This chainsaw is as good as it gets for a battery powered chainsaw — IN 2019. The Milwaukee 2727-21HD M18 FUEL should be at the top of your list for chainsaws. Rated highly by buying customers, this is another solid product from Milwaukee, a tool brand synonymous with quality.
As technology improves, gas chainsaws are becoming equaled and surpassed in quality (and convenience) by battery-technology. Why buy a gas chainsaw when you can get a clean-running, lightweight, no-maintenance chainsaw? For most homeowners, a chainsaw like the Milwaukee 2727-21HD is a natural choice.
Milwaukee, the Brand
Back in May of 2018, Milwaukee announced they would be releasing a 16” cordless chainsaw based on their M18 FUEL line of outdoor power equipment. What made this announcement so much more interesting was the fact that Milwaukee claimed this cordless chainsaw would deliver performance “never seen before on an 18V platform”. And to top it off, the chainsaw was touted to be more powerful than 40cc gas models.
Various tests by independent reviewers have shown that there is some truth to Milwaukee’s claim. Their M18 FUEL chainsaw rivals 30 to 38cc homeowner grade gas models when it comes to cutting performance. Unlike other cordless electric chainsaws, the M18 FUEL chainsaw has enough torque and speed to slice through 15” logs of maple and ash just as easily as an entry to mid- level gas powered model. This also puts it in direct competition with the most powerful 15A corded electric saws. And you get all the benefits of electric power- zero maintenance, easy to start, lightweight, compact, and environment friendly. Best of all, you don’t have to mix and store fuel anymore.
So is the M18 FUEL 16” chainsaw worth your hard earned money? We’re here to provide you with all the information you need to answer that question. We’ll talk about the 2727-21HD chainsaw kit, highlighting the unique features of the brand new HD12.0 lithium ion battery. This should help you decide if you want to purchase the kit, or just the standalone tool (Milwaukee model 2727-20HD). We also review two extremely popular cordless chainsaws- the Craftsman V60 16” and the Makita XCU03PT1 14”. This should give you a perspective on what the competition has to offer, and if the Milwaukee is worth extra money.
16” Cordless Chainsaw Kit
- 16 in. Oregon Bar and Chain
- POWERSTATE Brushless Motor provides the power and performance of a gas engine up to 40CC.
- REDLITHIUM High Output HD 12.0 Ah Battery Pack: Provides 50% more power and runs 50% cooler versus standard REDLITHIUM HD packs
- Variable speed trigger for full control
- Dual-stud for improved bar and chain retention
- Automatic oiler for proper chain lubrication and increased productivity
- Onboard storage for scrench
- Compatible with 175+ M18 solutions
- 3 year tool and 3 year battery warranty
Includes: (1) M18 FUEL 16 in. chainsaw, (1) RedLITHIUM high output HD12.0 battery pack, (1) M18 and M12 rapid charger, (1) 16 in. Oregon bar and chain, (1) scrunch
With the advent of lithium ion battery technology and brushless DC motors, it was clear that the rise of cordless power tools was inevitable. However, one thing we didn’t expect to see was a cordless chainsaw rivaling gas powered models. Even as recently as 2 to 3 years ago, people were speculating that while cordless chainsaws had their place, they would never replace gas units. And while that is still true today, we are closer than ever to realizing a gas-free future in the chainsaw world. When talking about homeowner grade 16” models, very few industry experts will recommend you go and buy something more powerful than the M18 FUEL chainsaw from Milwaukee. And frankly, there aren’t a whole lot of 16” chainsaws out there which are more powerful. Gas or electric.
One of the biggest hindrances stopping us from developing a powerful electric tool to rival gas alternatives is the battery. A tank of gas has much higher energy density than any battery in existence. One liter of gasoline contains 34 megajoules of energy (similar to 100 sticks of dynamite), whereas a lithium-ion battery only holds 2 megajoules of energy in the same volume. But here’s the catch- a gasoline engine only converts about 20 to 30 percent of that energy into useful work. An electric motor is far more efficient, converting 80 to 90 percent of the available energy within a battery into work.
When you create a portable power tool that runs on electricity, the biggest limitation will be the amount of power it can draw from its battery pack. While electric motors are capable of generating the same power as a gas engine in a much more compact space across a wider RPM band, the most powerful electric chainsaws have always been corded. Milwaukee is looking to change this trend, by making several optimizations across the board. The groundbreaking performance of their brand new 16” cordless chainsaw is derived from 3 major components:
- The POWERSTATE Brushless Motor
First of all, this chainsaw is driven by a completely redesigned brushless motor. It is more compact than previous Milwaukee brushless motors, yet more powerful. This is a Milwaukee “POWERSTATE” motor, and all of it is designed and manufactured inhouse. Compared to brushless motors from rival companies such as Makita or DEWALT, Milwaukee’s design generates higher torque and runs cooler. This is because they are equipped with more power-generating components and higher grade rare earth permanent magnets.
Heavier duty copper windings ensure greater power output when combined with the extra current draw potential supported by these new HD12.0 batteries. Milwaukee’s brushless motors are driven with the help of advanced electronics, which allow for better control at lower RPMs. You’ll notice this in real life while feathering the variable speed trigger. The chain can creep forward at extremely low speeds, but when full power is requested it will ramp up to 6600rpm in less than one second.
The throttle response is unlike anything you’ll ever see on a gas chainsaw because there are no mechanical limitations to how quickly the motor can draw more fuel. There is no throttle cable, carburetor, or fuel line. Electrons travel much faster than gas through a pipe, and the characteristics of an electric motor allow it to spool up immediately without any lag whatsoever.
- The HD12.0 Lithium-Ion Battery
Secondly, we have the brand new M18 HD12.0 battery pack, which is a 3P battery. It contains 3 sets of 5 cells each, connected in parallel. Each cell generates 3.6V, so 5 of them added up in series configuration equals 18 volts. With a parallel connection, you get the same voltage but more current. In a series connection, current drawn is the same as that of a single cell, but voltage adds up. Dual 18V platforms like the Makita 18Vx2 use series connections to add up the voltage from two 18V batteries (current stays constant).
Unlike the older M18 battery packs, the HD12.0 is equipped with 21700 lithium-ion cells. What does that mean? Well, 21700 refers to a standardized form factor for lithium-ion cells: 21mm wide x 70mm tall, and the 0 tells us that this is a cylindrical shaped battery cell (much like the AAA cells in a remote). By combining multiple such cells, you get a battery pack. As we explained earlier, the HD12.0 uses 3 sets of these connected in parallel with each set containing 5 individual cells for a total of 15. The older HD9.0 and HD5.0 packs were equipped with 18650 cells (18mm x 65mm, cylindrical). While the 18650 cell has been around for a long time and is a highly refined platform, it doesn’t compare to the new 21700 cells in terms of energy density or capacity.
Not only is the 21700 physically larger than the 18650, but the cell chemistry is different which allows it to deliver more energy even if both were the same size. Tesla uses 2170 cells (a variant of 21700) manufactured by Panasonic in their latest Model 3. They had been using the older 18650 cells in most of their models released after 2013. Milwaukee’s new HD12.0 battery can support higher sustained current draws for longer periods compared to the HD9.0 battery pack. And it also supports a higher peak current draw, which typically lasts for a fraction of a second.
These characteristics make the HD12.0 highly desirable for applications which demand tons of sustained high amperage power. High demand power tools such as chainsaws, hole saws, reciprocating saws, angle grinders, and high torque 1” impact wrenches will benefit greatly from the new HD12.0 battery pack.
- The Red Link Plus Smart Logic
Finally, there is the “brains” behind this entire operation- Milwaukee’s Red Link Plus intelligence. What is it? Red Link Plus is an advanced electronic management system integrated into both the battery and tool, comprised of various components such as sensors and micro-controllers. This system allows the battery, charger, and tool to communicate seamlessly between each other which results in higher energy efficiency and better overload protection. No more overheating, or excess current draws which can compromise the lifespan of your motor.
Faster charging times are possible because the Milwaukee rapid charger takes into account various factors such as battery temperature, voltage, current, etc. Red Link Plus will provide your M18 FUEL chainsaw with a quick burst of power when it is needed. And if your chain gets stuck it will prevent the motor from drawing too much current, stalling it instead for safety reasons.
Noise And Weight — Milwaukee 2727-21HD
We all know that electric chainsaws require minimal maintenance and run much quieter than gas. But how do these advantages translate into real life? Well, here’s an example- you’re a homeowner, and you own a property with a bunch of walnut trees growing in the yard. Some of the trees need a haircut, but you are scared to use your noisy gas-powered Husqvarna 460 Rancher because it might wake up the neighbors.
On top of that, the Husqvarna might be a little more difficult to start in the cold whereas the Milwaukee M18 FUEL will start instantly. Now we know most people don’t like cutting trees at 7:30 am in the winter, but this is a hypothetical scenario to show you what’s possible on a quieter chainsaw. You won’t break any of the local noise laws, and won’t smell like gas when you get back inside the house. Besides, the neighbors won’t show up at your door later in the day demanding to know why you ruined their sleep on a weekend.
With a full tank of bar oil and a battery, the M18 FUEL chainsaw will weigh around 14.6 pounds. In comparison, most cordless chainsaws weigh under 10 pounds with even the premium ones coming in at under 12. So why is the Milwaukee heavier than its competitors? Well, as we explained earlier you need to draw more current to get the same amount of power if your voltage is lower. This results in increased weight due to heavier motor windings and thicker wires which are needed to support higher current draws.
While companies like DEWALT and EGO have moved on to 60V and 56V battery platforms, Milwaukee is stubborn to stay on its 18V platform which is more than a decade old by now. While it is admirable that they don’t want to inconvenience old customers by forcing them to buy new form factor batteries, this decision means they have to spend more time and money on engineering a far superior battery solution. And their solution is indeed better than the competition, proving that you don’t always need more voltage to create a powerful tool. You can instead decrease battery pack impedance, and improve the current draw. Using smarter processors, thicker copper windings in the motors, dual tabs on both the anode and cathode of lithium-ion cells and higher grade magnets, Milwaukee has managed to slay its competition with an 18V battery platform.
This chainsaw is extremely easy to use despite its weight and length, thanks to the elongated rear handle. Other cordless chainsaws don’t have as much space between the rear of their handle and the body, which can be an inconvenience if you’re wearing gloves. Milwaukee’s cordless chainsaw operates very much like a gas model. Once you disengage the chain brake and depress the throttle safety, it is ready to go. Unlike a gas chainsaw, it doesn’t have to idle in between cuts which saves power. When transitioning between cuts, you simply lift your finger off the trigger to immediately stop the motor. And as soon as you get back on the throttle, it responds instantly.
Tech Specs (Milwaukee 2727-21HD) :
- Motor Type : Brushless
- Length : 33″
- RPM : 6600
- Bar Length : 16″
- Chain Gauge : .043″
- Chain Pitch : 3/8″ Low Profile
- Battery System : M18
- Weight : 13.9 lbs
- Power Source : Cordless
Power Compared To Gas
Milwaukee claims their cordless 16” chainsaw can rival gas power, up to 40cc. While we haven’t personally verified these claims, there are a couple of videos online from third-party reviewers who put this chainsaw up against gas models. For example, here you can see the M18 FUEL chainsaw going up against a Husqvarna 460 Rancher, which is a prosumer grade 60cc saw. And while the reviewer claims that it beat the Husky by 7 seconds, the Husqvarna appears to be operating with a dull chain. It is creating fine powdery sawdust, while the M18 FUEL is spitting out chips of wood (sign of a sharp chain).
Some commenters also noted this difference, so the battle might have been tilted in the favor of the Milwaukee. Nevertheless, it is impressive that a cordless chainsaw is even capable of competing with a 60cc gas model despite the possibility of the gas chainsaw running a dull chain. We can tell you right now, no other cordless chainsaw will beat or even come close to a Husqvarna 460 rancher, even if you handicap the Husqvarna with a dull chain.
This video compares a Stihl 026 which is a 49cc saw, against the M18 Fuel. While it is not exactly apples to apples since both chainsaws are equipped with different chains, at least the chains appear to be sharp so it should be a fair battle. While the M18 Fuel loses, it is not behind the Stihl by a large margin. Actually, the two are pretty close. Close enough that you’ll not notice the difference unless you put them side by side with a timer. And if you take into account the time required to start the Stihl in between cuts, the actual amount of work done might be the same between the two for a given period.
Based on reviews from verified customers, the Milwaukee M18 Fuel has no trouble cutting through 15” hardwood logs. According to Milwaukee, you will be able to make 150 cuts in 6×6 cedar with the HD12.0 battery that is included in the 2727-21HD kit. It will fell trees that are 14 to 16 inches thick at the trunk. And you can even cut logs of ash and oak up to 20” in diameter by cutting from both sides. While this is not exactly a tree felling monster or sawmill chainsaw, it can certainly handle any limbing or trimming job you throw at it. In fact, it might even be overkill for basic level trimming work in the garden.
Get a smaller cordless model if all you do is pruning and some light firewood cutting. This chainsaw is perfect for contractors, carpenters, landscapers, arborists, linesmen, etc., and pretty much any professional/ DIYer who wants the most powerful cordless chainsaw in the world. If you’re rebuilding the deck in your home or working on log cabins, get a couple of extra batteries and you’ll be able to work all day long.
Craftsman V60 16” Cordless Chainsaw
CMCCS660E1) | How Does It Compare to The Milwaukee?
Just like the Milwaukee M18 FUEL chainsaw, this Craftsman model is powered by a brushless motor and features a 16” guide bar. However, there is a significant difference in the design of both these chainsaws. While both use brushless motors, the one in the Milwaukee M18 FUEL is far superior in terms of torque and heat dissipation. Nevertheless, expect the Craftsman V60 chainsaw to last longer than a traditional corded electric chainsaw. Brushless motors run cooler and longer compared to brushed AC motors you will find on pretty much every corded chainsaw. The CMCCS66E1 package comes with 3 main parts inside- the CMCCS660 16” brushless chainsaw (tool), a CMCB6025 60V MAX battery (2.5Ah), and a CMCB602 V60 Lithium Ion Charger. It also includes a bar cover, for safer transportation of the chainsaw.
We recommend the Craftsman CMCCS66E1 chainsaw kit for homeowners who want to trim down trees in their property, and for DIYers who are working on carpentry projects. It is cheaper than the Milwaukee 2727-21HD chainsaw kit, but the build quality is also a notch below that of the Milwaukee. For instance, you get plastic bucking spikes instead of metal ones. The toolless bar adjustment and chain tensioning system is really great for casual users, but professional arborists and tradesmen will prefer the dual steel bar studs on the Milwaukee.
Most cordless electric chainsaws come with a plastic knob that lets you adjust the bar, so it doesn’t move around while cutting wood. The plastic knob increases convenience since you don’t need a scrench to tighten the nuts underneath. But it also limits the amount of torque you can apply to the tensioning nuts. So your bar will need to be adjusted more often. This is not an issue if you only use the chainsaw once or twice every couple of months. But as a tradesman or DIY enthusiast, you will probably use the tool daily and adjusting your bar after every couple of hours can be frustrating. On top of that, the dual steel bar studs are more reliable. You never know when that plastic adjustment knob will break down on the job site, in the middle of work.
Milwaukee’s M18 HD12.0 battery runs at a much lower voltage (18 vs 60 volts) but supplies a lot more current over time- 12Ah vs 2.5Ah. However, these numbers aren’t an accurate representation of the true difference between these two batteries. The HD12.0 is designed for high demand jobs which require large amounts of current over longer periods. Which means the M18 HD12.0 battery can maintain a steady supply of high current and stays cooler while doing so. It can also deliver short bursts of extremely high current, to an extent that is far beyond the capabilities of the Craftsman V60 battery. Yes, the Craftsman V60 battery is lighter but do you really care about losing a pound or two of weight when you can finish the work twice as fast?
One unique feature of the Craftsman V60 16” chainsaw is its bubble level, which is located next to the rear handle. This bubble level helps you make more precise cuts, which comes in handy when working on home improvement projects. Other than that, there really isn’t much else to talk about here. It has the standard safety features- a throttle lockoff switch, and anti-kickback chain brake.
The bar and chain oiler is automatic, so it increases or decreases the oil flow depending on saw rpm. There is a view window for you to check oil levels, which is located towards the front of the chainsaw powerhead, next to the plastic bucking spikes. We prefer the way Milwaukee does it, where they have the view window on the side of the chainsaw, right underneath the oil filler cap. This allows you to check oil levels more easily.
In terms of cutting performance, the Craftsman V60 cordless chainsaw is definitely one of the more powerful cordless models out there. It has no trouble going through pine logs up to 10 inches in thickness, and Craftsman claims their chainsaw will make 140 cuts in 4×4 pressure-treated pine on a single charge. This is a far cry from the Milwaukee’s runtime, which is enough to make 150 cuts in 6×6 cedar. But it is still pretty good, definitely more than what an average homeowner needs. You can use the Craftsman for storm cleanup, or for limbing fallen trees. It can sometimes be used to fell trees with trunks up to 10 or 12 inches in diameter, although we wouldn’t recommend this saw for serious felling work. Other than that, it is perfect for cutting firewood, and small branches. You can even throw one of these in your jeep alongside the gas- powered saw, since it’s great for clearing out trails.
Is 36V Better Than 18V?
Both Makita and Milwaukee are at the forefront of cordless chainsaw technology, with Makita holding the lead when it comes to experience. They have been making cordless chainsaws for much longer than Milwaukee, which currently has just one model in its chainsaw lineup. And they both took different approaches to design a powerful cordless chainsaw. Milwaukee went with the same old 18V battery platform they have been using for over a decade by now. They decided to keep the form factor similar while raising the current output significantly such that power increases despite the voltage being constant. Makita, on the other hand, took a chainsaw and crammed two 18V batteries into it with a series connection that doubles voltage while keeping the current constant. Which is another way of increasing power. Makita’s approach may seem like a crude way of doing things at first because instead of re-engineering the entire chainsaw from scratch, they modified it to accept two batteries. But this technique has its unique advantages:
- Overall weight is much lower compared to Milwaukee’s M18 FUEL chainsaw since both the motor and battery are lighter. Sure, Makita is using two batteries instead of one, but these are 5Ah batteries compared to the mammoth single 12Ah battery that is the HD12.0
- The package length is shorter since Makita’s brushless motor doesn’t require thick single strand windings like the ones found in Milwaukee’s POWERSTATE motor. Impedance is higher in Makita’s windings, but the extra voltage means there isn’t nearly as much current loss.
- Recharge time is shorter with Makita since you can charge two batteries simultaneously with their DC18RD Dual- Port Rapid Optimum Charger. Also, individual batteries require less time to recharge since they don’t hold nearly as much energy as the M18 HD12.0 pack.
In terms of the value you get by purchasing these chainsaw kits, we have a hard time recommending one over the other. Makita’s XCU03PT1 comes with 4 batteries instead of just 1, like in the Milwaukee 2727-21HD kit. But you use 2 batteries at the same time so effectively you have 2 fuel sources for your XCU03Z chainsaw. The batteries take 45 minutes to recharge, but even with two of these, you won’t get as much work done as the Milwaukee. But then again, the Milwaukee M18 HD12.0 takes nearly 1.5 hours to recharge.
Would you rather have a faster recharge, or get the job done quicker with more power? Your choice. One thing to consider here is that each M18 HD12.0 battery will cost you around 180 to 200 bucks, and the 2727-21HD kit only comes with one battery. Any serious DIYer or tradesman knows that one battery isn’t enough to get a day’s work done. You need at least two, so one is charging while the other one is working in the tool. When the first battery is discharged, you swap it out with the second one from the charger.
Besides, the Makita XCU03PT1 chainsaw kit costs slightly less than the Milwaukee 2727-21HD based on current Amazon prices. So, technically you are ready to go right out of the box with the Makita. No need to worry about purchasing an extra set of batteries, since you already have 4 included within the package. But some people absolutely love Milwaukee’s drill and impact drivers, and they are already invested into a Milwaukee M18 battery platform. For such customers, it makes no sense to go and purchase a Makita chainsaw which uses a different battery platform.
If you’re an existing Milwaukee owner, you’ll probably choose the M18 FUEL chainsaw. A final point to consider- the Makita chainsaw comes equipped with a 14” low kickback bar and chain from the factory. The Milwaukee packs a slightly larger 16” bar and chain, so you can buck bigger logs and even fell some small trees with it. Yes, the Makita chainsaw has enough power to drive a 16” bar and chain but you’ll have to purchase the longer bar since the kit comes with a 14″ bar and chain. The Milwaukee is also a heavier duty tool, with a higher torque motor and dual bar studs instead of a plastic chain tensioning knob.
We suggest the Makita for DIYers and homeowners, as well as arborists and linesmen who want something compact but more powerful than a regular cordless chainsaw. If you’re a farmer and you need to cut through 16” hardwood logs on a fairly regular basis for firewood, get the Milwaukee. It packs more torque and doesn’t bog down even when the whole bar is buried inside a 20” oak log. The Makita may have a higher chain speed, but the Milwaukee is still more powerful. And it runs longer, thanks to the behemoth 12Ah battery. So if you regularly work with logs thicker than 14”, spend the extra money on a Milwaukee M18 FUEL chainsaw. Landscapers, tree service workers, and contractors will appreciate the extra power of the Milwaukee. DIYers will love the lightweight and compact nature of the Makita.
How It All Started | History of Milwaukee
Milwaukee is one of the most renowned outdoor power equipment manufacturers today, but how did they get here? Well, it all began back in the early 20th century. In 1918, as the first World War was coming to an end, Henry Ford was starting to feel the pressure from luxury carmaker Cadillac. Ford had made an empire selling cheap cars like the Model T to the common man, but he needed something to compete in the luxury market. In typical Ford fashion, he purchased Lincoln- the largest rival to Cadillac. This was a great business decision because now Ford could just use Lincoln’s expertise instead of designing and manufacturing his luxury brand from scratch. But there was a slight issue.
You see, Ford’s assembly lines were optimized to pump out Model Ts in high numbers. But these assembly lines weren’t exactly optimized for creating fine, handcrafted automobiles. Ford needed a new breed of precision power tools for this purpose, and they had to be compact as well as lightweight. So he approached A.H Peterson, a young tool manufacturer based in Wisconsin. A.H Peterson had been manufacturing tools and dies for Ford since quite a few years, and accepted the challenge. He set out to build the most compact ¼” power drill ever made. And the result was the Hole Shooter, the worlds first truly portable ¼” powder drill. It could be operated with one hand and weighed just 5lbs. After this, the A.H. Peterson company focused primarily on tool repair until a disastrous fire burned down the factory.
The business was then purchased by A.F. Siebert, who transformed it into the Milwaukee Electric Tool Corporation. Milwaukee continued manufacturing tools for the automotive industry, iterating upon their Hole Shooter design to make it better with each generation. They soon ventured into the heavy metalworking industry and eventually became popular in the consumer power tools market. To this day, Milwaukee manufactures products for professional tool users- linesmen, carpenters, workshop owners, construction crews, etc. They build heavy-duty premium tools for professionals, which can also be used by DIYers and homeowners.
Learn more about Milwaukee Tools by visiting their website.