“A new benchmark in battery chainsaw technology”
A couple of weeks ago I attended a STIHL GB press event where the various attendees were introduced to some of the new products coming out from STIHL this year. The past couple of years has seen a strong focus from STIHL towards their battery range, so of course some of these new products featured heavily on the day. One of these products was the STIHL MSA 300.
I don’t generally like to review a product that I haven’t had a solid amount of hands on experience with, however in the case of the STIHL MSA 300 I feel I gained enough of an insight in the short time I used it to write a worthwhile first impressions of this chainsaw. A battery chainsaw with the power of an MS 261?
Let’s start off with the big one, that being STIHL’s claim that the MSA 300 is comparable to the MS 261. Now I’ll be the first to say I have had very little experience using the MS 261, but I have used several saws from different manufacturers in this power band range. If STIHL’s claims hold true over prolonged use then this saw is definitely going to be breaking new ground in battery saw technology.
New AV mounts, a battery chainsaw first
The MSA 300 has a few interesting features. Due to it being more powerful than any other battery chainsaw to date, STIHL have introduced AV mounts. This is another first from Stihl and I’m sure will be included in all larger battery models going forward.
Can battery chainsaws be used in the rain?
Like everything in the AP tool range, the MSA 300 boasts a robust thermal set up and is completely weatherproof. It is reliable in all applications and conditions. This is one of those things that can only be determined by a few months solid use in all weather conditions, although needless to say I’m sure it has been thoroughly tested by STIHL. Running in wet weather was an issue with some of the earlier battery saws. I had one top handled saw (not STIHL) that ended up going back to the manufacturer after it failed after working in light rain for about an hour 1 day. This is definitely going to be a consideration for battery saws across all brands to become mainstream, particularly with forestry users.
Easy maintenance of the air filter
Yep you read that right. Another first from STIHL is the introduction of an air filter to their battery chainsaw. With the larger motor needed to gain the power the MSA 300 has, consideration had to be given to keeping the airflow clean. STIHL achieved this by adding a conventional air filter which is easily accessible on the top cover.
Compatible with STIHL Smart Connector 2 A
The MSA 300 is compatible with the STIHL Smart Connector 2 A. This can be plugged directly into the control module and is able to collect valuable date when in use such as run-time and operating speed history. Perhaps most useful is the ability to sync with your smartphone and receive notifications when routine maintenance tasks need to be carried out.
Bar, chain, and chain speed
The MSA 300 comes equipped with a STIHL Light 04 guide bar, and .325” RS PRO chain (analog MS 261) which runs at a chain speed of up to 30 m/s. The maximum guide bar length is the same as that of the MS 261 C-M at 18”.
Power Source and battery life
Another big advancement for STIHL is the introduction of the new AP 500 S battery. This is the most powerful battery to date form Stihl, with an impressive maximum power output of 3.0 kW, that’s a 40% increase on the AP 300 S battery! What’s more, it also boasts double the service life of 2400 charges thanks to power laminate technology. It’s worth nothing that although the MSA 300 will run on an AP 300 S, to reach the saws maximum potential it does require the AP 500 S battery.
** Top tip – Did you know you can recycle your old batteries by handing them in at your nearest Stihl dealer? **
The MSA comes with 3 power settings enabling the user to preserve the life of the battery even further. The first 2 settings (starting at 24 m/s chains speed) are ideal for lighter work, such as snedding limbs ready for chipping, whilst the 3rd setting provides the full power of the chainsaw for cutting up larger limbs, or if you just want that extra cutting speed you’re used to from a petrol chainsaw. This feature allows the user to increase the battery life if the conditions allow. All these settings are available in a convenient panel on the handle at the touch of a button. The panel also includes a power level and chain brake notification.
So how does it actually perform?
As previously mentioned, my experience of the saw is quite limited, but I believe I gained enough of an insight to be confident enough to write a review. Initially we did a few test cuts into 10” timber on a saw horse. An MS 261 was on site for us to compare the speed of
the two. I have to say, in this size of timber and in these cutting conditions there really was no discernible difference between the two, other than the obvious noise difference. At this point I will add that this is also the first battery chainsaw that STIHL have stated ear defenders should be worn due to the noise created by the larger motor. Having said that, it’s certainly not going to deafen you, but it is slightly over the limit required for hearing protection to be worn.
After the initial tests on the saw horse I was given the opportunity to get stuck into a large wood pile. The wood consisted of a mixture of Oak, Leylandi, and Sycamore. This was about as close to real life work as I was able to get, cutting timber up to one and a half times guidebar length with relative ease. It’s quite important to remember to let the saw do the work. Unlike a petrol saw, you are more likely to find the motor getting bogged down if you force your way through the logs. If you’re someone that blunts their saw quickly and likes to keep cutting with it (which you shouldn’t be) then you’re probably going to have to rethink your working practices.
There is one slightly annoying feature, and that was the safety button which needs to be pressed before using. After pressing, the throttle needs to be depressed within 3 seconds, otherwise it resets and needs starting again. It’s obvious why this safety feature has been included. A running petrol chainsaw gives the user a clear audible warning when it is running whereas a battery saw stays in a silent state whether it is on or off. Without this important safety feature a helpful but inexperienced groundsman could potentially pick up the saw and inadvertently set the chain running. I have no doubt that this annoyance is simply due to me having a lack of hands-on time with the saw, and would likely become second nature after a couple of solid days use. The MSA 300 has a compact sleek looking design. It feels good in the hands thanks to being well balanced, and the anti-vibration system certainly improves overall comfort.
Further field testing is certainly required, but from my initial impressions I believe STIHL have reached a new benchmark in battery chainsaw technology. The last battery chainsaw I reviewed way back in 2017 was the MSA 160 T, which in itself was a game changer at the time. Seeing this technology improve over the past 5 years to where we now have a real player in the mid-range saw size makes one wonder where this is all heading…perhaps a STIHL battery MS 462 equivelant might not be as far-fetched as once believed!
Is the MSA 300 suitable for Forestry and Arboriculture?
There is no doubt that the MSA 300 has the power for production forestry. The limiting factor however is still going to be battery life. Whilst a single AP 500 S battery might well last as long as a full tank of fuel, if you are working any distance from your vehicle in the forest (which is quite often the case), lugging around enough batteries to last you the day is obviously going to be an issue.
Arboriculture is a different game entirely. On a typical day you might only require as little as one battery to get you through the day. Having access to a power source to recharge is generally less of an issue, with most homeowners willing to oblige. In fact, for years prior to the existence of battery chainsaws it was quite common when we arrived on site for homeowners to ask us if we needed to plug anything in! Probably the single biggest plus from your client’s point of view is the noise levels. Working on a housing estate running chainsaws all day has never been particularly popular. Perhaps even more so now with more people than ever before working from home. Now we just need someone to bring out a battery powered wood chipper!