How the test was made
We carry out all of our tests ourselves and test all products in real conditions. We tested the brushcutters in different environments with different types of vegetation. For example, we used them in fields of tall weeds, in dense vegetation and brush, in tall grass and on reeds in and along the edges of ditches.
The brushcutters have each been used for an entire session each time. In other words, we filled the tank and used the brushcutter until the petrol ran out. After each session we have replaced the blade/line before the next one - partly to evaluate how the brushcutter can deal with different tasks with different tools, and partly to see how easy it is to replace these attachments. We evaluated the operating time and focused on this quite heavily in the tests, as time efficiency is also affected by the user's technique and speed.
We have looked closely at the following aspects of each brushcutter:
Performance: How powerful is it? What tasks can it cope with? What are the limits in terms of each brushcutter's capacity? How quickly does it work?
Ergonomics: Is the brushcutter well balanced? Is it easy to navigate the controls during use? Does the harness distribute the weight well?
Operating time: How fuel-efficient is the brushcutter? How long can you run it on one tank?
We have also included factors such as noise level, accessories and build quality. All aspects have then been examined in relation to the price of the brushcutter to arrive at an impartial score.
The Stiga SBC 226 JD is our best in test because it's relatively strong given the price, and has a long operating time. In terms of strength, it can cope with a good deal of the brush that we attack with the brush blade. However, it tends to get stuck when used on woody vegetation or in tall, thick grass. The brushcutter has what's described as an easy start function, but it still takes 5-6 pulls to start from cold. Once it's warmed up, however, it's easy to start. Assembly is simple once you've done it a couple of times. There are three parts to be screwed together in a particular order. The same applies to the line reel, which is strong and relatively easy to install. The line reel is semi-automatic and is fed out by tapping the head on the ground, which works without problems.
However, the brushcutter only includes a simple harness, which impairs the user experience somewhat, as the body is unevenly loaded. Nor is the harness well padded, and the brushcutter is quite heavy. These disadvantages become obvious when you've run the machine for a short time. However, it's easy to attach and remove the harness. Another disadvantage in purely ergonomic terms is that the throttle button is large and slippery while the vibrations are simultaneously considerable. After a little while, these factors can have an impact on your hands. The operating time with a full tank is estimated as around 1 hour 20 minutes. That's really good. The price is also a plus, and might explain some of the disadvantages such as the choice of harness. Given its low price, the SBC 226 JD is therefore an excellent alternative if you have a small budget.
The Husqvarna 525 RX is a brushcutter suitable for anyone needing a bit more power in an easy-to-carry machine, although given the price, the power could have been better. It's pretty good on both tall grass and well-grown brushwood, but it struggles a bit with really thick clumps. As a hobby machine, though, it's impressive. The semi-automatic line feed works very well, feeding out the line when you press the head against the ground. You get about an hour and ten minutes' operating time from a full tank. This is very good, given the tank volume. We also like the fact that it's easy to assemble and start using.
The 525 RX is also user-friendly. You understand immediately how everything works. All of the buttons and controls are close together and there's no difficulty making adjustments. You can start the brushcutter from cold with just 2-3 pulls. And you switch it off easily by pushing forward a stop control. This then goes back automatically into the starting position. Unfortunately it only includes a simple harness, which we think is a bit stingy given the price, but it fits well and the padding seems to be sufficient for the weight of the machine. We would have liked there to be a much better grip on the handle, as it's slippery and plasticky. However, we like the fact that the throttle system is designed so that the upper button is the larger one, instead of the lower one as is the case on so many other machines. This means that it's never difficult to control the brushcutter's power. Overall, we feel that this is a good value for money brushcutter for anyone needing an economical, powerful and light machine.
The AL-KO BC 4125 II-S is a brushcutter primarily suited to anyone cutting lighter vegetation such as grass and brush that isn't densely packed. In other words, the performance is what we'd expect in this price class. It's quite a heavy and bulky machine to carry around. It feels particularly heavy because it only comes with a simple harness with very little padding in. You feel this on your shoulders and back after using it for a while. We estimate the operating time with a full tank to be around 1 hour 15 minutes. This is OK, but given the tank volume and brushcutter performance we would have liked more.
Something we really like about the BC 4125 II-S is the semi-automatic line feed. This makes it easier to run in tough terrain that wears the line out quickly, because you don't have to stop at regular intervals and pull out more line. The line lasts well during use. The grip is also good. It's made of patterned rubber so that your hands don't slip, and the buttons are a reasonable size. At the same time, many details of the machine feel relatively plasticky. The overall experience is that AL-KO is making well considered choices in order to reduce the price. You get a brushcutter that's primarily suited to cutting grass and weeds, with reasonable ergonomics and build quality and a pretty good operating time. However, we recommend that you upgrade to a better harness.
Stihl's FS89 is designated as a strimmer, but could just as easily be categorised as a simpler brushcutter given its performance. It can be fitted with a blade and has what's described as a 4-mix motor. This is a motor that takes the best from both two-stroke and four-stroke motors: high thrust, high torque, low emissions and low noise level. In purely practical terms, this means that you can use normal oil-mixed petrol and simultaneously obtain fast acceleration. As long as the grass isn't too tall or thick, the FS89 is fine. In heavier terrain, however, it has to struggle harder and isn't so convincing. The line feed is semi-automatic, but doesn't always work perfectly. However, on the positive side, you can reverse the line into the reel if you happen to get too much out.
Stihl manufacture many useful accessories, and the ergonomics of this machine aren't bad. The package includes both safety goggles and a harness with double shoulder straps. The harness has enough padding and redistributes the weight very well. This is by far one of the best harnesses we have tested. The brushcutter also feels well balanced. It doesn't feel heavy even using it from a full tank to empty, and the weight is evenly divided over the body. Unfortunately, the rubberised grip is very smooth, so if your hands get hot or damp it can become slippery. The throttle buttons are also slightly over-dimensioned. A full tank of petrol lasts for about an hour and five minutes, which is OK, but not great given the large tank volume. It's easy to change line and blades. The FS89 is most suitable for users who often need to trim grass but who also sometimes want to do simpler brushcutting. However, the price is more on a level with stronger brushcutters.