Phill has a lot of Makita 18v power tools and as a hobby hedge layer figured the Makita DUC353Z (which uses 2 18v batteries giving a 36v power tool) would be perfect as he already has the batteries and really didn't want another type of batteries
David is a already has Stihl power tool user so decided to add to his kit bag with an MSA 200 C a 36v power tool.
Looking at the Stihl it comes with a 14" bar with a nice small nose which is great for hedge laying as it can get into really small spaces, the chain is also very narrow. The Makita also comes with a 14" bar which is more parallel so the nose is much bigger, the chain is also wider. Both come as "body only" giving you have a choice of battery capacities and charger types.
We decided that for hedge laying the Stihl bar was a better shape because it is able to get into confined spaces, but of course you could swap the bar on the Makita if you wanted to.
Both saws weigh about the same in the real world (i.e. when you fill them oil and batteries), we didn't have some scales handy so this was a bit of a subjective test.
Both saws are very quiet in operation and neither provided noticeably more vibration
The Makita has an annoying "on" button, which must be pressed before it will operate, after about 10 seconds of inaction it has to be repressed, which in practical hedge laying use is just a bit to short so you are forever pressing it, the good news is that it is in easy reach of the trigger so just takes a bit of getting used to. Sensibly neither saw will operate if the chain brake is on.
Looking at the costs (inc. vat)
The tools on test (body only) cost £120 for the makita vs. £255 for the Stihl
For both you then need batteries and chargers
We didn't have a choice for this test, based on what we owned, the Makita was powered by 2 5Ah batteries (2x90Wh = 180Wh) costing about £120, and the Stihl with a single more powerful AP 300 battery (227Wh) at about £157
The Makita DC18RD will charge both 5Ah batteries in 45minutes, along with your phone, and costs about £50 (A cheaper single battery option is available for £30)
The Stihl AL500 will charge the AP 300 in 35minutes for £102, or the more economical Al300 will take 74 minutes and cost £60
Replacement chains are about £13 for each saw, and of course you still need chain oil
Thus the Makita comes in at around £280 for saw, battery and dual charger
The Stihl is £471 for high capacity battery and the slow charger or a whopping £514 if you want the faster charger
In (typical hedge laying) wet weather the Stihl battery box seems designed to collect water (does not even have a drain hole!), on one very wet day last season Marcus Broom turned his saw upside down to empty the rain out, but it was still working, with the Makita batteries sit on the outside of the machine the rain should be less of an issue, but realistically chainsaws will be used in the winter so it would be good to know from the manufacturers that we can use expensive kit outside.
So how long do these tools last before you need to change batteries?
For this test we had to work with what we had, and the Stihl had more juice available
David sponsored a couple of lengths of semi seasoned Chestnut which he cut in the winter. We decided on 4 1/2 to 5 1/2 inch diameter wood and set off cutting disks.
Both saws cut a very impressive pile of coasters and the results were an impressive 123 vs. 186 the Stihl with the larger battery capacity was a clear winner.
Which is best? Well both performed really well with the Stihl able to cut a lot more discs, however the Makita is significantly cheaper and in our test had a lower capacity battery.
In essence if you already own battery kit from either manufacturer you would be happy by adding either saw to your kit bag, which of course would mean you don't need to buy more batteries or chargers. If you have battery range anxiety then just buy some spares.
It would be interesting to test saws from other manufacturers or the higher capacity 6Ah batteries from Makita. we would also like to do a rainy day test, without the risk to our own kit.
Don't forget that you still need a certificate if you plan to operate any chainsaw unless you are on your own land. You can't yet do the training / test using a battery saw!
David Dunk, and Phill Piddell