Pros: Very powerful engine, can throw all types of snow a great distance.
Cons: Can take a bit of muscle to maneuver.
After suffering mightily through a bad snow storm in 2004, I decided that I was no longer interested in using a shovel or snow plow to remove snow. That year the snow was several feet deep. I had used a snow plow on my Craftsman 15.5 HP Kohler lawn tractor for several years. The problem with plowing is eventually you run out of places to put the snow. Plus you need to clear your driveway of vehicles in order to have good plowing space. So after that winter, I decided a snow thrower was the answer.
As luck would have it, Sears ran a sail on their snow throwers in early fall. They offered a 29 inch wide, 9 HP 2 stage snow thrower for $650. I had been pricing snow throwers for a bit and I new immediately that this was a good deal for the money.
This model has an electric starter so you can just plug it in and fire it up if you don't want to use the manual pull-start. I usually opt for the electric start.
This model also has a convenient brush (used for clearing out the discharge shoot or auger). It also has additional auger sheer bolts in a convenient storage bin attached to the thrower.
It also has a fully adjustable snow shoot. The shoot can be adjusted in 180 degrees by a turn crank. The shoot discharge elevation(how high the snow is thrown into the air) is a manual adjustment via a zinc wing nut and bolt.
You pretty much need to adjust the height of the discharge shoot and let it go. You can change the adjustment, but when you are using it, the wing nut setup is not too convenient. That being said, I found this a minor inconvenience for such a powerful snow thrower.
I live in an area where we might get to use a snow thrower 2 or 3 times a year on average. Our snow tends to be of the wet and heavy variety.
I have had no problems with this snow thrower. The engine is plenty strong and I believe it could easily chomp its way through a foot of snow and not even blink. It also throws the snow a great distance (which was the main reason I switched from a plow to a thrower).
The electric starter is very nice and so far has been quite reliable.
To control the auger, the right hand handle has a palm switch that must be depressed to the hand grip to activate.
Likewise, the wheel drive control is through the left hand handle palm switch.
Holding these switches down while clearing snow can be quite fatiguing. It takes a bit of effort to keep these handles depressed for 15 to 20 minutes.
Also, as a few other reviewers have mentioned, the handles do sit up fairly high. It would probably be more comfortable for a greater number of people if these handles were a few inches lower.
I think this snow thrower does handle reasonably well, but it is much easier for a larger person to operate this than a small person. I would think that an average sized female or small male operator would find this snow thrower difficult to handle. There are no left wheel/right wheel controls, so any turning of this snow thrower must be done with pure muscle and having a bigger heavier operator certainly helps with maneuvering the thrower. This snow thrower is no light weight either. There is an adjustment you can make to the right wheel to help with handling (basically it makes one wheel the drive wheel instead of two). The downside is in heavier snow you lose some of the pure power of this machine to punch through the snow.
While using this snow thrower, there were times I wished it had a headlight. When using it at night it can be challenging to see without the headlight.
There is also a bit of a strong vibration from this machine. Sometimes it can work a few bolts loose.
All in all, for the money I think this is a great machine.