Comparison – Husqvarna 550XP Mk II VS MS 261 from Stihl

Few with an interest in chainsaws can have missed that Husqvarna released a new 50cc in the professional market segment, at the start of 2019. The name is Husqvarna 550XP Mark II and it’s reaching stores right now.

We have been given the opportunity to compare the two main competitors in this popular chainsaw segment – 550XP Mk II VS MS 261, shall we?

Log Max Harvester Heads

With the launch of the new chainsaw from Husqvarna these two fighters have crept even closer to each other and on paper they both deliver 3.00 kW. Join us and read our comparison, and don’t miss the video at the bottom which contains a lot of chatter but also a fair bit of action in the form of cutting and weight tests.

Awesome chainsaws

The conclusion of your truly after having run tests on the 550 and 261 is that they are both excellent and pretty awesome chainsaws. They both start on max three pulls and there’s really no hesitation on anything – the functionality and quality are great on both of them, but there are a few differences.

Fast acceleration

Two-stroke is largely about the aggressiveness and speed of the engine. Both chainsaws are fast, but Husqvarna wins by a narrow margin by being quick already from idle running to full throttle. You can feel it, if only slightly, during the test. If the saws have any form of base rotation there’s no difference at all and overall, they’re both very fast (we’re getting spoilt here).

Another detail that I noticed was that they balance differently. The 261 will raise up more when speeding up without holding the grip. However, this is not something I believe affects usability.

MS 261 is lighter

Already on paper the 261 is lighter than the new 550. But it’s not until now that we know the exact details, and this will become nerdy pretty quick. As the Pixel system is “standard” on the new 550 I wanted to measure weights using a 1.3 mm wide 15” guide bar and chain. The Stihl, however, does not have a 15” Picco (1.3 mm) so the tests have instead been run using a 16”.
It then felt wrong to measure using different guide bar lengths and instead we ran it with a full tank and no guide bars or chains, as these were instead weighted separately. The 261 is close to half a kilo lighter with a full tank compared to the 550 XP Mark II. If that’s a lot or not is up to the user to decide I’ll leave that discussion for us in the community. Without guide bars and chains, the 550 weights 6 kg while the 261 comes in at 5.5 kg.

Ready to go with Pixel/Picco guide bars (15” for 550 and 16” for Stihl), the 550 weights around 6.84 kg while the 261 weights 6.34 kg. More information in the video below.

Cutting times – which is faster?

The answer is that they are very similar and as this isn’t a scientific test, we’ll have to be careful here. We must also add that the parameter of the chains has a much greater impact than one might think. As such they are almost identical, but the Stihl has a slightly faster cut straight across. The difference is so small though that it probably doesn’t matter at all.

Worth noting is also that the most comparable test is with the 1.5 mm 15” systems. This is due to the identical setup during the test. During the Picco/Pixel test the Stihl had a one inch longer guide bar and ⅜ saw chain. I guess it’s up for debate whether these can be compared straight up as long as it’s the same width. What do you think?

Operative run time

Yours truly has been cutting a whole year’s worth during this test. The reason was that I wanted to try to get a comparable result to show you how long the saws would run on a single tank. Here too the results might be somewhat boring. 550 has a 6% larger fuel tank and could run for an equivalently longer period of time.

This proves once again how similar they are in many ways.

Actual cutting measurements

One thing that’s worth bringing up is that the new Mark 2 has a longer saw body than its predecessor as well as the 261. Husqvarna writes on their guide bar that it should be 38 cm on their 15”. Stihl writes 37 cm on their equivalent. In reality, my results show 34.5 cm for Mark 2 and 36 cm for Stihl. I show this in detail in the video where you can also clearly see how the silencer and oil sump sticks out on the new 550.

On a final note, it’s interesting that Husqvarna has 2 drive links more on their 15” guide bar, with 64 drive links compared to 62 on the Stihl. This is clearly noticeable in the build as Husqvarna’s guide bar is longer.

Purchase price, guarantees and similar are not considered in this test, it’s something we can continue discussing together!


Here is a video from the test.

Husqvarna 550 XP Mark 2 i jämförelse med Stihl MS 261
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