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  • Steve Bullman

    Review: STIHL MSA 300 First Impressions

    A new benchmark in battery chainsaw technology

    PROs:
    • Ergonomic design
    • Power equivelant to an MS 261
    • AV mounts included to reduce vibrations
    • Easy maintenance particular when used in conjuction with STIHL Smart Connector 2 A
    CONs:
    • Start button takes some getting used to
    • Battery life may be a concern for forestry work

    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.

     

    stihl presentation.jpeg

    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.

     

    stihl 261 and msa 300 side by side.jpeg

    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.

     

    Screen Shot 2022-03-10 at 17.48.53.png

     

    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.

     

    In Conclusion

    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!

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    MS261 is 4.9kg (excluding bar/chain) plus 500g for fuel...

     

    What is the weight of the MSA 300?

     

    Bare & with battery etc

     

     

     

     

    Edited by Stere

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    17 minutes ago, Stere said:

     

     

    MS261 is 4.9kg (excluding bar/chain)

     

    What is the weight of the MSA 300?

     

    Bare & with battery etc

     

     

     

     

    Hi, the MSA 300 is 5.4 kg excluding the battery, including the Light O4 bar and RS PRO chain which is the same combination as the MSA 261 C-M. The MS 261 weighs 4.9kg without the bar and chain (or fuel). The AP 500 S battery weighs 2.0kg, so its a total of 7.4kg for the MSA 300 plus chain oil. Full spec and pricing is here: https://www.stihl.co.uk/STIHL-Products/Chainsaws-and-pole-pruners/Cordless-chainsaws/2144339-1583/MSA-300-Cordless-Chainsaw.aspx Paul, STIHL GB. 

    Edited by STIHL GB

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    A key point I think worth adding and that Steve touched on briefly is charging cost. Right now fuel prices are at an all time high and the cost to charge the AP 500 S battery after the 1 April prices increase to (28p/kW) will be  9.4 pence, assuming you're paying the price cap cost. I put a small blog together about the cost of running cordless tools here: 

    BLOG.STIHL.CO.UK

    A key benefit of STIHL cordless tools is cheaper running costs compared to a petrol tool. Find out more about the true cost...

     

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    Thanks

     

    So I reckon   abit heavier  v  a  ms261?

     

    MS261   4.9

    Oil   270g

    2 stroke 500g

    Stihl Light 04 770g 16"

    Stihl RS Rapid Super Pro .325″ .050″ chainsaw chain  240g ?

     

    Total 6.68kg?

     

     

     

     

     

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    4 hours ago, Steve Bullman said:

    I don’t see why not. I expect @STIHL GB will come and clarify a few of the points raised at some point 

    The msa 200 I bought a few years back which I then modified to the 220 spec as I didn't like the picco micro chain, it was transformed into a different tool altogether and the battery run time was about the same, but if this new 500 battery fits into the slot and extends the run time that would be great.👍

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    Hi, the MSA 300 is 5.4 kg excluding the battery, including the Light O4 bar and RS PRO chain which is the same combination as the MSA 261 C-M. The MS 261 weighs 4.9kg without the bar and chain (or fuel). The AP 500 S battery weighs 2.0kg, so its a total of 7.4kg for the MSA 300 plus chain oil. Paul, STIHL GB. 

    Confusing mishmash. Get some scales and weigh the powerheads, the oil fills, the fuel fills, the batteries, the bars and the chains SEPARATELY. It only needs doing once (and once in a blue moon for a new product release) and it’ll cost you less than frustrated customers shutting the catalogue on a new saw because they can’t get a straight answer. It’s such an easy bunch of numbers to collect and show and frankly embarrassing that you don’t already.

    I would suggest you could even compile the weights from your computer system and not have to open a load of boxes but after about ten phone calls to Camberley and Germany last year to try to discover the weight of a bar (not a complicated enquiry), I’m not confident that’s the quickest way. I ended up getting a dealer to put one on a kitchen scale.

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    2 hours ago, STIHL GB said:

    Hi, the batteries are inter-changable. The AP 300 S battery is needed for 2.1kW electrical power in the MSA 220, the same as the MSA 300 needing the AP 500 S for 3.0kW electrical power. If you use a lesser battery you get less power from the chainsaw but it will still work. If you use a AP 500 S battery in another tool, like the MSA 220, you wont get more power, but you'll get more working time - approx 20%. All working times are here on p31 of the catalogue: https://www.stihl.co.uk/p/media/download/uk-en/STIHL_GB_2022_CATALOGUE_low_res.pdf  Thanks. Paul, STIHL GB. 

    Thanks Paul for a direct link to Stihl GB,

     

    Firstly, I wonder if you can confirm whether msa 200 and 220 have the same motor, I ask because I modified my 200 by fitting 220 sprocket, bar and chain a couple of years ago and I presumed that the rest was the same, anyway it changed the saw a lot with higher chain speed and 3/8" full chiz, but I guess you know this as you brought out the 220.

     

    And second, I'm interested in having the larger AP 500s battery for this saw but from your earlier post regarding charging and overheating does this mean that my AL 300 charger isn't suitable for the larger battery, and if so, will the AL 301 charger also charge and extend the life of the 300 and 300s batteries, cheers.

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    The main question I have is, how does it compare to Husky's 540 iXP rear-handled saw. I invested in the Stihl MSA160 and MSA 200 when they first came out, with an AP200 and AP300 battery.

     

    I then wanted the extra power the Husky T540 iXP top-handle gave, so bought that with two BLi 300 batteries. That saw is much more powerful than the MSA 200, and in my opinion better than my 201 tcm. 

     

    I like the idea of a battery MSA261, but absolutely not going to invest in two new batteries again, and doubtless a new charger.

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    14 minutes ago, Macpherson said:

    Thanks Paul for a direct link to Stihl GB,

     

    Firstly, I wonder if you can confirm whether msa 200 and 220 have the same motor, I ask because I modified my 200 by fitting 220 sprocket, bar and chain a couple of years ago and I presumed that the rest was the same, anyway it changed the saw a lot with higher chain speed and 3/8" full chiz, but I guess you know this as you brought out the 220.

     

    And second, I'm interested in having the larger AP 500s battery for this saw but from your earlier post regarding charging and overheating does this mean that my AL 300 charger isn't suitable for the larger battery, and if so, will the AL 301 charger also charge and extend the life of the 300 and 300s batteries, cheers.

    Hi, they are different motors in the MSA 200 and 220 (1.8kw vs 2.1kW) and it doesn't increase  if you put in the higher AP 300 S battery in the MSA 200.  The AP batteries and AL 300 and AL 500 chargers can all be used with each other too. The chargers just trickle the last 20% of the charge.  Hope that clears it up. 

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    22 minutes ago, Blah said:

    The main question I have is, how does it compare to Husky's 540 iXP rear-handled saw. I invested in the Stihl MSA160 and MSA 200 when they first came out, with an AP200 and AP300 battery.

     

    I then wanted the extra power the Husky T540 iXP top-handle gave, so bought that with two BLi 300 batteries. That saw is much more powerful than the MSA 200, and in my opinion better than my 201 tcm. 

     

    I like the idea of a battery MSA261, but absolutely not going to invest in two new batteries again, and doubtless a new charger.

    I'd rather not comment on head to head tests against other manufacturers machines, but I'm certain there will be plenty of tests  once we release the chainsaw next month. :) Also, we have a MSA 220 T and MSA 220 TC-O top handle chainsaw coming out later this year too, that work best with the AP 300 S battery, but can also use AP 300, albeit with the power of the MSA 200 rather than 220. All AP batteries can be charged on STIHL AL chargers too. 

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