butt-pain of getting it started on those rare occasions when you need it. No such problems with the electric model. Slap in a battery and cut. No yanking the pull start, no playing with the choke. I have to admit, I may have heard angels singing when I pushed the electric start button and pulled the trigger!

Another huge upside to this saw is the noise level…which is very, very low. In fact, when you aren’t cutting, it is silent! Amazing! A typical gas chainsaw screams at 110 or 120 decibels. In my highly unscientific evaluation, this saw is about as loud as a household vacuum, which runs at more like 70 decibels.

One VERY important point to remember though – no chainsaw, not even an electric one, works without oiling the chain. At least, not for very long. Although you may not be filling the gas tank, you still need to keep the oiler filled up! Get in the habit of topping off the oiler each time you swap the battery.

Don't forget the chain oil!
Don’t forget the chain oil!

Here are the specs on the saw:
80-Volt Max-Volt Lithium Ion (Li-ion) 18-in Cordless Electric Chainsaw

  • Powered by the industries highest voltage battery to provide ultimate performance
  • High performance brushless motor allows for greater power and motor life Electronic chain brake for added user safety
  • Metal wrap around handle for added durability
  • Auto-oiler with oil view window to help maintain bar and chain life
  • Up to 150 cuts of 4-in x 4-in pressure treated lumber on 1 charge
  • 80V Max 2-amp-hour battery fully charges in 30 minutes
  • 5 year hassle-free guarantee on tool, 3 year hassle-free guarantee on battery and charger
  • Initial no-load voltage, when fully charged, peaks at 80 volts; nominal voltage under typical load is 72 volts

The Kobalt 80v Max Cordless Chainsaw is available at Lowes for around $299.

Buy Now - via Lowes

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About Rich

Rich Dana loves to build things, to tinker on things, and to grow things. After more than a decade as a historic building remodeler in Brooklyn, New York, he and his wife Ericka moved to their back-to-the-land dream home (and fixer-uper nightmare), an 1870s farmhouse on 15 acres in eastern Iowa that they call “Catnip Farm.” For the last 18 years, Rich has specialized in super-efficient historical renovations and solar PV installation. He is working to convert much of the farm into perennial food crops like nut trees and berries, and he helps Ericka out with her heirloom seed project. His latest passion is learning to sew.

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18 thoughts on “Kobalt 80v Cordless Chainsaw Review – Goodbye Volatile Liquids and Hello Lithium”

  1. I’m a big fan of the Kobalt 80 volt tools. I have the blower, chainsaw, hedge trimmer and “weed whacker.” Having said that, the chainsaw is my least favorite for two reasons: it leaks bar oil constantly and throws the chain relatively often. Bottom line for me is that I recommend this line of products but think the chainsaw needs some improvements.

    • I have continually experienced oil leakage with my 3 (2 chain saws and the pruner), with you there. But the chain problem, no. Have you checked the bar for true form, and the chain for tension?

  2. I’m a widow on 5 acres. I bought the 80v Kobalt weedeater….
    Really impressed!
    Going to go back and get the chainsaw and blower!
    I am womanhear me roar. ..haha!

  3. I bought the Kobalt 80V trimmer just yesterday, have used it twice and have been very impressed. One question I have is about why Kobalt warns against using a brush cutter attachment. I would love to add one to my arsenal; any ideas on this matter?

    About the 80V chainsaw; I haven’t read a thing about the chain itself. Is it a standard (perhaps Oregon) chain? How easy is to to remove and/or replace?

    Thanks, and good luck on the 2016 summer season.

    • Standard 18 inch chain, Ron. Swapping out the chain is just like with any other chainsaw, still a bit messy because of the chain oil and crap that gets in there. Oddly, I have two of these saws now, and one of them leaks chain oil just like my Stihls all do. The other one seems to be tighter. One trick I learned with the gas boys is to loosen the top on the chain oil reservoir and then re- tighten before putting the saw away. Pressure seems to play a part here. funny thing is the dealers don’t seem to know anything about that trick. Local dealer kept one of my saws for months trying to solve the problem of leaking chain oil; only this trick has helped. I’ll see if that works with the Kobalts. Finding a puddle of oil in my chainsaw carrying case is a grand pain.

    • the Oregon number is S62. A pack of two at Lowe’s cost about 30 bucks. You have to dig into the instructions for the saw very deeply to find that out. i’m still waiting for the day when the manufacturers figure out that the cost of all that paper for multilingual instructions is not worth it. I respect the need for multiple languages, but for goodness sake’s distribute different pieces of paper, don’t settle me with a great big book with 10 different languages in it.

      • Hey JGH, thanks for the information regarding the chain. Unfortunately it is not the same 18″ chain that I use with my Dolmar chainsaw ~ I have a nice supply of them.

        I am still waiting to hear from someone about using a brush cutter attachment with the Kobalt string trimmer.

        • I have a Honda four stroke trimmer which allows for the use of a brush cutter ( it involves a different harness etc.). While using strings, the very powerful thing will throw rocks and break windows (3 in our restaurant before I realized it). But when I put on the brush cutter blade, it is very easy to bog it down, especially if the blade is not super sharp. I cannot imagine that this electric tool even with its 80V battery will handle such a blade more easily. I would bet the specific reason they’re saying don’t use a brush blade is because of the lack of the safety harness modification etc. That is my theory.

          • Back in the 1990s when I first moved to my current home I used a brush cutter attachment on my gas-powered trimmer (don’t remember the brand) to clear half an acre of level property. Subsequently, I used the brush cutter to cut paths through another wild half acre of hilly land. After that tool died I continued to maintain the paths with a chainsaw, a trimmer and a mower. But that got old after a few years, as have I. That wild area is now impassable.

            So I may just buy a brush cutter attachment for the Kobalt 80V trimmer and give it a try. Putting a saw blade on it rather than a 4-cutting edge blade might be best.

          • I found table saw blades to use with it (had to match up the arbor in the center) , a lot cheaper than what Honda wanted for their blades.

        • I bought the stringer/80 v and then bought the brush cutter, which I adapted with 7 inch saw blade. It works very good in getting vines and small bushes. I also got the pole saw, edger, and tiller. All seem to work fine . Just try not to over load. A real time saver tool.

  4. Wife & I just bought the 80 V chainsaw & the trimmer, I have three steel chainsaws, and it’s nice to get away from all that gas,noise and smoke. Good luck so far after a quick failure that Lowes replaced on the spot. Wife finds the trimmer a bit heavy, but really easy-to-use otherwise. We may well replace our electric lawn mower, which uses a storage battery arrangement, with the Kobalt. But we do love our Honda 190 cc mower–nothing short of a dull blade or running out of gas stops that thing.

  5. Hey Rich:

    Nice review on the Kobalt 80v Max Chainsaw.

    I find much of the same things to be true.

    I sprang the $280 for this saw after a suprise storm knocked down a 60 ft Oak tree in our East Texas ranch, and both my gas saws refused to function due to irritating engine related failures upon the first few cuts !

    (The Makita / Dolmar saw broke it’s pull start cord, the Poulan saw gave me carb trouble….The Kobalt 80v had been like a ‘splinter in my mind’ that came rapidly back to the surface.)

    So, after charging the battery I bit into the 22″ trunk of that Oak (after a week or so of drying out time) and never looked back. The Kobalt eagerly ate it’s way thru the fallen giant slice after slice.

    The only snag or issue was the minimal run time. I could only get 20 minutes in the big wood before ‘lights out’. But I was so impressed with it’s eager buzz saw like attitude, the limited work time was worth it, nonetheless.

    Now, 3 months later, our gas Poulan weedwacker head decided to take a dive – and I have all the optional attachments—-so I realized that if I go get the Kobalt 80v Max String Trimmer, I will also gain another battery to use in the ‘already on hand’ Kobalt Chainsaw.

    So, we grab the Kobalt String Trimmer. My son does most of the weekwacking. I set it up & watch him go….and go….and go…and he comes back saying: “I won’t complain about this task anylonger, this machine is awesome…..its so smooth & quiet that you keep it at high RPM’s longer…..with less fatigue….. so the work finishes faster.”

    When I bought this latest addition to our growing Kobalt 80v tool collection, I noted a ‘clearance deal’ on the Kobalt 80v Max Lawnmower, tagged at $ 249, down from the ‘normal’ $ 379.

    I waited a week, asked the manager if they would take $ 150 as it’s the ‘end of season’ and he, to my surprise, says ‘Sure, why not…..I don’t think these battery powered tools are very good anyhow…..’ (!!!)

    While hurrying to the register to ‘seal the deal’, I schooled him as to my highly favorable experience with the 80v chainsaw & string trimmer & how the 4.8 star reviews for the Mower suggested I had similar satisfaction in store.

    And while we’ve only had the mower for 4 days at this point, and have only tested it on a small patch of grass, it’s features & function all match the same high quality, high performance of the saw & string trimmer.

    Now that rain has broken the drought in East Texas, this late October weekend, a zillion leaves have fallen over our 1.8 acres, and when it dries out in a few days, I will test the Kobalt Leaf Blower.

    In fact, I’m going to Lowes now to get it….they’ve lowered the price to $199, and of course that gets me a new battery & charger, too. (that will make for 3 batteries, plenty of reserve on tap !)

    The cool part is, once I’ve used these all for a full season, just to prove they can fully replace gas tools, I have a bunch of nice gas yard tools to sell on craigslist.

    (The only exception to this goal I have is to aim keep one gas chainsaw – the Makita – just so I have 2 chainsaws always, in case our frequent hurricane storms require emergency tree removal.)

    Rich, great blog you have here, glad to have discovered it while searching out Kobalt 80v reviews.

    Keep up the great work my friend !

    David in East Texas

  6. I love the idea of a good quality battery chain saw but the price is a bit high. Hopefully with more good reviews come more sales and lower prices! Thanks.

    • Hey Rich:

      What you suggested is already happening, it appears.

      Lowes just lowered the price on the Saw & String trimmer by $20 or so, and the Leaf Blower from $249 to $199.

      Frankly, I don’t see Lowes selling the 80v batteries separately in their stores, but the greenworks 80v battery (comparable units sold on Amazon) are $169 each, so assuming Lowe’s price to be similar then getting the Leaf Blower, battery & charger at $199 is a relative steal.

      Then, I will have all 4 major Kobalt 80v tools: Chainsaw, String Trimmer, Mower & Leaf Blower (plus the Trimmer runs any extra attachments if you have them.)

      If you can’t tell, I’m just a bit enthused over switching to these awesome performing units.

      I already have a workshop solar system, so I’m right on the cusp of having all our yard work tools totally powered from renewable solar power.

      I’m no eco nut, but I am tired of having a bunch of old gas & oil cans around and all too frequent trips to the power equipment repair shop !


      David in East Texas

  7. I’ve been quite happy with The Makita 36 Volt Chainsaw; certainly keeps up with trimming trees in our yard; I opted for the 18 volt brushless trimmer for less cost and less weight than the 36 volt model and it also keeps up very well. I am happy to stick with the Makita platform because I have so many of the tools and batteries.

    Getting away from gas is a blessing- just need to convince the neighbors of that.
    I will stick with the manual push reel mower, no gas, good exercise and even quieter than electric.


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