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Circular Saw Reviews

By: Amy Livingston on March 21, 2017

Editor's Note:
For most users and most jobs, we found a Makita circular saw to be the best overall choice. If you want a cordless option, look to Milwaukee, and for heavy-duty tasks, we found a hard-to-beat DeWalt worm-drive model.

Makita 5007MG Review
Best Reviewed
Specs that Matter Weight -- 10.6 lbs. Blade diameter -- 7.25" Corded or cordless? -- Corded

Best circular saw

The Makita 5007MG delivers just about everything you could ask for in a circular saw: power, good balance, sturdy construction, and easy-to-use controls. Professional testers are impressed with its features, such as the well-designed bevel stop setting, and hand-friendly rubber grips. Users at Amazon.com and HomeDepot.com praise the saw's clear, easy-to-read scales and built-in LED work light. Quibbles are few, but a few say that the blade guard tends to stick.

Buy for $149.00
Milwaukee M18 2630-20 Review
Best Reviewed
Specs that Matter Weight – 8.5 lbs. (tool only) Blade diameter -- 7.25" Corded or cordless? -- Cordless

Best cordless circular saw

The Milwaukee M18 2630-20 cordless saw consistently earns top marks in professional comparison tests. This saw is heavier than most cordless models, but it's also more powerful and runs longer on a charge. Reviewers like its large, stable aluminum base, its comfortable levers and handles, and its clear, accurate bevel scale. One caveat: not all M18 batteries will work with it, so be sure you get the right type.

Buy for $114.25
DeWalt DWS535 Review
Best Reviewed
Specs that Matter Weight – 13.8 lbs. Blade diameter -- 7.25" Corded or cordless? -- Corded

Best worm-drive circular saw

For those who need the power of a worm-drive saw, the DeWalt DWS535 is the best overall performer. It's fairly light in weight for a worm-drive saw (though still quite a bit heavier than a sidewinder), and its sturdy foot plate, accurate bevel and depth guides, and snag-free blade guard all win praise from professionals and users alike. Accessories, including the well-designed rafter hook and optional rip guide, come in for praise as well.

Buy for $179.00

Circular saws are a workshop essential

Circular saws are useful for cutting lumber, plywood, posts, or even metal. They are versatile, as well. With a circular saw you can make beveled cuts as you could with a compound miter saw, and with the addition of guide rails, it's possible to make long straight cuts that would otherwise require a table saw. (ConsumerSearch has separate reports on miter saws and table saws.)

Types of Circular Saws

Sidewinder Circular Saws

Most circular saws are "sidewinder" models, which have the motor mounted perpendicular to the blade. This design places the motor and handle assembly to one side of the blade – usually the right side, but some saws have it on the left.

Cordless Circular Saws

Sidewinder saws can be corded or cordless. Because it's not tethered to a power outlet, a cordless circular saw is more versatile, allowing you to take the tool to the job instead of the other way around. For example, trimming the deck of a tree house with a cordless circular saw is a far easier job than trying to drag an extension cord up the tree, and no matter where you are working, you don't have to worry about cutting the cord.

Worm-Drive Circular Saws

Unlike sidewinders, in-line saws place the motor and handle in line with the blade. They're often known as worm-drive saws, because they typically use worm gears – toothed wheels worked by a short, threaded cylinder, or "worm" -- to drive the blade. However, some in-line circular saws are driven by hypoid gears, a complex type of spiral bevel gear, and are known as hypoid saws.

Choosing a circular saw

Each type of circular saw has its own set of advantages and disadvantages. Corded sidewinder circular saws are more compact than worm-drive saws, and they're also lighter, ranging from 8 to 11 pounds. Many users, including This Old House master carpenter Norm Abram, find them better balanced and more maneuverable. And they're generally less expensive, usually costing between $100 and $150.

Worm-drive saws, by contrast, are typically heavier – between 12 and 15 pounds – and pack more power. Professional framer Tim Uhler, writing for the Journal of Light Construction, says he prefers this type of saw because it's "more durable and less likely to bog down in heavy cutting." Worm-drive saws are also a bit more expensive, ranging from $140 to $200. Which type is better for you depends on your strength, your work style, and how much heavy-duty cutting you need to do.

Cordless circular saws have improved dramatically in the last several years. They've grown both larger and more powerful, and lightweight and long-running lithium-ion batteries have taken the place of the heavier nickel-cadmium type. However, cordless circular saws still can't quite match the power of their corded cousins, and although battery life has improved, they still have limited run times. A cordless circular saw can also cost more than a corded saw because you have to invest in the battery and charger, which adds anywhere from $100 to $250 to the price of the tool. However, if you already own a cordless tool from the same manufacturer, you can purchase the "bare tool" for use with your existing batteries and charger at about the same price as you'd pay for a corded circular saw.

Finding The Best Circular Saws
Our Sources
"Tool Test: 18v Cordless Circular Saws"
"What's the Best Circular Saw?"
"18-Volt Cordless Circular Saws"

To find the best circular saws, we consulted professional comparison tests in tool-centric publications such as Fine Homebuilding, the Journal of Light Construction, FamilyHandyman.com, and Popular Mechanics. These tests evaluate circular saws' cutting power, accuracy, features, and ease of use, as well as battery life for cordless models. Owner reviews from retail sites like Amazon.com and HomeDepot.com help fill in the blanks as to how typical users view their saws, sometimes after months -- or more -- of use. These real-world reviews address things that sometimes crop up only after the kind of extended use that's beyond the scope of most expert evaluations. Based on these sources, we've named our top picks for corded and cordless sidewinder circular saws and worm-drive saws, with recommendations for any type of user, job, and budget.

Best corded circular saws

Most corded circular saws are "right-bladed" sidewinder types, meaning that the motor is mounted to the left of the blade. This keeps the handle and heavy motor on the supported part of the board, but it also partially obstructs your view of the cutting line. "Left-bladed" circular saws usually give a clearer sightline (and are better for left-handed users), but they can be more awkward to handle, since there's nothing to support the heavier part of the saw on the cutoff side of the piece. They also expose a right-handed user to sawdust thrown off by the spinning blade.

In both professional comparison tests and user reviews, the Makita 5007MG (Est. $150) consistently receives high marks. This 10.6-pound, right-bladed saw has a 7.25-inch blade and a 15-amp motor that whips through wood at 5,800 rpm. However, what really impresses reviewers is the saw's construction. Its magnesium base plate slides smoothly, and its large, rubber-coated handles and levers are comfortable to use. It also comes with a few handy extras, such as a built-in LED work light, dust blower, rip fence, and carrying case.

FamilyHandyman.com names this Makita saw as the best of the13 sidewinder circular saws it tested. Editors rave about its clear, easy-to-see cutting-depth gauge and its "ingenious" bevel stop setting, which lets you set a positive stop by rotating the knob to either 22.5 or 45 degrees but can also override to as much as 56 degrees. They say the bevel detents are dead-on, and the depth-of-cut scale is easy to read.

User reviews of the Makita 5007MG.com are overwhelmingly positive; it earns a rating of 4.7 stars out of 5 at Amazon.com, and 4.8 stars at HomeDepot.com. Users say the saw is powerful, lightweight, sturdy, and well balanced, and it cuts accurately and smoothly without binding up. They particularly like its easy-to-read scales and the LED work light that illuminates the blade. The main negative users note is that the lower-than-average blade guard has a slight tendency to stick, particularly when making angled cuts.

The Makita 5007MGA (Est. $170) is similar to the 5007MG, but with the addition of an electric brake to bring the saw blade to a nearly instantaneous stop. Michael Springer of Fine Homebuilding likes its comfortable, rubber-coated grips, the dual LED headlight, and the flat, stable base plate, but he also complains that the blade guard tends to stick. And while reviewers at FamilyHandyman.com called the bevel detents on the 5007MG "perfect," Springer says the stops on the 5007MGA have a little too much "slop" for his taste. Users at Amazon.com give the 5007MGA similar overall ratings to the 5007MG, praising its electric brake and sturdy, lightweight construction.

If these Makita saws are a little out of your price range, the Skilsaw SPT67WM (Est. $100) offers a good, low-budget alternative. This 7.25-inch, right-bladed saw weighs just 8.8 pounds, yet packs a surprising wallop for its size. It has a maximum speed of 5,300 rpm and can cut boards up to 2.4 inches straight-on and 1.9 inches on a bevel. Its bevel range is 56 degrees, with stops at 0 and 45 degrees.

Experts describe the Skilsaw SPT67WM as a great value. Richard Romanski of Popular Mechanics awards it 4.5 stars out of 5, saying it combines "professional power and dead-on accuracy." Editors at FamilyHandyman.com praise the saw's light weight and easy-to-read markings. They also note that it's one of the few saws they tested on which the blade guard always retracted smoothly, even when making compound miter cuts.

This Skilsaw doesn't receive as much feedback from users as other saws. However, the 50-plus reviews we found at HomeDepot.com are generally positive, with more than nine out of ten owners saying they'd recommend the saw. Owners say its all-magnesium body is sturdy, yet lightweight and well-balanced, and the powerful motor delivers smooth cuts. Most also say it's very accurate, but a few owners complain that there's too much "play" in the blade.

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Circular Saws buying guide

What every best Circular Saws has:

  • Adequate cutting power.
  • A snag-free blade guard.
  • Good safety features.

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