Best Top Handle Chainsaw in 2020 – Top Rated Models Compared

by Tom Fidgen | Last Updated: June 17, 2020

Best Top Handle Chainsaw

If you’ll not be working at height; cutting branches from a tree, on an elevated working platform (EWP), a harness, or from a ladder; a top handled chainsaw might not be for you. You can instead take a look at our curated list of rear handled chainsaws.

Top handle chainsaws are made by moving the rear handle in traditional chainsaws to the top. They are mostly battery or gas-powered, relatively lighter than traditional chainsaws, and can be held with one hand. Features that make them suited for working at height.

If most of your woodwork will be at a height, in my experience it is not enough to be a certified chainsaw operator. It is important that you get the best top handle chainsaw that your money can buy. This list of the 10 top handle chainsaw will aid your purchasing decisions.

Best Top Handle Chainsaw Reviews – (Updated List)

1. Makita XCU02PT – Cordless 12″ top Handle Chainsaw

This battery-run chainsaw comes with two 18V batteries and has an impressive output power for its price.

The XCUO2PT is the kind of chainsaw you can use without an earplug, or nose mask, and still be fine (though not recommended), because of its low noise level and zero-emission. The charging speed reduces downtime and gets you up again fast after your battery dies.

Top Pick

Makita XCU02PT 18V X2 (36V) LXT Lithium-Ion Cordless 12' Chain Saw Kit (5.0Ah),Teal

Makita XCU02PT 18V X2

Makita-built motor delivers 1, 650 FPM chain speed for faster cutting

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It has zero-emission, making it eco-friendly and reduces the maintenance requirement. If you have had to stop to adjust your chains while cutting, this chainsaw saves you from that hassle with its easy chain adjustment.

The price of this top handle chainsaw might not fit your budget, especially if you’re low on budget. Its fast for a battery-powered chainsaw with a speed of 1650 fpm, and can run on this for any capacity with its 12V guide bar.

There is no fuel to clean out, air filters, or mufflers to clean or fuel to premix, which makes maintenance less tedious.

All you do most times is pour the chain oil, load the battery and you’re set. It turns out anyone can start this chainsaw; all you need is to push a set of buttons. To save time, buying an extra pair of batteries is always a nice move.

What We Like:

  • Long-lasting battery
  • Fast battery charging that reduces downtime
  • Relatively quiet engine and soft rubber grip from which to apply pressure.
  • Obvious oil level indicator; making cutting very dynamic and flexible.

What We Didn’t Like:

  • It’s on the expensive side of chainsaws

2. DEWALT DCCS620P1 – Brushless Top Handle Chainsaw

If you’ll be engaged in heavy-duty cutting, this chainsaw might not be for you; from what I’ve seen, it works better for light-weight cutting. This is one of the disadvantages of using this chainsaw, you have to get another one if your next job is on the heavy side.

Budget Pick

DEWALT 20V MAX XR Chainsaw Kit, 5-Ah Battery, 12-Inch (DCCS620P1)

DEWALT DCCS620P1

Low kick back 12″ Oregon Bar and chain: for construction and outdoor cutting applications

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If you’ll be spending a lot of time working at a height, you may find a long-lasting battery desirable, this makes the DEWALT 20V MAX a good fit.

Another challenge faced with using the DEWALT DCCS620P1 is the oiling system. There have been reports of its leaking oil and sometimes needed to be inclined to a side to control the leaking.

What We Like:

  • Relatively lighter than most chainsaws
  • Long lasting battery
  • The size and weight makes it very comfortable to use
  • Auto-oiling system with a compact design improves comfort and handling

What We Didn’t Like:

  • Its leaks bar oil and sometimes has to be inclined to the other side to reduce this
  • It is not suited for heavy tree cutting

3. Tanaka TCS33EDTP 12-Inch Top Handle Chain Saw

This top handle chainsaw uses a gas powered Pure Fire engines. Pure Fire engines are famous for their low fuel consumption, efficiency and impressive outputs performance.

Gas-powered chainsaws are known to be hard to start and produce emissions that can be dangerous to your health (requiring the use of nose masks).

Budget Pick

Tanaka 32cc Gas 12' Top Handle Chain Saw TCS33EDTP-12 NEW -MP#GH4498 349Y49HBRG9101587
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For a gas-powered chainsaw, Tanaka TCS33EDTP is fairly easy to start. It produces low emission (another impressive feature from a gas-powered chainsaw) making it eco-friendly.

The Tanaka TC33EDTP might give you some troubles with the blade on the heavy-duty applications, which is one of its disadvantages. This might require you to have more than one chainsaw, in case you have to work on a heavier job. But with light work (light pruning and DIY engagements), its performance is impressive.

There is an automatic gear-driven oiling system that makes working with this chainsaw less tedious. The side-access chain tensioning, provides quick and convenient chain adjustments.

Another feature you might desire if you’ll be working for long hours. The Tanaka TC33DDTP is actually built for working at heights, a built-in lanyard ring makes climbing with this machine easy.

Its impressive power-to-weight ratio provides a lot of convenience and productivity.

What We Like:

  • Easy to start for a gas powered chainsaw
  • The Pure Fire engine that optimizes fuel and reduces emission
  • Built-in lanyard, easy tension adjustment and automatic oiling makes using this chainsaw convenient.

What We Didn’t Like:

  • Doesn’t perform well for heavy duty applications

4. Echo 12 in.Gas Top Handle Chainsaw

If you’ll be spending most of your work-time on light work, then the Echo 12-inch bar top handle chainsaw might just be for you.

It doesn’t perform well for heavy-duty application, but can be impressive for light work. This chainsaw is rugged in its design and reliability.

It starts easily in both hot and cold weather conditions, which can mean a lot if you work throughout the year and need a reliable saw.

BEditor Choice

ECHO CS-271T 12 In. Chainsaw

ECHO CS-271T 12 In. Chainsaw

Capacity: 8.1 oz. Engine Displacement: 26.9cc Anti Vibration Handle: Yes

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If you always have to check your oil and gas level at short intervals while working, the optimal gas and oil consumption of this chainsaw might just be all you need.

Fill in the gas and the oil, adjust your chains, handle appropriately (based on your expertise; some persons can actually start a chainsaw with one hand pulling and the other holding it.

While some will have to hold it to the ground, before pulling). It’s on the light side of chainsaws. The major disadvantage of this chainsaw is its inability to work on heavy-duty without breaking. Its impressive performance with light-duty work compensates for this.

This chainsaw idles properly and starts easily after a long idle time. It has a vibration dampening system that reduces body fatigue after work.

What We Like:

  • Reliable and Rugged. Starts easily in hot or cold weather
  • Good gas and oil consumption
  • Dampened vibration, reducing fatigue and strain on your joints
  • Stable when idle

What We Didn’t Like:

  • It is designed for light cutting and working with relatively small branches

5. Husqvarna T435 – Gas Powered Top Handle Chainsaw

This chainsaw is for professionals. The T435 is rugged and starts in both hot and cold conditions, making it immediately appealing if you will be working in harsh conditions.

This top handle chainsaw is the kind you might want to go for if you find an adjustable fuel and oil consumption feature, and a transparent fuel level indicator a useful addition to how you work.

This chainsaw starts easily, and for its relatively lightweight, works well for heavy-duty application. You might however have to contend with a hard-to-adjust chain.

Best Choice

Husqvarna 966997203 T435 Top Handle Saw, Mid Size, Orange

Husqvarna 966997203 T435

Anti-vib system designed to reduce vibration levels to the user, which decreases user fatigue.

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The centrifugal air injection cleaning system removes debris while working; reducing the maintenance demands. This automatic cleaning also increases the engine’s life, giving you more work-time and value for your money.

This can be taken as a bonus for a relatively expensive chainsaw. It is comfortable to use and easy to maneuver, thanks to its lightweight.

It also ensures safety while working with the inertia activated brake and chain brake window that increases the visibility of the guide bar tip. Its 2-stroke engine uses up less fuel and produces less exhaust emission for a gas-powered chainsaw.

Using this machine, you’ll experience less body fatigue, thanks to its vibration dampening design.

Read our In-depth review on Husqvarna 460 Rancher Chainsaw

What We Like:

  • Adjustable oil and fuel consumption feature
  • High performance in heavy duty application
  • Ease of maintenance due to the air injection system
  • Transparent fuel gauge checker

What We Didn’t Like:

  • Difficulty manipulating the chain

6. Makita XCU02Z – Cordless 12″ Top Handle Chainsaw

This top handle chainsaw is similar to the XCUO2PT. It uses two 18V battery instead and is easy to handle because of its relatively lightweight.

The noise from this chainsaw is fairly convenient if you don’t want to use earplugs (though not recommended). Charging downtime is reduced with a fast-charging charger, increasing the time you spend in productive work.

12″ Chain Saw

Makita XCU02Z 18V X2 (36V) LXT Lithium-Ion Cordless 12' Chain Saw, Tool Only

Makita XCU02Z 18V X2

Two 18V LXT Lithium-Ion batteries (not included) deliver the power and run time for corded demands without leaving the 18V LXT platform

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It cuts fast with a speed of 1650 fpm and can do this on any capacity with its 12V guide bar. There are however incidents of leaking chain oil and chain falling off while working this chainsaw.

This chainsaw is eco-friendly. Maintaining the Makita XCU02Z is easy: there is no oil to clean, fuel to empty or air filter or muffler to clean, all you do is load the battery and you’re off to work. Anyone can start this chainsaw.

It starts with just the push of some buttons and has a fairly long-lasting battery. It has a rubberized handle grip that eases applying pressure while cutting. The noise level is low enough to allow effective communication with team members.

Users usually experience chains falling off while cutting, a little tightening might do the magic here. It has an obvious oil level indicator that makes working more productive.

What We Like:

  • Eco-friendly and easy to maintain
  • Fast battery charging that reduces downtime
  • Relatively quiet engine and soft rubber grip from which to apply pressure.
  • Obvious oil level indicator.

What We Didn’t Like:

  • Multiple reports of leaking chain oil
  • Chain falling off despite tool less adjustment usage

7. Hitachi CS33EDTP – Gas Powered Top Handle Chainsaw

This might not be the best chainsaw if you are searching for a light top handle chainsaw. But the CS33EDTP compensates for its relatively heavy weight with an impressive cutting performance.

Its power-to-weight ratio that increases productivity can be a desired feature for professional arborists and wood surgeons. This CARB compliant chainsaw is made with a 2-stroke Pure Fire engine.

Rear Handle Chain Saw

Hitachi CS33EB16 16-Inch 32.2cc 2-Stroke Gas-Powered Rear Handle Chain Saw (C.A.R.B Compliant)

Hitachi CS33EB16 16-Inch

32.2cc, 1.6 hp commercial grade engine provides excellent cutting performance and reliability

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The Pure Fire engine introduces better fuel and oil consumption. It provides better ergonomics and reduced fatigue at the end of the day.

While it is optimized for pruning and light cutting, it can also be used for heavy-duty cutting, making it a good fit for any use. This chainsaw seems to consume and leak a lot of oil, a challenge you might have to deal with.

The side chain tension adjustment makes the cutting process easy. Climbing will not be hard with this chainsaw since it has a built-in lanyard ring.

This chainsaw is ideal for pruning, shaping, and hobby work, easy to start, and provides high performance and productivity.

The anti-vibration feature of this chainsaw reduces the fatigue you experience after the day’s work. The heavyweight of the Hitachi CS33EDTP might however render the anti-vibration benefit of little effect if you do not have the upper body strength to handle it.

What We Like:

  • Easy to start
  • An impressive power-to-weight ratio giving an impressive cutting performance
  • Anti-vibration features that reduces fatigues
  • Easy to access tension adjustment

What We Didn’t Like:

  • Consumes a lot of oil and leaks oil in most cases
  • On the heavier side of chainsaws

8. New Echo Top Handle Chain Saw

This might not be the best chainsaw if you are searching for a light top handle chainsaw. But the CS33EDTP compensates for its relatively heavy weight with an impressive cutting performance.

Its power-to-weight ratio that increases productivity can be a desired feature for professional arborists and wood surgeons. This CARB compliant chainsaw is made with a 2-stroke Pure Fire engine.

16″ Bar

New Echo Top Handle Chain Saw CS-355T 16' Bar Fast ;JM#54574-4565467/341190831

New Echo Top Handle Chain Saw

Two-stroke gasoline engine

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The Pure Fire engine introduces better fuel and oil consumption. It provides better ergonomics and reduced fatigue at the end of the day.

While it is optimized for pruning and light cutting, it can also be used for heavy-duty cutting, making it a good fit for any use. This chainsaw seems to consume and leak a lot of oil, a challenge you might have to deal with.

The side chain tension adjustment makes the cutting process easy. Climbing will not be hard with this chainsaw since it has a built-in lanyard ring.

This chainsaw is ideal for pruning, shaping, and hobby work, easy to start, and provides high performance and productivity.

The anti-vibration feature of this chainsaw reduces the fatigue you experience after the day’s work. The heavyweight of the Hitachi CS33EDTP might however render the anti-vibration benefit of little effect if you do not have the upper body strength to handle it.

What We Like:

  • Easy starting, thanks to the digital ignition system
  • Rugged and reliable; works in any weather condition
  • Comfortable and easy to use with the anti-vibration features
  • The control experience is improved with the balanced weight of the saw

What We Didn’t Like:

  • The 355T is quite loud
  • Relatively expensive. One of the most expensive on this list

9. BLACK+DECKER LCS1240 – Cordless Top Handle Chainsaw

It always pays to have extra charged battery on standby if you’re going to be working for hours; so you don’t have to sit around to have it charge when it goes down.

Though the 40V lithium-ion battery can last for a very long time.

12″ Premium Bar and Chain

BLACK+DECKER 40V Max Cordless Chainsaw, 12-Inch (LCS1240)

BLACK+DECKER 40V

40 Volts MAX Lithium Ion Battery for longer runtime and overall life

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Using this chainsaw is accompanied by a readiness to handle leaking oil. The BLACK+DECKER is relatively heavy (which might be a disadvantage).

It’s relatively very easy to use. It comes with an automatic oiling system, that eliminates the need for manual oiling of your chains while working. This saves you a lot of cutting time and increases your efficiency. The battery-powered engine makes this saw eco-friendly.

The automatic oiling system and battery-powered engines mean all you do is fill in the oil, load the batteries, and hit the road.

There is extra comfort in the tool-free chain tensioning system that allows you to easily adjust the chain tension on the side of the saw. This comes in handy if you’ll be working for a long time and have to attend to slacking chains.

If maintaining your saw after using it has been harder than cutting itself, you’ll find maintaining this saw a relief.

What We Like:

  • The automatic chain oiling feature
  • Easy to maintain
  • Tool-free chain tensioning for quick and easy chain adjustments
  • Has a relatively long lasting battery

What We Didn’t Like:

  • Leaks oil in most cases

10. Greenworks 12-Inch Cordless Top Handle Chainsaw

The light weight of this chainsaw makes it a good fit for those that are not very strong, especially the aging.

The 40V lithium-ion battery lasts long, giving you the long term reliability that you need for long-term work. This battery also charges fast (with the custom charger) reducing charging downtime, and increasing productivity.

Budget Value

Greenworks 12-Inch 40V Cordless Chainsaw, 2.0 AH Battery and Charger Included 20262

Greenworks 12-Inch 40V Cordless Chainsaw

Robust 12-inch steel chain and bar with tool-less chain tensioning offers ease of use while delivering the highest cutting performance

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There is a tool-less chain tensioning system, that enhances control and performance while working with the saw.

It has an automatic oiling system, that oils the chains appropriately; making you care less about oiling your cutting chains as you work.

All you need to do to use this chainsaw is to fill the oil, load the batteries, and hit the road. There is a clear line of site between you and the oil level indicator, so you know when to stop for oiling. This is not to be confused with automatic oiling though.

The Greenwork 12-inch does an impressive job with a reduced noise level, that improves the comfort from using it.

This chainsaw is quiet enough to be operated without an earmuff or earplugs. It has a tool-free chain tensioning system for quick chain adjustment, which will make using and controlling the saw easy.

What We Like:

  • Really light weight
  • Fast charge and starts easily
  • Relatively quiet
  • Easy chain adjustments

What We Didn’t Like:

  • Optimized for majorly light-duty work
  • There is a recurring case of leaking oil

How to Use a Top Handle Chainsaw

Top handle chainsaws are primarily made for cutting at a height and they are designed to function in this capacity. You are advised to let the saw do the cutting while applying a little pressure on the handle for direction.

The manufacturers always state how these chainsaws should be used in the manual, where and by whom. Top handle chainsaws should only be used by trained and certified operators. The machine should only be used after adequate protection of the operator is ensured.

They should be used only after the operator is properly secured and positioned. The saw is usually tested on the ground and delivered to the operator via a lever. The base of the tree or working area should be evacuated to prevent accidents in the event of a falling saw or saw component.

Though it is done, it is not recommended to use the saw with one hand, except in necessary conditions.

Factors to Consider Before Choosing a Top Handle Chainsaw

How safe is the chainsaw?

Important points you should look at here is the lanyard and the chain brakes.

Weight, comfort, and maneuverability

Top handled chainsaws generally weigh a few pounds. This is to reduce fatigue while you’re up there and allow control and maneuver of the machine. If this is not ensured there might safety risks involved.

Your budget

How much do you have budgeted to purchase the best top handle chainsaw? There is always one for your budget.

If you are high on a budget the Husqvarna and echo brands are possible options, you can pick from. If you’re on the opposite side of the budget, Makita and Green’s work are good alternatives.

Battery or Gas powered?

If noise is a major concern, the battery-powered saws are a good choice. Else it might be better to go for the gas-powered saws; they guarantee higher power output.

If a low-maintenance saw will interest you, then battery-powered chainsaws are a good choice.

Bar length

The longer the bar length, the better and larger the work it can do. In most cases the bar is replaceable, so this might not be a serious concern in most cases.

The time of the year

If you’ll be working in the cold, it is better to go for those chainsaws cold start easily and idles efficiently.

Can you use a top handle chainsaw for ground operation?

If you use it on the ground, even with your two hands, you’ll be in a very poor position, because you’ll be leaning over the saw, directly in line with the bar and chain. An unfortunate position on kickbacks.

You can instead choose from our list of rear handle chainsaw.

Protective gear for top handle chainsaw operators

Below is the list of personal protection clothing a top handle chainsaw operator should use.

Best Brands

Hitachi is a leader in power tool development and research and popular for providing top-grade woodwork, metalwork, and drilling equipment, etc. They are leaders in innovative technologies that have improved the quality of work.

Husqvarna is producers of outdoor power products like chainsaws, mowers, etc. They have attained a level of authority in the chainsaw industry, with brands like Stihl.

Makita, headquartered in Japan, is one of the oldest manufacturers of chainsaws. It has other sub-companies, like Dolmar producing similar products.

Tanaka Power Equipment produces two-stroke-powered handheld power equipment, with low-level consumers and professional users as their targets.​

Echo manufacturers professional-grade handheld power equipment, for both commercial and home use.

Greenworks tools are leaders in battery-powered power tools for outdoor use, for both professionals and hobbyists. They are producers of high-performance mowers and chainsaws.

Final Thoughts

From the 10 chainsaws presented in this list, the Makita XCU02PT is our top pick. If you’re looking for a replacement for your old chainsaw, or this is your first saw, this might be a good choice. Though not the cheapest of the 10 chainsaws, but its performance will worth its price.

DEWALT DCCS620P1 is the best price for them. This chainsaw has a durable battery, and high performance among other features like easy tension adjustment, and easy maintenance for a relatively low price.

If you are on the low side of the budget, the Tanaka TC33EDTP gas-powered Chainsaw might be a good choice. It optimizes fuel consumption, is highly efficient and easy to use at height.

Tom has over 15 years’ experience as a woodworker and his fair share of expertise in the field. He also knows all about the right woodworking tools and materials and shares his invaluable knowledge to help you with your DIY projects.