If you want to find the best chainsaw for you, the small Stihl MS170 is a good choice. It starts quickly, cuts quickly and smoothly and makes easy work of removing tree branches, cutting firewood, or any other task that calls for a chainsaw. Additionally, the high power-to-weight ratio make it a good choice.
It’s a great tool for a variety of cutting jobs. However, if you’re not a frequent user and your craving for power isn’t overwhelming, you could probably get away with a corded or battery-powered tool instead of a gas-powered one.
J.D. Chadwick started writing articles for Top Ten Reviews 2008, and left the team in 2018 after filling the role of Multimedia Editor. He tested multiple chainsaws alongside the Stihl MS170 to conduct this review, using standardized tests to compare them.
Stihl MS170: Design
The Stihl MS170 is ideal for someone who wants the power and utility of a professional-grade chainsaw, as it delivers on both. It's quiet, light, easy to handle and fuel-efficient. It scored high marks easily on every test we put to it.
Inside the saw there is an IntelliCarb Compensating Carburetor; this carburetor keeps the air-to-fuel ratio balanced. It adjusts when the air filter chokes, but maintains constant rpm to keep the saw running its best. This system pulls air in from the clean side of the filter to keep the engine free of dust and debris.
Stihl MS170: Performance
Because of its size, it works best for occasional cleanup jobs, felling or trimming small trees and clearing fallen branches after a storm. This gas chainsaw’s lightweight plastic and aluminum housing keep it under 11 pounds, which adds to its maneuverability and lowers the chance of kickback. Depending on the job you need to complete, you can swap out the 16-inch bar with others as small as 12 inches with the right tools.
This small gas chainsaw secured the best times for individual cuts in our hands-on tests. We cut a 6x6-inch piece of lumber with each saw and timed how long it took to complete. The first test cut with this model clocked in at less than five seconds with the next hitting the three second mark. Between the test cuts, this Stihl model averaged speeds of three to four seconds. That means the Stihl MS170 cut through the test lumber at speeds of over an inch per second.
The two-stroke engine boosts the power-to-weight ratio for a saw as light as this one. This style of engine completes two revolutions in one piston stroke, meaning it requires less fuel for the power it produces. The lightweight plastic housing adds to its efficiency, but this shell can crack or break if not handled with care. You can avoid damage to the saw by starting it on the ground with your foot in the rear handle.
How does the Stihl MS170 compare?
Our test crew were impressed by this model. After comparing it with the Echo CS-310 one tester commented “I still like the Stihl better.” Another, after using multiple saws said of the Stihl “I think this one is the best.”
But it wasn’t all praise: one tester commented on how much smoke this model produced when compared to other gas models. Another noted the lack of shock absorbers that made the Echo CS-130 more attractive. Nevertheless, everyone was impressed that it produces a clean, even cut every time you use it.
One downside to any Stihl chainsaw is that you can only buy them in selected retail stores and on ebay. Any licensed dealers can sell this model, parts and other accessories. These local dealers are often easy to find, but it’s inconvenient if you know what you’re doing and would rather have parts delivered from services like Amazon.