I LIVE! Well, kind of. Anyway, here's a slightly-past-first impressions review.
First up: CS Cutlass Machete, $30 on amazon
Like all CS machetes, it comes in a really basic plastic sleeve and a cordura sheath. Out of the box, the edge was possibly the worst edge I've ever seen. It also was not a machete edge at all, much narrower of angle, more like a knife's edge. Cleaning up the edge of the blade was reasonably quick, and left a decent knife's edge on it. The blade itself balances a nice 6-8" out from the grip, giving it a hearty chopping weight not dissimilar to a light hatchet. EDIT TO ADD: The balance point of the cutlass machete is identical to that of an SOG Tactical Tomahawk relative to grip. The molded polymer handguard, while not particularly standard for a machete, is nicely placed to prevent crushing your hand should you screw up a swing. The blade is simple stamped steel, covered rather crudely with an anti-rust finish except for the very edge. The blade is sturdy enough, and can withstand a not insignificant amount of bending and snap back straight, and any bend too extreme is easily straightened with little difficulty. The guard itself is molded directly to the blade.
Here's where things diverge from what you'd expect of a machete. First off is the blade length; at 24", it sits right at the intersection between shortsword and broadsword in length. Despite being nominally a machete, it has a rather nice point for thrusting. I may add a false edge to the back, to really step it up to a proper thrusting blade. I've been using it to practice for broadsword fencing, using a free broadsword manual available on kindle (Broadsword and singlestick, with chapters on quarterstaff and bayonet). Other than requiring forearms of might to keep the blade under control and enact swift direction changes, it works quite excellently for it. The blade and grip feel quite nice in hand, the blade size perfectly registering as "Sword", neither too short nor too long, able to be used for shortsword and shield style thrusting just as well as broadsword style cuts and thrusts. The polymer grip and guard, while pleasant in the hand, are just polypropylene and though durable against bludgeoning, polypropylene is easy to shave off or cut through.
-Good for chopping
-Cheap enough to use and abuse
-MUST be sharpened after purchase
-Balance requires substantial forearm strength for anything but the most basic of use
-Molded grip, while passable, is molded on rather than screwed/pinned in, and cannot be easily swapped for a grip to adjust the balance or gain actual protection for the hand.
Overall Rating/Value for Money:
B+, would be A- if the grip were screwed/pinned on and could be swapped by those so desirous. Still, a superb sword for the low cost.
Next: CS Bowie Machete, $18 on amazon
Similarly to the cutlass, packaged plainly and comes with a simple cordura sheath. Had a similarly terrible and even LESS machete-like edge than the cutlass. The balance is also hardly machete-like, and is nearly identical to their simple fighting knife, the GI Tanto. The bowie machete is quite light, as well, despite being such a massive blade it weighs about the same as the nearly half length knife. It has the same molded-on grip as all the other CS machetes, and is comfy enough if odd and lacking in anything resembling a grip.
-Poorly weighted for chopping
-No handguard between grip and blade
-Grip cannot be easily replaced.
Overall Rating/Value for Money:
B, B+ with replaceable grip. It's basically just a cheap, abusable bowie knife.