I got to try the Husqvarna 540XP Mk III

The Husqvarna 540XP Mk III – “the saw everybody heard of, but nobody saw” … until now. We wrote about it over a year ago and have waited since then to try it. Now it has happened. My colleagues at Skogsforum.se tried it a while ago, and now me. As I use a Stihl 201 in my normal profession, it was natural to compare the two. After all, the 540XP Mk III is considered a challenger to the Stihl MS 201. 

It was a cold and wintery day … Photo: Per Jonsson

Husqvarna 540XP Mk III vs. Stihl MS 201-C

You might have noticed, dear reader, that I do young thinning and use a Stihl 201 for that. The reason for getting myself a Stihl for the first time in my life was simply that Husqvarna, whom I’ve always been faithful to, didn’t have a small saw for professionals at the time. It was a big step for me, and I wrote about it in an article that you’ll find here.

Anyway, all along I’ve been curious about what Husqvarna will come up with to match the Stihl 201. And now the opportunity turned up. 

Photo: Per Jonsson

First impressions

As I also have a Husqvarna 550 XP Mk II, I’m familiar with the Husqvarna design. The starting procedure is the same, the sound as well. The difference to the 550 XP occurs when you start sawing, and that’s of course the power. No wonder as the 540 is lighter and has a smaller motor than the 550. 

Compared to the Stihl 201 the Husqvarna 540 feels almost the same. The differences are small details of which some could be annoying when you are used to one of them. One problem I had when I went from my 550 to the small Stihl 201 was aiming when felling. As the upper handles on Husqvarna’s and Stihl’s saws have different angles most trees got stuck when felling the first days with the Stihl. I got a hang of this after a while, but now, when trying the Husqvarna 540, the problem came back – temporary. 

The two combatants. The 540 hasn’t yet got the “nice” spruce black color. Note the difference in the angle of the upper handles. Photo: Per Jonsson

Two gas tanks later

For me, it was easy to get used to the 540 XP Mk III. Probably partly due to my long experience of Husqvarna saws. Generally, I would say it’s a nice saw for young thinning. When you start getting used to a new saw you also start noticing the differences to what you are normally used to. For example, the sound. 

I’m not sure but I got the impression that the Husqvarna made more noise than the Stihl. In any case, the noise was different. The 540 sounds unnervingly, like a tuned race car, and like the 550. I like that sound, but the power of the 540 is missing. When felling a tree 15 centimeters (6”) in diameter or more the 540 didn’t seem to make it. The chain got stuck and I had to pull the bar out of the tree to get the chain speed back up. Of course, the Stihl 201 also gets stuck in thicker trees, but in that case, it’s enough to ease the force – hold the saw back – for a second or two the get the chain speed back. 

I don’t know if the bar length had anything to do with this phenomenon. The Husqvarna 540 had a 14” bar and my Stihl 201 had a 12” bar. However, I find it difficult to believe that this was the problem. 

I sharpened the chains on both saws in the same way. Sharpened for delimbing which makes the chains quite aggressive which could mean problems when cutting through stems. But I’m used to this. It’s solved by holding the saw back a bit. 

One of the thickest trees on this site. Do I really need a 14″ bar? Photo: Per Jonsson

Another theory I have is that there was some kind of problem with the ignition of the 540. It blurred from time to time when giving gas, especially after a minute or so, of idling. The AutoTune didn’t seem to tune it right. 

Generally a good choice in young thinning

I can’t say anything else than that trying the Husqvarna 540 XP Mk III was a nice experience. The problems I mentioned above are small and will be solved. I’ve heard that from other users who have spoken to the factory about it. 

I did 10 gas tanks with the 540. Of course that doesn’t represent a genuine test, it was just a trial. I know there are differences between the 540 and the 201 in weight and power but that was not noticeable to me. I don’t even remember the differences. Both are good saws in young thinning.

Some people claim that this kind, or size, of saw, is suitable for firewood making. I’m not so sure about that. It depends on the size of the trees. If you mean that firewood is just small trees I could agree, but I don’t believe that’s the truth. Firewood could be any size of trees. And when it comes to cutting firewood in the backyard you should have a larger saw. Cutting solid wood instantly is tough for a chainsaw. Better having a second-hand large saw than a new small one in that case. 

14” bar is overkill

One reflection: To me, it seems that a 14” bar on such a small saw is overkill. 12” would be more suitable for the 540 XP. In the photo above you see both my 201 and the borrowed 540 placed on a stump. That tree was one of the thickest in that thinning. Do you really need a 14” bar for that kind of forest? 

No, use suitable equipment and carry as low weight as possible, is my recommendation. Forest work is heavy enough anyway, especially when you reach my respectable age. 

Finally: No chainsaw is better than its chain. KEEP THE SAW CHAIN SHARP!! This is even more important when you have a smaller saw, like the 540 or the 201. Don’t wait until you’ve hit stone or gravel. Remember that wood also makes the chain unsharp. Carry a good file with you and keep the chain sharp always. 

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