"Few woodworking machines match the versatility, portability, or cost effectiveness of today's 10-inch compound miter saw," says Roy Berendsohn at Popular Mechanics. A saw this size is capable of tackling the most common woodshop and homeowner projects: cutting framing lumber, door and window trim, crown molding, and even cabinet and furniture parts. It also costs less, weighs less, and takes up less room than a larger saw, and it's capable of sharing blades with a table saw.
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 baseboards up to 4.25 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." He adds, and user reviews echo, that though the type is indicated on the saw itself, the box lacks that information. 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 -- 4.8 stars at Amazon.com based on more than 140 reviews -- 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 just under 24 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. The Hitachi is backed by an impressive 5-year limited warranty.
Brett Martin of Popular Mechanics says, "If you're planning on doing a lot of fine woodworking, it's worth spending the extra money and upgrading 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. 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. $490) 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 vertical 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." Users at Amazon.com actually disagree with him on this point, describing dust collection as mediocre or poor, but they still 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.
We also saw good reviews for the dual-bevel Makita LS1016L (Est. $490). Its cutting capacity isn't quite a match for the DW717's, but it has the same wide miter and bevel ranges. It also has one feature the DW717 lacks: a soft-start motor, which stops the blade from bucking when you first turn it on. Another unique feature is its rail system, which has four short, stacked rails instead of two long ones. Although this doesn't really save space, the shorter rails help keep the blade properly aligned, with little play from side to side. Makita provides a typical one-year warranty with the LS1016L.
Both Marshall and the editors at Wood Magazine say the Makita LS1016L makes smooth, even cuts, and they love its soft-start motor. However, while Wood Magazine says the saw's laser guide is "spot on," Marshall finds it "crude" and not very precise. Also, all agree that the miter and bevel locks on this saw are somewhat awkward to use. Marshall notes that dust collection is unimpressive. Most owners at Amazon.com praise the Makita's performance, but some report problems making adjustments to the fence and other parts. They also say the enclosed instructions are inscrutable.