Hedge trimming has to be done and very many gardeners nowadays shy away from the garden shears in favour of an automated hedge trimmer, but what if your hedge is too high for a conventional trimmer? We put the extendable Flymo SabreCut XT 18v Cordless Hedge Trimmer to the test with some of our own hedges in need of a good trim.
Design and Build
Flymo's famous orange and black colouring mean you can immediately identify this hedge trimmer from a distance. As always, the build quality has the Flymo solid plastic and lightweight metal parts necessary for a durable and reasonably rugged outdoor electric tool. The cutting head can be tilted, and the very special ability this cordless hedge trimmer has is that the handle is telescopic, giving the cutting head an extraordinary reach and often removing the need for ladders completely. The cutting blade is 42cm and the Ni-MH18v battery clicks into place under the handle and is easy to fit and remove.
On first use this Flymo hedge trimmer cuts at a steady pace, with the twin action cutting teeth moving fast enough to work through hedging at a reasonable rate. It is not the easiest tool to handle when cutting vertically in front of you, because the length of the handle is considerable even when not extended, and on very low hedges or topiary work a standard handled hedge trimmer would be far more suitable, such as the Ryobi One+ cordless hedge trimmer. However, once over shoulder height, this hedge trimmer can be straightened and extended to reach out to a height over a metre above the reach of your upper hand when holding the handle, and it is easy to balance. Once the head is tilted to cut the top of the hedge you have this extended reach for the horizontal cut, too. To be honest, this is what the SabreCut XT Flymo hedge trimmer is all about - extended reach. It works well for trimming tall hedges and negates the need for a ladder in many cases.
Even when extended the trimmer sweeps over the hedge easily, and with gaps of 16mm between the blade's teeth it can cut a reasonable thickness of branch for this type of work. Another handy thing about this trimmer, because of the long adjustable extending handle, is that it can also be used to cut through ground cover whilst the user is standing straight, thus saving back-breaking bending. The overall performance is flawed in one respect though, because the use of an NiMH battery means the speed and force of the cutting fails as the battery flattens, something that does not happen with Lithium-ion batteries used in many cordless power tools nowadays. (Ryobi's trimmer has a Lithium-ion.) In our use the battery kept powering the hedge cutter for around 50 minutes, although the power diminished during use, and we had to move across the hedging several times to perform an even cut, but Flymo claim 65 minutes or 93 square metres of hedge.
Battery and Charging
The unit comes with a suitable charger; with the only indication of charge being a light on the transformer plug which shows red until the battery is charged and then turns green. As already intimated, we feel the main downside of this cordless hedge trimmer is the use of an NiMH battery. Apart from the diminishing performance as the battery flattens, it also takes a while to charge. The initial charge took around 75 minutes, but subsequent charges have taken a great deal longer (3+ hours) to reach the green light. Also, this type of battery loses its charge quickly when not in use, so really always needs charging just before it is needed. Basically we would prefer the use of a Lithium-ion battery which would offer consistency of output and better charge retention. There is also no charge indication on the battery itself, so it becomes difficult to avoid totally flattening it; something the instructions specifically state should be avoided.
The Flymo SabreCut XT Cordless 18v Hedge Trimmer, with its well-made and easy to use telescopic handle, is particularly useful for trimming tall hedges or cutting through ground cover, thus saving the user from either much climbing of ladders or bending down low. Be warned, however, that the battery technology is a little outdated; though this is reflected in the price, which at £129.99 comes complete with battery and charger.