In this review we will take a look at the Makita 18V X2 36V LXT Brushless Cordless 14 Inch Chain Saw XCU03PT. This is the third in a series of Makita X2 OPE reviews that started with the X2 string trimmer XRU09PT and X2 Brushless Blower XBU02Z.
Makita is no stranger to outdoor power equipment with extensive coverage in gasoline, electric and battery powered lawn tools. Battery powered OPE has been very popular in recent years and this trend will continue to grow as users move away from gas powered units to battery powered units. Earlier battery powered OPE from several years ago were low on power and runtime but with many improvements in battery capacity and brushless motors many battery powered tools can now compete head to head with gasoline tools. Makita also pioneered the use of using two battery packs together to double voltage with their X2 line which gives 18V users the opportunity to tap into 36 volt performance. Yes all Makita X2 power tools are actually 36 volt machines but while giving you the flexibility of using their popular 18V batteries. This means users can get more performance without having to switch to a different battery platform. As with all Makita X2 power tools, even though they are actually 36 volt tools, they are still part of the 18 volt family since they use 18V batteries but two at a time to achieve the extra performance.
Battery Powered OPE Pros and Cons
What’s great about battery powered OPE (from any brand) is that unlike gasoline engine equipment you don’t need to buy and refill gasoline, you don’t have to mix oil, no tune ups, no fumes, no priming and no pulling strings. Battery powered tools are ready to go at all times with a freshly charged battery, they have push button starting and are generally quieter than their gasoline engine counterparts. The downsides of battery powered tools are that they are generally more expensive than gas powered tools however their prices have come down a lot over the years and are more affordable than ever. Replacement batteries can be expensive but they have long lifespans. When a battery runs out of juice it means the work is over even if the job is not done until the battery charges fully again however you can continue working if you have extra batteries on hand.
Makita was kind enough to provide the X2 Brushless String Trimmer XRU09, X2 Brushless Blower XBU02Z, and X2 Brushless 14″ Chainsaw XCU03PT at no cost for review. However as with all my reviews, I am not paid, sponsored, or obligated to give a positive review. This review is my opinion of the product based on my usage and knowledge and my review will reflect what I like and dislike about the product. I will do my best to provide you with an unbiased review.
Features and Specs:
Before we get into the performance section of this review, lets first take a look at the Makita XCU03PT 18V X2 36V LXT Brushless Cordless 14 Inch Chain Saw’s features and specifications list as well as my opinion on them.
- Makita-built Outer Rotor BL™ Brushless Motor direct-drive system provides high power efficiency equivalent to a 32cc gas chain saw
- Variable speed trigger and high chain speed (0-3,940 FPM) for improved cutting performance
- “Tool-less” chain adjustment for convenient operation and maintenance
- Built-in lock-off lever helps prevent the chain from accidentally engaging
- Built-in L.E.D. on/off switch with auto power-off function; automatically shuts the saw off when operation is delayed for extended battery life
- Two 18V LXT® Lithium-Ion batteries deliver power and performance without leaving the 18V LXT® platform
- Front hand guard engineered to actuate chain brake when engaged
- 14″ guide bar for increased capacity
- Low noise level and zero emissions for operator comfort
- Weighs only 11.5 lbs. with batteries for reduced operator fatigue
- Features Extreme Protection Technology (XPT™) which is engineered to provide increased dust and water resistance in harsh job site conditions
- Electric brake for maximum productivity
- Rubberized soft grip top handle is engineered for the user to more easily apply even cutting pressure
- Large oil filling port with view window allows operator to easily add and check bar oil level
- Adjustable automatic chain lubrication with large oil reservoir
- L.E.D. battery indicators show charge level for each 18V LXT® battery
- 18V LXT® Lithium-Ion 5.0Ah battery BL1850B features an integrated L.E.D. battery charge level indicator
- 18V LXT® Lithium-Ion 5.0Ah battery BL1850B provides up to 65% more run time per charge compared to 3.0Ah battery BL1830
- 18V LXT® Lithium-Ion 5.0Ah battery BL1850B reaches a full charge in 45 minutes or less
- Dual Port Charger charges two (2) 18V LXT® Lithium-Ion 5.0Ah batteries in only 45 minutes
- Dual Port Charger features a built-in USB port for charging portable electronic devices
- The Makita Rapid Optimum Charger communicates with the battery’s built-in chip throughout the charging process to optimize battery life by actively controlling current, voltage and temperature
- Built-in fan circulates air through the battery during the charging process to cool the battery for faster charge time.
- 3-year limited warranty on tool, battery and charger
Right now all the best 18 volt tools can do in the chain saw realm is create chainsaws with 12 inch bar and chains but even though this Makita X2 brushless chainsaw uses 18 volt batteries, it’s not an 18V tool because it’s actually a 36 volt tool by using two batteries together for more power. This allows this chainsaw to have a larger bar and chain than what’s currently possible with 18 volt at the moment by offering a 14 inch bar and chain. A larger capacity requires more power. This new X2 chainsaw is actually not Makita’s first X2 model as they have a previous X2 model that had a smaller 12 inch bar and chain and was a brushed motor tool. This new X2 model uses a brushless motor for more power.
Compared to the competition we can find 14 inch cordless chainsaw models from many brands in the 40V category such as Ryobi and also 56V+ from Ego for example with their first gen chainsaw. So Makita’s latest model can hang right there with similar voltage and even higher voltage tools from the competition. However Dewalt has a similar 40V range (36V and 40V are the same) with a 16 inch chainsaw and Ego’s latest chainsaws are 16 inch as well so compared to the latest models from similar and higher voltages, this Makita model has a smaller bar and chain by 2 inches. However I do want to mention that Makita also has a newer X2 brushless chainsaw XCU04Z with a 16 inch bar and chain that can compete with the latest models from the competition but at a slightly higher price point than this 14 inch model.
As far as other features are concerned you have the standard fare such as the chain brake/guard, main handle with trigger and safety, second handle, oil tank & cap and includes scabbard. The trigger is a variable speed trigger in case you are wondering. Although I wouldn’t say it’s a 0-3,940 FPM as the spec’s list suggest. While I don’t doubt the full no load speed, the trigger only activates about halfway through it’s range and at that point when it engages you start off at a high RPM that increases the harder you hold down the trigger. I don’t have a way to test RPM’s or FPM’s in this case but I would say it starts off at a medium to medium high RPM on the low end and can go all the way up to full speed with a full trigger press or anywhere in between the two. While I find the 0-3,940 FPM claim to be a bit misleading, it does have a variable speed range. But it’s a good thing that it doesn’t start off insanely slow as lets say with a gentle press of a trigger on a reciprocating saw because too slow of a speed will stall the motor, any motor. The higher start speeds of this chainsaw will ensure you don’t go too slow that it stalls at the start of the cut.
Besides having a safety button that lies on top of the main handle, you also have a power button located within thumbs reach. This must be turned on before you can use the chainsaw however I had a frustrating time using this chainsaw because of this on/off button. This is because the saw only stays on when inactive for a very short 5 seconds. It will run for as long as you press the trigger when it’s on but as soon as you make a cut and set the saw down and press the trigger again to make another cut it won’t because the tool shut down. This requires you to turn the tool on again several times while you are working and it gets frustrating and annoying. This saw doesn’t have any other physical or mechanical flaws in my opinion and an otherwise excellent saw is tainted with a frustrating user experience because it’s power on/off button. In my opinion Makita should have ditched this feature because the saw already has a safety button that needs to be pressed before you can activate the trigger so that is good enough in terms of safety. If Makita is determined to keep this on/off button they should change it so that it stays on for several minutes when inactive to ensure the tool is ready to use each time you set it down and pick back up to make another cut.
I liked that servicing the bar and chain requires NO tools! I have a Ryobi pole saw that requires me to carry around a double ended tool to open the the case to get to the chain and adjust tension. Not with this Makita. Theres a nice lever on the side that rotates to open the compartment to service the chain. There’s also a knob you can twist in either direction to adjust chain tension on the fly. And yes both of these features are built into the tool so no need to carry tools with you or worry about losing them.
I also liked that the oil cap is designed so that you don’t lose it. The oil cap on the Ryobi pole saw doesn’t have this feature so of course I lost the cap and couldn’t use the saw for about a week until I ordered a new one. What’s also nice about the Makita is that the oil does not leak when stored. I can’t say the same about the Ryobi as that needs diapers because it’s that bad when you store it. So while you are required to remove all the oil from the Ryobi after use unless you like to clean up oily messes, you can leave the oil in the Makita chainsaw during storage, even for long periods of time. I’ve had this saw for quite some time and after several weeks, nothing has leaked and the oil tank has the same amount of oil as when I stored it. I’m not trying to pick on the Ryobi pole saw I have or against the Ryobi brand but that is the only other chainsaw I’ve used and can compare to.
For the longest time, Makita was stubborn to update their batteries with built in fuel gauges and even though all their new batteries now include fuel gauges built in, this tool has a built in double fuel gauge to check remaining battery charge for each battery which is good for those still running old packs without fuel gauges. Since this tool uses two 18V batteries together to operate, and yes they must both be installed to run, it would become a hassle to have to charge two batteries separately. It would be but if you buy this tool as a kit it comes with a dual charger that charges both batteries at a time so you wont have to hassle with charging them separately. The dual charger is just as fast as all other Makita chargers and it charges both 5.0 ah batteries in 45 minutes which is pretty fast.
Pricing VS the competition
As far as pricing is concerned, Makita’s X2 brushless 14 inch chainsaw is priced at $279 as a baretool and $389 as a kit with two 5.0 ah batteries and double charger. As was the case with their X2 string trimmer and blower, the X2 chainsaw is also considerably more expensive than it’s competition. You can get similar spec’d chainsaws as complete battery and charger kit’s for the same price of Makita’s chainsaw as a baretool. For example you can get Ego’s 56V 14 inch chainsaw with 2.5ah battery and charger as a kit for only $279 which is the same price as Makita’s chainsaw without a battery and charger. Makita treats the pricing of this chainsaw as if it was another power tool and that would be fine but when you factor in the fact and reality that similarly spec’d chainsaws with battery and charger kits from other brands can be had for less than this chainsaw’s price as a baretool or kit, it just doesn’t make sense from a budget standpoint. You might think to yourself: “well the Ego is cheaper because it comes with one smaller 2.5 ah battery while the Makita as a kit comes with two larger 5.0 ah batteries. That’s why the Makita is more expensive because it comes bundled with more batteries.” That might make sense but 56V batteries use more cells than 18V batteries and can actually be larger in capacity than 18V batteries. To figure this out we have to look at watt hours which is the universal way to compare batteries of any given voltage and amp hour rating. The watt hour formula is simple, you simply multiply the voltage by the amp hours to get watt hours (V x Ah = wh). So an Ego 56 volt 2.5 ah battery is 140 wh while a single Makita 18v 5.0 ah battery is 90 wh. This means that one Makita 18V 5.0 is in fact smaller than a 56V 2.5 ah battery by 50 less watt hours. But since Makita’s X2 chainsaw comes with two batteries, it makes the total combined watt hours 180 wh. Having more watt hours than it’s competition would justify a price increase yes but having only 40 wh total more doesn’t justify a $110 price increase as a kit in my opinion. In fact Ego has a 56v chainsaw kit with their latest 16 inch chainsaw model with a larger 5.0ah battery and charger for $299. It’s still less than Makita’s X2 brushless 14 inch chainsaw kit priced at $379 and Ego’s 5.o ah battery has a total of 280 wh which is more than 50% the watt hour capacity of two Makita 5.0 ah batteries.
I also want to mention that at the time of writing Makita was offering deal offers for this chainsaw as a kit for the same full price of $379 but you get a choice of either an extra set of two 5.0 ah batteries OR an extra cordless 18V brushless angle grinder. I’d say that this is definitely the way to go if you are considering this X2 chainsaw and only then does the value proposition of this tool become similar to other brands and actually become competitive in terms of pricing.
As I explained in the features section of this review, the only other chainsaw I’ve tried was a Ryobi 18V pole saw. Pole saws have rather small chains and the Ryobi model is no different as it has an 8 inch bar and chain which is good enough for cutting small branches. Comparing the cutting performance between this Makita and the Ryobi is night and day. No surprise there as there is a big difference in voltage and bar and chain size between the two. I wouldn’t say the Ryobi is weak but cutting branches over 2 inches thick and it takes it’s time as it chugs along. The Makita on the other hand can cut much larger branches very fast with excellent speed. In the video above, the last cut shown was with a 8-10 inch thick log and as you can see in, it was very quick and smooth as butter. I had my buddies try the Makita X2 chainsaw and they said it was similar an performance to a similar sized gas powered chainsaw. I haven’t tried any gas powered chainsaws but having tried out the Makita I wouldn’t doubt their claims as this chainsaw has made quick work of everything I’ve thrown at it.
- Excellent cutting power and speed
- no tools needed to service the bar and chain
- built in chain tension knob
- on board battery fuel gauges
- does not leak oil during storage
- premium price makes it overpriced compared to the competition
- power on/off function is unnecessary and annoying considering it already comes equipped with a safety button
- short 5 second idle time results in a frustrating user experience when making multiple cuts
It has solid performance in my opinion and is leaps and bounds better compared to my Ryobi in terms of maintenance and storage as the Makita X2 chainsaw is tool less to service and tension it’s chain and does not leak oil when stored. A solid tool overall however the independent power button coupled with a very short 5 second idle time before the saw shuts down makes for a frustrating user experience when making multiple cuts. This is because the tool shuts down in between cuts and requires constantly having to power on. Otherwise it’s a solid tool overall but when compared to it’s competition, it’s higher price point makes it uncompetitive from a budget standpoint. However Makita every so often runs deals on this blower as a kit with extra goodies such as an extra set of batteries OR an extra grinder which makes it a good value when these offers are available.
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