Coming in at under £60, the Bosch ALB 18LI is about as cheap as battery powered leaf blowers come. It’s not a very sophisticated or powerful model, but it is compact and lightweight making it potentially suitable for those with smaller gardens and not much space to store their tools.
The first thing you notice about the Bosch ALB 18LI is just how small and light it is. At 1.8kg including its battery it’s less than half the weight of many rivals. With its nozzle it has dimensions of 90 x 22 x 15cm, but remove the nozzle and it nearly halves in length making this the sort of tool you can easily pack away in a box or cupboard as well as hang on the garage wall.
It’s still a well-made device, though. The plastic casing and nozzle are good and chunky and there’s no hint of flimsiness about it, with no rattles or such like, plus the handle and base are covered in rubber for better grip and protection respectively.
The main reason for its diminutive dimensions is that this is a fairly low-power unit. While its output speed of 58m/s is actually quite high, the volume of air it outputs is low. Bosch doesn’t provide figures for this number but as we’ll see in our tests later, it is far below that of more powerful units.
The reason it can claim such high output speeds is that the nozzle is very narrow. It tapers to a point only around 5cm wide by 2cm tall, which compares to around 15cm by 5cm for more powerful units like the Stihl BGA85. This in turn makes it more accurate, which can be useful, but widespread blowing power is limited.
The nozzle bends slightly upwards at the end to create a better angle of attack when held in a normal standing position. It’s also very easy to remove thanks to a push button release on the top edge.
Controls on the ALB 18LI couldn’t be simpler. There’s just a single trigger-style button on the under-side of the handle, with no locking or safety systems or variable speeds. The lack of any sort of safety switch is obviously a slight concern if you have children but the output from this blower is low enough – and the intake well protected enough – that there’s very little chance of any harm.
The battery is a fairly compact unit that slides out the back of the device. Rated at 18V it has a capacity of 2.0Ah, or 36Wh. This gives a rated running time of a mere 10 minutes and battery recharge time is 1-3.5hr depending on the charger you get, so clearly this isn’t suitable for professional use or even remotely large gardens but it’s enough for small jobs and gardens.
For the review price listed you don't get a battery and charger but for under £90 you can buy it with one of each. We've used the former as the main review price as the ALB 18 LI is compatible with the full range of 18V Bosch cordless tools and its the most sensible option to buy it with that it mind.
Disappointingly for such a lightweight unit there’s no mounting point for hanging it on a wall so you’ll have to attach a length of string or mount a hook to hang it up.
The Bosch ALB 18LI is a joy to use simply because it is so lightweight and its low power output doesn’t push your hand around too much. The simple on/off trigger also makes it easy to manoeuvre the blower round the garden without blowing everything else around you.
The 10-minute battery life is a bit of a limitation, especially with the long charge time, but the battery doesn’t leak charge over time. So as long as you’re sure to charge it after each time you use it, it should be ready to go straight off the bat.
All this adds up to make this a convenient tool that’s great for the occasional garden or yard cleaning job. In fact its low power output makes it suitable for certain indoor applications, like dusting book shelves or curtains, as well as blasting away the cobwebs from your shed or garage.
However, there’s no denying the overall output is weak. We tested with wet leaves on a wet lawn and the effective range was limited to just 4.5ft, which compares to around 7ft for more powerful mains powered units. Moreover, this range is only achieved with multiple passes over the given area, as the narrow nozzle outlet tends to shoot air straight under thicker piles of leaves requiring an up and down action to shift the lot.
As a result, clearing the 3kg (one big garden bag full) of wet leaves from our 40m2 test patch of lawn took quite some time, particularly once the leaves started to pile up. In fact it got to the point of being quite frustrating, having to continually go over the same patch. With a more realistic, thinner sprinkling of leaves it would cope better, but for any remotely heavy duty work it does struggle.
One key advantage of the ALB 18 LI’s low power output is a lower noise level. We measured it at just 70dB, which compares to nearer 85dB for high-power models.
In some respects the Bosch ALB 18LI does fall fundamentally short of being a competent leaf blower; it’s not powerful enough to make a quick and easy job of clearing a large volumes of leaves from a lawn. Certainly if you’ve got anything more than one mid-size tree in your garden it will take far too long to be practical, especially if the leaves and ground have become wet.
However, as something of a general purpose blower tool it is more useful. For blasting away dust and leaves from your patio, clearing out the cobwebs from your shed, doing the odd bit of dusting and of course clearing smaller patches of leaves from your lawn it is more than up to the task. What’s more, its compact, lightweight form makes it really easy to handle and its battery operation means you don’t have to faff about with cables or petrol to get the thing going.
If you’re buying the ALB 18 LI standalone its £85-£90 price is a little steep for its limitations, but if you’re intent on getting other Bosch 18V tools or you already have some and only need to pay the ~£60 required for the blower on its own then it’s a sound investment.
A useful blower for small jobs around the house and garden, just don't expect it to shift industrial loads of wet leaves from your lawn.