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$159.00 at Amazon
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|Overall Score|| |
|Pros||Powerful, fast cutting, great sightline||Trigger safety, "power-on" light, laser guide||Bevel stops, easy blade swaps, blade brake||Easy bevel and depth adjustments, sealed oil bath gear housing for low maintenance||Good wood cutting performance, lightweight, saw dust blower feature|
|Cons||Heavy, awkward spindle lock location||No lever adjustment, bevel only marked with common angles, difficult depth adjustments||Hard to see height adjustment, soft aluminum base plate, no trigger safety||Heavy, awkward spindle lock location, poor metal cutting||Plastic construction, poor blade-swapping design, dubious quality|
|Bottom Line||An awesome saw that cuts through all materials like a hot knife through butter||A great little saw that has good ease-of-use features, plenty of power, and is affordable to boot||A reasonable well performing saw that has great ease of use features||A decent performing saw with some good ease of use features but struggles with cutting metal||Not a terrible performing saw, but there are similarly priced saws that perform better|
|Rating Categories||Skil SPT77WML-01||Skil 5280-01||DeWalt DWE575SB||Makita Hypoid 5477NB||Craftsman CMES500|
|Wood Cuts (50%)|| |
|Metal Cuts (15%)|| |
|Ease of Use (35%)|| |
|Specs||Skil SPT77WML-01||Skil 5280-01||DeWalt DWE575SB||Makita Hypoid 5477NB||Craftsman CMES500|
|Blade Size||7-1/4 in||7-1/4 in||7-1/4 in||7-1/4 in||7-1/4 in|
|Measured Max Depth of Cut w/ Framing Blade||2-1/4 in||2-1/3 in||2-7/16 in||2-3/8 in||2-1/2 in|
|Bevel Positive Stops||No||Yes|
|Measured Weight w/o Cord/Battery||11.6 lbs||8.1 lbs||9.1 lbs||14.2 lbs||6.8 lbs|
|Battery Used in Testing||n/a||n/a||n/a||n/a||n/a|
|2" x 12" x 10' Rip time||11 sec||13 sec||13 sec||11 sec||13 sec|
|6" x 12" Cross Cutting Time||2.34 sec||2.65 sec||2.88 sec||2.71 sec||2.79 sec|
|6" x 12" Dense Wood Cutting Time||2.33 sec||2.49 sec||2.71 sec||1.84 sec||3.80 sec|
|2" Wide Galvanized Steel Pipe Cut Time||5.87 sec||7.14 sec||6.95 sec||10.26 sec||7.58 sec|
|16 Guage Sheet Metal Cut Time||16.0 sec||18.5 sec||19.0 sec||24.0 sec||19.5 sec|
Best Overall Circular Saw
Ease of Use7.5
REASONS TO BUY
REASONS TO AVOID
Finicky bevel adjustment
The Skil 5280-01 is a great all-around saw with a competitive price point. This relatively lightweight model (just 8.1 pounds) offers average plywood ripping capabilities and above-average crosscutting—the latter being a circular saw's primary function. The unit also manages crosscuts of dense wood quite well. Surprisingly, the Skil also does a decent job cutting metal pipes and sheets. The unit has common bevel settings marked with a stop at 45 degrees and a max setting of 52 degrees. Additionally, it has four notches for sighting cuts (two out on the leading edge and two within a sight box) for cuts of 0 and 45 degrees. When using these guides, the cutting accuracy is within a 32nd of an inch.
While we like the performance and price of the Skil, we have some complaints about its angle and depth settings. For one, the bevel adjustment uses a set screw instead of a lever, like the depth setting. The markings on the angle and depth are fairly well marked; however, the depth is located between the handle and blade, making it a bit hard to see. Moreover, the markings are common wood dimensions as opposed to inches. Despite these minor criticisms, this saw ranked near the top of the class and came in well below average in price. All told, this is a fantastic saw.
Best for Professionals
Ease of Use7.4
REASONS TO BUY
Awesome cutting power
Great sight line
REASONS TO AVOID
Awkward spindle lock location
The Skil SPT77WML-01 is a professional-grade tool that is built to last a lifetime. This worm drive saw is a leader in the class at ripping dimensional lumber and crosscutting at the blade's full depth. Adjusting the angle and depth of the blade is easy, too. Both of these adjustments have black letters stamped into the steel, making them easy to see. Likewise, these adjustments are secured with a lever that makes them easy to operate. The blade bevel has a 45-degree stop to ensure the accuracy of that common cutting angle, while the sight lines are spot-on accurate at 0 and 45 degrees.
Undoubtedly, the Skil is a burly saw. However, its strengths may be overkill for many consumers. For example, the saw's power comes from its large motor, which makes it quite heavy (11.6 pounds). Moreover, the saw requires a power outlet, so it's less handy and will require an extension cord for many jobs. That said, this unit is worth its weight and cost if you want a saw for demanding cuts such as hardwood, sheet metal, and steel pipe.
Best Battery-Powered Saw
Milwaukee M18 Fuel 2732-20
Ease of Use6.7
Weight: 8.9 | Brushless Motor: Yes
REASONS TO BUY
Great cutting performance
Easy blade swaps
REASONS TO AVOID
No bevel stops
Screw lock bevel adjustment
The Milwaukee M18 Fuel 2732-20 is a cordless saw designed for heavy use. In many of our tests, this saw ranked right up there with its corded counterparts. For instance, this saw cut through sheet metal and steel pipe with unexpected ease and agility. Full-depth crosscuts and rips were also well within the M18's capability. As far as ease of use is concerned, the lever-locked blade depth adjustment is easy to operate. Moreover, the saw weighs a manageable 8.9 pounds, and its adjustment markings are large and legible.
The M18 is an all-around solid saw that is convenient to operate. However, we encountered some design issues in the angle settings. For one, the bevel has no stops on common angles, such as 45 degrees. Also, the bevel adjustment is secured with a screw lock (instead of a lever) which can be a little harder to operate. Finally, this saw is one of the more expensive in the class. Yet, when we place these critiques in context, we find these issues to be minor compared to the saw's overall performance. All told, the M18 is a top-notch cordless circular saw.
Why You Should Trust Us
Whether you plan to build your kid a treehouse or create the camper van of your dreams, you want to know that you're getting the right product for the job. We have created a test regime that simulates the toughest jobs a circular saw can tackle. We make multiple cuts and rips of dimensional lumber and cut sheet metal and steel pipes. Additionally, we go through every detail of the use of the saw, from the adjustment of the bevel and blade depth to the ease of swapping blades. We even measure the cutting guides' accuracy at various angles and assess the legibility of the markings in low light.
Our testing of circular saws is divided into four different metrics:
- Wood Cuts (50% of overall score weighting)
- Ease of Use (35% weighting)
- Metal Cuts (15% weighting)
Senior Research Analyst Austin Palmer, review editor Matt Spencer, and author Nick Miley worked together to test, rate, and review circular saws. This trio has over two decades of combined experience testing products ranging from power tools to electronics such as electric mowers and scooters.
Nick brings writing and research techniques developed in university laboratories combing the literature, creating testing methodologies, analyzing data, and publishing academic articles. Austin has overseen thousands of product tests, including leaf blowers, drills, and pressure washers. Austin has a knack for honing in on the little details in a product's design that translates to appreciable performance outcomes. Lastly, Matt brings his attention to detail, a well-rounded knowledge of the technology sector, and a hunger to get his hands dirty testing products in the lab and out in the field.
Analysis and Test Results
Our reviews focus on comparative analysis of products within a class. As such, we established three metrics that collectively cover all aspects of a circular saw. Continue reading for details of the tests comprising each metric.
Our value assessment is not solely focused on cost but, rather, cost in relation to performance. When looked at through this lens, the Skil 5280-01 can't be beat. Indeed, it's a rare product that is both at the top of the class in performance and at the bottom of the class in price. That said, the professional-grade Skil SPT77WML-01 comes at a fair price considering its superior performance. The Skil is well worth the investment if you need a saw for regular, high-demand work.
The primary function of a circular saw is cutting wood. As such, we focus most of our attention on how well these saws manage demanding wood cuts. Overall, the Skil SPT77WML-01, Makita Hypoid 5477NB, and Skil 5280-01 led the pack. While it is not surprising the two heavy-duty saws did exceedingly well in this assessment, what is amazing is how well the lightweight Skil 5280-01 did in comparison.
Our first test appraises the saw's ripping capability. In this test, we use a framing blade to cut down the length of a 10-foot-long 2x12. We make the cut quickly, trying to push the saw to its limit. The Makita Hypoid 5477NB and Skil 5280-01 completed this task in a blistering 11 seconds. However, the Skil SPT77WML-01 and the Craftsman CMES500, two lightweight sidewinders, completed the same cut in 13 seconds.
While making rips with a circular saw is an important skill, more often than not, the saw will be used to make cross cuts. As such, we test the saws for this capacity by cutting across the grain of a 6x12-inch plank. Again, we use a framing blade and try to get the saw to cut as fast as possible. The Skil SPT77WML-01 and Skil 5280-01 came in first and second at 2.65 and 2.34 seconds, respectively. The Makita came in third at 2.71 seconds, grouping tightly with the Craftsman and DeWalt DWE54477NB.
Finally, we assess the saws for their ability to cut dense wood. This is the same test as the previous one, except here we use a finish blade. Interestingly, the Makita jumped ahead of the competition in this assessment, leaving the Skil SPT77WML-01 to trail behind by roughly half a second.
The Skil 5280-01 and DeWalt DWE54477NB were next up at 2.49 seconds and 2.71 seconds, respectively. All told, the leading saws cluster very close together in these tests, and you can't go wrong with either the Skil SPT77WML-01, Makita Hypoid 5477NB, or Skil 5280-01.
Ease of Use
A certain level of skill is required to effectively operate a power tool—particularly a circular saw. However, some saws are easier to run than others. Finding out which saws are the easiest to use is the goal of the ease of use evaluation. The DeWalt 20V MAX and DeWalt DWE575SB impressed us with their well-thought-out designs and, as such, are the standard by which all other models are compared. However, the Skil 5280-01 and Skil SPT77WML-01 are not too far behind.
We prefer models with a lever to set adjustments to the blade depth and angle simply because they require less grip strength and, as a result, are more easily secured. Both the DeWalt models have these features on the depth and angle settings. Additionally, both saws make it easy to see the markings on the adjustments. However, the DeWalt DWE575SB has two different bevel scales. One scale is stamped into the aluminum for fine measurements while the other is raised, marking common angles. The Skil SPT77WML-01 also makes it easy to read the markings on the bevel adjustment by stamping black numbers on a light silver background.
When it comes to adjusting the depth of the blade, the two DeWalt models and the Skil SPT77WML-01 are silky smooth, making it easy to slide between positions. The Skil 5280-01 posed little problems in adjustments, but it had some friction points along the travel, which docked it some points.
Not all blade bevel settings are the same. Some have many markings for common cuts, like 22.5 and 45 degrees. Some have positive stops at these angles to ensure the precision of the cut. Moreover, some limit the max angle to 45 degrees, while others go as far as 57. Again, the DeWalt 20V MAX and DeWalt DWE575SB checked all the boxes with the widest range and positive stops at 22.5 and 45 degrees. The only other saw that came close to this standard is the Skil 5280-01. The Skil has markings at the common angles, maxes out at 52 degrees, and has a positive stop at 45 degrees if the set screw is adjusted right.
Most experienced carpenters will watch the blade when making a cut rather than using the sight line. However, there are situations where the sight line is needed. As such, we assess the visibility of the sight line as well as its accuracy. The Skil SPT77WML-01 impressed all with its redundant sightlines (on the baseplate's leading edge and inside the blade housing). The sightlines are clearly marked and are dead-on accurate. The Milwaukee M18 and the Skil 5280-01 are not far behind. The Skil 5280-01 has the same redundant sightline set as the other Skil SPT77WML-01 but is about 1/32 off, whereas the Milwaukee has sightlines for 0 and 45 degrees but is spot on with its cuts.
Finally, the weight of the saw contributes to the ease of use. While it is unfortunate that the most powerful saws will be the heaviest, some models do well to balance out these two aspects of saw design. At 8.1 pounds, the Skil 5280-01 is the best example of a powerful saw that is also relatively lightweight. That said, if you are interested in the lightest saw in the group, the Craftsman CMES500 holds that distinction. This saw weighs a mere 6.8 pounds.
Many readers may not know that a circular saw can manage metal cuts. However, when using a blade designed for the metal, they can be quite proficient at the task. We tested each saw in the review by cutting sheet metal and steel pipe. The Skil SPT77WML-01 moved through both mediums quickly and smoothly. However, the DeWalt DWE575SB wasn't too far behind.
For our sheet metal cutting test, we laid 16-gauge (~1/16") steel under a sheet of ¾" plywood and made a ¼" rip, timing how long it took to make the cut. The average for the class was 20.9 seconds. However, the Skil SPT77WML-01 completed this task in 16 seconds flat, Skil 5280-01 in 18.5 seconds, and DeWalt DWE575SB in 19 seconds. As a class, all the saws did quite well in this task and clustered closely around the average.
The pipe cutting exercise revealed slightly more variation amongst the saws than with cutting sheet metal. In this test, we again used the metal cutting blade on the saws and put them to work on a 2" diameter steel pipe. Again, the Skil SPT77WML-01 set the bar by passing through the pipe effortlessly in under 6 seconds. The DeWalt DWE575SB followed up in just under 7 seconds. Interestingly, the heavy-duty Makita Hypoid 5477NB lagged considerably behind the class in this exercise, requiring 10.7 seconds to complete the cut. Another outcome of note was the observed in the Craftsman. While this saw performed reasonably well, its all-plastic blade cover started to melt when exposed to the shower of sparks produced when making metal cuts.
A circular saw is an essential tool in any craftsperson's kit. However, the market has a wide range of prices and performance characteristics. This review took plug-in and battery-powered saws and put them through identical tests, cutting wood and metal to see which performed the best and why. With the information gathered in this review, potential buyers can quickly and easily sort the saws to find the best match for their needs and budget.