Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Screening Electric Corded String Trimmers

Best Electric String Trimmers and Lawn Edgers Review Part 4: Screening Electric Corded String Trimmers

Corded electric trimmers, as a class, give out many poor choices and few good ones. In fact, of the top 3 choices provided by Consumer Reports in their latest string trimmers review (subscription required),  two, the Black and Decker GH700 and GH1000, received such poor reviews from their users that that are impossible to recommend (another good reason why Consumer Reports should look at user reviews before issuing recommendations), and one, the Stihl FSE60,  is not available on line. It is actually hard to find good models in this class, and, to a degree, we are left with top rated models which are not totally satisfactory.

These models did not make the grade

The Black & Decker ST4000, a 12", 3.5A motor, single line trimmer, is still available on some retail sites, but is not present on the manufacturer's web site. It appears that it has been obsoleted by the Black & DeckerST4500, which gets poor reviews with a very low 22% approval rating (10/47 at Amazon, Lowe's and Consumer Reports), which we are 95% confident of with a 10% margin of error - in other words, despite the small number of reviews we are quite certain that this is a poor product (since even a 32% approval rating would be dismal), and we are thereby removing it from consideration. In the same way, the  Black &Decker  ST7000 , a 13", 4.2A trimmer with decent ratings, does not show any more on the manufacturer's web site, and appears to have been obsoleted by the Black &Decker  ST7700, which gets significantly worse reviews.

The Black & Decker GH series, the best of what the company offers in corded electric trimmers, scores high with Consumer Reports, but its reviews are the lowest that we have ever seen for widely sold garden power tools.  In fact, these reviews are so negative, and the users so bitter about this line, that it cannot but affect the company brand image, which is, in general, highly trusted by buyers.

The smaller Black and Decker GH600, a 14", 5.0A motor, 5.2 lb, single line corded trimmer, the lightest of the product line, gets the highest ratings, a 54% approval rating (88/162), with 95% confidence level and a likely error under 8%. The automatic feed system, probably the #1 cause of dissatisfaction, is at the source of frustration for many users ("one of the most infuriating products I have had the displeasure to use in some time"), who complain that it feeds too fast, or that it does not feed when it should. Many users complaint that the trimmer breaks down quickly without being used hard. Some complain that it does not work properly in edger mode (vertical head). A few have problems with the cord lock.

The mid-size Black & Decker GH700 , a 14", 5.2A motor,, 5.9 lb, dual line corded trimmer,  gets an abysmal 22% approval rating (16/74 reviews from Amazon, Lowe's, Consumer Reports and Home Depot), with a 95% confidence level and a likely error below 10% (i.e. it could possibly be up to 32% approval rating). The reviews display the same causes of dissatisfaction as for the GH600, the automatic feed mechanism being the top source of complaints. It simply does not work.

The flagship Black & Decker GH1000 , a 14", 7.2A motor, 6.9 lb, dual line trimmer with a heavier duty 0.08" diameter line, gets the worst ratings of all, a 17% approval rating (74/458 at Amazon, Lowe's, Consumer Reports and Home Depot), with a confidence level of 95% and  a likely error below 4%.  The GH1000 shows smart design, with the motor housing being at the head of the shaft, right by the hand, making it easier to handle with precision. The same causes of dissatisfaction seen on the GH600 and GH700 show on the GH1000 reviews, with the line feed mechanism being the top source of complaints again.While we normally pass on the emotional parts of the reviews and focus on the facts underneath, in the case of Black & Decker corded trimmers (by the way, their electric edgers and cordless models are much better), the reviews are so universally bad that many reviewers have a strong emotional attitude in their rejection: they are bitter and biting. Their feelings are best expressed by Katy, from Texas: "The worst product ever manufactured. EVER. Words cannot describe the revulsion I feel when even thinking of this product. I can no longer use the words 'Black' and 'Decker' in the same sentence. It has ruined the color orange for me permanently. [ ] The unit is now in very small pieces in a garbage can. I would have preferred an even less dignified sendoff, but you can't burn stuff in my neighborhood. Whoever designed this thing should be forced to use it."

Greenworks makes both corded and cordless electric trimmers. They carry a 13", 4.0A motor, 5/2 lb single line trimmer, and a 15", 5.5A motor, 6.7 lb single line trimmer. They are a new company focused on green garden tools. We were not able to find enough reviews for their electric string trimmers. Looking at the specs, we find no special features worth of particular note. We reviewed Greenworks tools before in our manual push mowers review, and found that the company had good customer service, and value-oriented, somewhat low-end tools. We love their corporate focus, but, at this time, we cannot recommend their corded string trimmers due to lack of reviews - we will update this review when more data is available.

We found two McCulloch corded string trimmers across online retailers, the McCulloch MCT2027 ,a 12", 3.7A motor trimmer, and the McCulloch MCT2303A , a 14", 6.75A motor trimmer. As in our previous push mowers review, where we also reviewed McCulloch products, we could not find any of these models on the McCulloch site. Their exclusive distributor in the US, Dixie Sales, showed a lot a zeal in helping us understand these products. It was, however, clear that McCulloch spends practically no time generating user information and focusing on maintenance and part issues. Dixie Sales is a very good company, but it is apparent that McCulloch, possibly since their acquisition by Husqvarna, has become a brand in name only - we cannot recommend any of their trimmer products due to their lack of attention to support and user-facing issues.

The Toro product line carries three products, closely spaced in weight and power, and ranging from 11" to 15". The Toro 11" 51347 is an 11", 3.5A motor, 4.5 lb trimmer, while the Toro 13" 51358 is a 13", 3.9A motor, 4.75 lb trimmer, and the Toro 15" 51346 is a 15", 4.4A motor, 5.4 lb trimmer. Toro products did not fare well in the Consumer Reports functional test. All Toro products together gather a low 42% approval rating (20/48 across Mowers Direct, Target, Sears, Amazon and Consumer Reports), while the best model, the 15" trimmer, only gets below 50% approval rating. We feel that these reviews are not good enough for us to recommend any part of the line at this time. 

 We found several obsolete Weed Eater models still being sold. The Weed Eater XT114 has been replaced by the RT115C, and the Weed Eater RT112 has been replaced by a slightly updated model, the RT112C.

The Worx product line carries two trimmers, a 12", 4.5A motor, 7 lb dual line trimmer, and a 15", 5.0A motor, 8 lb dual line trimmer. Both of them are heavy for corded trimmers, and can be converted easily to edgers (vertical head position). However, they gather few reviews and a low approval rating of 33% (7/21 across Home Depot, Sears, Amazon, Deerso, Target and Consumer Reports), with a confidence of 95% for a likely error below 20% (i.e. we are 95% certain that the average approval rating is below 53%). Worx also did not do well in the Consumer reports functional test. Until we see more reviews appear on this product line, we cannot recommend Worx corded models (their cordless models are better).

Next we rank the best corded electric string trimmers... So come back soon!

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