If, like me, you appreciate a tidy garden, then you will spend quite a bit of time grooming your greenery, and when it comes to keeping your borders in good order, a powered hedge trimmer will make light work of big jobs. The two main trimmer choices are between corded and cordless – the latter was the most common choice back in the day, but with recent improvements in battery power, I wondered what was the best option in 2020.
Cordless hedge trimmers are terrific tools for topiary and garden maintenance. Battery power and charging times have improved greatly so you can get a lot of power from your tools without them being heavy. If you have a large space to cover, cordless hedge trimmers give you the freedom and force to get jobs done in good time.
To prove this point, I played around with some of the more popular trimmers in different genres and spent a bit of time testing them on my topiary. Here’s what I learned.
As with all power tools these days, there are many different factors that you can choose, but with powered hedge trimmers, the key points to consider are:
- Blade Length
- Performance – the number of strokes per minute
- Battery Time
- Charging Time
Unless you’re already into upper body strength training you don’t want to have to swing a great amount of weight around when you’re trimming your hedge. One of the major advantages of cordless trimmers over their petrol powered cousins is their comparatively light weight, and once you’ve spent a few sessions with your new tool, you should have developed minor muscles in all the right places to overcome any major aches and pains.
Arguably the most important part of your tool is the business end – the blade. The longer the blade, the smoother the stroke, however longer blades also have an ergonomic impact, so an amount of precision in your decision is required.
Cordless hedge trimmers generally have two rows of teeth on either side of the central blade, and these move in a scissoring motion, chopping the branches and leaves that get in their way. It is useful to have a brake function on the blades, should they get tangled in some tough twigs, and therefore while you might think that the longest blade is the best, there’s something to be said for a shorter blade with more buzz. Which brings us to…
It’s deft by a thousand cuts – your trimmer needs to make a lot of moves in quick succession to give you the smooth cuts that you want when tackling your topiary. You can expect between 2000 and 3000 cuts per minute on a decent tool, which is nifty but will also take your fingers off quicker than you can say “what’s that flying through the air?”, so remember to read the safety instructions, won’t you?
This is where our cordless chums have taken great leaps. The Lithium-Ion batteries that are standard these days have a good amount of power and can enable your trimmers to run like the wind for a good couple of hours without needing a charge. The smart shopper buys a spare battery when purchasing their product, therein ensuring a power packed afternoon of shrub shaping with the confidence that you won’t have to stop due to lack of juice.
The other aspect to the battery business is the time it takes to recharge and again, improvements in technology have helped tremendously. If you want to geek out about this subject, there’s a great article at Essential Home & Garden that will batter you with battery business. You can reasonably expect to get your battery up to speed within an hour, so if you pick up that extra battery when you make your purchase, you’ll be well equipped!
So with all that in mind, let’s have a look at a few of the most popular cordless hedge trimmers and compare their features to work out which one is your best pick!
The Big Gun: DEWALT DCM563 18v XR Cordless Hedge Trimmer 550mm
DeWalt makes serious tools for serious workers and as a consequence they can come with a serious price tag. But once you start using them, there’s no denying the quality of the construction with these black and yellow beauties.
The DCM563 18v XR is nicely balanced and comfortable to use with front and rear “softgrip” handles meaning that your hands won’t feel too much pressure as you plough through your privet. The 55cm hardened steel blades make short work of most branches, and the battery (which is compatible with other Dewalt tools in the same 18V XR range) will last for just over an hour before needing a charge. Make sure to get the 5ah (amp hour) battery to get the maximum charge.
Given the amount of power you get from the DCM563 18v XR, that length of time is sufficient to get a lot done, and this machine will slice through beefy brambles without too much effort. It’s times like those, when you’ve tamed that horrendous hawthorn, that you appreciate the extra money you’ve spent on the DeWalt – you just know it won’t let you down.
However, if price is a consideration, it’s worth noting that there are other options that might be a better fit, particularly if your topiary is relatively tame and you’re not looking to tackle thicker thickets. Equally, if you have the budget and you need some serious pruning power, you might consider a petrol powered alternative (although I prefer the less fossil fuel powered option if I’m honest!)
- High quality construction
- Interchangeable battery with other tools in the range
- Powerful engine
- Not the cheapest brand
- Slightly awkward safety switch configuration
The Lightweight Choice: Bosch Cordless Hedge Trimmer AHS 50-20
If you don’t want too much strain in your strimming you might like the Bosch AHS 50-20. It weighs a mere 2.5kg which is a breeze to work with when you’re using both hands – yes, you can use it with one hand but SAFETY FIRST dangit! The battery is fairly small at only 2.5Ah and it takes an hour to recharge, so you’ll only want to focus on small jobs, unless you want to invest in more batteries. However, their batteries are also compatible with other tools in their 18V system, so if you like a bit of Bosch, this might be a nice choice.
It has a smaller blade than the DeWalt, at only 50cm, so you won’t cover a huge area quickly with it, but maybe that’s okay. It’s more of a precision trimmer, to keep things in shape and take advantage of the lightweight for shaping ball topiary and other forms. It’s ideal for that as you can really switch it around and attack some unusual angles without paying a painful price.
The AHS 50-20 can deliver 2600 strokes per minute which is a good speed, but it struggles against medium thickness branches, so while it might be great for beating your boxwood into shape, it might struggle to get to grips with griselinia. Given its propensity for sticking on thicker pieces, there’s a smart anti-blocking system that does this quick reverse action on the strokes, as though it’s having a different attack on the branch. It all happens in the blink of an eye, and assuming you’ve not gone for anything too substantial – no thicker than 25mm according to their manual – the trimmer should sort itself out.
All in all, the Bosch isn’t a bad trimmer for the light jobs. If you want to keep nicely formed shapes in order, and you don’t expect to spend hours doing it, this might just see you right.
- Interchangeable battery with other Bosch tools
- Battery life could be better
- Blade length doesn’t support big jobs
The Pole Trimmer: Ryobi ONE+ 18V OPT1845
Pole trimmers seem awkward, but once you’ve got used to them, they can be a great tool for managing privacy hedges and reaching those awkward parts without you needing to get your ladder out. Thanks to an attachable pole, the Ryobi has a total reach of just under 3m which gives you a lot of range (and you’re unlikely to want your hedges to grow much bigger than that in most cases).
The blade head can be set to four different positions which was a real advantage when trimming the tops of tall plants, as I was able to create a pretty flat appearance despite not being able to see the top myself. The two cutting edges made it easy enough to run back and forth to slowly lower the overall height, and although this machine is a bit heavier than the average at around 5kg it didn’t feel unstable.
One advantage of a pole trimmer is the way in which you can make big sweeps to get an even surface on your hedges. The 45 cm blade length is smaller than the DeWalt, and the stroke speed is comparatively slow at 1350 rpm, but you can really get a nice swinging action using the pole in big arcs with minimal wobble – it’s hard to explain but there’s a certain grace that comes from using this bigger tool.
Once again, the OPT1845 uses an interchangeable battery system called ONE+ that encourages you to stick with Ryobi. They have a wide range of tools that are compatible with the same battery, but they also put a premium on the battery price as well, so you can choose to get the Pole Trimmer as a “naked” tool or buy it with the battery for a higher price.
- Long reach
- Good for large areas
- Not the fastest or lightest
- Awkward for smaller jobs
The Low Cost Option: VonHaus Cordless Hedge Trimmer
Despite the improvements in cordless technology, one of the biggest issues with all of these trimmers is their price. The strategically sensible decision for companies to offer “one battery to fit them all” solutions limits your flexibility in choosing different tools from different brands, unless you want to spend a small fortune on the batteries.
With that in mind, I’m recommending the onHaus trimmer as it is one of the few products on the market that comes with battery and charger and is less than £80. I admit, I was uncertain what would be sacrificed to keep the costs down, but I was pleasantly surprised.
The onHaus isn’t the fastest, or the lightest, and the battery doesn’t last the longest. But it is one of the cheapest and for the comparative value, you get a good machine that will quite happily achieve most small to medium jobs without a fuss.
A 45cm blade combined with 1400rpm is enough to cover a fair amount of surface and at 2.5kg it is not to heavy. I wasn’t that enamoured with the handle setup, but the time spent with the Bosch had established a standard in that respect. That said, it was easy to grip and didn’t cause me any major discomfort.
- Good value
- Comes with battery and charger as standard
- Performance is about a 7 out of 10 on all fronts
Cordless Hedge Trimmers – The Verdict:
The choice of cordless hedge trimmer these days is not an easy one, and budget will underpin the decisions you make. If you are starting out and don’t want to spend a lot on equipment straight away, my budget hedge trimming guide has all the answers.
If you can afford it and need to cover all your bases, the Bosch and the Ryobi combined will give you all the options needed as they can handle tall hedges and intricate spaces. However if you only need a trimmer for small topiary and simple trimming, then the Bosch by itself is a good choice.
As mentioned in my previous post about hedge trimmers, I still favour the Makita DUH523 Cordless Hedge Trimmer as a good all round workhorse, but it’s heavier and more expensive than the Bosch. However it will tackle all of the major jobs with confidence, and is significantly cheaper than the DeWalt, hence my choice. But in the spirit of enlightenment, I’ve given you a selection of winners in specific genres, so you can pick the product that is most suitable for shaping your shrubs.
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