When it comes to cordless power tools, Makita is a company with a great reputation for both quality and innovation. Indeed, its technology is some of the best around.
One thing is certain, it doesn't do things cheaply and if you’re in the market for a low cost product then the Makita XCU03PTX1 36V Cordless Chainsaw isn’t for you.
If, on the other hand, you are looking for a premium quality, cordless saw for occasional home use then this is definitely worth consideration. Not only is it packed with great features but this model also comes with a cordless grinder for all your grinding and polishing jobs.
Interested? Then carry on reading this review to discover more.
Performance and Handling
In many respects, this saw is similar to the company’s XCU02PT model but there are a few notable differences. The main one is that this saw is a traditional rear handle model whereas the XCU02PT is a top handle chainsaw. Some people can find top handle saws more difficult to handle and in this respect will find the XCU03PTX1 easier to use.
The saw has been designed for occasional light cutting tasks around the home and yard. As with most cordless saws it isn’t really a work horse so if you have lots of regular cutting work to carry out then a gas powered model may be more relevant.
That said, this saw is able to cut through a 12 inch diameter limb in a single pass. Experienced users would also be able to cut through thicker limbs – perhaps 18 inch diameter softwoods. However using it on branches this thick will drain the battery pretty quickly and because of the slower chain speeds it would take much longer than with a gas saw. This saw works best when cutting limbs around 6-8” in diameter, which it will cut through easily as well as not using too much battery power.
The saw is well suited to cutting down small trees, clearing minor storm damage as well as bucking small/medium sized limbs.
In common with most electric saws, it is easy to start. Just fit the battery, add chain oil, depress the lock-off lever and pull the switch trigger and the saw will start. One feature not seen on many homeowner saws is the variable speed trigger which will drive the chain speed from 0 to 20 m/s. For a cordless saw the top chain speed is excellent. It is better than most electric saws and comparable with some smaller gas models.
In terms of handling, most users should find this a simple saw to use. At a touch over 11lbs it is in the mid-range for an electric cordless model and if you are an experienced gas user the Makita won’t cause you any problems whatsoever. The compact rear handle has been designed for user comfort and, as well as there being zero emissions and noxious gases, the saw is quieter than a gas equivalent. Having said this, the noise level is recorded at 100 dB(A) and prolonged exposure to noise at these levels can cause hearing impairment. If you are planning on doing any lengthy cutting then ear protection is recommended but in reality your exposure to the noise will likely be limited by the battery life.
Check out the Makita in action below.
The XCU03PTX1 has a 14 inch reduced kickback bar and low kickback chain.
The bar has a sprocket nose which reduces the chain friction and improves cutting performance. To keep the sprocket in good condition you will need to grease the nose tip. This simple exercise involves injecting grease (from a cheap grease syringe which can be purchased for around $10 on line) into a hole on the blade.
The chain is a 90PX model, which has a 3.8” pitch, 0.043” gauge and 52 drive links. This is a popular size chain and generally lighter and faster cutting that the other common 0.05” gauge types.
If you are an experienced user or have read any of my other reviews, you will be well aware than the chain needs to be kept properly tensioned, something which requires constant readjustment. On this saw this is made easy thanks to the tool-less chain tensioning system. You simply need to turn a lever to loosen the bar cover and then turn an adjusting dial to tighten or loosen as required. This enables you to quickly and easily adjust the tension in the field without having to return to the garage for a screwdriver.
As well as keeping the cutting equipment tensioned, the chain should be sharpened on a regular basis. If you are happy to do this full instructions are provided (you can also check out our article here). You will need a 3/16” (4.0mm) round file and guide to do this. If you aren’t comfortable doing this you can get is sharpened professionally or get a replacement. This will cost around $15, which all adds up!
Design and Construction
Constructed mainly from plastic and metal, the Makita XCU03PTX1 is a well-designed chainsaw and features the company’s ‘Extreme Protection Technology’. Thanks to a series of protective seals, dust, water and debris is directed away from the machine's internal parts helping to prolong life.
The image above shows some of the saw's main components and features. There is a rubberized rear handle with the trigger switch and lock-out button in close proximity to each other. The two battery packs slot in either side of the handle providing good balance and just in front of them is the full wrap front handle. Just in front of this handle is a hand guard, which also acts as a chain brake. On the main powerhead unit, you will also find the chain tensioning knob and dial,
The picture above shows the left hand side of the saw which is home to the oil reservoir cap. On the front of the powerhead unit there is a set of metal bumper spikes which provide better control when cutting.
Motor and Battery
When it comes to motors, Makita employs the latest technology with its Outer Rotor BL™ Brushless direct-drive system. If you want to learn more about the type of motors used on chainsaws, you can read more in this article: Chainsaw Motors - Brushed vs Brushless. In a nutshell, modern brushless motors are much more efficient than their brushed counterparts and as such are able to provide longer life and better performance.
In terms of batteries, the XCU03PTX1 is powered by two 18V 5 amp hour units. This provides total power of 36 volts. Voltage is an indication of the power the saw is able to deliver and you will find 40 volts common in this class of saw. Amp hours generally provides a guide to runtime. A 5 amp hour battery can deliver a load of 5 amps for 1 hour or 10 amps for 30 minutes and so on. Most homeowner cordless saws have 2AH or 4AH batteries, so the Makita scores well here. As an indication, Makita also manufacturers 3AH batteries which can be used in this saw, but the 5AH units have a 65% greater runtime than these.
In practical terms, you can expect to get around 45 minutes cutting time (if you are using the saw for its intended light cutting duties). As with all cordless saws, however, if you start to cut large demanding limbs of 16-18” for example you will soon find the batteries depleting very quickly.
There are a couple of other worthy points to note, as follows:
- The saw has a built-in L.E.D. on/off switch with auto power-off function; this automatically shuts the saw off when operation is delayed which is a feature designed to extend battery life.
- The batteries can be used in other tools on Makita’s 18 volt platform.
- In the event of over-heating or over-loading, Makita’s star protection system will intervene and cut power to the saw. This will occur if the saw is being used in such a way that an abnormally high current is drawn.
- The batteries include an LED indicator to show the level of charge at any particular time.
Charging the batteries will take around 45 minutes, which is excellent when compared to other similar saws. A dual port charger is included with the purchase so that you can charge both units at the same time. The charger also features a built in USB-port so you can also charge other electronic devices at the same time!
On a final note, there a couple of other points worth mentioning. Firstly, the saw won’t operate on a single battery. Secondly, you can use Makita’s 3AH and 4AH batteries, provided they are part of the 18 volt lithium-ion range – so for example you could not use 20 volt batteries. Finally, no other manufacturer’s battery units can be used in this tool.
Chain Oil System
As well as keeping the cutting gear correctly tensioned, it also needs to be properly lubricated.
Some homeowner chainsaws have manual systems, but the majority have automatic fixed flow types. The advantage of these is that you don’t need to constantly remember to release oil to the bar. The disadvantage is that the flow of oil can’t be regulated to match the cutting conditions. This can be particularly useful when working in weather extremes when the viscosity of oil changes.
Fortunately, with the Makita this isn’t a problem as it has an automatic, adjustable flow lubrication system. If not enough oil is getting to the bar then the pump feed rate can be easily adjusted with the simple turn of a screw with the universal wrench supplied.
Oil is added through the oil reservoir cap on the side of the saw (as shown in the Design and Construction section). This is quite large and easily accessible so you won’t have any issues filling up. You will also note that there is a transparent window which is useful for gauging the oil level. The reservoir itself has a capacity of 200 ml (6.75 oz.), which is a fairly reasonable size and should provide around 20 to 30 minutes cutting time.
In terms of the oil type, any good quality bar and chain oil can be used. This should be vegetable based if you are doing a lot of pruning.
Note: Oil is not supplied with this purchase.
As you would expect from a premium quality saw like this, there are a number of safety features. These include:
- Reduced kickback bar and low kickback chain which meets the performance standards of ANSI B.175.1. This means that in tests, the chain demonstrated the low kickback requirements to meet this standard.
- Front and rear hand guards help protect the user from both debris and accidental contact with the chain. Although guards afford some protection, the wearing of gloves is recommended.
- Chain brake. This is activated in the event of severe kickback when the left hand is pushed forward against the front hand guard, bringing the chain to an immediate halt. Note, there are some cutting positions, for example when you are holding the front handle at the side where the brake won’t be activated.
- Safe starting. The inclusion of a lock-out button helps to prevent accidental start-up.
- Set of bumper spikes helps to provide stability when cutting.
With the batteries attached this saw weighs 11.5lbs, which is typical for a saw in this class and generally much lighter than gas equivalents.
Accessories and Extras
As well as an operator’s manual, this product comes with two 18 volt 5AH batteries and a dual port battery charger.
This purchase also includes an angle grinder so if you have any cutting, grinding or surface polishing jobs, this is an added bonus.
- Uses the latest in chainsaw technology
- Automatic, adjustable flow lubrication system
- Tool-less chain tensioning
- Fast battery charge time
- Easy to start, no emissions
At the moment there are insufficient consumer reviews online to provide any meaningful ratings. Of the small number of reviews that there are, the majority are very positive.
I will update this section at some point in the future when more reviews are available.
You should buy this saw if:
- You need a cordless, gas alternative for occasional light use duties.
- You want an easy to use saw with a host of great features.
- You want fast battery charge times
- You already own power tools on Makita’s 18 volt platform
You should not buy this saw if:
- You have a lot of regular medium and heavy duty cutting tasks to complete.
- You are on a budget and want a basic saw.
Price of Makita XCU03PTX1 36V Chainsaw
Currently available at just under $400 this isn’t a cheap product by any stretch of the imagination. One thing you can rely on with Makita, however, is that their power tools are of a high standard and the XCU03PTX1 is no different. Added to the fact that you get a $130 angle grinder thrown in and we reckon this represents good value for the money.