Ryobi 40V Expand-It Review
Pros: Relatively inexpensive, exceptionally powerful
Cons: Loud, throws debris everywhere
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Our Analysis and Test Results
In addition to being a great value on its own merits, the same battery in the Expand-It is compatible with an enormous number of other Ryobi tools, making it an even better value if you are planning on buying another cordless yard or home tool in the near future, as you can buy a bare-tool version and use the battery from this string trimmer in it, saving you even more cash.
We based 30% of the Ryobi's final score on its weed eating performance, paying particular attention to how effective it is at clearing weeds and grass, how it handled dense areas of vegetation, and how user-friendly it is for detailed cuts or operating in tight areas. The Expand-It did quite well, earning one of the better scores of the group.
The Ryobi Expand-It has more than enough power to slice through pretty much any plants that we pointed it at, though it would occasionally get a little finicky and hard to control when cutting through dense pockets of thicker stems. We never really found anything that the Ryobi couldn't reduce to shreds. You can cut through tall patches of dense grasses with ease if you started at the top and worked your way down. We were pretty sure the Expand-It would do pretty well with burlier shrubbery with woodier stems as well. However, we didn't really want to test this all that much, as the Ryobi is very prone to flinging debris all over the place — including right back at you while you are using it.
In fact, we wished that the Ryobi was a little less powerful on more than one occasion, as it really feels like overkill for typical yard use. This makes it quite hard to work in tight areas and make detail cuts around delicate objects. You can angle the head to easily reach these spaces and the guard hardly ever gets in the way but it's difficult to avoid cutting trenches or damaging breakable items with the Ryobi's raw power.
Ease of Use
For our Ease of Use metric, we rated and scored how comfortable it is to use the Ryobi, how effective its guard is, and how much work it is to dispense more string or replace it with a new roll. These combine to also account for 30% of this string trimmer's final score. Unfortunately, the Expand-It failed to impress, earning a below average score.
The Ryobi Expand-It cordless string trimmer has a bump feed to dispense more line and is one of the easiest and most straightforward to replace the string on. Both lines come off of the same spool and we only had the slightest of difficulties when it came time to reassembling the head of the trimmer.
This string trimmer is on the heavier side, tipping the scales at a little more than 12 pounds.
Regrettably, we didn't think that the Ryobi is very comfortable to hold. It isn't well-balanced at all, tipping significantly towards the battery end and making it very difficult to hold in one hand. The handle is made of grippy rubber and feels fairly secure to hold even with a loose grip. The shoulder strap does help a bit but something about the way this string trimmer naturally wants to hand just doesn't feel quite right and is more fatiguing to use than other models.
However, we did like that you can use the weight of the trimmer to hold down the trigger once it gets going and it is quite easy to hold vertically for detail work or edging.
We did not like the guard on this string trimmer, finding it to be essentially useless. It's not particularly large and the Ryobi is so powerful that it feels like you are continually being pelted by plant matter while weed eating. The guard occasionally blocks something but more often than not, plants went flying past us.
Our next round of tests for the Ryobi focused on its battery system, specifically looking at its no-load runtime and different operating modes available. This cordless trimmer delivered a so-so set of results in this metric, which accounts for 25% of its overall score, putting it roughly in the middle of the group.
The 40-volt battery on this trimmer lasted for 43 minutes before calling it quits when starting with a full charge — slightly above average for these products. However, this will drop down a bit when you are actually cutting weeds with the Ryobi.
This string trimmer only has a single speed setting but we very much wished that it had low-power mode, both for conserving battery life and not destroying delicate objects.
The score for our final metric is based on the amount of noise and the tone generated by each string trimmer while it is in operation, which accounts for the remaining 15% of the final score. The Ryobi Expand-It is, unfortunately, one of the loudest and most obnoxious trimmers to operate, earning it a below-average score.
The Ryobi registered sound levels of 105 decibels (dBa) on our sound meter at a distance of three feet away, which is one of the highest recorded levels from any string trimmer that we have tested so far.
The Ryobi is also exceptionally high-pitched and annoying to be around when in use — definitely enough to disturb neighbors or bystanders.
While the Ryobi has plenty of flaws, it packs quite a punch and has one of the lowest price tags of the group, making it an excellent value.
If you are shopping for a new string trimmer on the skinniest possible budget, then the Ryobi Expand-It is a solid choice. It has more than enough power to cut through pretty much any plants typically encountered but it is loud, it's far from the most comfortable trimmer to use, and only has a so-so battery life. Despite that, we still would recommend this for the budget-conscious shopper since it is such a great value.
— David Wise, Michelle Powell, and Jenna Ammerman