There comes a time when only a chainsaw can 'cut it' in your garden. For tree-felling there's no other (sensible) option and unenviable tasks such as the heavyweight taming of hawthorn become a breeze when there's sufficient power at play.

Likewise more mundane tasks such as chopping logs or even trimming and shaping trees become a boon with the right tool on the job.

And today's chainsaws aren't necessarily the dangerous, petrol-swilling, limb-threatening beasts of old. While there's still plenty of cordless petrol power to 'enjoy', today's electric saws are lighter, more manageable and priced keenly enough to consider adding one to your arsenal.

And they come in multiple distinct flavours depending on the job in hand.

A selection of garden loppers on a white background

Choosing a chainsaw – petrol versus electric

Firstly there's your choice of power source. Petrol chainsaws deliver maximum power and lifespan so larger cutters still like to run on gas. They are however heavy, noisy and not exactly environmentally sound.

Electric chainsaws are by and large smaller, less powerful but much lighter and easier to use. They come in corded and uncorded varieties with corded usually being cheaper by avoiding the need for battery tech. So if you need all day running time and have access to a three pin plug, go for corded.

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Your biggest consideration in picking a chainsaw is the length of the blade. The bigger the blade the broader the branch it can cut. Watch out also for caps at the end of the blade. A capped blade – with a piece of metal over the sharp tips of the blade at its furthest extremity – is – in theory – safter than an uncapped one, elminating the possiblity of 'kickback' as the blade bites in jumps in the hands of the user. However a 'tip' or 'cap' on the blade means that you can't push into larger pieces of wood and thereby limits the depth of possible cuts.

With a capped blade you can't – for example – cut halfway through a wider log then attack it from the other side to meet in the middle. The upside is that it is much harder to do yourself or someone else a mischief if you were to mis-handle it…

Chainsaws versus chainpoles

A Bosch chainpole in use

Do consider chainpoles too. Chainpoles magically bring together the power of a chainsaw (albeit slightly miniaturised) with an extendable 'pruner'-type pole. Just the job for taking out branches from unruly trees without resorting to leaving the ground.

Some even offer the best of all worlds being detachable from the pole for close-up work and re-attachable when you need the reach.

Here's our pick of what's out there.

Makita UC3541A/2

Makita chainsaw

This Makita is a good balance of weight, noise, power and price. It's corded so there's no batteries or chargers to pay for and with a 35cm blade it's certainly up the most heavyweight gardening jobs such as chopping logs or felling small trees and bushes.

There's hand guards for protection and the chain is self-oiling and easy to remove without additional tools when you need to sharpen it up. And with 1800W of power it'll soon slice through whatever you throw at it.

Ryobi RCS1935B

Ryobi chainsaw

If you need a little more power then this 1900W Ryobi model delivers with just a little increase in weight (at 5.1kg). More wattage gives a faster chain rotation so you'll be through those branches that little bit faster.

With a 356mm (14") blade it's ready for most average gardening jobs and with a chain provided by chainsaw pros Oregon it's build to last with a reputation for quality behind it. Ryobi – home of the ONE+ battery system – hardly being slouches in this respect either.

This model is a corded unit which gives run-all-day power at the expense of a little portability but which allows it to deliver all you need at a keen price.

Bosch UniversalChain 18

Bosch chainsaw

This completely cordless, battery-powered Bosch unit uses their 18v battery system which is consistent across their entire powertools range. As a battery unit it's a little smaller than a corded unit with a 20cm blade but that makes it an ideal 'pruning' chainsaw being exceptionally lightweight at 3kg and easy to wield dual-handed.

It features an Oregon chain and the blade is capped with a tip for extra saftey – which reduces that maximum branch-cutting a little further – but you're guaranteed no jamming or kickbacks.

And the small, lightweight 'Power For All' Bosch battery (and charger, supplied) is good for an impressive 450 cuts, the manufacturers claim.

Husqvarna HUSQ120-14 120 II

Husqvarna chainsaw

Husqvarna specialise in hard-wearing professional kit and this model pulls off the double act of carrying all their build and power (being petrol powered) with more than a nod towards the real world actual needs of most gardeners.

It's easy to start and maintain while being powerful, portable and potent enough to get the job done without being too unwieldy. It has a 14" blade (that's 356mm) and weighs just 4.8Kg – impressive for a petrol machine and lighter than some electrics.

Stihl MSA 120

Stihl chainsaw

Stihl are famous for their petrol-powered gardening hardware that's often seen in the hands of pros with large gardens to keep in check. Their MSA however builds on their know-how when it comes to cutting, but teams it with battery power.

The result is a saw with admirable power (and a 30cm cutting blade) but which weighs just 2.5Kg. A Stihl battery and charger – which works in their other electric-powered battery products – is included in the pack.

Bosch Universal Chain Pole Cordless Chainsaw

Bosch chainpole

When you need something a little more powerful than a simple trimmer then reach for a powered chainpole (aka pole saw). Rather than featuring reciprocating horizontal cutters, a pole saw features a single continuous chain blade making it far more adept at cutting through tougher obstacles and branches.

This simple, light and easy-to-use chainpole is the tool that you didn't know you needed until you used it! If you've ever spent a day up a wobbly ladder armed with a handsaw trying to return shape to an apple tree or hacking back wilderness then Bosch's chainpole is the antidote to days of sweat and tears.

Its capped blade can be safely operated at heights of up to 2.6m thanks to its extendable pole.

The Bosch 'Power For All' system is so ubiquitous that this pack is available in two forms – with or without a battery and charger – so if you already own a Bosch powertool or CityMower, for example, then there's no need to spend more on another battery and charger.

Black + Decker PS7525-GB Corded Pole Saw

Black + Decker Polesaw

What we have here is one of the most enduring brands giving us their take on a good old fashioned chainsaw, albeit electrically powered and with the saw element at the end of a long, adjustable pole. If you’re undertaking some major pruning – such as keeping holly trees, laurel and verdant bushes in check – then this is just the job for reaching and cutting through those big and hard to reach branches.

The saw can be switched on and off from the trigger on the pole section, which is 2.44m in length and – thanks to being mains powered – there's no battery system to invest in so that all-in-one, all-you-need price is kept low.

Einhell 4501720 GH-EC 2040 2000W Electric Chainsaw

Einhell chainsaw

If you've only an occasional chainsaw job to take on (or are simply looking for something that's keenly priced and powerful) then this Einhell packs a combination of wired 2000W power and a 40cm uncapped blade allowing you to attack larger garden jobs.

Powerful and capable enough to fell small trees it features a popular Oregon rail and automatic kickback protection for extra safety.

Hyundai petrol 20 inch chainsaw

Hyundai chainsaw

Need even more cutting power and an even longer blade? This well-priced petrol option from Hyundai delivers the no-frills power you need.

With a 50.8cm (20") blade and powerful 2700W, 62cc engine it still manages to weigh in at 6.8Kg – no small feat for the largest chainsaw in our selection.

On top of its pure cutting power there's an anti-kickback safety brake, automatic chain lubrication and an anti-vibration system that makes it more comfortable to use for sustained periods of time. And, being petrol powered, there's no batteries to charge or cables to cut through.


Daniel GriffithsDigital Editor

Daniel Griffiths is a veteran journalist who has worked on some of the biggest home and entertainment brands in the world. He is a serial house-renovator and home improvement expert, taking on everything from interior design and DIY to landscape gardening and garden design.