ECHO HC-165 24" Hedge Trimmer Review
ECHO HC-165 gas-powered hedge trimmer is a pro-quality product that has some convenience features we found to be absolute life-savers. Take for example its rotating handle. With five available positions, the HC-165 Hedge Trimmer is one of the most ergonomic trimmers we’ve ever handled. You spend more time cutting, and less time contorting your body to get the blade lined up just right for that left-handed vertical cut. The blades were sharp, the i-30 starter brings the tool to life with just a few pulls on average, and on top of that, it’s very light and stores over 16 ounces of fuel to keep you cutting for a good long time between fill-ups.
I could end the review right there, but that wouldn’t do this tool justice. I mean, there’s a lot to talk about, and it’s worth taking a closer look at just how this tool impressed us, and convinced us that both professionals and consumers could benefit from using a tool like the HC-165.
The 21.1 cc Power Boost “Vortex” engine is familiar, and with the i-30 starter, cranks up in no time. After priming the bulb we typically had this trimmer up and running in 3 effortless pulls. Like the ECHO CS-400 18″ Chainsaw we reviewed last month, the HC-165 Hedge Trimmer doesn’t have a ton of useless frills. In fact, the one big stand-out feature it has is really useful. So useful, in fact, that we now believe it should be standard on all hedge trimmers. We’re talking, of course, about the rotating handle. Rather than just rotating around the axis at 90 degree increments, the HC-165 allows you to use the handle vertically, or left and right at both 45-degree and 90-degree angles. That’s 5 different positions that give you a lot of control over your cutting. All of this reduces the need to bend and twist into unnatural shapes while cutting hedges and bushes. Aside from just being more convenient, we feel it’s safer as well.
ECHO HC-165 24″ Hedge Trimmer Features
Picking up the HC-165, we felt the balance of the trimmer, which was perfect. I don’t know how ECHO balances their products so well, but the 24″ blade hung perfectly flat as the tool hung from our fingers via the support handle. At just 12.1 lbs, this is one of the lighter models on the market, but it carries the potential for adding a lot more weight. You see, the fuel tank can hold a full 16.9 ounces of 50:1 fuel. That means you could add around 1 pound to this baby just in fuel. Of course, it also means you can run this trimmer for a long time without having to stop and refuel it. What I like about this is that the choice is yours. While similar trimmers give you an 8-12 ounce tank, you can fill up the ECHO HC-165 and get anywhere from 30-50% more run-time based on the added fuel capacity.
The body of the ECHO HC-165 Hedge Trimmer is the expected ECHO orange, with a white fuel tank and black throttle handle which is comfortable to use and includes a rubber overmold that ensures it will be “grippy” and much softer than just plastic. This is something we’re seeing more and more and so far the overmolds have held up to dirt and abuse fairly well, even after extended periods of time. The blade comes shipped with a plastic cover to protect it (and you) from damage during storage. On the body is an easily removable cover that provides easy access to the replaceable air filter element, which retails for around $7 and should be replaced every 12 months or whenever it looks damaged or clogged.
The handle, apart from being comfortable and rotatable, features a throttle trigger lockout lever that is engaged when you grab the handle. The Stop switch is also located on the top of the handle, and the left side is where you’ll find the handle rotation release button. It’s easy to activate with your thumb and, really, everything about the design of this hedge trimmer seemed to take ergonomics into account.
The blades are where the real work is done, and ECHO didn’t seem to skimp on these at all. A blade stiffener comes pre-attached to the ECHO HC-165, but can be removed to give more access to the cutting surfaces – significant if you’re a pro or want to cut more quickly. The RazorEdge blades are double-sided and reciprocating and ECHO indicates that they are “precision-ground and laser cut”. They were indeed sharp, even to the touch!
As we hinted at earlier, starting up the HC-165 was a breeze. I am starting to really like these new recoil starters, and the ECHO HC-165’s i-30 system worked like a charm. After putting in about a half tank of 50:1 fuel (which we mixed with premium gas – though ECHO only recommends 89 octane) we primed the bulb, threw the Stop switch in the ‘On’ position, pulled the chock lever, and tugged the handle. On the second pull the motor turned over with a satisfactory roll and I disengaged the choke. One more pull and it cranked right up, allowing me to cycle gas through the system and get it running smoothly.
We measured the sound of the ECHO HC-165 from 3 feet away with our trusty SPL meter and found that it idled at around 82-83dB, but ramped up to a very loud 107dB when the engine was revved. That is far too loud to use without hearing protection and it only gets louder when you start cutting. While it’s certainly loud when running, it’s also not atypical – hedge trimmers are simply boisterous machines and inserting earplugs will make any extended cutting experiences much more pleasant.
After running through our startup and preliminary testing, we set to work on a few projects. One of them involved finally cutting through a newer landscape of Loropetalum and Gold Mound (Spirea) shrubs that were arranged across the front of a porch. Since this was the first trimming since they were planted, we had to do a lot of cutting on all sides of the plants, and the rotating handle was a life-saver. It actually became quite second-nature after a few go-arounds to simply hit the button with my right thumb and spin the handle to the desired position. It certainly made vertical cuts far easier than having to twist the hedge trimmer 90 degrees.
The blades really cut easily and quickly through even larger stems. One that we specifically documented was a beast, measuring around 1/2-inch in diameter. Even with the blade stiffener in place, the ECHO HC-165 made quick work of the shoot, as you can see with this photo:
That was pretty much the upper-limit of what these blades will do for larger shoots, but as you can see from the cut, the trimmer took it out in two quick swipes of the sharp reciprocating blades.
There’s a lot to like about the ECHO HC-165, but first and foremost it’s just easy to start and easy to use. The balance is perfect, and the rotating handle makes cutting just about any bush, shrub, or hedge a simple process. If you want a pro-quality hedge trimmer, this is definitely a contender. It’s priced right. At around $450 we expect this tool to be something geared towards professionals and those who have a lot of hedge trimming to do on-property. For the more casual user, you can check out ECHO’s HC-150 or HC-150i, which offer similar functionality in a smaller package. You can also investigate grabbing a Hedge Trimmer Attachment for your ECHO Pro Attachment System (PAS). For our Performance rating we gave the ECHO HC-165 Hedge Trimmer an 8/10. It’s a solid tool and performed well above average, especially with respect to ergonomics and weight. For Value, the tool scores a 7/10. There are cheaper options out there, but there is a level of quality you can feel in this tool that conveys a sense of reliability and power – and that’s worth some money. Highly recommended.