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Like those on the Downswept Douglas Fir, the lights on this tree connect automatically via plugs within the trunk, and they too can switch between clear, color, or a mix of the two. We particularly appreciate that this tree’s base has wheels, a unique feature among our test group, because they make it much easier to move the tree into place and back into storage. The “flip” function simply tilts the lower section of the tree upright during setup, so you don’t have to lift it into place yourself; this is another welcome feature, since the tree weighs 78 pounds in total. Like the less expensive trees we tested, this one still requires you to put in some time arranging and perfecting it to make it look its best. But it delivers a level of fullness and realism that’s truly stunning.

At just 32 inches wide, this tree is barely half the width of the Downswept Douglas Fir on which it’s based. It has the same type of realistic branches (just fewer of them), and its 300 LED bulbs can shine in white, multicolor, or a mix of the two. Due to the pencil shape, this tree looks like no living pine that we know of, but when it’s lit and decorated, it’s pretty in its own right. Like the vast majority of contemporary pre-lit trees, the Downswept Douglas Fir features LED bulbs rather than traditional incandescents. They last longer and run cooler, and (in the Downswept Douglas Fir’s case) they can toggle between multicolor, all-white, a mix of the two, and blinking and sparkling variations thereof. We think the ability to switch between color and all-white modes is a genuine strength of this tree.

This touching up of the blade, usually required every 10 minutes or so, maintains the edge while you’re using it. Eventually, though, the edge will wear to a point that honing stops being effective, which is where peening—the light hammering of the blade’s edge, which tapers and hardens it—comes in. “The peening aspect is probably the thing that makes it the least accessible for regular people,” said Miller.

But as the 2007 study pointed out, driving a gas-powered car just a few hundred miles produces more greenhouse gases than producing a typical artificial Christmas tree. So compared with the cumulative environmental cost of everyday activities and consumption, your fake tree isn’t much more than a blip. Still, taking care of it and extending its life is a way to minimize its environmental impact. I participated in the setup of each tree, to get firsthand experience with all of our contenders. And we invited everyone in the office to share their preferences and impressions of the trees over the course of two weeks. Though the WG170.2 was one of the smallest trimmers we tested, it was the only one in the group with a pivoting trimmer head.

I used to try a string trimmer in that area, and it would blow the grass, weeds, and stalks all over the place; the cut stalks would then dry out, turn brown, and look awful. Using a scythe leaves me with orderly costway patio umbrellas rows of cut vegetation, which I can quickly scoop up and dispose of. The result looks way better, and the work actually goes a little faster (as this scythe versus string trimmer video demonstrates).