Milwaukee M18 FUEL Review
Pros: Instant wind-up time, metal bucking spikes, M18 battery system works with many other tools
Cons: Expensive, uses a lot of oil, bulky
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Our Analysis and Test Results
For nearly a century Milwaukee has been producing quality tools for consumers, so it comes as no surprise that their cordless chainsaw is such a great product. The M18 FUEL model has fantastic cutting power, great battery performance, and zero wind-up time. This cordless chainsaw may be on the pricier side, but if you already own Milwaukee products or plan on expanding your fleet of tools the Milwaukee model is a great bet.
When it comes to our first testing metric, the Milwaukee M18 is near the top of the pack. During our testing period for saw performance, this model made some of the fastest cuts and did a fantastic job cutting through larger, wet logs. Considering that cutting wood is the primary function of a chainsaw, we weight this metric as 35% of the total score.
For half of the testing for saw performance, we brought the fleet of saws to a commercial tree service wood yard to get a feel for how they worked in the field. We spent the day slicing up a huge pile of freshly removed pine trees into 16-inch lengths to later be split for firewood. The Milwaukee is one of our favorites for dissecting wet wood. The lack of any type of wind-up time means that with this model you'll be spending more time making cuts and less time waiting for your chain to get up to full rpm. The metal bucking spikes in combination with the long body make for some added leverage so that you can really lean into the saw and get the job done.
Due to inconsistencies when dealing with wet wood and logs of various sizes we created a more objective cutting test back at the lab. To eliminate any divergence in cutting conditions for each saw we opted to use a given volume of dry wood from the lumber store.
To further reduce the chance of one model getting stuck with a knot or an extra hard section of wood for our test we went with a stack of smaller posts rather than one large wood slab. We then timed how long it took each saw to cut through our dimensional wood 5 times, threw out any outliers, and took an average. The Milwaukee M18 FUEL showed an impressive time of 8.3 seconds putting it very close to the top of the pack.
Ease of Use
As with saw performance, for this metric, we combined both qualitative and quantitative analysis. Following close scrutiny of many variables, we determined that the Milwaukee M18 FUEL deserves a good score for ease of use, which constitutes 30% of the total. To come up with some numerical data we weighed each model with the battery installed because some of the manufacturers had their models weight listed on their websites and manuals without them. We then measured each bar as well as the body dimensions in order to provide our readers with an accurate size for each chainsaw. Other tests included how intuitive it is to start the saw, the location of the battery, and how difficult it is to tension or change the chain.
The M18 is one of the most user-friendly models of cordless chainsaws that we've ever seen. This tool uses a simple combination of a chain brake, a safety switch, and a variable speed trigger to activate the motor — and we can't think of a more streamlined system for getting a saw going.
The battery compartment is on the top of the saw body which we see as the most practical place for it. One of our favorite features of the M18 is that it uses a screwdriver/wrench combination called a "scrench" to tension the chain. We find that the classic system makes it easier to get a precise tension on the chain rather than the newer tool-free systems that many cordless chainsaw manufacturers have come out with.
The Milwaukee is one of the heavier products in our review, but depending on the application the weight can make cutting easier by letting gravity do some of the work. People who are concerned about constantly lifting a few extra pounds should consider a lighter model.
For the next 25% of our total score is a combination of the battery runtime and charge time. With a full charge on each battery, we ran the saws at full throttle with no load other than the chain to measure their runtime. During this process, we carefully monitored bar and chain oil levels and stopped the saws and timer to add oil as necessary. With the saws completely depleted of all power, we sat next to each charger with a stopwatch to determine their charge times.
It only takes 1 hour and 20 minutes to get the battery up to 100% after being completely dead. One thing that we love about the Milwaukee model is how long it runs despite its lightning-fast wind-up and great cutting power. During our timed runtime test, it lasted 33 minutes.
The remaining 10% of our total score is comprised of our noise tests. For each model, we measured the decibel levels with a sound meter from a distance of 48". Because sound levels don't necessarily determine how annoying a tool is, we then had a panel of judges stand at a distance of 50 feet from each fully throttled saw to decide if there were any noises that set them apart from the others.
The Milwaukee M18 is not the quietest saw in our review. It reads 86.8 decibels on the sound meter and is especially whiny and loud compared to many other cordless chainsaws from 50 feet away.
The Milwaukee M18 is on the premium side of the price scale. That being said, once you buy into the M18 line of tools you can save money on a battery and charger in the future. We think that the Milwaukee offers great value, so long as you plan on getting more of their tools if you don't already own some.
The M18 earned one of our highest scores for a reason. The point that we must keep returning to is that this saw has wonderful performance. The Milwaukee model has an extremely rapid wind-up that will make certain that you aren't waiting on the tool to get started and you'll be spending more time cutting than with practically any other model. With easy to use controls and a good battery, we feel very comfortable recommending this saw to our readers.
— Ross Patton