Redback 120V Cordless Leaf Blower Review
The Redback has a lot of things going for it but can't quite overcome a high noise output and strange throttle/power feature - but there are certainly strengths to build upon.
Another installment of our cordless blower shootout spotlights is here, and we’re excited. Getting to talk about tools all the time? Pinch us. In case you missed it, back in August we tested the best cordless leaf blowers, comparing 16 handheld models against each other. Subsequently, we’ve been diving a little deeper into each blower’s performance, one by one. The Redback 120V cordless leaf blower had the highest nominal voltage of the bunch.
Redback has less brand recognition than the other competitors in the shootout as its primary markets include Europe and Austrailia. The company last published a catalog of 40V tools for the US market in 2015. But the parent company, NGP, manufactures products for larger OPE brands around the world and now you can find Redback products at Home Depot. Let’s fire this blower up and move some debris around!
Motor, Battery, and Power
The Redback 120V Cordless Leaf Blower features a brushless motor as did all but three of the shootout competitors. Although they’re more expensive, brushless motors extend tool life and provide for “smart” electronics. Smart electronics is circuitry that allows the tool and battery to communicate. They work in tandem to protect components and prevent thermal overload. It’s like having an assistant inside the tool rather than a mindless mechanism that can be pushed passed safe limits.
As we mentioned, at 120V the Redback’s battery has the highest nominal voltage of all 16 blowers. But nominal voltage doesn’t tell the whole story of the amount of work a tool can do. A 20V battery isn’t necessarily less powerful than an 80V. To fairly compare batteries, we need the common denominator called watt-hours (Wh). How you calculate watt hours is simple. Voltage x amps x hours = Wh. Power tool batteries almost always have amp-hours (Ah) printed on them, so to find watt-hours, simply find the product of the amp-hours x the nominal voltage. With its 2 Ah battery, the Redback 120V Cordless Leaf Blower produces 240 Wh of work, or good enough for a 7th place spot out of our 16 blowers by this measure. There’s also a gauge on the battery which we like to see.
Cordless blowers have to squeeze every bit of efficiency out of their designs to have a shot at competing with gas-powered blowers. As we’ll talk about later, even then it’s hard for them to achieve the same results. But one efficiency-boosting strategy is the Redback’s inline, axial fan design. Ten of the shootout’s blowers were built in this way. It differs from a side intake design (which only the DeWalt blowers had), as it accelerates air straight through the blower, reducing friction.
The whole package – blower and 2 Ah battery – weighed in just shy of 10 pounds. That’s comparable to the other blowers in the shootout save for those with backpack batteries, but that’s really a different story.
Variable Speed, Cruise Control, But No Turbo
Who doesn’t like to have options? Once in a while technology can get in the way, but generally, the more control options a tool has, the more we like it. And the Redback 120V Cordless Leaf Blower has a bunch. Four speeds and a variable speed trigger lets the user modulate the airspeed. You don’t always need the blower going full tilt – it can create more of a mess!
Then there’s a cruise control option to save the user’s had from fatigue. It might be less important for smaller jobs, but you don’t want to squeeze the trigger for longer jobs. So have a set-and-forget cruise control is a nice touch.
The Redback is missing a Turbo feature. Six of the 16 shootout competitors had a Turbo that pushed the power over and above Wide Open Throttle (WOT). But for the Redback and others, WOT is all you got. Hopefully, that will be good enough to get the job done.
Other Notable Features
Only a handful of the blowers had a strap point – and it’s an excellent feature. It complements the cruise control and removes some of the burden from the hand and puts it on the back/shoulder. Battery powered blowers are already lighter than their gas counterparts, but as they try to make the case to the Pros why they should be on the job, features like this will help.
A power lockout feature prevents the blower from running inadvertently. Now it’s certainly not as critical as having a power lockout on a saw, for instance, but it can be handy. If a battery-powered tool doesn’t have a lockout, of course, you can just remove the battery as a workaround. But like we said, we’re not complaining about extra features!
We always get acclimated to a tool before with more subjective assessments like ergonomics before moving on to the hard data measurements. Remember when, as a kid, Mom or Dad would have you put on a new pair of shoes and walk up and down the aisle? It’s a little like that. Just because something feels different than what we’re accustomed to, it’s not bad. We always want to be sure something that feels different about a tool isn’t that “new shoe” feel.
Fortunately, the Redback 120V Cordless Leaf Blower didn’t suffer the same ergonomic deduction in the grip that many of its competitors did. Those competitors had a ridge of tool plastic or rubber overmold where the halves of the grip came together that irritated the hand. However, the Redback did take an ergonomic deduction for its balance offset. The designers likely meant this offset to bring stability to the blower when it sat on the ground or perhaps counterbalance the airflow. But it made the tool feel a little unwieldy in the hand.
Speak Into My Good Ear
Gas-powered blowers have made no apologies about their sound output. The decibel level is a byproduct of the work performed and if you want the work done, well, you’ll just have to listen. But besides the danger to the user’s hearing, the racket can be downright disturbing for those in the blower’s proximity. And the earlier the crew starts working, the worse it is! Some communities have even instituted noise policies which affect lawn crews and their equipment. This gives battery-powered blowers a leg up because they are quieter than gas blowers overall. But there’s still a fairly wide decibel range among the group.
The Redback 120V Cordless Leaf Blower produces 95 decibels at the user’s ear – the loudest of the group by a couple of decibels. Contrast that with the Stihl backpack blower at 82 dBa. Unfortunately, this is one of the categories in which you don’t want to set the high mark. But the Redback is certainly on the loud side.
We’ve Got Something In Common
One blower manufacturer boasts about the MPH it produces. The other says, “Oh yeah? We’ve got a boatload of CFM!” How do you know what’s best? Well, both MPH and CFM are important to the job. It’s just a matter of using a measure that levels the field. Remember watt-hours as a common denominator for battery power comparison? In the same way, Newton Force is that common denominator for wind speed (MPH) and wind volume (CFM) comparison. Newton Force measure both in their proportions.
Although the Redback ranked 9th in max MPH (122) and 6th in max CFM (514, its Newton Force placed it 12th in the pack with 10.6 Newtons. A turbo feature could have helped its cause here. But what’s even more curious is that its WOT of 10.6 Newtons automatically backed off to 5.5 Newtons after 45 seconds. By way of comparison, Professional gas blowers can reach upwards of 600 CFM and 200 MPH – or about 40 Newtons!
The Bottom Line
With a nearly full feature set, a very high CFM, a high nominal battery voltage, and great warranty, Redback hoped to place higher than 15th out of 16 in our competition. But it just couldn’t overcome the highest decibel output, lowest battery efficiency, automatic power backoff, and lack of a Turbo feature. It just goes to show that nominal battery voltage doesn’t tell the whole story.
All is certainly not lost because the Redback 120V Cordless Leaf Blower has some strength to build upon. We hope to see it back to compete in future shootouts!
Redback 120V Cordless Leaf Blower Features
- 120-Volt Lithium-Ion blower gives you industry-leading power
- Brushless motor with variable speed optimization
- Produces 122 MPH and 514 CFM
- Lightweight at just 9.6 lbs (with the battery)
- Includes shoulder strap, battery, and charger
- Metal ring balance on the end of the blower to decrease wear
- 5-Year Limited Warranty
Redback 120V Cordless Leaf Blower Specifications
- Model: Redback 106485
- Air Speed: 122 MPH
- Air Volume: 514 CFM
- Tested Noise Rating: 95 dB(a)
- Tested Runtime: 17:33
- Bare Weight: 5.89 lbs
- Battery Weight: 3.98 lbs
- Tested Battery: 2.0 AH
- Warranty: 5 years limited
- Price: $299
- Included in Kit: 2.0Ah Battery, Battery charger