Table saws support and guide lumber and wood panels as they pass over the spinning blade, making it easier to make accurate repeat cuts than with a circular saw. They cut more or less the same way as a circular saw: a round blade, usually 10 inches in diameter, spins as it works its way through the wood. The main difference is that the blade is fixed in place, sticking up through a gap in the table, and the operator moves the wood past the blade instead of moving the saw itself.
Table saws fall into three basic categories:
The main differences between saws of the same type lie in their power and accuracy. More powerful saws can handle thicker or denser wood, cut faster, and run all day without wearing out the motor. Accuracy depends on a variety of factors: low vibration, meticulous build, and an accurate fence and miter gauge that are easy to set.
Table saws can pose a serious risk of injury, since part of the spinning blade comes up above the surface of the table where it can come into contact with the user's hand as it guides the wood toward the blade. Thanks to voluntary safety standards introduced by Underwriters Laboratories (UL) in 2007, most table saws now come with blade guards that minimize the risk. Modern guard systems are easier to remove and replace as needed – an important feature because inconvenient blade guards are apt to be left off the saw.
Today's table saws also include riving knives, which ride up and down with the blade when its height is changed, rather than splitters that are fixed in place. The problem with the old splitters was that they had to be removed for certain types of cuts, and users might forget to put them back on before making rip cuts. This increased the risk of kickback injuries, which occur when the spinning blade kicks back a piece of wood toward the user with tremendous force, causing serious injury to any part of the body that's hit.
Blade guards and riving knives can't prevent all injuries, though. A 2011 report from the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) found that 20 percent of all table saw injuries were caused saws with riving knives, and 25 percent were from saws that had their blade guards in place.
The latest advance in table saw safety is a feature that senses the presence of tissue, such as a finger or forearm, and either stops the spinning blade or drops it below the table surface. A company called SawStop was the first to offer this technology, and in June 2016 Bosch introduced a portable table saw that includes it as well. However, saws with this safety feature are much more expensive than others in the same category. Even portable saws with this feature start at $1,500 – nearly three times the price of our Best Rated portable table saw.
To make our recommendations for the best table saws, and the best table saw bargains, we consulted comparison tests and single-product reviews in tool-related publications such as Woodworker's Journal, Popular Mechanics, Tools of the Trade, and Fine Homebuilding. Many of these reports are several years old, but most of the models tested are still available. Most professional reviews focus on portable table saws, but we found a few for cabinet saws. To find information on contractor saws, and to learn about how table saws perform in real people's homes, we consulted owner-written reviews at sites like Amazon.com, HomeDepot.com, Lowes.com, and Sears.com. We then named our top picks for portable, contractor, and cabinet table saws based on cutting performance, accuracy, ease of use, features, and durability.
Portable table saws are popular partly because they cost less than bigger models, making them a good choice for occasional use or as a starter saw. They're also ideal for use on jobsites or for easier storage in a small workshop. Portable table saws include benchtop models that are light enough to carry and jobsite saws equipped with a folding stand, which is often wheeled. The main drawback is that these saws' small tables make it difficult to cut sheets of plywood. You can add various extensions to cope with this, but that means more to transport and set up.
Among portable table saws, we saw the best feedback for the Bosch 4100-09 (Est. $560). This table saw is among the top performers in three separate professional tests and also earns strong feedback from owners. Professional reviewers consistently say it's powerful, accurate, and easy to set up and use. One feature they particularly like is the arbor lock, which allows you change the blade with just one wrench while most saws require two. Editors at Popular Mechanics consider this feature "so handy it ought to be an industry standard." Reviewers also like the well-positioned handle that unlocks the rails on the sliding table.
Owners at Amazon.com, who give this saw an overall score of 4.6 stars across roughly 385 reviews, are particularly impressed with the Bosch's easy-to use blade guard and other safety features, including the riving knife and anti-kickback pawls. They also note that the miter gauge, a feature that often gets complaints on other table saws, is accurate and easy to use. Reviewers are mixed on the issue of dust collection; Amazon reviewers complain that the saw produces a lot of dust, but Woodworkers' Journal reports that most of the dust "routed neatly through a shroud that surrounds the blade" and out to a vacuum cleaner.
Another feature reviewers particularly like on the Bosch 4100-09 is its gravity rise stand, which lets users roll the saw around in both its folded and unfolded positions. Owners and professionals alike say this stand is very easy to set up and rolls smoothly. For those who don't need a stand, the benchtop Bosch 4100 (Est. $570) is essentially the same saw without the stand. This older version earns top ranking in Popular Woodworking's October 2009 comparison test of portable table saws, but given the relative prices of the two saws, the Bosch 4100-09 looks to clearly be the better buy.
Another saw that earns good marks from both professionals and users is the DeWalt DWE7491RS (Est. $580). Todd Fratzel of ToolBoxBuzz.com, who says he's normally a "huge fan" of Bosch table saws, nonetheless declares this DeWalt "the best overall job site + mobile stand option out there." He praises the power and accuracy of the table saw, adding that it had no trouble dealing with various materials he tested (3/4-inch plywood, 2x framing material, and 1x maple lumber). He also notes that its rip capacity of 32-1/2 inches is bigger than any other portable saw's – a full 7-1/2 inches bigger than the Bosch 4100-09's. Fratzel loves the wheeled mobile stand, which makes it easy for one person to move this fairly heavy saw (roughly 90 pounds). He says the stand is very easy to set up and allows for the saw to be stored on end without being removed from the stand.
In a video review at Tools of the Trade, finish carpenter Jesse Wright finds few negatives and a lot of positives for the DWE7491RS. Wright says this table saw is larger than he normally likes for a portable saw, but its size allows it to tackle tasks that would otherwise be out of reach of a jobsite saw and also makes it very solid and stable. User reviews at Amazon.com are also very positive, with 4.7 stars overall from more than 340 owners. Multiple users say the saw cuts "like butter," and they praise its easy setup, accurate rack-and-pinion fence, and good dust control. Another advantage is DeWalt's 3-year warranty, which bests Bosch's by 2 years. The one feature users dislike is the miter gauge, which many reviewers say they replaced.
If you don't need a stand, a benchtop table saw can be an economical and practical choice. The DeWalt DW745 (Est. $300) earns a solid four stars in Popular Mechanics. They say its small size is somewhat limiting, as it has only a 20-inch rip capacity and can't make dado cuts. However, they also found it surprisingly powerful and very accurate right out of the box, saying it produced "a straight and smooth edge on a piece of 3/4-inch oak" with no adjustments. They give much of the credit for this accuracy to the excellent rack-and-pinion fence, the same design found on the larger DeWalt.
Users at Amazon.com and HomeDepot.com also give this DeWalt benchtop saw very high ratings. Across both sites, it has roughly 900 reviews and an overall rating of 4.7 stars. Owners praise its accuracy, easy-to-adjust fence, durable construction, and light, portable size (just 45 pounds). However, like the other DeWalt DWE7491RS, it gets a thumbs-down for its flimsy, awkward miter gauge. Also, while it has the same 3-year warranty as the other DeWalt saw, a few users found it difficult to get repairs.
Contractor table saws come with open, fixed legs, rather than the rolling stand of a portable saw or the enclosed base of a cabinet saw. They're bulkier than portable saws, but in most cases they also have larger tables, making it easier to cut plywood and sheet stock. Most contractor saws run on standard 120-volt electricity (unlike cabinet saws, which require at least 220 volts). However, many of them can also be set to run on 240 volts, boosting their performance. Note that despite the term "contractor" saw, some less-expensive models are clearly designed for the home do-it-yourself market and are not suitable for woodworking professionals.
It costs a mint compared to other table saws in this category, but its state-of-the art safety features make the SawStop Contractor Saw CNS175-TGP36 (Est. $1,950) worthy of consideration by anyone who can fit it into their budget. As detailed in the introduction to this report, SawStop was the first maker of table saws to include technology that stops a spinning blade nearly instantly if it senses the presence of skin. This feature is now also available on a Bosch portable saw, the Bosch REAXX GTS1041A-09 (Est. $1500), but SawStop's is still the only contractor saw to offer it. Some could argue that the improved safety of modern blade guards makes this safety feature unnecessary, but for some buyers – especially those who already have lost part of a finger to a spinning saw blade, or suffered a close call – it's well worth the money.
Moreover, the SawStop Contractor Saw would be an excellent table saw even without its unique safety feature. Professional testers and home users both praise the saw for its ease of assembly, superb fit and finish, and smooth, powerful operation. Glen Huey of Popular Woodworking is also impressed with its excellent dust collection and low noise and vibration. And David Munkittrick of the Woodworkers Guild of America says this contractor saw has all the features you'd expect on a high-end cabinet saw, including "heavy duty arbor bearings, a 1.75 HP motor with plenty of power, large blade adjustment handles that won't skin our knuckles every time you adjust blade height, a shrouded blade for better dust collection, riving knife, blade guard and onboard storage for accessories."
Reviewers have only a few complaints about this saw. Huey says the handles for the blade tilt and adjustment are flimsy, and he dislikes having to unscrew the throat plate to adjust the riving knife and brake system. He also recommends a few upgrades to this already expensive saw, such as cast-iron wings, an integral mobile base, and a "beefier" 36-inch fence. Also, a couple of owners at Amazon.com say trying to run damp lumber through the SawStop can trigger its flesh-sensing feature, shutting down the saw without warning.
The biggest drawback of the SawStop Contractor Saw, however, is its price. For those who can't or won't spend that much for a table saw, we found saw some good feedback on retail sites for contractor saws at a fraction of the SawStop's price. For instance, the Ridgid R4512 (Est. $550) receives an overall rating of 4.4 stars from more than 450 users at HomeDepot.com (the main site where Rigid tools are sold), and 91 percent of owners recommend it.
For its price, users say, this is an outstanding saw. It's solidly built, with a cast-iron surface and that damps vibration and a rip capacity of 30 inches. Users say it cuts smoothly and accurately, with low vibration and noise. Reviewers disagree about the ease of assembly, with some saying it was very easy and others describing it as unreasonably time-consuming. We also saw a few complaints that the blade has a tendency to wobble from side to side when it's raised or lowered. And although this Ridgid saw comes with a lifetime warranty, users who ran into problems say they had little luck with the company's customer service.
The Craftsman Pro 21833 (Est. $600) is similar to the Ridgid in size and construction. At Sears.com, it receives a rating of 4 stars overall from more than 220 users. They praise the saw's fit and finish, its powerful, quiet operation, and its smooth-rolling wheels. However, many users had trouble assembling the saw, saying the instructions are confusing and the box doesn't always contain all the needed parts. A few users complained that they couldn't get the blade or fence true, even after hours of adjustments. And the customer service from Sears is rated even worse than Ridgid's.
For homeowner projects rather than fine woodworking, owners at Sears.com like the budget-priced Craftsman 21807 (Est. $285). Its cast-aluminum table can't compete with the cast iron used on better contractor saws, and the 64-pound weight makes for more vibration -- and thus less precision. On the plus side, users find this smaller saw easier to move around the shop, and they also say it's very easy to assemble. One major complaint users have is that the miter gauge – which many users describe as flimsy and sloppy – has a non-standard slot, so aftermarket accessories liked by many woodworkers won't fit on this saw. There are also some complaints that the dust collection bag below the saw is ineffective and hard to change. But for the price, the majority of owners consider it a good deal.
Cabinet saws are the heaviest, sturdiest, and most precise type of table saw. Their powerful motors require a 220-volt power outlet, but because of their guide rails and large tables (often with extension wings), they're the best choice for cutting large items, such as plywood or sheet stock. For fine woodworking, a cabinet saw usually takes center stage in the workshop.
Cabinet saws don't receive as many reviews as portable saws, but in the few we found, two names come up repeatedly: the SawStop Professional Cabinet Saw PCS31230-TGP236 (Est. $3,150) and the Delta Unisaw 36-L352 ($2,650). These two saws share top honors in a comparison test of nine 3-horsepower cabinet saws at Wood Magazine, with each one standing out in specific areas. The SawStop has the same flesh-sensing safety brake found on the SawStop Contractor Saw CNS175-TGP36 (Est. $1,950), our Best Reviewed contractor table saw – a feature not currently available on any other cabinet saw. It also has superior dust collection and an extremely accurate rip fence. The Delta, on the other hand, has the best blade guard assembly, along with convenient controls and a "stellar" miter gauge. It's also hundreds of dollars cheaper.
The SawStop cabinet saw comes in several configurations. The one covered most often in reviews is the PCS31230-TGP236, which has a 3-horsepower motor and a 36-inch T-Glide fence. You can also choose a smaller 30-inch aluminum extrusion fence or a larger 52-inch T-Glide, and you can pair any of these with a smaller 1.75-hp motor. Other upgrades, such as the Integrated Mobile Base MB-PCS-000 (Est. $200) and the Overarm Dust Collection TSA-ODC (Est. $200), also add to the price tag of this already-expensive saw.
Professional reviewers say the SawStop blade brake is highly effective. They also say its blade guard and riving knife assembly is easy to use and easy to change. Dust management is outstanding – Glen Huey of Popular Woodworking calls it "99-percent efficient" – thanks to a dust-collecting blade guard that's standard on the 3-hp saw and available as an option for the 1.75-hp version. This saw also earns a perfect 5-star rating from about 25 users at Amazon.com, who praise its outstanding fit and finish, effortless cutting, and out-of-the-box accuracy. Many reviewers add that setting up this saw is a joy thanks to superior packaging and excellent instructions. And the few who had difficulties report that SawStop's customer service is excellent.
In addition to its shared laurels in Wood Magazine, the Delta Unisaw 36-L352 is named as an Editors' Choice for 2009 in Tools of the Trade, which calls it "the standard-bearer for stationary table saws." Editors in both publications particularly like its dual front cranks for controlling the blade height and bevel adjustment, conveniently located on the front of the cabinet for ease of access. They also praise its miter gauge, which Wood Magazine calls "stellar," and its large-dial, easy-to-read bevel gauge.
The Delta Unisaw earns a good-but-not-great 4 stars out of 5 at Amazon.com. Owners say this saw is very heavy, sturdy, and powerful, and they like its storage drawer for blades and parts. They also note that the blade it comes with is much better than the usual stock blade. However, they're less impressed with details such as the fence, which some users found impossible to align properly, and the table surface, which some users said wasn't quite flat. And while the SawStop won raves from being easy to assemble and accurate out of the box, Delta users complained that the saw took a very long time to configure accurately. It's these details, rather than the safety brake, that give the SawStop the edge over the Unisaw for our Best Reviewed pick.
For those who are on a tighter budget but still want the power, capacity, and features of a cabinet saw, the Grizzly G0691 (Est. $1,700) is named as the Top Value in Wood Magazine. Editors say it's a lot of saw for the money, with plenty of power and an easy-to-use riving knife assembly. The dozen or so reviews for this saw at Amazon.com are mostly positive; users say it's powerful, accurate, solidly built, and easy to adjust. However, there are an assortment of complaints about quality control for the Grizzly saw, including flaking paint, missing parts, and tables that aren't flat. Its 6-foot power cord is also too short for many users. Customer service gets mixed reviews; some say their experience was great, while others said they couldn't get through or had trouble getting repairs.
Check the power requirements. In choosing a table saw, be sure to consider the available electrical power. Wood Magazine explains that many 120-volt tools, such as table saws, need a 20- or 30-amp circuit all to themselves, and running multiple tools at once – for instance, a table saw plus a dust collector – can overload the circuit. However, switching the same tool to run on 240 volts means it draws only half as much current. That's why cabinet saws, with their heavy-duty motors, usually run only on 240-volt power. Many contractor saws can run on either 240- or 120-volt power, with 240 being more efficient. Portable saws use 120-volt power, so they're especially useful for job sites or home workshops.
Check the space. Available space is another big consideration in selecting a table saw. Most cabinet saws are stationary, designed to be located in the middle of the workshop. If you regularly make large furniture pieces, you'll need at least eight feet of clearance in front of and behind the saw blade and 36 inches around the bench on all sides. Saws on mobile bases can be moved against a wall when they're not in use, and of course, portable table saws take the least space of all. Some saws on rolling stands, such as the Best-Reviewed Bosch 4100-09 (Est. $560), fold up compactly for storage.
Match power and capacity to your needs. The amount of power you need depends on what you're cutting. A motor with 1 to 2 horsepower is capable of ripping hardwood 2 inches thick, while cutting through 3 or more inches requires a 3- to 5-horsepower motor, found only on cabinet saws. Size also matters; a larger table makes it easier to cut large sheet of plywood, but it also takes up more space in your shop. One solution is to add on an extension table, which mounts to the side of the saw and can be removed after use. Finally, consider the dado capacity. If you want to cut dadoes – slots across a board for joining pieces – make sure the saw's arbor (the shaft that holds the blade) is long enough to accommodate the dado stack you want.
Consider portability. If you need to transport your saw to jobsites, a portable saw is your best bet. Some contractor saws are small enough to be transported, but they're unwieldy. Check the saw's dimensions to make sure it will fit into your vehicle, and try lifting and moving it to get a sense of how easy it is to move. If the stand has wheels, check to see how smoothly they roll and whether they can handle stairs or rough terrain.
To get the most out of your table saw, you should check all its adjustments periodically, particularly the alignment of the blade assembly. Most reviewers say you should also upgrade the blade as soon as you buy the saw, since the stock blades that come with most saws are adequate only for rough cutting. Other common upgrades to consider include building a new fence, replacing the miter gauge, or building a crosscut sled – a movable contraption that slides along the saw's miter gauge slots, allowing for safer and more accurate crosscuts. Finally, when using your saw, keep an eye on safety. Don't remove the blade guard unless you have to, and use a push stick, rather than your hand, to move your lumber past the blade.
Until recently, SawStop was the only brand of table saw to include flesh-sensing technology, which stops the blade automatically if it comes in contact with your skin. However, that changed in June 2016 with the introduction of the Bosch REAXX GTS1041A-09 (Est. $1500). Instead of stopping the blade instantly like the SawStop, the Bosch uses Active Response Technology that drops the blade rapidly below the table surface.
This new portable saw hasn't been included in any professional tests yet, and it's won't be widely available from retailers until August 2016. But by breaking SawStop's monopoly on this safety feature, Bosch has opened up its availability and increased the chances that we'll be seeing it on more table saws in the future.
Editor and "serious woodworker" Chris Marshall tests five "premium" portable table saws (one of which is now discontinued). After equipping each saw with a new Freud thin-kerf blade, he uses it to rip lengths of medium-density fiberboard (MDF) and yellow pine, as well as making long dado cuts in MDF. Marshall considers the saws' stability, cutting accuracy, efficiency, dust collection, and general ease of use to choose his Best Bet pick.
Testers at Popular Mechanics subject 10 cordless drills, all with lithium-ion batteries, to a triathlon test designed to measure real-world performance. They start by boring 24 holes with a 1-inch spade bit, then drive 12 2-inch lag screws into pilot holes in a pressure-treated beam, and finish by driving 3-inch screws until the battery gives out. Berendsohn's write-up gives pros and cons for each drill, based on performance, features, and ease of use.
The author subjects four blood pressure monitors to hands-on testing. Although he doesn't assign comparative scores, he does discuss the relative merits and quirks of each monitor, discusses how easy (or difficult) it was to use them for the first time, and occasionally quotes company stands on specific features.
Pro Tool Reviews subjects eleven 18-volt cordless impact drivers to a series of tests. Testers measure performance by driving a series of different types of screws into plywood. They also try to get a measure of reliability by measuring the heat each tool builds up during testing. Ergonomics and value are also assessed, and tools are ranked both overall and on performance alone. You can also find numerous other single-tool reviews and multi-tool roundup at this site.
Popular Mechanics turns its attention to 20-volt electric drill drivers. Testers bored 1-inch holes in Douglas fir 2-by-8s and drove 3-inch lag screws into pine 4-by-4s, then left all the drills in an unheated garage for several days and checked their performance again. Each drill gets a star rating and a summary of likes and dislikes. Roy Berendsohn says all six of the test drills "met or exceeded our expectations for performance and value."
User reviews at Walgreens.com tend to be brief and to the point, which makes them useful for gauging overall customer reaction to any given product. Most blood pressure monitors for sale here get at least a few user reviews; we chose standout models that receive an average score of 4 stars or better after at least half a dozen user comments.
The only recent review of table saws at Wood Magazine pits nine 3-HP cabinet saws against various sizes of wood and plywood, fed both by hand and with a power feeder. The short version of the review available on the website names the top picks and notes areas in which all nine saws performed adequately. For full details, however, you need to check out the printed magazine.
Amazon.com offers more than 300 table saws for sale, including portable, contractor, and cabinet saws. Portable table saws get the lion's share of feedback; we found five models that earn ratings of 4.5 stars out of 5 from 100 users or more. However, we also found a couple of contractor and cabinet saws with strong ratings from 25 users or more.
Four Family Handyman editors run seven portable table saws, ranging from $300 to $600 in price, through a series of tests. They rip 3-inch oak slabs, cut plywood, rip framing lumber, and repeatedly set up and take down the saws to see how well the stands work and how easy it is to install and remove safety features. Editors don't recommend specific models, but they outline the strong and weak points of each one.
The Popular Woodworking site hasn't published many reviews of table saws recently; the newest one we found was from 2013. There are no comparison reviews and no ratings or recommendations to help you compare different models. Nonetheless, this site is useful because it's one of the few places to find detailed coverage of larger contractor and cabinet saws.
HomeDepot.com sells around 50 models of table saws, and the top models get hundreds of reviews from users. We found two portable saws with ratings of 4.5 stars or better from 250 users or more, and one contractor saw gets ratings just shy of 4.5 stars overall from more than 450 owners. Individual reviews are fairly short and include ratings for quality and value.
Lowes.com has a limited selection of table saws, and there are fewer user-posted reviews here than at Amazon.com or HomeDepot.com. The models that receive the most feedback are inexpensive portable saws from Kobalt and Rockwell, which aren't widely covered on other sites. We didn't find any recommendations for contractor or cabinet saws.
Sears is the only store that sells Craftsman tools, and Sears.com is the only place to find reviews of Craftsman table saws. This brand gets far more feedback from owners than any other, with a couple of Craftsman contractor saws receiving 200 reviews or more.