Makita XCU08 Cordless Top Handle Chainsaw Kisses Gas Goodbye
The Makita XCU08 cordless top handle chainsaw is a specialty model that targets the needs of arborists and utility workers. Our test model is the 14″ version and it’s also available with a 16″ bar as the XCU09 or you can simply swap out the stock bar for a 12″ or 16″ as needed.
- Excellent cutting speed
- Power to replace gas saws
- Torque boost for tougher cuts
- Oil flow adjustment
- Very good value against brands like Stihl and Husqvarna
- Noticeably heavier than gas models in the same power class
Why Use a Top Handle Design?
If you’re not familiar with a top handle chainsaw design, it’s the go-to as a climbing saw for arborists and utility workers. When you’re working at height, you’re often clearing smaller branches away from the trunk or topping a smaller section of a tree.
The top handle design brings the two handles together much closer and creates a more maneuverable saw that’s easier to work within difficult spots. They’re typically smaller and lighter than rear handle chainsaws and it’s not unusual for an arborist to use it one-handed on certain cuts.
If you’re looking for a general use cordless chainsaw, you’re better off with something like the Makita XCU03. Top handle chainsaws should only be used by trained professionals.
When you’re working with thicker branches and harder wood, kicking into Torque Boost mode is the way to go. This lets the saw call on additional power to keep the chain speed up. It doesn’t increase the top-end chain speed, though.
Oil Flow Rate Adjustment
We don’t see a lot of options in the cordless world to adjust your oil flow rate, but Makita bucks the trend and includes it. To the left of the handle, flip open the rubber flap and use the flat driver side of your scrench to adjust it up or down. Clockwise increases and counterclockwise decreases.
You’ll need your scrench for chain tension on the Makita XCU08. Start by loosening the bar nut a touch and then use the flat driver side to increase or decrease the tensioning. Homeowners like the convenience of tool-free tensioning, but we find Pros prefer the security that comes with having the bar secured by a nut.
You don’t need to remove the cover to adjust the tension, but sooner or later you’ll need to get in there for a chain swap or just to clear it out. When the time comes, loosen the bar nut with your scrench. It’s a captured nut, so you’ll have an easier time keeping track of it if you do happen to drop the cover.
- Translucent oil reservoir
- Auto-power off after 60 seconds of rest
- Steel bucking spikes
The Makita XCU08 cordless top handle chainsaw boasts 3940 FPM chain speed and the power of a 30cc gas engine. To test that out, we made some test cuts in oak before getting to some trimming of the same species.
Right out of the gate, I was impressed by the cutting speed of this little saw. A big part of it is due to the high chain speed and, of course, a good sharp chain.
There’s some power behind that speed as well. As I made some test cuts in 8″–10″ oak branches, I kicked it into Torque Boost mode had a hard time getting the saw to bog down.
Now don’t expect it to have the same kind of power you see from a rear handle—that’s a chainsaw with a different purpose. But for its size and application, I’m impressed. In fact, the Makita XCU08 has the same chain speed and only a slightly lower gas engine equivalency than their 16″ XCU04.
For actual trimming, the only major difference I noticed was in weight. Well, unless you count the lack of noise and emissions (and you should!). With batteries, this Makita top handle chainsaw weighs in just over 10 pounds. A gas saw in the same class, like Stihl’s MS 193 T, can be another pound lighter or so.
As a bare tool, the Makita XCU08 cordless top handle chainsaw runs $329. That’s roughly the entry-level price of a good professional gas model in the same power class. You can also pick it up as a kit with two 5.0Ah batteries and a dual-port Rapid Optimum Charger for $459.
Compared to what you can get from Stihl or Husqvarna on the battery side, you’re saving some money. As a bonus, you’re getting into a system that has more than 225 compatible power tools and other OPE.
The Bottom Line
The Makita XCU08 cordless top handle chainsaw has the chops to stand up against traditional chainsaw powerhouses like Stihl and Husqvarna with some cost savings. It has the power to legitimately replace gas saws in the same class, though there is a bit of a weight penalty.
If you’re in the market for a cordless top handle saw to handle arborist and utility work, this is a great option. Even though this model is impressive, stick with a rear handle design if you’re looking for a general chainsaw cutting option.