"Few woodworking machines match the versatility, portability, or cost effectiveness of today's 10-inch compound miter saw," says Roy Berendsohn at Popular Mechanics. And in this size class, editors at Popular Mechanics name the DeWalt DW713 (Est. $220) as their top pick.
This single-bevel, 15-amp chop saw can make beveled cuts of up to 48 degrees, and its miter range extends for 50 degrees to both left and right. It can handle boards up to 3.5 inches tall standing up against the fence, and up to 6 inches if they're laid flat. It weighs a manageable 35 pounds and has a built-in carrying handle. The saw comes with a one-year free service contract, a three-year limited warranty and a 90-day money-back guarantee.
Both professional reviewers and home users say the DW713 delivers both power and precision. They also agree that it's very easy to set up and use; editors at Popular Mechanics say the blade "moves effortlessly into and out of a cut," and the bevel and miter adjustment are "silky smooth." Owners are more divided on the issue of dust collection, with some saying it's better than average and others finding the dust bag completely ineffective.
The only real negative with the DW713, according to reviews, is that it comes in two different versions – Type 1 and Type 2 – and only the older Type 1 version is compatible with some optional accessories, most notably DeWalt's laser guide system and LED work light. Both saw types appear to be currently available at retail, though Dan Maxey at Tools in Action says that "From my understanding most saws produced now are type 2." Unfortunately, he adds, the type is indicated only on the saw itself, not on the box – so there's no way to know which type you're buying in the store. Still, for those who can live without the laser guide and work light – or who are lucky enough to find a Type 1 saw that's compatible with those accessories – this compound miter saw has just about everything you could ask for. Judging from the high level of user satisfaction – 4.5 stars at Amazon.com, 4.8 at HomeDepot.com, and a perfect 5 stars at NorthernTool.com – that covers most owners.
If you're looking for something a bit cheaper, reviewers say the Hitachi C10FCH2 (Est. $150) is the best compound miter saw for those on a budget. This single-bevel, 15-amp saw can't quite match the cutting capacity of the DW713, but it's considerably cheaper and considerably lighter, at 26.5 pounds. Editors at Popular Mechanics say its cutting power is on a par with the DeWalt's, and it has such handy accessories as "a heavy-duty work-support extension, a work clamp, and a fold-down auxiliary fence." Also, unlike the DW713, it comes with a built-in laser cutting guide, which owners say works fairly well.
The Hitachi's biggest weakness is its small base, which reviewers say doesn't provide as much support behind the saw as other models have. Also, owners find its stock blade and dust-collection capabilities poor, although these are fairly standard problems with most miter saws. Finally, we ran across a few complaints about durability. The Hitachi is backed by an impressive 5-year limited warranty, but owners say getting repairs under warranty can be a pain.
For those who do a lot of woodworking – especially with larger stock – it's worth paying to upgrade to a sliding miter saw. In addition to rotating for miter cuts and swiveling for bevel cuts, the head on a sliding compound miter saw can move back and forth along a set of rails, significantly increasing cutting capacity. A 10-inch miter saw, according to Timothy Dahl of Popular Mechanics, "hits the sweet spot for most DIYers." Chris Marshall of Woodworker's Journal says this type of saw "can crosscut a 2×12 or a 4×4 in a single pass," and can handle "1x or even thicker stock up to about 8″ wide when set to maximum compound miter/bevel angles." However, this increased versatility doesn't come cheap: a sliding miter saw costs roughly twice as much as a basic chop saw.
The DeWalt DW717 (Est. $500) is one of the top performers in Marshall's test of seven 10-inch sliding compound miter saws. It's a dual-bevel saw, which makes it more adept at making compound miter cuts than the single-beveled DW713. It boasts an impressive miter range of 60 degrees left, 52 degrees right, and its bevel range is 45 degrees in each direction. Although it offers multiple preset angles, you can also use the detent override to make custom cuts. Its cutting capacity is also generous, handling baseboard up to 6 inches tall and horizontal boards as wide as 14 inches. It has the same 90-day/1-year/3-year tiered warranty offered on the DW713.
Marshall says it's very easy to set up compound cuts on the DW717, and its dust collection is "flat-out impressive." However, Marshall hooked the saw up to a vacuum hose and covered the blade with a dust trap before using it; owners at Amazon.com, who relied on the saw's built-in dust collection system, generally describe it as mediocre or poor. Still, they give the saw high marks for its solid construction and smooth, accurate cuts. One feature they particularly love is the optional LED work light, which allows you to align your cuts by tracing the shadow of the blade. The one feature they dislike is the dial that locks the slide rails, which they describe as awkward to use.
The Ridgid MS255SR (Est. $350), despite costing roughly $150 less than the DeWalt DW717, is a stellar performer in professional tests. Marshall actually prefers it to the DeWalt, saying it's "feature-rich, cuts beautifully and keeps the bench area cleaner." Its miter and bevel ranges match the DeWalt's, but its capacity isn't quite as large; it can only crosscut boards up to 12 inches wide. It also comes with a laser and an LED work light, two features that have to be added on the DeWalt. It's backed by a 3-year warranty plus a free lifetime service agreement, which guarantees free parts and service for the original owner's lifetime.
Professional reviewers, including Marshall and Eric Jopp of Tools in Action, have nothing but praise for this saw. They say its up-front controls are very user-friendly and it makes clean, accurate cuts without bogging down. Marshall also likes the soft-start motor, which brings the tool to life gently. This saw came very close to being our Best Reviewed pick, but user reviews at HomeDepot.com gave us pause. Although about 85 percent of owners there say they would recommend this miter saw, we saw numerous complaints that the fence isn't square to the table (and can't be adjusted). Most users don't encounter this problem, but it happens often enough to make us wary about Ridgid's quality control. Owners also note that Ridgid's lifetime service agreement isn't as great as it looks; it's very difficult to register for, and getting repairs is a hassle.
For users on a budget, we saw surprisingly good reviews for the Craftsman 40753 (Est. $240). Both professionals and owners say this inexpensive sliding miter saw is a great value. This single-bevel saw has a miter range of 50 degrees left and right and a bevel range of 47 degrees left, and it can crosscut boards as much as 12.5 inches wide. Unlike most sliding miter saws, it has rails that project out over the saw's base and don't slide backward. Marshall says this design saves space but makes the saw a little unstable with large stock.
Still, both he and Christopher Schwartz of Popular Mechanics consider the saw a great value, with smooth, accurate performance and all the features you need. Owners at Sears.com agree, awarding the Craftsman 4.7 stars out of 5 in roughly 150 reviews. They say it's accurate right out of the body and very easy to use. The only feature they dislike is the dust bag, but Marshall says the saw does fine with dust collection when hooked up to a vacuum hose.