In this Guide
Portable table saws, or “jobsite” models, as they’re often called, are your best bet for working with larger stock or longer cuts on the go. These units provide the cutting width and depth of a big table saw in a compact, portable package that’s easy to throw in the back of the pickup after a day’s work. They’re ideal for pros working on smaller jobs, handymen who need a basic table saw that won’t break the bank, or home DIYers looking for a tool that’s easy to pack away during the workweek.
Ideally, a portable table saw packs lots of power and precision into a portable package. However, there are a lot of subpar models out there with weedy little motors and wobbly frames which result in uneven cuts. That can make shopping for one of these units tricky, even for lifelong woodworkers.
Plus, there are more portable units on the market than any other kind of table saw. Half of them are rugged, but the other half can’t handle riding in a truck without falling apart. With so many choices to look at, it can be overwhelming for a busy woodworker to shop properly.
That’s why we’ve created this handy guide! As usual, our trusty team have taken a comprehensive look at all the options out there. We’ve looked for portable units that don’t sacrifice power or accuracy for their small size. You’ll find our Top Three recommendations below, along with a few additional choices for new woodworkers and demanding professionals.
To get you started, here’s a glance at our three favorites:
Best on a Budget
- Our Rating: 4.7
- Popularity: Medium
- Our Rating: 4.6
- Popularity: Medium
- Our Rating: 4.7
- Popularity: Medium
Best Portable Table Saw Reviews 2018
This Dewalt is our top value pick. It’s a sturdy, simple unit with a wide rip capacity in a compact package. We think it’s an excellent choice for the home DIYer or budget-conscious pro looking for something simple that does the trick. It’s extremely affordable, but doesn’t skimp on build quality or cutting power.
- Size: 25.8” x 26.5” x 13.9”
- Weight: 45 pounds
- Motor: 15 amp 120V
- Max blade speed: 3850 RPM
- Rip capacity: 20”
- Max depth of cut: 3 1/8” at 90 degrees, 2 ¼” at 45 degrees
It’s compact. This one is just over two feet in either direction, and just under 14 inches high. It’s easy to fit in the back of a truck, or even on the passenger seat next to you on the way to your jobsite. It’s light, too. Buyers loved how easy this one was to carry around, especially home DIYers who had to set up and take down their units frequently.
It’s powerful. The DW745 sports a 15 amp motor with higher torque than average, with saw speeds up to 3850 RPM. Best of all, it musters that power on standard 120V power. Reviewers said it tears right through any kinds of stock within its depth range.
It has a smart fence design that allows for a wide rip capacity in a small package. The Dewalt’s rails telescope, which allows them to extend further than the competition without adding to the machine’s packable footprint. That means you can make rips at up to 20 inches without needing any extensions or other accessories. The rack and pinion system allows you to set a precise fence setting without wobble, even on a flexible rail. It locks at both the front and back, to make absolutely sure you’re getting an accurate rip every time.
The worktop is molded for better precision. There’s a T-slot molded in as well, and a miter gauge. It’s coated to help stock slide along more smoothly, as it would on a polished cast iron worktop.
It bevels to 45 degrees, with a simple crank wheel that’s a miniature version of the ones you’ll find on a large cabinet saw.
It’s easy to calibrate. With that said, most previous buyers said their units cut dead on out of the box. However, being able to tweak the calibration is a big advantage over some other budget units, which are set out of the factory and can’t be re-adjusted.
It’s sturdy. This unit also has a metal roll cage frame all around, which helps it handle the rough and tumble of travelling to worksites on a regular basis. It has a locking mechanism to help it stay securely on stands. We’re also super impressed by how well-made the adjustment knobs feel on this one. Buyers reported using this one for several years with no issues.
It has a modular guard system which makes it easy to find the right safety setup for your application. It has independent panels on either side of the blade, so you’re always guaranteed maximum protection. There’s a riving knife in the box, too, for times when the guard is too intrusive to make the cut.
It has a standard 2.5” dust port for hooking up to vacuum collection systems.
Unlike a lot of competing models, this one is updated regularly. Previous buyers appreciated the thoughtful tweaks, which made it clear that Dewalt listened to feedback from folks who used the first versions. Recent buyers noted the improved rack and pinion teeth, which help the fence lock into position with less play. They also appreciated the reinforced rails, which felt a lot less flimsy than the old version.
We don’t think you need to have owned each of the versions to appreciate the differences: we simply think it’s great when a manufacturer actually takes the time to listen to users and improve on what was already a solid design. Overall, many reviewers said they whole thing felt very well thought-out.
It’s highly portable. The Dewalt is available with a folding stand, which makes it extremely easy to pack up. The guard assembly lies flat, and the fence can be retracted all the way to the table to keep everything neat and tidy. It’s pretty light, too-at just 45 pounds. We also love that the adjustment tools, accessories like the miter gauge, and even the guard components can be stored inside the saw for transport, or when they’re not being used.
It comes with excellent warranty coverage. There’s a 3-year factory warranty, a 90-day satisfaction guarantee, and a year’s paid service, which is a pretty great deal.
You can’t use this one for dado cuts.
The miter gauge isn’t up to the standard of the rest of the components. Reviewers were in agreement over its lightweight, cheap build quality, and many users noted that it didn’t lock firmly without some play in the setting. You’ll probably want to replace it if you’re making a lot of miter cuts.
It’s not very good at dust collection. That’s true of most portable table units, but this one is particularly poor. Be prepared to do some vacuuming around your saw, even if you’ve got a shop vac hooked up to the port. Without a vacuum, the port also has a tendency to clog.
The service coverage under the warranty requires you to either bring the machine to an authorized dealer or ship it back to the company on your dollar. That’s a major downside, and it’s one reason we’re recommending purchasing add-on warranty coverage for this one. If you’re dealing with a third party provider, you can simply get a replacement without having to go through frustrating company reps.
The factory blade is pretty poor, even for framing cuts. You’ll almost certainly want to replace it.
Quality control on this model isn’t perfect. Like every brand these days, Dewalt have outsourced production, and that means that a few lemons slip through. A few previous buyers reported wonky tables, or fences that wouldn’t stay put. However, most of these issues seem to have been addressed on the latest version.
One very popular alternative to the Dewalt is this Bosch unit. It’s a bit more rugged than the yellow saw, and it’s very well-regarded by working woodworkers. We particularly like the machined aluminum table, which is a big step up from the Dewalt’s molded surface. It also has the best rolling stand we’ve seen on the market to date, so it’s a superb choice for folks who work on a lot of jobs sites with mixed terrain.
- Size: 39.3” x 29.7” x 21.2”
- Weight: 60 pounds
- Motor: 15 amp 120V
- Max blade speed: 3650 RPM
- Rip capacity: 25”
- Max depth of cut: 3 1/8” at 90 degrees, 2 1/2” at 45 degrees
Unlike the Dewalt, it actually comes with the stand. Reviewers were unanimous in agreement that the “gravity-rise” system is an engineering triumph of user-friendliness. It’s certainly the most convenient stand we’ve seen so far. It combines a wheeled dolly with a folding table.
You can roll the saw to your site on the dolly, with big pneumatic tires giving it all-terrain capabilities. Then, when you want to lay it down, you simply pull sideways and the stand puts the saw in place for you, without having to lift. You can see it in action in the product video.
Like the Dewalt, the Bosch features a 15-amp motor. Its motor also adds a soft start, which is a nice safety advantage over the Dewalt. Soft starts are safer to work around, since they don’t jolt the saw.
There’s also active speed control inside the motor, which allows the machine to ramp things up when the motor encounters thick, hard stock. Overall, it’s a smarter, more sophisticated motor, with approximately the same power output.
It has a machined aluminum table which is extremely precise. We like the Dewalt’s cast metal table for the price, but the company don’t list the material, and we suspect it’s not nearly as rugged as aluminum. The Bosch’s table is much better. It’s rugged, sturdy, and more consistently even than the Dewalt. The table makes this one a smarter choice for fine woodworkers or pros who need superior alignment.
The frame is also improved. Instead of the basic roll-cage on the Dewalt, this one neatens things up with an integrated sub-base. It’s a rugged rubber-like pad which serves as a bumper between the main frame and your truck bed or worksite table. Both the table and the sub base are joined to the main frame, and they provide strength at both ends of the design. As with the Dewalt, you can store your tools and accessories inside, an on hooks outside the Bosch.
It’s highly portable. Even though the whole body feels sturdier than the Dewalt’s, it’s still relatively light, at just about 60 pounds. There are handles in both the top and bottom edges of the machine, for easy lifting, and once you’ve got the saw fixed to the base, you won’t have to lift it on your own except for when you’re loading it in the back of the truck/van.
The whole thing is a bit more versatile than the Dewalt, thanks to expanded fence rails and an extended trunnion set. It has a wider rip capacity than the Dewalt. This one uses a traditional sliding-rail fence which gives you a rip capacity up to 25 inches. The fence locks at either side, like the Dewalt’s. It also has a wider bevel range, tilting up to 47 degrees.
We’re loving the guard system on this Bosch. It’s modular, like the Dewalt’s, so you won’t have to use any tools to set it up, take it down, or make adjustments. Like the Dewalt, this unit has a clear guard, with independent panels, kickback pawls, and a riving knife. The riving knife on this one is a standout feature for us, since it adjusts to three different positions, depending on what kind of cut you’re making. It’s a smart design tweak that saves you needing to have several differences riving knives
It’s covered by a 1-year warranty
Bosch’s quality control isn’t as good as Dewalt’s. We found that buyers had less of a consistent experience with this model than with the DW744. Some common issues were misaligned parts, wobbly fences, or other components damaged from shipping. The warranty is also a lot shorter (1 year as opposed to 3).
We’re not as impressed with the fence on this unit as with the rack and pinion system on the Dewalt. While rack and pinion systems aren’t flawless (they can lock up inadvertently), they’re still easier to lock precisely than sliding rails. Most Bosch buyers were happy with their units, but some received wonky fences which never worked perfectly.
The gears and knobs are also disappointing. They feel cheaper than the Dewalt’s, and that shouldn’t be the case on a more expensive saw. And, as with the Dewalt’s, the miter gauge is built more cheaply than the rest of the unit.
It’s twice the price of the Dewalt. You’re getting a sturdier frame and superior worktop for the price, as well as some added cutting range. However, that’s a substantial price difference for something that’s roughly the same in terms of power.
The blade doesn’t get quite as high a top speed as the Dewalt. Some reviewers found that this one bogged down slightly with thicker stock.
Some previous buyers had motor trouble. Their units conked out early, or worked inconsistently. Apparently, that was down to cheap internal bearings used in the first few iterations of the Bosch. However, according to company replies to some reviewers who cited the issue, the problem has been addressed in the last few versions of this model. We’ve also found that reviews from the past few years are much more consistently positive.
As with many other models, the motor and trunnion gears are exposed, which means they can get clogged up with dust and debris. You should vacuum or air-dust them regularly.
3. Dewalt DWE7491
This Dewalt is our top quality pick for a portable table saw. It’s the roomiest of our recommendations, with a wide rip capacity thanks to a precise and space-efficient fence design. It’s also the smoothest slicer of the three, since it’s got a high-efficiency motor which cranks up the RPM to get more work done.
We think this is a great choice for anyone who needs maximum rip capacity and power in a portable package. The price makes it affordable for ambitious DIYers, and the overall quality and power make it a worthy choice for any traveling pro.
- Size (folded with included stand): 27 1/2″ W, 46″ L, 25″ H
- Weight: 90 pounds
- Motor: 15 amp 120V
- Max blade speed: 4800 RPM
- Rip capacity: 32 1/2”
- Max depth of cut: 3 1/8” at 90 degrees, 2 1/4” at 45 degrees
It has a coated cast-aluminum table that provides plenty of space to work. At 26-1/4” X 22”, you have more sturdy support for your stock, especially larger pieces.
It’s sturdy, like the smaller Dewalt, with a roll-bar frame that’s built for life in the back of a truck or van.
It has the widest rip capacity of the three. This one can handle materials up to 32 1/2”, which makes it ideal for folks who work with sheet stock on the go–especially when you consider the extra 22” you’ll have to the left of the blade. That’s thanks to the same rack and pinion fence as the smaller Dewalt. It’s even better on a larger scale, where the differences between this design and the sliding rail style you find on Bosch become very apparent. Reviewers agreed that this one felt much sturdier, smoother, and locked more securely than other portable units.
There’s also a secondary flip-down fence which allows you to make narrower rips. We love this feature, which should really become industry standard in the near future. It helps you make smaller cuts without needing to have your fingers close to the blade. Reviewers loved it, and said they found themselves using the feature much more frequently than they’d anticipated.
It also has the highest blade speed. This model has a similar 15-amp motor to our other recommendations, but it’s geared for maximum efficiency. The result is a blade speed that’s nearly 1000 RPM better than the Bosch or the smaller Dewalt. Reviewers marveled at how powerful this one was compared to the size of the motor, which seems underwhelming from the outside. It rips right through oak, cherry, and other planks with no lag or burnout. In fact, we’re hard-pressed to find something this would struggle to cut, provided you equip it with the proper blade.
Like the Bosch, this Dewalt comes with a rolling stand. It’s convenient to set up and take down, since you can do it without helpers or tools. It rolls like a dolly, and opens into a nice, sturdy table. We especially like the splayed legs, since they lend the whole thing a bit more stability than the Bosch version. Unlike the Bosch’s stand, the Dewalt’s has semi-pneumatic tires which won’t ever go flat.
The guard system on this one is the same as the cheaper Dewalt. It’s a modular, tool-free system with a riving knife, guard, and kickback pawls. We especially like the power buttons on this one. The on-button is inset, below the surface of the big, red stop button. So, it’s easy to stop the blade quickly, and very hard to start it by accident.
Blade changes are a lot better on this one than on the Bosch. You can also use this one with a dado set, which is something you can’t do with the smaller Dewalt.
You can make alignments and adjustments to the fence and blade settings as needed, using the simple, included instructions. Most buyers said their units were dead-on from the factory, but professional users said they really appreciated being able to make tweaks with their laser aligners.
Dewalt seem to have listened to buyer complaints about their portable table saws, and finally equipped this one with a decent miter gauge. It’s not the best product on the market, but it’s one of the only factory miter gauges that doesn’t make us want to order a replacement immediately.
You can store all the accessories and adjustment tools onboard, and there are specific storage nooks for each one.
While a lot of other Dewalt saws let us down in the dust compartment, the company have made big strides with this model. It has an internal canvas housing around the blade chamber, which keeps dust from spraying around inside the machine, without having the limitations of a rigid shield. It’s not perfect, but it does much better than the Bosch or the cheaper Dewalt.
It’s simply one of the most versatile portable units out there. It can rip pretty much any material quickly and easily, it can bevel to 45 degrees with a very respectable depth of cut, and it’s faster at cutting than most of the competition. We think it’s great for pretty much any application.
As with the smaller Dewalt we’ve recommended, this one has very inconsistent quality control on the table. Some reviewers cited units with bowed, funky surfaces, while others got units that were perfectly flat. that’s a flaw of the molding process. We also have a bone to pick with Dewalt as far as the coating on these. While we understand that the coating is supposed to help wood slide better, it just doesn’t seem to last very long or hold up well. It also has the same flawed warranty coverage. We’d recommend purchasing add-on coverage.
It’s pricey, about on par with the Bosch. This isn’t a casual purchase for a DIYer, though we do recommend it to folks whose home woodworking ambitions are lofty. You’ll want to be sure you’ll get your money’s worth out of this machine before you buy it.
Some buyers weren’t impressed with the blade adjustments. The knobs and trunnions are similar to those on the DW745, but some reviewers said their units felt a bit clunky on the way down. Again, due to the quality control issues on these models, it’s a good idea to do a very thorough inspection and test of your unit before it’s too late to return it.
It makes quite a lot of noise. This unit is open, like the smaller Dewalt, and it lacks the thick rubberized base that the Bosch uses. So, the whole thing doesn’t really have much in the way of noise insulation. You shouldn’t use this without ear protection, and it might be a bit loud for DIYers who have to be careful of neighbors.
It’s heavy. This unit weighs 90 pounds, about twice the weight of the smaller Dewalt. You can move it around with the stand, but if you’re going to be putting it in a truck, make sure you have the body strength or helpers to get it off the ground safely.
The stand is a bit less convenient to use than the Bosch’s gravity-assisted design. It’s also not quite as good for rougher terrain, since its wheels are narrower, and have harder, semi-pneumatic tires. However, it compensates for that with additional stability and a tire design which can’t go flat.
Which is the Best Portable Jobsite Table Saw for You?
The Dewalt DW745 is the cheapest of our recommendations, and it’s our recommendation to people who are looking for a solid, powerful portable table saw that won’t break the bank. It’s the lightest, most compact unit here, and it packs a very respectable motor and precise fence system into its small frame.
We think it’s an excellent choice for home carpenters, DIYers, or pros who need something just for the basics. However, it has pretty inconsistent quality control where the table is concerned, and it will limit you to smaller stock. This one also ships without a stand, so you’ll need to buy one on the side.
The Bosch is a smart upgrade for a professional who needs a more accurate table and a wider fence capacity than the DW745 can provide. It gives you 5” extra rip capacity, and the widest bevel range of our recommendations.
Plus, the machined aluminum table is our favorite on the market right now. It also has a smarter motor system than either of the Dewalt’s, thanks to a soft start and automatic speed control to ensure smooth cuts. However, it’s the slowest of the pack, and it doesn’t have quite as good a fence as the yellow competition. We think it’s a great choice for pros who are concerned about accuracy, but can’t spend lots of money on their unit.
The Dewalt DWE7491is the clear choice for the full-time woodworking professional. It provides the widest rip capacity by far, it’s the fastest worker, and it has the best dust collection. The fence is a thing of beauty, and the secondary inner fence is a smart feature for smaller cuts. We think it’s worthy of any full-time woodworker, or DIYer with plenty of shop space and spending money.
On the downside, it’s quite a bit heavier than our other recommendations, and it’s bulky to store. It’s also expensive. This probably isn’t something for the weekend DIY warrior, since it’s so large and expensive. It’s also not great for traveling pros who need a super compact unit.
However, if you’ve got the space, strength, and need for it, we think it’s a shoo-in for the best saw here. Just make sure you opt for additional warranty coverage at the checkout, since Dewalt’s quality control and service are inconsistent.
Best Portable Table Saw for DIY Enthusiasts
Because we’re passionate woodworkers who care deeply about the quality of the tools we work with, we have a tendency to recommend that even the most budget-conscious buyer spend a little more to get something high-quality. However, we know that some DIYers might have the ambition to take their woodworking to the next level with a table saw, but might not necessarily have the funds.
For those of you who are looking to up your DIY game but don’t have enough capital to make the Dewalt DW745 happen for your home shop, this Craftsman is a decent budget choice. It’s powerful, lightweight, and extremely affordable. We don’t think you should expect too much from this one, though, since it has a very light table and a fence that won’t line up quite as precisely as you’d need for furniture-making or professional-grade projects. It’s cheaply-made, and doesn’t have as user-friendly a design as our other choices. For the home carpenter, though, this should do the trick for all your basic framing cuts.
Best Small Table Saw for Professionals
We absolutely love the Dewalt DWE7491 that we recommended as our top quality choice above. It’s a powerful, precise workhorse that can handle nearly any cutting job. However, times are changing fast, and workplace safety standards are increasing just as rapidly. If you’re a professional who wants to stay on top of your code, you should consider getting a unit that’s equipped with a flesh-detections safety system.
While the sheer price of this Bosch unit might be cost-prohibitive for most buyers, we think it’s the full-time professional’s ideal mobile unit. With the REAXX flesh-detection system onboard, it’s one of the safest table saws on the market, portable or stationary. The system detects flesh and stops itself instantly, without leaving a mark on the hot dog test.
Unlike SawStop’s brake system, the Bosch version doesn’t ruin your blade. Instead, you just have to replace a disposable brake cartridge, and you’re back in business. The whole process takes just a couple minutes, and it’s hard to overstate how much of an upgrade this is over traditional guard systems for folks who live off their handiwork.
It’s also a great table saw in its own right. This one has a wide, cast-aluminum worktable, and an out-feed extension thrown in as well. It has a 4 HP motor which cranks out lots of power, and it’s balanced by a soft start and automatic speed control like on the Bosch in our Top Three. It has wide rip and bevel capacities, plenty of alignment adjustments, and a robust build. Plus, it comes with a gravity-assist wheeled stand thrown in as well.
While this model is too pricy for us to recommend in our Top Three, we think it’s worth a look for full-time pros who rely on their portable table saw.
How to Choose the Right Small Portable Table Saw for You
Think about how you’ll be using your unit:
One reason we love portable table saws so much is the fact that they’re so versatile. These saws can be set up absolutely anywhere, in all sorts of configurations. They can be used for everything from small DIY jobs to professional contractor work.
However, each model has its own pros and cons for different applications, and will be compatible with different kinds of stands and mounts. Before you pull the trigger on your new portable table saw, take a minute to think about where you’ll need to set it up, how you’ll need to transport it, and how frequently you need to do so.
First think about exactly where you’re going to be setting it up. These models are usually available with optional folding stands, or work tables that you can easily take down and pack along with the saw.
If you’re a home DIYer or pro working mainly from a shop, you may have a wide table or countertop big enough to use the saw without any accessory stand. We would caution against working on sawhorses, though, as they can be wobbly and unsafe. It’s far better to spend a few extra dollars on a sturdy stand than to take risks with a rickety, improvised setup.
If you’re going to be working on the go, we’d recommend buying some sort of stand. You’ll have a few options: folding stands, larger work tables, or wheeled dolly-style tables. To choose between them, think about whether you can wheel the saw to the worksite, or if you have to carry it.
Consider whether you’ll be working inside or outside, on even flooring or dirt ground. You’ll want to choose the most convenient stand that’s sturdy enough for the kind of cuts you need to make. Pros should pay for a premium stand that doesn’t have any wobble whatsoever. DIYers and framers can probably make do with something lightweight and inexpensive.
No matter which type of stand or table you use, make sure your table saw will fit securely on top, and stay safely in place as you work. Check for locks, clasps, or other features which will keep the two together.
It’s always best to choose a stand from the same brand as the saw. Manufacturers generally have proprietary features such as locks and frame bolts which work well within the brand, but can cause headaches with others. In any case, check that your stand and your saw will be compatible, to ensure a happy working environment.
Next, think about how you need to transport your saw, and how often you’ll be doing so.
The two key things to check here are size and weight. Consider how much weight you can lift on a regular basis without straining yourself, and how far you can carry that weight safely. Then, think about how large of a saw you can handle proportional to its weight.
Remember that larger objects are always more awkward to carry, even if they’re lighter than a heavier smaller object that’s shaped ergonomically. Look at how the saw is set up, and know whether you’ll have to carry it flat, or whether you can carry it on end.
Carrying things standing on end is easier, since it makes for a narrower package that can easily fit by your side. You’ll be able to lift a heavier saw less awkwardly in that position than if you were to carry it out in front of you. You’ll also want to think about size in terms of where you need to fit the saw in the vehicle, and where you’ll be storing it when it’s not in use.
Travelling pros will be more concerned with vehicle space, while DIYers will probably be more concerned with where to fit their saw during the long week at the office. Either way, be sure you have space to store your unit while it’s not in use.
If you’ll be driving your vehicle right up to the worksite, or will use your saw for DIY jobs around the house, you can probably use a larger, heavier, more precise saw. Likewise, if you’re a DIYer who doesn’t travel often, you don’t have to be concerned about finding something you’re comfortable carrying every day.
If you have to carry the saw a long way from the truck or van to the site, or have back problems, it’s best to get something more compact and lightweight. Likewise, if you move between worksites on a regular basis, you’ll want to pay more attention to portability.
Your mode of transport will also determine how rugged you need your table saw to be. If you’re going to be transporting it in a truck bed, make sure you get something with a metal roll-bar frame, which can take being jostled around in a hard bed with lumber, tools, or other essentials.
You’ll want to look for metal framing, and a design which allows for all the most delicate components to be stored inside the tool’s body. If you’re a DIYer who won’t be travelling with your saw often, you probably don’t need to worry about finding such a heavy-duty frame. Many portable units will fit easily on the passenger’s seat, so you won’t have to deal with wear and tear so much.
If you’re going to be transporting your unit regularly, you should aim to keep weight to a minimum. Look for something lightweight, with convenient carrying handles, or a stand that can be wheeled around dolly-style at the worksite. Conversely, if you’re only going to be using your portable saw occasionally, you can probably stand a bit more weight.
Know your requirements:
Now that you’ve thought about the size, shape, and weight of the package you want in your table saw, it’s time to establish exactly what you need it to do. You should think about what kinds of tasks you’re going to be using your portable machine for, how often you’ll be working with it, and what level of precision you require.
First, think about the types of stock you work with. Are you cutting rough framing lumber, or nice finish lumber? Hardwoods or softwoods? Nice boards, or sheets of composite like plywood or Masonite?
The type of woods you cut will determine how powerful a motor and how fast a blade speed you need from your portable table saw. If you’re going to be dealing primarily with thinner boards and softwoods, you don’t need anything hugely powerful. If you’re working with hardwoods or thicker softwood stock you should look for a more powerful motor. Likewise, if you’re only an occasional woodworker, you needn’t worry about finding a motor that won’t burn out.
However, if you’re going to be using your saw on a daily basis, that’ll be more of a concern. So, find a motor that’s appropriate for both the type of stock and the amount of stock you’re going to be cutting.
After power, you’ll want to think about cutting capacity. Any table saw will have two key specs you’ll need to compare: rip capacity, and max depth of cut.
Rip capacity tells you how wide of stock you can rip, and it’s determined by how far you can extend the fence. If you work with a lot of wider boards or sheet material, you’ll want to be sure you have enough of a rip capacity on your model to accommodate that stock.
The maximum depth of cut on a saw tells you how thick of a material you can cut through cleanly. Be careful when you’re looking at depth of cut ratings, since you’ll usually find two separate specs listed. One is for cutting at 90 degrees, the blade’s normal setting, and one is for cutting at a 45 degree bevel, which is generally the furthest a table saw blade will pivot. Most of us will only need to be concerned about the 90-degree rating, but if you cut lots of angles, you should check the 45 degree rating as well.
That’s width and height/depth taken care of. Length is obviously the other key dimension on any piece of lumber, but your table saw won’t determine how long a board you can cut. That’ll be dependent on your feed tables, or your ability to feed longer boards through at an even rate and angle.
Finally, you should give thought to precision. Unlike cabinet table saws, nearly all of which are dead-on in terms of precision, portable table saws vary widely in this department. The slight variances you’ll find on most affordable models won’t be a problem for the average DIYer or handyman doing framing jobs.
However, if you’re a professional, you’ll want to spend a bit more money for a unit that’s precise in the worktop, blade angle, and fence setting. For the best results, look for a model that allows you to make fine-tuning adjustments to the settings. In general, quality control and precision correlates directly to the price of your saw.
A top-price saw has the most precise design, and the best quality control, which ensures that it cuts straight out of the factory.
If you’re a professional woodworker, or a passionate home craftsperson, you shouldn’t short-change yourself on precision. Look for a unit with a cast worktop, a fence system which locks precisely with no give or wobble, and a trunnion which moves smoothly and surely.
Nearly all portable table saws have some accommodation for dust collection. You’ll usually see these features in the form of standard dust collection ports at the back of the machine. You can hook the outlet up to a vacuum collection system on the site or in the shop, which is probably what professionals will want to do.
If you’re a professional woodworker, you should expect a standard hookup on any saw. However, you’ll find that no portable table saw does a perfect job collecting sawdust. Since these aren’t enclosed tools like a cabinet saw, there are lots of ways for dust to find its way to your floor and spray around your shop. You’ll want to look for the most enclosed, effective design possible, and pair it with a vacuum system that’s got some heft.
If you’re a home DIYer, dust collection shouldn’t be a big worry. You can always hook the saw up to your shop vac, but if you’re only working with it occasionally, you’ll be fine to simply get your sawing done, and clear the exhaust port afterward. However, if you’re working on a professional jobsite, you should plan to collect at least most of the dust from your portable table saw via a vacuum system.
Think about the long term: durability and reliability:
As with any major tool purchase, you’ll want to look for a portable table saw that’ll last you for years of reliable service. Take a good hard look at build quality, longevity, and reliability ratings before you make your choice.
Look for as many metal parts as possible. Plastic is almost guaranteed to be used on some parts of your portable table saw, but you should be sure that it’s only used for cosmetic parts, outer casings, or handle moldings, rather than as part of the frame or in another important structural component.
It can seem like plastic is a weight-saver on the part of the manufacturer, but it’s really a cost-saver. You shouldn’t accept shoddy build quality in the name of getting a lighter machine. While no portable unit will include heavy cast iron components like a cabinet table saw, you can find metal alternatives that offer rugged, long-lasting build quality. Instead of plastic, look for aluminum.
Aluminum is lighter than steel or cast iron, but it remains incredibly durable. You’ll simply want to make sure the aluminum parts aren’t too thin, as thin metal struts can sometimes snap under stress.
When you’re thinking about build quality, you should consider how often, and how intensively you’ll be using your portable table saw. The more you’ll use it, the more you should invest in a sturdy unit that’s built to handle all that use. If you’re only an occasional DIYer, on the other hand, you can probably stand to have a few more plastic parts on your unit, since you aren’t going to be putting it to the rest as often.
Check to see what kind of motor is in your new unit: belt-driven or direct drive. They’ve each got their disadvantages and advantages. Direct-drive motors don’t lag, they have more power up front, and they tend to achieve higher blade speeds.
However, when something goes wrong with the drive system, it’s usually inside the motor itself. That means it costs more to service, and when something goes wrong, it’s often fatal.
Belt-driven saws, on the other hand, are a bit slower to start, and they can lag when they’re bogged down under a heavier cutting load. With that said, they burn out much less frequently, since there’s a part in between the motor and the blade. Instead of having to service the motor, you’ll mostly need to replace belts.
These units also run more smoothly and quietly. Belt systems are best for most softwood cutting, since they’re so easy to maintain. However, they probably aren’t good for working pros who cut lots of hardwoods. You’ll want to choose the motor that works best for your tasks, as well as your maintenance preferences.
Finally, make sure you know your long-term options when it comes to maintenance, repairs, or replacements. Check the warranty coverage on your portable unit. Read the fine print, checking whether you’ll be paying for repairs under warranty, or whether the company will be footing the bill. Some manufacturers cover repairs, but not return shipping. Others force you to bring your unit to an authorized dealer, which can be difficult in some parts of the country.
Make sure you know what’s covered and what’s not, especially if you’ll be using your machine commercially (many warranties are strictly for individual, not commercial use). It’s also a good choice in this case to purchase add-on warranty coverage from a third party at the checkout. We recommend these policies for most portable table saws, since most manufacturers have either very short warranty coverage, or longer warranties which require you to foot the bill for service calls or for returning the machine to the maker.
Third-party/add-on warranties allow you to circumvent all that red tape and fine print. You can deal with the warranty company, who will handle all the manufacturer runaround for you. Instead of having to jump through hoops, you can get your needs met quickly and easily.
Plus, you can extend your coverage for years beyond the factory warranty. While they can sometimes seem like an unnecessary “upsell” on websites, we think they’re a smart choice when you’re buying a power tool like this.
Still on the hunt for your perfect portable table saw? Check out the top selling saws on Amazon! We’ve got complete reviews for other types of saws from our main page or read our reviews of the top table saws!