WHETHER IT’S notching out strainer-posts for fencing work or clearing low hanging branches out of the way to get the combine through, chainsaws make the job quick and easy.

We’ve got hold of six saws of varying power and specification to see what each model offers and just what you pay for.

We’ve assessed each for its user-friendliness, ease of maintenance and how it handles in work.

We also set each one the task of chomping its way through a 250mm (10in) telegraph pole as quickly as possible. It’s not a particularly scientific test but it should give a fairly accurate picture of cutting performance and engine power.

Each saw had five attempts and the figure that appears in the table is an average of the five.

Unsurprisingly it is the larger, higher capacity models that come out on top. Stihl’s 59cc MS341 manages to make the cut in under 3secs, followed by the 56cc Husqvarna. These two are also the heaviest, so there’s an obvious trade-off between performance and weight.

Interestingly it’s the 44cc Echo – 12cc less than the bigger models – that manages the next best time. In terms of handling, one saw is clearly ahead of the pack – the big Stihl is fitted with a new chain and vibration damping system.

By increasing the clearance between the cutter-tooth and the guide-bar, the German manufacturer has managed to produce a much smoother cut. In contrast, because of its weight, the Husqvarna feels unwieldy – clearly lighter saws take less of a toll on tired arms after a full day in the woods.

All the saws are laid out in much the same way – an oil tank up front, fuel at the rear with fillers for both on the left-hand side. Typically the spark-plug and air-filter are hidden away under plastic guards.

The Echo and Makita require a screwdriver to access the engine bay, while the others tend to use plastic flip-catches or screw-clamps. Both Stihls loose out here because although air-filter removal is easy, plug and cooling fin access is impeded by yet more plastic.

Chain-tensioning varies from saw to saw. In its most basic format two nuts are used to clamp the bar in position while a screw alongside alters chain tension itself. Jonsered and Husqvarna have improved the situation by moving the tensioner to the side, making the job a great deal easier. But it is Stihl that scores here once again – the company’s CQT tool-less chain-tensioning system is a dream to use.

Having studied manufacturers’ list prices and then hunted for the best deals on the internet, one thing became clear – shop around for the best deals.

But don’t always follow your preconceptions – premium brands need not be the most expensive.