Owners say the biggest drawback of a 10-inch chop saw is its small capacity. However, if you only need to cut an occasional oversized board, it's not necessarily worth shelling out $400 or more for a sliding miter saw. For owners in this position, a 12-inch compound miter saw is a good compromise. In the Journal of Light Construction, Andy Beasley explains, "Sliding miter saws are more versatile, but they're expensive and bulky ... If you can get by without the wide horizontal cutting capacity afforded by a slider, a 12-inch chop saw can save you a pile of money."
With one of the largest capacities of a non-sliding saw, the DeWalt DW715 (Est. $240) can chop up to 6.5-inch baseboard placed vertically against the fence. Like the smaller DeWalt DW713 (Est. $220) (described in our discussion of the best 10-inch compound miter saws), this 15-amp, single-bevel saw can make mitered cuts of up to 50 degrees in either direction and beveled cuts of up to 48 degrees. It has three firm bevel stops, plus a detent override that lets you lock in a custom angle. A vernier – a small, movable, graduated scale – lets users "dial in a cut to within a quarter degree anywhere on the miter scale," according to Wood Magazine.
Reviews say the DW715 is accurate right out of the box and delivers first-class performance. In his comparison, Beasley says the DW715 has the best miter lock of the bunch; "(the saw's) cam-style lever is faster and easier to use than the screw knobs that are on the other machines." It also has more vertical capacity and cuts more smoothly than any other saw. Owners at Amazon.com and Lowes.com describe the DW715 as durable, well balanced, and easy to adjust. Users' main complaint is that, like the DW713, this saw comes in multiple versions, some of which do not work with DeWalt's optional laser or LED work light. Dust collection is also unimpressive, though no worse than on most other saws.
Users who need to make a lot of compound cuts will save time with a dual-bevel saw, which can tilt the saw head in two directions. The DeWalt DW716 (Est. $355) has the same convenient features and accurate performance as the DW715 and can bevel left or right. "Although pricey, it cuts superbly, operates easily, boasts the greatest cutting capacity, and is easy to carry," says Beasley, who tests both DeWalts in his review. Users at Amazon.com rate the DW716 about the same as the DW715, with similar praise and criticism for both models. Both saws include DeWalt's three-year warranty, a one-year free service contract and a 90-day money-back guarantee. Users need only consider whether the dual-bevel convenience is worth the extra cost.
Stepping up to the larger cut capacity of a 12-inch sliding compound miter saw means a jump in overall size, weight and price as well. However, it's probably a worthwhile investment for serious woodworkers and professional craftsmen. We didn't find any professional comparison reviews for this type of saw, but there are several single-product reviews available on the website of Wood Magazine, as well as plenty of feedback on retail sites like Amazon.com and Lowes.com.
Out of all these reviews, we found the strongest feedback for the 12-inch sliding DeWalt DWS780 (Est. $600). This giant dual-bevel saw can cut crown molding up to 6.75 inches in size vertically against the fence, as well as tackling lumber up to 2x16 at 90 degrees and 2x12 at 45 degrees. It can make mitered cuts up to 60 degrees to the right and 50 degrees to the left and can bevel up to 45 degrees in either direction. Wood Magazine says both miter and bevel settings are "spot-on accurate," and the scales are easy to read and use. The review also says making adjustments is a simple process.
One feature both professionals and homeowners love about this sliding miter saw is its built-in LED light system, which casts light on both sides of the blade so you can use its shadow to trace the path of your cut. Reviewers also say the saw is powerful, well balanced, and surprisingly quiet. Its biggest weakness is dust collection. While most saws do only a mediocre job of collecting dust, the Wood Magazine review says the DWS780 is worse than most as its long collection tube quickly becomes choked with sawdust, which then can't reach the collection bag. It also says the stock blade is "better suited for cutting construction lumber, not fine woodworking" and recommends upgrading to a better blade for cleaner cuts. A final problem noted in many Amazon.com reviews is that the sliding mechanism is very rough and sticky, especially on first use. However, some owners say the motion gets smoother over time, especially with the aid of a little machine oil. DeWalt backs this saw with the same 90-day/one-year/three-year warranty offered on its chop saws.
We also found good feedback – though not quite as much of it – for the Bosch GCM12SD (Est. $630). Unlike most sliding miter saws, which glide along rails, the Bosch has a complex articulated arm that moves the saw head back and forth. Wood Magazine describes the arm as "rock solid" and says its extremely smooth motion reduces blade deflection for more accurate cuts. Eliminating the rails also saves a good 5 to 8 inches of space on your workbench.
The Bosch has the same miter angle range as the DeWalt, and its bevel range is 48 degrees on either side. It can cut boards up to 14 inches wide laid flat and 6.5 inches standing upright. Wood Magazine also says it's easy to adjust and can churn through the hardest wood without bogging down. Its biggest drawbacks are price and weight. At 65 pounds, this saw is the heaviest we've seen, as well as the most expensive. So unless you really need those extra few inches of benchtop space, we see no compelling reason to choose this Bosch saw over the DeWalt.