You can’t have a chainsaw site without talking about Zombies, right! Seriously, though, in this review we’re going to take a look at the Zombi ZCS5817 16-Inch 58-Volt 4Ah Lithium Cordless Electric Chainsaw.
Zombi Power Tools is a range of products produced by the American Lawn Mower Company. Founded in 1895, they’ve certainly got a long history and the company is not reticent in claiming that it makes the best power tools on the market. The company’s brands also include Earthwise Tools, Great States and Scotts.
The company describes the Zombi as a true wood-cutting monster and claims that its performance exceeds that of most saws in its class, regardless of whether they are gasoline fueled, corded electric, or battery powered.
Those are some pretty bold statements. So just how good is the ZCS5817 and is it worth investing in one?
Carry on reading to learn more.
Performance and Handling
This saw has been designed to carry out light and medium cutting duties around the home. It enjoys the benefits of a small gas saw, such as portability and cutting performance, but without some of the downsides, such as the need for regular maintenance and the requirement to mix gas and oil.
In common with most electric chainsaws, the Zombi employs a safe-start system with a lockout button which must be depressed before the trigger can be operated. This avoids the issue of dangerously switching the saw on by accident. Releasing the trigger switch will bring the saw to a halt within a couple of seconds. The Zombi would therefore be useful when a lot of stop/start cutting is involved.
In terms of handling, weighing 16lbs, the Zombi isn’t particularly light, being at the top end for a saw in this class. Even though the saw has textured grips for user comfort and handling, it isn’t perhaps suitable for someone who struggles with heavy tools. Note, a corded version of the Zombi (the ZCS12017 13 Amp Chainsaw) is available and this weighs in at around 13½ lbs., which some users may find more manageable.
With its 16 inch blade, this saw should be capable of getting through a 14-inch log in a single pass. In line with other battery powered saws, using it on this size log is likely to drain the battery more quickly. Overall, you should find this saw is well suited to yard clean up and cutting modest amounts of firewood.
The ZCS5817 comes with a 16-inch Oregon manufactured bar and chain.
The bar is a Double Guard 91, which is one of the best bars available for occasional use saws. It has a laminated body and a narrow nose to help reduce kickback. It also has a nose sprocket, designed to improve the motion of the chain and therefore improve cutting performance. Grease will need to be added to the sprocket hole on the bar to prevent the nose sprocket from seizing up. Grease syringes can be purchased for around $10.
The chain, also made by Oregon, is a 91 low profile product, which meets all the low kickback requirements of ANSI B.175.1. It has a 3/8” pitch and 0.05” gauge (thickness), which is the most popular size chain on home owner saws. Being
made by Oregon, it will be pretty easy to source a replacement when one is needed.
Keeping the chain properly tensioned is paramount to ensure that the saw cuts properly and the chain doesn’t slip from the bar. This is done easily on the Zombi thanks to a tool-less tensioning system. The tensioner uses a wheel on the side of the saw to set the tension and a second wheel to lock it in the correct position. This means that you don’t need to loosen nuts and get out your screwdriver each time the chain gets loose.
The chain should be kept sharp at all times (when the saw struggles to cut and the chips turn to dust it’s time to sharpen up). This involves a certain techniques and needs to be done properly for safety reasons so if you prefer not to do it, you will find places locally where it can be done for you. If you are experienced at this sought of thing or want to learn how to do it properly, you will need a 5/32” round file and kit. If you are interested in learning, check out our article on Chainsaw Sharpening
A chainsaw’s ability to cut well is determined by a number of factors, chain speed being one of them. The speed of the Zombi is 19 meters per second, which is excellent and at the top of the range for an electric saw. Indeed it is better than some smaller gas powered saws.
Design and Construction
You certainly can’t accuse the ZCS5817 of going with the flow! It is a well-designed, stylish looking product which comes in black and marbled blue.
The image above shows the saws design from the right hand side. On the rubberized handle there are the throttle trigger and lockout switches for safe, immediate starting. The tensioning knob mentioned earlier is large and easy to operate and sits just to the left of the bar cover nuts which hold both the cover and guide bar in place. At the front of the powerhead unit there is a set of bumper (bucking spikes). These are used to pivot the saw on wood when cutting, providing stability.
The battery slots into the holder on top of the saw and is positioned in the center for good balance. Just in front of this is the full wrap front handle which enables the operator to cut at multiple angles. There is a front handguard which also acts as a chain brake when pushed into the forward position.
The image above shows the right hand side of the saw where you will find an easily accessible oil cap and the oil reservoir window.
The saw is constructed from hard plastic and metal which should ensure that it is reasonably durable whilst at the same time limiting the weight.
Brushless Motor and 56 Volt Battery
With its brushless motor, the Zombi incorporates the latest in modern technology. If you weren’t aware, when it comes to motors, the more modern brushless types are more efficient than their older brushed counterparts. Although more expensive, they do generally provide greater performance as well as lasting longer so you should get longer life from your saw.
There is a 56 volt 4 amp hour battery included in the purchase. The voltage tends to provide a rough indication of power and 56 volts is at the top end in terms of cordless chainsaws. Only a few saws, such as the GreenWorks Pro GCS80420, which has an 80 volt battery, can steal a march on the Zombi. Most other saws in its class have 40 volt batteries.
Amp hours provide a broad indication of a saw’s runtime capacity. Amp hours tell us how much current can be supplied to a load and the higher the amp hour rating indicates better performance. In this case, the 4AH battery can supply a current of 4 amps to a load for 1 hour, or 2 amps for 2 hours. Smaller saws tend to have 2AH batteries, whereas most products in this range are rated 4AH.
In practical terms, this battery should supply enough power and runtime to carry out most small projects around the home. Certainly if you have a small/medium tree to take down and cut into logs, a single charge should be more than capable of getting through this.
Obviously it will be necessary to recharge the battery on a regular basis and a charger is included to do this. The charge time is 2 hours and whilst this isn’t the quickest on the market, it is certainly not the slowest. Usefully, there is an electronic readout on the lithium battery so that you can easily check how much charge is in the battery.
In summary, unless you have multiple batteries, this is not an all-day tool but it should have enough juice to get you through most light and medium duty cutting tasks.
CHECK THE ZOMBI ON AMAZON
Chain Oil System
As well as being kept properly tensioned, the cutting gear needs to be kept lubricated. The Zombi has an automatic oiling system which means you can simply fill up with bar oil and cut without having to release the oil manually to the bar.
The reservoir has a capacity of 5.75 ounces (170 ml), which is a decent size. You should ensure that you keep a close eye on oil levels at all times and top up when required. There is a transparent oil tank reservoir window with a number of markings to help the operator keep on top of this.
With regards to the type of oil, a good quality bar and chain oil should be used, preferably vegetable based if pruning is being undertaken.
There are plenty of safety features on the Zombi, including:
- Chain brake. This is designed to stop the chain in the event of severe kickback. It operates when the left hand pushes the front hand guard into a forward position.
- Hand guards to protect the user from flying debris and coming into contact with the chain.
- Low kickback chain and reduced kickback bar. Although not eliminating kickback entirely, this type of cutting gear is designed to reduce the likelihood and severity of it.
- Bumper spikes to provide stability when cutting.
- Safe-start system to prevent the user accidentally turning the saw on.
As always, users are cautioned not to rely on the safety features alone. Wearing appropriate safety equipment and operating the saw in the prescribed manner are the best ways to avoid injury.
As mentioned earlier, the Zombi weighs around 16 lbs. This isn’t especially light and if you struggle with heavy power tools it may be worth avoiding this saw.
This saw comes with an operator’s manual, battery and battery charger.
• Well designed
• Powerful battery
• Tool-less chain tensioning system
• Oregon cutting gear
• On the heavy side
• Relatively new to the market
There are around 30 customer reviews online, all of which are overwhelmingly positive. However, none of these relate to verified purchases and I suspect that they have been written in response to a promotion. It isn’t therefore wise to draw too many conclusions from these reviews and I will revisit this section at some point in the future.
Zombi ZCS5817 Price
In the $200 - $300 price range, the Zombi isn’t cheap. In this price range it is competing against excellent, proven products such as the Ego Power Plus and GreenWorks GCS80420. (You can also read our article on the full low down on cordless saws). Personally, at this point, given the Zombi’s lack of a track record then I would be tempted to go for one of the more established alternatives. That said, if you have other power tools in this brand and have been pleased with their performance, then you may be happy to take the plunge.