Good Money After Bad? The Ported 543xp

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Many years ago, I heard Husqvarna was going to be bringing out a new 40cc saw, the 543xp. As someone who likes that size class for much of the cutting I do, this really piqued my interest. Despite what many folks on the interwebs would have you believe, the 40cc-class saws do fill a niche that the 50cc saws do not directly fill; a 242xp and a 346xp are not direct competitors, they handle and behave very differently. After many years of hoping that Husqvarna would bring the 543xpg to the US, and vacillating on whether to spend $750-800 to bring one here on my own (I just couldn't do it, knowing I'd be spending on porting, too), I decided to buy a non-G 543xp. In December, I ordered one from Spike60 and sent it directly to mweba for some attention right out the gate.

For some info on mweba's work on this saw platform, here's an older thread: https://www.arboristsite.com/community/threads/inside-the-husqvarna-543xp.260309/

I mounted up a 13" NK bar and some 20-series Oregon chain, and put five tanks through this saw on Saturday; it had seen two tanks in Mitch's hands after he built it. All the cutting was on the log table, blocking hardwood up into firewood lengths. At seven tanks through it, this saw flat out rips and seems to still be loosening up. Throttle response is great. No fines made it through or around the mesh air filter. Though I'm presently without any 242xp or 246 saws to compare it to, it handily outperforms those saws from my recollection. Throttle response seems close to my 238se, but power is way ahead. Handling seems to be on a par with that platform, too. It is unquestionably more nimble than the 346xp or 550 (mk1) platform.

I am planning to get out in the woods for some thinning and limbing work in the coming weeks, cutting buckthorn and honeysuckle (so 2-6" material with the occasional 12" trunk), because this thin-and-limb work is where the handling benefits of this size saw really shines.

For people who have complained about the build quality of the plastics on this saw model, I can see what they are saying. The feel to the plastic definitely not the same as a 3-series Husqvarna, which is also different from the feel of 2-series Husqvarna plastic. But it isn't creaky or brittle and appears robust enough, though time will tell. The choke lever looks a bit like a part off a toy saw, but it feels good in use. The kill button is a bit annoying and I bumped it a few times by accident; apparently I brace my right thumb against the saw body on the left side of the throttle grip sometimes, which is not a problem on a 2- or 3-series Husqvarna. Better saw holding technique addressed that issue.

The easy-start starter is obviously unnecessary, but it is actually not annoying at all. I was surprised by that, as other easy-start systems I have tried were annoying. In actual cutting, its added width was a non-issue.

So, the crucial question: is this saw worth $800? Because that's about what it is gonna cost you between the purchase of the saw new and then doing the porting work. I think the answer is a definite maybe: if your cutting is the sort that favors a 242xp, then I think that this saw in its ported form makes sense - it is new and parts aren't NLA. For my usual woods work, this seems like a great choice thus far and if it holds up over the long haul then I feel like it presents a good value proposition. If anyone is interested in this saw but likes red more than orange, you can get it as a Redmax 4350, also.

If your cutting is not the sort that is a perfect fit for the 242xp's skills, then no, you probably are better served with something else - Makita/Dolmar 421 on the smaller end or a 50cc pro saw on the larger end.



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Well, finally got back out to do some proper cutting in the woods and not on the wood pile. Ran two tanks through the 543 and one through the 238. Same 13" NK bars running 20LP (LPX?) loops that have been sharpened a million times by me. Task for the day: start clearing buckthorn and honeysuckle from a section of one of the parks in town. I spent about three hours cutting, dragging, and stacking (making bird/rabbit habitat piles). Most of the wood was 2-5", but some multi-stem trees were 10" at the base when I cut them flush with the ground, and there was some larger cottonwood and maple deadfall that I cut up.

1. Handling. The 543 is everything the 238/242 was in terms of handling. Period. It feels good, swings about well, and flips onto its side and back upright nimbly. All the arguments about the plastic feeling cheap, or at least different, fades when you actually use the saw. Side-by-side with the 238, they both felt equally sturdy and nimble. A/V was about the same, and pretty good for rubber buffer A/V. Grip spacing is essentially identical to the 238/242 platform, which is to say it is smaller/closer together than the 346 or 550 platforms.

2. Performance. The 238 still revs faster in stock form and without a timing advance, but the 543 isn't too far off and it sure lugs harder; being ported, though, it ought to do. Truth is, it probably wants an 8t rim for the sort of small cutting it was seeing in order to load the engine enough to put its power to full use. Fuel economy was actually very good in this sort of cutting; it had seemed super-thirsty when we were running it on bar-buried cuts on the firewood table. In the really small wood (3-4") I think the 238 has the edge. In bigger stuff the 543 pulls ahead hard.

3. EZ Start. It has it, and it isn't annoying in use where you're shutting the saw off and restarting it a lot. This surprised me.

4. Value. Is this saw worth $800? So far, I don't feel like I made a bad purchase for what I wanted a saw to do. With the 241 gone, the only other non-plastic options in this class appear to be the Makita/Dolmar 4300/421 and the non-US Echo 390esx. The Dolmar is clearly the value leader. And the 390esx is going to cost nearly $700 to get it to the US, and then porting on top of that.

All in all, a fun way to spend a Saturday morning.



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Sample photo of before:

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computeruser

computeruser

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Went out this weekend to clean up storm damage on a MTB trail. Was advised there were a couple 36” oaks down, so in addition to the 543xp in the Dakine Builder Pack (29L), along with me came the 7900/28”. Apparently whoever scouted the trail is a fisherman - the “36 inch” stems were more like 22”. Luckily a buddy had his hands free and wanted to be useful, so he humped the 7900 through the woods most of the way.

Not surprisingly, the 543/13” combo worked great for this. Wood ranged from 6-22”, all hardwood, and much of it was tangled with other trees and vines. Plunge cut, over bucking on the bigger logs, and a couple judiciously placed redhead wedges and the work was done. Hiking with the saw in a backpack was a breeze.

Having cut with this saw more since my last update, the handling benefits of this chassis over the 346, 261, 550, and 5100 chassis/form factor have become increasingly evident. As ported, and now fully broken in, it clearly has some serious power. So basically I have a saw that handles and cuts like a well ported 242, without all the NLA parts.

I am struggling to see what the point of keeping my non-ported 346 is at this point. If I would import and then port a 543xpg, my ported 346xpg wouldn’t see much use anymore, either.

I absolutely am getting my money’s worth on this little saw!
 

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