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After drills, circular saws are the most common power tool in a home workshop. Battery-powered saws offer go-anywhere convenience, but there's a reason you aren't likely to see professional carpenters using them: Plug-in saws are far more capable.
Our tests of 32 corded and cordless saws found that corded models still outperform cordless models by a wide margin. Corded saws have up to seven times the speed and power of cordless saws.
Corded saws offer more value than cordless, too. Saws we tested ranged from $30 to $150 for corded, $100 to $420 for cordless. (Pro-style, corded high-torque hybrid models cost $150 to $175 and offer little to justify their increased weight.) Test highlights include the following:
Blades are better. Most saws come with a carbide-tipped blade. These cut faster and last longer than plain steel blades. Some models have a notch on the upper blade guard so you can keep an eye on the blade and the cutting line without leaning over the saw
Many models include a laser guide. Seven of the corded and cordless saws we tested project a laser line where you want to cut. But the feature is of limited use. You still have to draw a line and use a steady hand. And a laser is useless when you saw outdoors in bright sunlight.
Some saws had problems. The blade on three samples of the corded Craftsman (Sears) 10860 was out of alignment and could create excess wear and tear on the blade and motor when used with an edge guide. We had a similar but less severe problem on one sample each of a few other models, but the rest of the samples were fine. Bosch recently recalled the CS20, which we tested, and the similar CS10 because the lower blade guard can malfunction. We didn't have this problem. (See Recalls, page 11, for details.)
We like some new features. The corded Porter-Cable 325MAG lets you change blades without a wrench. We also like a design feature on the Bosch CS20: You plug an extension cord directly into the handle, where it locks in place. That avoids the hassle of a plug/extension-cord connection getting caught on the edge of your workbench.
HOW TO CHOOSE
Decide the kind of work you'll do. u For occasional light cutting, most any saw is fine. For heavy use or for cutting hard or thick wood, you want a saw with speed a and power, such as the top-rated models.
Try it out in the store. Check for handle comfort, weight, and logical controls.
Look for carbide-tipped blades. Steel blades are slower.
Safety counts. Always wear goggles and hearing protection.
Features that count Look for saws with these attributes for added safety and convenience.