compact circular saw

Best Compact Circular Saw Reviews and Buying Guide 2019

Best Compact Circular Saw Reviews 2019

Though they may look more like a ‘gadget’ than a proper tool, compact circular saws are some of the most useful and versatile power saws on the market today. The best compact circular saw can accomplish many of the same tasks as their larger brethren and more. That it is why we have a list of the 5 best compact circular saw reviews and a helpful buyer’s guide. Rockwell leads the way in the compact circular saw market, but keep reading to find the best deal.

Rockwell RK3441K 4-1/2” Compact Circular Saw – Best Seller

rockwell circular saw rk3441k
https://www.amazon.com/Rockwell-RK3441K-Compact-Circular-Accessory/dp/B00GTEU0M4/
Rockwell is a company founded in the tail end of the century from a BLACK+DECKER executive and Positec Tools to compete in the consumer-grade market. In fact, Rockwell was actually one of the first manufacturers of a mini circular saw–though they have improved as time goes on. These days, the topic of conversation has shifted to one of their competing models with the Rockwell rk3440k vs rk3441k. The Rockwell mini circular saw rk3441k is the company’s flagship model and the clear winner of the rk3441k vs rk3440k battle.

Legitimate Cutting Power
The Rockwell 4.5″ compact circular saw is the best seller for a couple of reasons, but one of the big ones boils down to simple cutting power. The Rockwell 5 amp circular saw has one of the more powerful motors on our list which is able to generate more torque than some of the other mini compact saws on our list. On top of that, the Rockwell 5-amp 4-1/2-in corded circular saw has one of the larger blades on our list and allows it to make some of the deepest cuts too. Though, it does seem as if the power may be a bit too much at times as the rk3441k does have a weaker blade bolt than some.

Great Design
Coming from a premier consumer-grade power tool manufacture, the Rockwell rk3441k compact circular saw offers many of the best creature comforts. By far one of the best qualities of this small circular saw is how light it is at only 5 lbs making it one of the lightest small compact saws on our list. However, the Rockwell rk3441k is not simply light as it also features a ‘left-handed’ design which provides a great sightline and is not at all left-hand dependent. Regardless, the Rockwell 4 1/2 circular saw doubles up with their lightweight design by also making the profile more compact as well.

Pros

  • Has a more powerful motor
  • Has a larger blade diameter
  • Is a lightweight compact circular saw
  • Has a more compact design than most
  • Has a great sightline
  • Is ergonomically designed

Cons

  • A more expensive compact circular saw
  • The blade bolt is not durable

Rockwell RK3440K Versacut 4.0 Amp Ultra-Compact Circular Saw – Top Pick

rockwell circular saw rk3440k
https://www.amazon.com/Rockwell-RK3440K-Versacut-Ultra-Compact-Circular/dp/B0052EK78O/
Our top pick is the second contestant in the Rockwell rk3441k vs rk3440k competition, but in this instance, we are interested in ease. The rk3440k vs rk3441k finds in favor of the first if you are looking for one of the more reliable and easy to use mini compact saws on our list. In fact, the Versacut is actually one of the first, decent compact circular saws on the market in the first place. While some of the features have not aged quite as well as others, one of the first past the pole still presents one of the best options we found for a mini circular saw.

Solid Cuts
The Rockwell plunge saw may be able to accomplish the namesake, but it can actually do far more than that. However, it is important to consider the Rockwell circular saw blade before purchasing this model as it is one of the smaller blades on our list. This is important because it will limit your maximum cutting depth in some circumstances, especially when making bevel cuts. However, the Rockwell Versacut is actually one of the more accurate and precise cutting small circular saws that we reviewed due in part to the strong and durable housing and shoe. In fact, the Rockwell rk3440k is arguably one of the more durable and long-lasting small circular saws that we came across.

Easier Than Most
The Rockwell compact circular saw makes little attempt to win in the pure power arena as its motor is a bit weaker than that on their competitors–even those from the same manufacturer. However, this mini circular saw was designed with the homeowner in mind as opposed to the professional. As such, the Rockwell mini saw features a number of qualities which may not help it cut better but does make it that much easier to use and maintain. For instance, this is one of the few mini circular saws on our list that features a laser guide for even more precise cuts.

Pros

  • Is ergonomically designed
  • Is a more durable compact circular saw
  • Is easy to use
  • Has a laser guide
  • Has a vacuum port
  • More precise than most

Cons

  • The most expensive compact circular saw reviewed
  • Has a smaller blade than most

WORX WORXSAW 4-1/2″ Compact Circular Saw – WX429L- Best Value

worx circular saw wx429l
https://www.amazon.com/WORX-WORXSAW-4-1-Compact-Circular/dp/B00ZFR4GJE/
WORX is the first company on our list that has its roots with the Chinese Positec Tool company and an American executive to target the consumer-grade market of homeowners and DIYers. In doing so, WORX competes with some of the largest and most successful power tool manufacturers in the world and comes out ahead in a number of important ways. Of course, it is important to remember that a budget product will not provide the best of everything, and the WORX definitely has its issues. However, we still feel that this mini circular saw presents the best all-around value out of any product on our list.

Lead the Way
By far one of the more surprising things about the WORX is the fact that it tops our list in a couple of areas. Some of these are to be expected, but others are uncommon–especially for a budget-friendly option. For instance, the WORX has one of the deepest maximum cuts out of any circular saw we encountered which is a feature usually paid for at a premium. On top of that, the WORX small circular saw is also the lightest compact circular saw on our list which is one of the primary selling points of this power saw category in the first place. Finally, this is also the least expensive compact circular saw that we reviewed, easily making it the best value.

Ups and Downs
Of course, when you are looking for a budget-friendly option, you always have to wait for the other shoe to drop. Thankfully, with the WORX, that shoe has nothing to do with its durability or general lifespan. Unfortunately, the WORX’s biggest flaw lies with its inability to make more precise cuts which will severely limit its usefulness. Basically, if you need to quickly make a single cut and move on, the WORX is probably not an ideal solution. This issue is only made worse with included fences and guides which have a tendency to flex and bow while in use.

Pros

  • The least expensive compact circular saw reviewed
  • Is the lightest compact circular saw reviewed
  • Has a deeper maximum cut than most
  • Has a great sightline
  • Has a vacuum port
  • Is easy to use

Cons

  • Not the most precise cuts
  • Not the best for fences

Dremel SM20-03 Saw-Max Tool Kit – Runners Up

dremel circular saw sm20-03
https://www.amazon.com/Dremel-SM20-03-Saw-Max-Tool-Kit/dp/B00FBHFXZY/
Those who know about the power tool market might be a bit surprised to find the Dremel so far down on our list, but it is mostly because the Dremel is a bit more niche in terms of its market. To the point, the Dremel SM20-03 is the best professional compact circular saw that we reviewed, but it may not be ideal for your average DIYer. Part of this has to do with the fact that the Dremel is one of the more expensive mini circular saws on our list. Another potential concern is the fact that the Dremel has the smallest blade out of any product reviewed at only 3”.

A Cut Above
While the Dremel may have some functional limitations–especially at its price point–it does still provide one of, in not, the best cutting actions we saw from a small circular saw. For instance, this is the only mini circular saw we reviewed which is capable of making a flush cut which is necessary for laying down baseboards and other points of intersection. On top of being able to make one of the rarer cuts for a power saw, the Dremel is also the most accurate and precise mini circular saw that we found. Finally, the Dremel can go where other small circular saws fear to tread with a cutting speed that is more than 5 times the next closest competitor, greatly expanding the Dremel’s cutting versatility.

Solid Design
Though the Dremel may be made for a professional market, that does not mean the company skimped on the extra features. First, there is likely not a compact circular saw on our list or off of it that has a better sightline than the Dremel which features a completely unimpeded view of the entire blade. Even better, the Dremel also uses a classic worm drive motor configuration to enable it to generate significantly more torque than the sidewinder motors. Finally, the Dremel is actually one of the easiest compact circular saws to use with few controls.

Pros

  • Has the most powerful motor reviewed
  • Has the fastest cutting speed reviewed
  • The most precise compact circular saw reviewed
  • Is easy to use
  • Has a worm drive configuration
  • Has a great sightline

Cons

  • A more expensive compact circular saw
  • The smallest blade reviewed

Genesis GCS545C 5.8 Amp 120 Volt 4-1/2 inch Control Grip Compact Circular Saw – Also Consider

genesis circular saw gcs545c
https://www.amazon.com/Genesis-GCS545C-Control-Compact-Circular/dp/B01HF1EQWY/
Genesis is another company that specializes explicitly in consumer-grade power tools for the avid DIYer. That said, they have not been around nearly as long as some of the other companies on our list and as such has not yet really developed a reputation beyond the market standard. While that could clearly be better, it is still a solid mark to hit and is especially nice for a small circular saw that is definitely one the budget-friendly side of pricing. That said, the Genesis breaks one of the cardinal rules of the consumer-grade power tool market: keep it simple stupid.

Some Issues
At this point in the list, you need to understand that there are no more ‘perfect products’ if there ever were any in the first place. However, the Genesis is a bit snake-bitten in this regard as the design makes it incredibly difficult to use in a quick easy manner. This is because the Genesis actually requires two hands to use, and one of the hands must be positioned awkwardly over the other. This does have the added benefit of making the Genesis one of the safest mini circular saws on our list, but it comes at a bit too much of a cost–especially since it is not a financial cost.

Solid Specs
Outside of the encumbered use and a blade bolt which is known for needing to be replaced, the Genesis is actually one of the more impressive compact circular saws that we reviewed. For one, it has the second strongest motor that saw at 5.8 amps–just a hair off of the lead on our list. This powerful motor will be put to task as this mini circular saw also actually features one of the larger saw blades with the deepest cuts. Even better, Genesis somehow managed to take a design that is the heaviest for other companies and produce one of the lighter small circular saws that we reviewed.

Pros

  • The least expensive compact circular saw reviewed
  • Has a more powerful motor
  • Is a lightweight compact circular saw
  • Has the deepest maximum cut
  • Is ergonomically designed
  • Has a vacuum port

Cons

  • Not the easiest to use
  • The blade bolt is not durable

Best Compact Circular Saw Buying Guide

Power
This can be a bit of a difficult quality to gauge with a compact circular saw because its design and intended use preclude the inclusion of extremely powerful motors. Whereas standard circular saws use 15 amp motors, you will be hard-pressed to find a mini circular saw that has a motor more than 7 amps. A big part of this has to do with the fact that the more powerful the motor often the less precise the small circular saw cuts. On top of that, it is difficult to make a motor small enough such that it can generate that kind of power while still remaining small enough to be placed in a compact circular saw housing.

That said, this is still easily one of the more important qualities as it will heavily impact the overall potential cutting power as well as the longevity of the tool. It is worth noting that the motor configuration can also influence this as compact circular saws with a worm drive configuration will be able to generate more torque than one which uses a sidewinder configuration. Still, the cutting power will be impacted by far more than just the motor–especially for a power saw which is inherently miniature.

Blade Speed
For most power saws, this feature is a bit overblown–especially in regards to various types of table saws. However, for compact circular saws which are generally intended to be used in a wide range of situations, the blade speed becomes far more important. That said, there is not too terribly much diversity amongst compact circular saw manufacturers as they generally tend to go with the tried and true 3500 RPMs and call it a day with a wide variety of blades. However, different materials are not simply best cut with a special blade, but the entire cutting action should accommodate that particular cut.

As such, a compact circular saw that can either cut faster than the industry standard or offer a variable speed control are far more useful and versatile than those without. This is because the different materials cut will be best cut at different speeds, even if you get the appropriate blade for the material in question. For instance, softer materials like plastic and metal are best cut at slower speeds to prevent a tearing or shearing action from occurring while super hard, dense woods need speed to prevent burns and streaks along the cut face.

Cuts
Though the consumer may look to a compact circular saw for its ease, convenience, and low price, a professional will look towards that same saw for its versatility more than anything else. Specifically, the compact circular saw is arguably surpassed in its versatility only by the oscillating multi-tool which is a marvel most people should own anyway. Still, for a professional, the fact that a mini circular saw can make rip and crosscuts is not enough to entice it away from more powerful cousins.

Enter the plunge cut and the small circular saw’s near-unrivaled ability to make this cut quickly, easily, and accurately. To be clear, the alternative to using a compact circular saw for this purpose is to either get a much larger power saw or use one that requires a pilot hole–neither of which are quicker and easier. That said, there is another cut which is far more valuable to the average professional than potentially the compact circular saw’s plunge cut: the flush cut.

To be clear, we are not suggesting that the flush cut is a more common or useful cut that a professional will make. But there are many tools and ways to make a plunge cut, however, there are far fewer ways to make flush cuts with power saws. Generally, you would need to use an oscillating multi-tool or a hand saw to make a flush cut, but some compact circular saws are designed to provide for this cut too. Of course, you will likely have to pay a good bit more for a mini circular saw that can make a flush cut.

Materials
Beyond the different types of cuts that a small circular saw can make, another great benefit is its ability to cut a wide variety of materials. This further extends the small circular saw’s versatility as you can use these tools to cut everything from wood to metal to plastic to stone. Pretty much every meaningful material used in construction can be cut with a compact circular saw and the proper blade. Of course, it is worth remembering that simply changing the blade may not be enough to get the best results as most small circular saws are designed to cut at specific parameters. Still, the ability to make incredibly quick cuts to pretty much anything around the house is a useful ability to have.

Ease of Use
Since the compact circular saw market overlaps with the needs and preferences of the consumer-grade market anyway, most manufacturers make a concerted effort to design their products in a way that is easy even for the inexperienced to use. There are a couple of features that can be included towards this end, but by far the most important has to do with the way that the blade guard works. Some mini circular saws are designed so that the blade guard automatically retracts as the saw comes into contact with the appropriate cutting surface. However, some small circular saws actually require you to manually retract the blade guard while using it which is extremely awkward in practice, if significantly safer.

A couple of other ways that manufacturers make compact circular saws easier to use is by making the adjustments done with a single lever. This can actually be a bit tricky if the company uses plastic for the lever component, but it is a feature lauded by professional and consumer alike. One feature that both groups may prefer is the occasional lock switch which will lock the compact circular saw either in the on or off position. Some companies include the option to lock onto either position, but generally, you will either be able to lock onto the ‘on’ or the ‘off’ position. The former makes using the small circular saw for extended periods of time easier and less fatiguing but is also more dangerous. The latter is for purely safety reasons to prevent you from accidentally starting the mini circular saw by grabbing it around the trigger or paddle.

Ergonomics
Ergonomics refers to the way that using a tool feels from a human experience perspective and is another feature that gets a good look from manufacturers because of the consumer market. Granted, these features benefit professionals as well, but they are less likely to pay more for their tool to get non-functional benefits. Still, the biggest ergonomic factor to consider has little to do with the product’s design and more to do with its weight. One of the first reasons to get a small circular saw is that its lightweight design allows you to use for extended periods of time before getting fatigued. This quality is often reinforced with a physical profile that more closely matches the contours of the hand than a simple ‘barrel’ design.

FAQ’s

Differences between a circular saw and a compact circular saw?

Despite how different they may appear from the outside, compact circular saws are pretty much identical in function and mechanical design to standard circular saws. In fact, compact circular saws even follow the standard models in terms of having motors positioned at different points with respect to the blade in order to influence the cutting action. As such, there are compact circular saws with both sidewinder and worm drives with the respective benefits and flaws that both entail. That said, it would be wrong to think that you could use a compact circular saw in the same situations as a standard circular saw.

This is because most of the differences between a compact circular saw and a standard circular saw boil down to the power tool’s capacities and specifications. For instance, standard circular saws are generally significantly more powerful than their compact cousins. This is translated in a couple of ways but the most obvious is in raw motor power since standard circular saws can house a larger motor. This also allows the standard circular saw to generate more torque–even if it is a sidewinder drive compared to a worm drive on a compact circular saw. On top of that, the larger standard circular saws are also able to generate faster cutting speeds which allows them to more easily cut through harder, denser woods.

When to use a compact circular saw?

Given that standard circular saws pretty much dominate compact circular saws in all of the most relevant specs, when then is one supposed to use a compact circular saw. There are a few instances where you should use a compact circular saw, but for the professional fields, there are just a couple. The most obvious situation where a professional would prefer a compact circular saw to a larger one is where physical space itself is limited. Basically, compact circular saws provide a significant amount of maneuverability compared to their larger, standard cousins and can make use of this in much tighter quarters.

Outside of their smaller profile and increased maneuverability, one of the other main benefits of a compact circular saw is the sheer number of different types of cuts they can make. To be fair, the best compact circular saws can make most of the cuts that are required of any power saw outside of reciprocating, oscillating, or continuous blades. Specifically, compact circular saws are capable of making rip cuts, crosscuts, plunge cuts, bevel cuts, and flush cuts. Only the oscillating multi-tool really comes close to providing the kind of actions that a compact circular saw does.

Outside of the professional realm, there are a number of good reasons why a homeowner or DIYer should have a compact circular saw. One of the best qualities in this arena is the fact that most homeowners will not need more cutting power than the compact circular saw provides. So long as you can cut 2 x 4’s, which most compact circular saws can do, you do not need to worry about too terribly much more than that. The fact that the compact circular does not require as much skill to require and is just safer, in general, is also a good thing. Moreover, manufacturers understand that compact circular saws have a broader appeal than most and include numerous luxuries that make using them easier for inexperienced DIYers.

What about different materials?

One of the best qualities of a compact circular saw is that it is better-suited to cut materials that are not wood. That said, it is important to understand that each material will have different needs in regards to the specific application of the cutting power as well as the type of cut. For instance, outside of the differences in blade and cutting speed that best serves metal, you will also want to make a plunge cut as opposed to a crosscut. On the other hand, another material that is softer than wood like metal but requires a completely different approach is fiberglass.

Fiberglass is best cut using a combination of plunge cuts and rip cuts since there is no ‘grain’ across which you could crosscut. While technically you could use some compact circular saws to make a flush cut, neither fiberglass nor metal is liable to present with that need in the overwhelming majority of your tasks. Another quality to look for is variable speed control which will allow you to adjust the cutting speed of your compact circular saw to best suit the material being cut.

Conclusion

In the end, if you want the best performance in either market, the profession or the consumer-grade, are best served with a Rockwell product. However, the adage of getting what you pay for holds true as the Rockwells are some of the most expensive compact circular saws on our list. Of course, they are roughly matched with the Dremel which is the compact circular saw on our list that is able to make flush cuts. If you are looking for a compact circular saw that is not quite as expensive, WORX makes the best model with a budget-friendly price.