Brushless String Trimmer Shootout! DeWalt, Toro, Stihl, Troy-Bilt

This article is a review of four of the best cordless string trimmers available right now. The Toro Power Plex, Stihl FSA 90 R, Troy-Bilt C.O.R.E., DeWalt Flex-Volt. I also talk about the new EGO carbon fiber shaft trimmer.

I’ll admit it – I’m one of the people who would love to see all small lawn & garden gas engines disappear. In particular the cheap homeowner string trimmers, blowers, hedge trimmers and even chainsaws.  I’ve owned way to many of them over the years and they have always been notoriously hard to start, noisy and don’t last long. In the last 15 years even if you do find one that is better than most – the engines have been regulated to the point where they have no power for all but basic tasks.  Because of that, I’ve spent the last five years watching the cordless, battery-powered string trimmer market come of age.  As homeowners, we are finally getting quality trimmers, blowers, hedge trimmers and other equipment for our normal suburban lawns that will do the job better than the small gas engines. In my opinion, there are now a few on the market that will tackle any of your tasks and last for years.

Right to left: Stihl, Toro, Troy-Bilt, DeWalt, Husqvarna Gas for comparison.

Right to left: Stihl, Toro, Troy-Bilt, DeWalt, Husqvarna Gas for comparison.

I purchased these brushless trimmers myself. I’m not sponsored by any of the brands so it helps me to stay completely objective in my reviews.

There are well over 75 different cordless string trimmers on the market right now and after reading all the specifications and reviews I purchased 4 models for this article. The models I purchased are the Toro Power Plex, Stihl FSA 90 R, Troy-Bilt C.O.R.E., DeWalt Flex-Volt. All of these are designed to replace your gas trimmer. All use the latest high tech brushless motors to give you the most power and battery efficiency. I’ll keep this article simple and only go over what I like and don’t like about these trimmers.

 

Most of the links in this article will take you to Amazon. My readers and I have been having just the best luck buying cordless string trimmers from Amazon.  If a model is available directly from Amazon or a reputable seller on Amazon I will offer you a buy link. Amazon literally is the best place to buy anything online. The delivery is swift, and if there are any issues with the shipping or the item Amazon takes care of it immediately.  Buy at Amazon

By the way, Just assume that if I send you to a website to “read more and buy” I’ll make a small commission from the sale. (That’s how I make the money to operate this site)

The Best Trimmer Line? I like this trimmer line for all string trimmers:

.080: Oregon 21-380 Gatorline 1-Pound Coil of .080-Inch-by-416-Foot Round String Trimmer Line

If you don’t have a lot of experience using string trimmers or you have weak wrists I suggest buying the round line. I use round line myself.

The trimmer line below is edged and cuts the best but the edges can “catch” and cause your trimmer to stray into areas you don’t want to be trimmed. 

.080: DEWALT DWO1DT802 String Trimmer Line, 225-Feet by 0.080-Inch

.095: Oregon 20-020 Magnum Gatorline Supertwist, .095″, 1 Lb

Number One – Toro PowerPlex Brushless String Trimmer Review

Buy Here: Toro PowerPlex 51482 Brushless 40V  Lithium-Ion 14″ Cordless String Trimmer, 2.5 Ah Battery & Charger Included

Of the 4 trimmers, I bought the Toro is the one I grab the most often.

Toro has been fairly slow to come out with a competitive cordless string trimmer. Why? Because they never jump on the latest trend without spending hundreds of hours researching and testing their prototypes. You can be assured that the item they offer is good, reliable and ready to last you a long, long time.

Toro PowerPlex unboxing

Toro PowerPlex unboxing

The Toro 14 inch brushless is different from the rest. It’s designed for a suburban homeowner who needs a well built, easy to operate, lightweight trimmer. Many homeowners just want a good trimmer that is very easy to use, is lightweight, trims their lawn well and can cut down the occasional 3-foot weed they missed. With the battery, it is less than 9 lbs. They don’t need a 14 lb monster trimmer to go out in the back 40 and knock down an acre of horseweeds.

What I really like about the Toro

  • Extremely efficient brushless motor. The speed is controlled with a trigger just like your older gas powered trimmer so you can trim around delicate areas. This trimmer is very quiet.
  • Lighter than all the other trimmers I handled. The quick adjust handle will let both short and tall people use this trimmer any time. You will not need to use a carry strap for extended use. It is balanced very well with just enough weight in the head so it’s very easy to trim accurately around delicate plants and landscaping.
  • Heavy duty dual line head for efficient cutting. It uses the standard .080 line and can accept the rounded, twisted and edged varieties.  You can wind your own or buy pre-wound spools.
  • Excellent quality. Toro has engineered every part of this trimmer to last.
  • Foldable for transport in your car trunk. The only straight shaft trimmer on the market that easily folds up.
  • At least 45 minutes run time. I can trim my entire one acre landscaped yard twice on one charge. Included T90 battery charges in just an hour.
  • This trimmer is part of a system that includes a 480 CFM 150 MPH leaf blower, 24-inch hedge trimmer, 13-inch single line trimmer, 14-inch chainsaw, and double capacity T180 battery.

The Elephant In The Room: Toro’s Battery Size. 

From Justin: I am concerned about battery life which is my only hesitation the Toro’s low watt-hour T90 battery.

My Answer: The Toro is very efficient and I can get 40 minutes or more of run time out of the T90 battery. Remember you don’t need to leave it running like you do with a gas model when you walk from one area to the next to trim. It also trims very well at half-throttle so the battery can last even longer.

If it takes you longer than that to trim just slap the battery on the charger and have a cup of coffee. You don’t have to charge the lithium battery fully each time you use it. Plus when you are done you can leave the battery on the charger. It won’t hurt the battery at all.

Justin: You know, I hadn’t considered that the unit is not running at all times. You have completely changed my view on what 40 minutes of battery life actually means!

  • So, the T90 battery is great for a string trimmer and hedge trimmer but the T180 (5 AH) is a better choice for the leaf blower and chainsaw. I would like to see a purchase option for the blower and chainsaw with the T180 Battery.

Batteries: DeWalt FlexVolt, Troy-Bilt 40v, Toro Power Plex, Stihl AP300

Easy to use control.

Battery end – Nice and solid

Easy to use trimmer head

Cast Aluminum Motor housing

Folding Trimmer Shaft!

 

Number Two – Stihl FSA 90 R Brushless String Trimmer Review

Buy Here: Stihl Products are only available at your local Stihl Dealer. 

Stihl makes four cordless string trimmers with removable batteries.  In addition, they make two separate battery series. The AK series is designed for homeowners. The AP series is designed for large acreages and commercial operators. The FSA 90 R I choose for this test is the top-of-the-line commercial version. I purchased it with the AP300 battery/charger.

Stihl FS90 R

Why? Because I needed one “standard” to judge all the others by. In addition, I’ve used the commercial gas series Stihl trimmers for years and think I the trimmer head they use is one of the best on the market.

What I really like about the Stihl

  • With the AP100 battery, it weighs just a few ounces more than the Toro PowerPlex.
  • Has many battery options ranging from a 100 WH for homeowners to a huge backpack battery for all-day commercial use.
  • Uses the same commercial trimmer head the gas engine models use. It will last the life of the trimmer and then some.
  • It has a speed limiter dial on the handle. You can dial down the top speed and it will trim your weekly work well and the battery will last all day. Most reviewers don’t get the dial is for economy and/or speed control around delicate plants.
  • Tremendous cutting power. Even when cutting 8-foot prairie grass I could not get this trimmer to slow down. It also does an excellent job of not wrapping around the head when cutting tall grass.
  • This trimmer is part of a system that includes other trimmers, chainsaws, blowers, hedge trimmers and steel-deck walk-behind mowers.

The Trimmer Head

No, this is not a “quick load” head. You will have to read the instructions to load new line on it the first time. Take your time to learn how to load it and it will be easy after that.  BUT! It always works and never acts up. Remember, this head is their commercial head and even in the worst conditions and abuse, it will last.

Here is a video showing you how to load the head. FYI – you don’t need a screwdriver to push in the buttons. The buttons are designed for your thumbs.

What I don’t like about the Stihl

  • Most expensive cordless trimmer on the market.
  • You must go to a local dealer to purchase.
  • There is no suggested pricing online so you don’t know if you are getting a good deal from your local store. Stihl MAKES you shop different dealers to make sure you are getting a fair price.

Speed limiter dial.

 

More cutting power than you expect

Intermission: Is a brushless string trimmer right for you?

Before I discuss the remaining trimmers I want to say: The best brushless string trimmer right now for most people is the Toro Power Plex and the best brushless string trimmer on the market is the Stihl FSA 90 R but it may not be the best trimmer for you. 

If you just need a trimmer for weekly mowing tasks I actually suggest getting a trimmer to match your cordless drill batteries. For about $100-$150 you can get a bare tool DeWalt 20 volt, Ryobi 18 volt, or Milwaukee 18 volt. These are all quality, brushless motor string trimmers and they will do the job well for you. Don’t fall for the hype of having to have a separate high voltage battery for your yard tools. 

Number Three – EGO Power + Carbon Fiber Shaft Trimmer

What about EGO Power+ ? I’m going to go through the EGO in the video below.  EGO gave everyone on YouTube with a thousand subscribers or more a free one over the last three years so the older models have been covered to death. For 2018 they have introduced two completely new lines of trimmers …again… and I just finished this video on the new EGO carbon fiber shaft trimmer.

The EGO is not my first choice for most homeowners but if you want a complete system – walk-behind, trimmer, blower, chainsaw, edger, etc they are worth comparing to the other models in this article. EGO Power at The Home Depot

Number Four – DeWalt Flex-Volt Brushless String Trimmer Review

Buy Here: DEWALT DCST970X1 Flexvolt 60V Max Cordless String Trimmer

DeWalt currently makes 3 string trimmers. a 20-volt MAX, 40 volt commercial and 60 volt. I’ve used all three and I decided the 60 volt Flex-Volt was the one I should buy for this test.

What I really like about the DeWalt Flex-Volt

  • I like that it uses the same batteries as the FlexVolt tools. If you already have the batteries you can save $100 and just buy the bare tool.
  • It has the most power of the three DeWalt string trimmers. More power than the Toro PowerPlex and a little less power than the Stihl FSA 90 R. It has plenty of power to cut down tall weeds.
  • Conventional – dual line head.
  • It’s balanced well. It’s about 4 lbs heavier than the Toro PowerPlex but for most people, you can trim your entire lawn without it getting too tiring to use.
  • The head accepts both .080 and .095
  • This trimmer is part of a system that uses the same Flex-Volt battery for both hand tools and lawn tools. At this time it does NOT include a walk-behind mower.

What I don’t like about the DeWalt Flex-Volt

  • It’s noisy. Dewalt has chosen to use a brushless motor and a gear reducer. The gears are noisy compared to the other brushless trimmers I tested here.
  • The trimmer head works very well but winding new line takes practice. Sticking the line through the holes in the housing can be a pain. I wish it had the drop in slots like the Stihl.
  • All the other brands use a sealed aluminum housing for the motor on the trimmer head. The aluminum dissipates the heat during use, The aluminum design is very rugged and you can use it under any conditions. For some unknown reason, DeWalt decided to use a steel housing and use air vents to cool the motor. Yes, that’s how they make all their hand tools but what made them think that was a good idea on a string trimmer! What??? I know DeWalt uses vents and fans on all their hand tools to cool the motor. But this really doesn’t make sense on a string trimmer. You have to clean air vents on the trimmer head every time you use it and DeWalt also states “Do Not Get the Head Wet!”

Buy Here: DEWALT DCST970X1 Flexvolt 60V Max Cordless String Trimmer

 

Number Five – Troy-Bilt C.O.R.E Brushless String Trimmer Review

Buy Here: Troy-Bilt CORE Trimmer

I am a big fan of the CORE Technology electric motor so when MTD purchased the company a few years ago I was hoping they would take it to the next level and design a complete line of cordless tools around the motor.

C.O.R.E. is an actual technology not just some advertising lingo that sounds good. 

What I like:

  • The battery life is phenomenal. The CORE uses load sensing electronics to keep the trimmer running at an optimum speed. When you are trimming weekly growth it uses very little power but get into the high weeds and it automatically senses the extra load and supplies more current to the motor.
  • It’s heavier than the Toro PowerPlex or Stihl FAS 90 R, but comes with a built-in snap ring for a harness.
  • The trimmer head is built very strong. I’d guess that it’s the toughest residential head on the market. It is an easy load head (more on that later)
  • This trimmer is part of a system that includes a self-propelled steel deck mower, blower, and hedge trimmer.

What I don’t like:

  • I personally didn’t get along with the trimmer head. It’s a quick load head but for some reason, I could not get it wound correctly and I always ended up with a bird’s nest. I don’t see any reviews with the same problem though – maybe it’s just me.
  • With great power – comes greater weight. This trimmer was the heaviest of the bunch but it also has the longest run times and the battery can also power a self-propelled walk-behind motor. No need to buy additional higher capacity batteries for the mower.
  • It’s balanced like a gas trimmer. There is more weight on the rear than on the head. so when you are walking from one landscape bed to another using one hand the head pops up. Although it’s like your gas trimmer it’s not as efficient because you have to push the head down each time you start to use it. Is that really a problem? Maybe it’s just me….

Buy Here:

The trimmer head and I didn’t always get along

DeWalt and Troy-Bilt Core heads

Load sensing panel with the boost button

Troy-Bilt CORE Battery Data

Summary

As expected the entire cordless trimmer market is a mess and full of advertising hype and misinformation.  Many of the reviewers don’t understand the terminology of battery tech so they are mistakenly using max voltage or amps as their deciding factor in which models to promote. It’s not volts or amps – it’s Watt-Hours.

Other reviewers are sponsored by a brand or getting free stuff to review and that is skewing the results.  Here are two articles that explain what is important to know about the batteries. 

Battle of the Batteries

The Best Cordless Lawn Garden Tool Systems – One Battery To Rule Them All.

Lawn & Garden Lithium Ion Battery Comparison Chart

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Lee Hartwig
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Lee Hartwig

i agree 100% with your evaluation of the Troy-Bilt string trimmer. Have issues getting the correct angle to trim the way I like it,Over all good but not great, replaced a Craftsman gas unit. Do like the CORE blower and hedge trimmer though. Powerful, well balanced, no problems

Ryan
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Ryan

Thanks for the comparison. Are there any situations that you would pick the Dewalt over the Toro if I could get them for the same price? Is the Toro limited in power? Do I need to wait on the EGO to see if that is the best?

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