Portable table saws -- often called benchtop saws or jobsite 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 are either light enough to carry or come with a 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.
So far, no benchtop saws incorporate flesh-sensing blade brakes like those found on SawStop saws (though SawStop has made a prototype). The SawStop Contractor Saw CNS175-SFA30 (*Est. $1,600) , discussed in the next section, does include the sensor and brake that help prevent cuts. An optional jobsite cart (*Est. $200) turns this model into a portable table saw with superior dust control as well as safety.
If the SawStop Contractor Saw is beyond your budget, it's still possible to buy a portable table saw with a riving knife (to help prevent kickback), tool-free blade guard assembly and good dust control -- all important safety features. Aside from the SawStop Contractor Saw equipped with the jobsite cart, reviews give top ranking to the Bosch 4100 series of table saws (*Est. $550) for both safety and performance -- with ample power, capacity and convenience, as well as superb accuracy.
Popular Woodworking's reviewer calls the blade guard assembly on the Bosch saws "the most user-friendly system I have seen," and Fine Homebuilding reviewer Kit Camp says "Bosch's portable saws lead the pack in safety features." The top-of-the-line Bosch 4100DG-09 earns a perfect rating in Popular Mechanics' Feb. 2012 comparison tests of 11 portable table saws. Editors call it "superbly designed and detailed" with "dead-on accuracy," and praise it as the only saw tested that has an arbor lock (to ease blade-changing). The 4100DG-09 also features a rip fence with digital LCD readout (which Bosch says is accurate within 1/64 of an inch), plus metric measurements as an option.
The less expensive Bosch 4100-09 (*Est. $550) lacks the digital fence, but earns top ranking in Fine Woodworking's comparison tests, where editors report that it easily cuts through 1.75-inch hard maple. Both saws share the same highly praised Gravity Rise stand that both professional and owner-written reviews praise as very easy to use. The stand lets users roll the saw around whether it's folded or unfolded, so it's convenient for jobsites and small workshops.
The main drawback to the Gravity Rise stand is that it puts the saw table at 38 inches -- too high to be comfortable for some users. The benchtop Bosch 4100 (*Est. $550) doesn't come with a stand, but earns top ranking in Popular Woodworking's Oct. 2009 comparison test of portable table saws. The stand is the only difference between it and the Bosch 4100-09.
The Ridgid R4510 (*Est. $500) ranks second in recent tests at Popular Mechanics, where editors say it "cuts with formidable power and grace," with praise for its wheeled stand as well. Earlier, this saw earned the Best Value award at Fine Woodworking, second only to the Bosch. Testers there find the Ridgid stand less convenient than that on the Bosch, but prefer the Ridgid miter gauge and rate the Ridgid's dust collection equal to that of the Bosch. The Ridgid R4510's main drawback is that it lacks an arbor lock -- an inconvenience if you often change blades -- and is about twice as loud, 99 decibels compared with 92 on the Bosch. Experts at the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) note that sound level doubles with every 5-decibel increase.
The DeWalt DW744X (*Est. $500) also has a soft-start motor, and actually ranks higher than the Bosch in comparison tests at Tools of the Trade. Owners reviewing this saw at retail sites are enthusiastic about it, too; the DeWalt rack-and-pinion fence earns special praise for precision and ease of use. Editors at the 2011 Taunton Tool Guide find the Ridgid saw a better value because its wheeled stand is easier to move around, but readers of Fine Woodworking and Fine Homebuilding magazines favor the DeWalt DW744X. The DeWalt table saw has wheels on the saw itself, but its stand has to be folded for the wheels to come into play.
DeWalt also makes portable saws that have the excellent rack-and-pinion fence, but lack soft-start motors. The DeWalt DW745 (*Est. $370) is stiff competition for the new Bosch benchtop saw, the Bosch GTS1310 (*Est. $400) . We found head-to-head comparison tests of these two saws at Popular Mechanics, Tools of the Trade and ThisIsCarpentry.com. Reviewers like both saws and say they're equal in power, but DeWalt maintains a slight edge for durability, fence, miter gauge and lighter weight -- and it carries a three-year warranty. The Bosch can bevel past 45 degrees (useful for remodeling projects where corners might not be square), and can accept a dado for cutting grooves.
Priced even lower, the Craftsman Professional 21828 (*Est. $325) is a simple benchtop table saw without a stand, but it does have wheels and a handle built in to make transport and loading easier. It comes with a riving knife, and tests at Fine Woodworking say the whole blade guard system is very good. Popular Woodworking editors note, however, that users must remove the blade guard and anti-kickback pawls to adjust the riving knife or change the blade. Another drawback is a non-adjustable throat plate.
The Craftsman 21828 doesn't provide the same level of accuracy as the Bosch and Ridgid saws, and like the Ridgid R4510, the Craftsman is noisy (98 decibels). That said, most users reviewing it at Sears.com are happy with it for the price, especially after upgrading its blade. There are some reports of poor quality control; Popular Woodworking got a unit with the two miter slots out of parallel, something that can't be adjusted.
The Ryobi RTS30 (*Est. $250) comes with a stand that can fold to allow wheeling around. This saw earns some praise in 2012 comparison tests at Popular Mechanics for its sliding outfeed extension table. Editors judge the power on this no-frills table saw as adequate, but find the fence movement "a bit on the sloppy side" so extra care is needed when adjusting it. At HomeDepot.com, owners give this saw mediocre reviews, with only about two-thirds saying they'd recommend it to a friend. The motor isn't soft-start, so the jerk of its startup can jeopardize accuracy. Quite a few owners report small but crucial parts breaking -- a plastic gear, for example.
The Skil 3310 (*Est. $160) is smaller, with a fixed stand. Editors at Popular Mechanics note that it wouldn't be fair to expect a table saw in this price range to compete with more expensive pro models (Skil is Bosch's budget brand). Still, they find the Skil 3310 powerful enough for homeowner projects, and say that with care it's possible to get accurate cuts. The table is small -- just 26 inches wide by about 19 inches deep -- but some owners say this is an advantage when it comes to storing. More than 40 owners review the Skil 3310 at Lowes.com, with most saying it's a good value if you don't expect too much; more than 85 percent would recommend it to a friend.