Contractor saws come with open, fixed legs. Since the motor hangs off the back, the whole unit is bulkier than a portable saw, but in most cases the table is larger, making it easier to cut plywood and sheet stock. Contractor saws are heavy and not very portable, usually requiring two people to move around.
Contractor saws haven't gotten much attention in reviews since 2005, partly because they are no longer the most popular budget type -- portable table saws are cheaper and easier for one person to move around. Reviewers are enthusiastic about the very expensive, 1.75-horsepower SawStop Contractor Saw (*Est. $1,600) , the only one to incorporate a sensor that stops the blade instantly to prevent cutting the user's flesh.
Each time the SawStop contractor saw is turned on, it verifies that all its safety features are working. An in-depth review at Fine Woodworking gives the SawStop top marks for fit and finish, smooth running and tool-free blade guard changes, noting that "all saws should have such well-designed guards." Woodworker's Journal also awards top ranking to the SawStop contractor saw, and Time magazine named the SawStop's technology one of the best inventions of 2006.
Editors at Fine Homebuilding and Popular Woodworking also praise the SawStop Contractor model for its superior safety and excellent dust collection, power and accuracy, while Popular Woodworking's Glen Huey says it competes well with hybrid saws. It's also unusually quiet at 81 decibels. However, Huey criticizes the need to unscrew the throat plate to adjust the riving knife and brake system.
The 1.75-horsepower Ridgid R4512 (*Est. $280) and nearly identical Craftsman Pro 21833 (*Est. $550) , also made by Ridgid, don't have the extra safety provided by the SawStop but do earn mostly positive reviews. At HomeDepot.com, for example, over a hundred owners give this contractor saw a nearly perfect average rating; nearly all say they'd recommend it to a friend. At Sears.com, the Craftsman Pro 21833 earns slightly less positive reviews from nearly 100 owners; the blade guard assembly earns high marks for ease of use.
The instruction manuals for both the Ridgid R4512 and the Craftsman Pro 21833 get some criticism from owners; quite a few owners say these saws can be difficult to assemble and adjust. Despite the mostly enthusiastic reviews, some owners report serious faults -- for example, factory defects in the arbor and motor assembly. Several say the blade alignment changed any time the blade was raised or lowered, in a way impossible to correct.
For homeowner projects rather than fine woodworking, owners at Sears.com like the budget-priced Craftsman 21807 contractor saw (*Est. $280) . It comes equipped with a riving knife, quick-release blade guard and extension tables to facilitate cutting plywood. The cast-aluminum table can't compete with the cast iron used on better contractor saws, and the 73-pound weight makes for more vibration -- and thus less precision. A review at ToolboxHero.com notes that it's aimed at homeowners; the miter gauge slot isn't industry-standard, so aftermarket accessories liked by many woodworkers won't fit on this saw.