If you’re looking for a powerful, log ripping monster then you should stop reading this review now. The Sun Joe SWJ698E 12-inch 9-amp electric chain saw is all about handling and maneuverability.
Easy to start, reliable and no gas fumes to put up with – this saw would make a handy addition to your power tool collection when it isn’t worth firing up the gas saw to do a bit of light cutting.
Available at well under $100, it represents great value.
Carry on reading this review to get the full low down.
SUN JOE SWJ698E
Performance and Handling
The SWJ698E is suitable for light cutting duties. The manufacturer states that it will make light work of limbs up to 9 inches thick and that you will be able to cut a cord of wood or prune trees easily.
It is ideal for clearing light brush and cutting those small branches which get a little too big for the hedge trimmers. You should be able to cut small amounts of firewood, but if this is something you do on a regular basis then you will need to consider an alternative saw.
When it comes to cutting the larger branches, you may find that it struggles, especially when tackling hardwoods such as oak, almond and hickory. One user pointed out that it took about 25 seconds to cut through some 6 inch seasoned hardwood, a task that would normally take around 10 seconds with a small gas saw.
Where the Sun Joe does come into its own is when considering how easy it is to operate. Like most electric saws, starting is simple and immediate. Just fill with bar oil, ensure the chain is tensioned, press the lockout switch and then the trigger and you will be up and running immediately. Releasing the trigger will bring the saw to a halt.
Most people will find handling the saw to be well within their capabilities. Weighing just over 7 pounds and possessing a modest 12 inch bar, users should be able to maneuver it into the tightest of spaces.
The downsides with electric saws is, of course, the fact that you need access to electricity, whether that be near a power outlet or from a generator. An extension lead is also necessary, which can get in the way when cutting. As well as this, the saw cannot be used in wet conditions for obvious reasons.
You can see the Sun Joe in action below:
The SWJ698E is equipped with an Oregon Bar and Chain.
The bar is a low kickback variety, with a nose sprocket to help the chain movement. There is a sprocket hole on the tip of the bar which needs to be greased on a regular basis to prevent the nose wheel sprocket from seizing. This can be done easily with the help of a $10 grease syringe.
The chain, also made by Oregon, is a low kickback product, which meets the ANSI B.175.1 standard in this regard. It has a 3/8” pitch, 0.05” gauge and 45 drive links. This is a popular size chain and replacements are therefore easy to source.
When it comes to cutting performance, chain speed plays a part and the Sun Joe records 10 meters per second in this regard. This is not particularly fast compared to the larger saws but if you are only carrying out light cutting it shouldn’t prove to be a problem. When making more demanding cuts, the wood will take longer to cut.
To maintain cutting performance, the chain should be kept in top condition, which means regular sharpening. This is a job which requires some level of skill so if you do not feel able to do this, or learn the skill, it is prudent to have this done locally. If you are accustomed to doing this sort of thing then you will need a sharpening kit (including flat file, 5/32” round file and file holder).
Equally important is keeping the chain properly tensioned. Most homeowner saws have side mounted tensioning systems. On the Sun Joe, there is a tensioning screw on the front of the powerhead unit with needs to be turned with a screwdriver or the scrench tool provided. These front tensioning systems can be tricky and this seems to be the case here, with a few users commenting that it can be a little finicky. Like most things, however, it is something that you will get used to.
You should ensure that chain tension is checked regularly, especially in the early days when they have a tendency to stretch.
Design and Construction
Made primarily from plastic parts, the Sun Joe isn’t the most robust chainsaw you will come across, but this shouldn’t be an issue for its light cutting tasks. Its construction also helps to keep weight to a minimum, which is important for a saw of this nature.
As shown in the picture above, the SWJ698E has a traditional design. The main points to note are that the front handle does not also act as a chain brake, which is a feature found on larger saws. The bar and cover are held in place by a single nut and the front handle is not a wrap design. There is also an extension cord restraint hook, designed to prevent the power cord and extension cable coming apart when cutting. One issue that a few users mentioned is that the gap between the front handle and guard is quite tight so if you have particularly large hands this may be something you would want to think about.
The picture above shows the oil cap, which sits on top of the saw and is easily accessible. The translucent reservoir window is also shown, handy for keeping a check on oil levels.
9 Amp Motor
The Sun Joe is powered by a 9 amp motor, which is pretty good for a light duty saw. (Indeed, it is the same as the GreenWorks 20222 14-inch saw).
To run the saw you will need an appropriate extension cable. The maximum recommended is 100 feet and the cord itself needs to be suitable for outdoor use and also be the correct gauge. For a 100 foot cord the should be a minimum 14 gauge (although a higher 10 or 12 gauge would be better) and for a 50 foot cord the minimum recommended is 16 gauge (although again a 14 or 12 gauge would be better).
One other point to mention is that for a small saw this is quite loud, something which a couple of users mentioned. This is backed by the figures: it produces sound pressure of 110 dB(A), although this is possibly slightly less at the operator’s ear. Nevertheless this is equivalent to some gas machines at it is therefore recommended that ear protection be worn.
Chain Oil System
Bar oil is fed to the cutting components by an automatic lubrication system, which means that you don’t need to remember to release the oil manually. This is a fixed flow oiler, which means the flow of oil is constant and can’t be adjusted.
The oil reservoir has a capacity of 3 oz. (90 ml), which is pretty small so you should ensure that you keep a supply of bar and chain oil handy at all times. The saw will use about 0.2 oz of oil per minute, so you should get around 15 minutes cutting time per reservoir full.
It is recommended that you top up when the oil level reaches a quarter full and it is simple to check through the translucent reservoir window.
As far as the type of oil goes, you can use any good quality bar and chain oil and this should be vegetable based if you are doing any pruning.
There are two other points worth mentioning. Firstly, it is not uncommon for chainsaws to leak oil during storage and the only way to prevent this seepage is to empty the oil tank after each use. Secondly, NO OIL is provided with this purchase.
Although this is a relatively small chainsaw, it still needs to be treated with respect. The best way to stay out of harm’s way is to wear the appropriate safety equipment (eye wear, hearing protection and clothing) and operate the product as per the manufacturer’s instruction.
Some comfort is provided by a range of safety features, including:
- Front and rear hand guards. These protect the hands from contacting the chain and being hit by debris.
- Reduced kickback cutting components which meet industry safety standards and reduce the likelihood of kickback.
- Safety switch to prevent accidental start-up.
If you are accustomed to using a saw with a chain brake, you should note the Sun Joe does not have this feature and stopping the chain is simply a case of releasing the trigger. It will, however, take a few moments for the chain to come to a halt.
Weighing 7.3lbs, this is one of the lightest chainsaws around and so should be suitable for anyone who has difficulty lifting heavy weights.
The SWJ698E comes with an operator’s manual, a protective bar sheath and a hex key wrench/blade screwdriver.
• Lightweight and easy to handle
• Cuts the small stuff well
• Easy to start
• Low maintenance
• Chain tensioning can be tricky
• No chain brake
Sun Joe SWJ698E Consumer Ratings
There are only around 30 reviews on-line so it is difficult to have complete confidence in these.
For the record, around 80% of users thought the saw was either good or excellent. They liked the saws cutting ability on small branches and the fact that it was light and easy to operate. On the down side, users thought chain tensioning wasn’t the easiest task. Users also mentioned that the saw struggles a little on more demanding cuts.
You should buy this saw if:
• You want a light, easy to operate saw.
• You want a saw for light cutting duties.
• You want a reasonably inexpensive saw.
• You want a saw which is low maintenance and easy to start.
You should not buy this saw if:
• You have a lot of medium, heavy duty cutting.
• You want a premium saw and are prepared to pay a few more dollars.
Price of Sun Joe SWJ698E
This saw costs under a $100 and at the time of writing (July 2017) there is a deal offering it at just over $50. This is similar to the Greenworks 20222, which is the closest comparison in terms of size. Sun Joe products have a pretty good reputation and we therefore believe the SWJ698E is fairly priced.