Pros: In the $300 range the PB-500 will provide sufficient performance.
Cons: Due to the design (hung weight effect) it feels heavier than it should.
For around $300, there's no disappointments:
You'll get average performance with Echo quality at a decent price...
Comparing the PB-500H to the larger more expensive blowers the first thing I noticed was it looked like a stripped down model. However, the build quality and features I expected from Echo are all there. The PB-500 has a much smaller air filter housing and an "out of view" 60 ounce fuel tank, this makes for a cleaner simpler less complicated look. The fuel cap location is "tight" and it's between the backrest and blower housing which makes removing the cap and refueling somewhat tricky. Anyone that's familiar with the Echo line will notice the PB-500 borrowing this configuration from the "Quiet One", the PB-46LN.
Without further ado I asked the salesman to "Let me fire it up, I need a demonstration". I prime the carburetor by pushing the see-through bulb several times. After a few seconds from a cold start) the PB-500 started with 2 pulls. It takes about a 15 second warm-up to run without the choke, then bogs down while trying to get to half throttle. Like every gas operated piece of equipment with a choke flap you gotta "Work it like an old Ford pick up truck". After about 25 seconds total I finally achieve full speed. One of my biggest peeves is 2-cycle smoke and the noxious smell. Thankfully the exhaust quickly became almost smokeless and less noticeable. The dealer said it's less of a problem when using the "pricier" Echo Power Blend® synthetic.
Why I purchased the PB-500H:
Expect to pay around $290 to $340 for the PB-500. The price tag on my floor model said $299.99 but after the demo it was mine for $250 plus tax. Lucky me, it was his last one and an open box unit so an excellent deal. Because of my previous Echo experiences I couldn't refuse.
Blowing power: (commercial use: 7/10) (residential: 8/10)
At full speed (450 CFM and 162 MPH) it was an ample amount and surprisingly not at all noisy. I could still have a conversation with the salesman without raising my voice. With a little push of the thumb, actuating the throttle is simple and responsive. Turning off the engine is accomplished by turning the throttle completely off. The professional contractor dealing with a lot of bulky material or wet leave may not achieve satisfactory results. I suggest taking it up a notch with the PB-620. For the residential user, no problem.
After about 5-6 weeks of continuous use we have no complaints. But when the leaves start falling real heavy and nasty here in Sacramento California "The Tree Capital of the World" we're going to be parking this little guy and be primarily using our PB-755's.
Here's the problem I have with the PB-500 and its bigger brother the PB-620. As I mentioned the PB-500 shares a similar design from the PB-46LN. Although weighing in at a mere 22.9 lbs, the added depth of the blower causes a "hung weight" effect making the PB-500 feel heavier. The tighter you keep the padded straps the less noticeable the effect will be. Try on the 26.4 lb PB-46LN for comparison. It's even worse. I disliked that blower immensely but 5-6 years ago I had to buy a few of those in order to meet a noise ordinance code in downtown Sacramento California. If you need quiet, the PB-46LN @ 65dB is the ticket.
Cost to operate: 9/10
Compared to other gasoline powered lawn and garden equipment the backpack blower in general uses less fuel than a lawn mower but more than a weed eater. Unless you break something there are virtually no wear parts to buy for many years. Over a 12-18 month period you may typically spend $20 for a spark plug, air and fuel filter. Having owned my new PB-500 for just over 30 days we're experiencing the same trouble free service as with all other Echo blowers. One thing I noticed is the carburetor on the PB-500 is the older Butterfly-Valve style type where the newer higher performing models are equipped with the Rotary-valve style.
Compared to the competition: 7/10 (Performance-weight-noise)
Echo PB-500H: 50.8cc, 450 CFM @ 162 MPH, 22.9 lbs, 70dB
Tanaka TB-4610: 43cc, 400 CFM @ 200 MPH, 20.9 lbs, 69dB
Stihl BR-380D: 56.5cc, 465 CFM @ 181 MPH, 20.5 lbs, 73dB
RedMax EBZ5100Q: 50.2cc, 452 CFM @ 159 mph, 20.7 lbs, 68dB
Shindaiwa EB501: 43.6, 434 CFM @ 187 MPH, 19.0 lbs, (N/A)dB (it must be loud or they would list the rating)
Husqvarna 150BT: 50.2cc, 494 CFM @ 180 MPH, 22.5 lbs, 71dB
All are 2-cycle gasoline powered, CARB compliant or legal to operate in all 50 states. Comparable selling prices and are within approximately 10% of each other. 2 year commercial warranty (Shindiawa 1 yr), 2-3 year residential (except Echo 5yr residential). CFM measured at the pipe. (CFM=cubic feet minute) (dB=decibel)
It's not just how fast the air is rated, it's how much and how fast. Some blowers are rated at 215-230 MPH but don't give the CFM rating. My sneeze is probably rated at 210 MPH but it can't blow leaves off my patio. If provided in the specifications, try adding the 2 (MPH & CFM) together to get a true value and performance of the blower.
Note: If you live reside in California, this model will more than likely have a "C" at the end. PB-500HC
Website link for the PB-500H: http://www.echo-usa.com/prods_list.asp?Category=POWERBLOWER
Warranty (PDF): http://www.echo-usa.com/5year/pdf/ECHO_Warranty_Chart_2009.pdf
Note: The warranty may require that you purchase and use the "Echo Power Blend® synthetic oil.
Need something bigger? ECHO PB-755H
Need something smaller? ECHO PB-265L