Stihl MS290 vs. MS291: Which Is Better for You?

The newer Stihl MS291 chainsaw has upgrades like increased RPM, lighter weight, vibration reduction, and improved filtration over the older MS290 model, making it better for most users needing a rugged gas saw. 

Stihl’s MS290 and MS291 are two of their most popular chainsaw models. While both pack impressive power and performance, the newer MS291 has some key upgrades that set it apart from the older MS290.

In this detailed comparison guide, we’ll examine the differences between the MS290 and MS291 to help you determine which Stihl chainsaw is the better match for your needs.

MS290 Overview

The Stihl MS290 was first introduced in 2004 and has since been replaced by the MS291. During its production run, it was one of Stihl’s most popular saws, designed for rugged reliability and power.

Some key features and specs:

  • 59.8cc displacement
  • 3.0HP
  • 310 watts max power output
  • 9,000 max RPM
  • 13 lbs weight
  • Inertia chain brake
  • Master Control lever

While the MS290 is no longer in production, you can still find used models available. It continues to have a reputation as a robust, powerful workhorse of a saw.

MS291 Overview

Released in 2015, the Stihl MS291 replaced the MS290 and included several upgrades reflecting newer technology.

Key features and specs:

  • 59.8cc displacement
  • 3.0HP
  • 290 watts max power output
  • 13,000 max RPM
  • 12.5 lbs weight
  • Inertia Quickstop chain brake
  • Master Control lever
  • HD2 filter
  • Quick chain adjuster
  • Anti-vibration system

The MS291 retains the same engine displacement but has implemented upgrades for improved performance, convenience, and comfort.

Power Output

When it comes to pure power, the MS290 rates slightly higher with 310 watts of max power compared to 290 watts on the MS291.

This slightly higher power can provide an advantage when cutting larger logs or thicker wood.

However, the MS291 makes up some of the difference with its higher max RPM of 13,000 vs 9,000 on the MS290. The faster chain speed helps boost cutting performance.

For most homeowner use, either saw will have plenty of power. Only professional full-time users are likely to notice the subtle power differences.


Reducing fatigue is always important when working with chainsaws over extended periods. At 12.5 lbs, the newer MS291 shaves off half a pound compared to the MS290’s 13 lb weight.

This reduction results in less fatigue over the course of a long workday.

Fuel Efficiency

With gas prices always fluctuating, fuel efficiency is a key consideration for any gas-powered tool. The MS291 incorporates updated fuel-efficiency technology, meaning you’ll get improved run times per tank of gas.

Fewer refueling stops translate to more time cutting and less time refilling the saw.

Filtration System

Clean air intake is critical for proper engine performance and longevity. The MS291 now uses Stihl’s heavy duty HD2 filter, which provides improved filtration even under the toughest conditions.

This helps extend the machine’s service life by allowing cleaner airflow to the engine.

Vibration Reduction

A common complaint of chainsaws is the high vibration levels during use. To help combat this, Stihl designed the MS291 with an anti-vibration system to reduce fatigue.

Rubber dampeners isolate the engine and cutting equipment to absorb vibrations before they reach your hands.

This provides a smoother, more comfortable user experience.

Ease of Use

Both models utilize Stihl’s simplified Master Control lever system to combine the stop switch, choke, and throttle lockout into one convenient lever.

The MS291 also now includes a quick chain adjuster, allowing toolless chain tensioning. This makes it faster and simpler to tighten the chain.

Price Considerations

As the newer model, the MS291 costs more than the now-discontinued MS290. But when comparing brand new models, the price difference is only around $50-$100.

When looking at used saws, you can likely find MS290s for under $300 in good condition, while used MS291s tend to run $350 and up.

For most users, the MS291’s upgrades justify spending a little more for the latest model. But deals can be found on used MS290s for anyone on a tighter budget.

Final Recommendation

While the Stihl MS290 remains a proven, reliable saw, the MS291 offers noticeable refinements. The improved cutting speed, lighter weight, smoother operation, and added features make the MS291 our top pick for most users.

However, the MS290 still offers robust power at an affordable price point, making it a good option on a budget or for those needing raw strength.

Other Articles