Most current reviews say 12-inch compound miter saws are well worth the extra weight and price since they can crosscut a nominal 2-by-8 board, not just a 2-by-6. Also, 12-inch compound saws are available as either single-bevel or dual-bevel (which can tilt both ways). Some dual-bevel 12-inch miter saws can even crosscut a 2-by-10 board. Dual-bevel miter saws are more flexible and convenient, and offer better visibility for left-handed users.
We found more recommendations for the DeWalt DW716 (*Est. $400) than for any other model. At the Journal of Light Construction, reviewer Andy Beasley gives this double-bevel miter saw top ranking in a comparison against seven other models. The DeWalt miter saw's capacity makes it stand out from the pack: the DW716 can crosscut 2-by-10 lumber in one pass (though this requires some fiddling). It can also miter baseboard (held vertically against the fence) 6.5 inches high and crown molding 6.875 inches tall.
The 44-pound DeWalt DW716 miter saw is judged "all-around good" in tests at Tools of the Trade. It's also one of the top-rated miter saws in user reviews posted at Amazon.com, Lowes.com, Sears.com and NorthernTool.com. At Amazon, for example, nearly 95 percent of the reviews are very positive, with owners praising the saw's build quality and easy-to-use controls.
The less expensive and less convenient single-bevel DeWalt DW715 (*Est. $330) is the top-ranked miter saw in a 2007 Wood magazine comparison test, where it's found to be accurate right out of the box. This saw is also recommended by both the Journal of Light Construction and in owner-written reviews. Maximum crosscut capacity is a 2-by-8 (or 4-by-6). The 5.5-inch capacity for crown molding cut vertically is also smaller than on the best-reviewed DeWalt DW716, but the DW715 can still cut baseboard 6.5 inches high. (Larger pieces can, of course, be cut flat on the table instead of vertically against the fence.)
A good dual-bevel 12-inch miter saw can be had for even less money. The Craftsman Professional 21235 miter saw (*Est. $300) earns the Best Bet Award in comparison tests at Woodworker's Journal. A comparison at Tools of the Trade finds that it collects dust more effectively than the other seven miter saws tested (including the DeWalt DW716). The Craftsman Pro 21235 comes with a dust bag, but its 2.5-inch dust port can also connect to a shop vac hose.
Chris Baylor, About.com's guide to woodworking, recommends the Craftsman 21235 based on his own tests, saying "It handled every cut that I threw at it with ease, accurately and without a difficult setup." Owners reviewing this saw at Sears.com give it above average ratings, though several recommend upgrading to a better blade.
The Craftsman 21235 can crosscut up to 2-by-8 lumber and comes with extension rods, a hold-down clamp and a special clamp for crown molding. The main drawbacks are a nonadjustable laser guide and, according to About.com's review, a blade guard that makes impedes visibility. Also, the miter angle only adjusts as far as 47 degrees; the bevel only to 45 degrees.