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.
The fence on a table saw is one of its defining features and allows for precise, square, and repeatable cuts. Not all fences are equal though and a poorly built fence is a deal-breaker, in my opinion. Not only will a poorly built and implemented fence affect the quality of your cuts, but a fence that moves or is not square to the blade can cause your material to bind and kickback.
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.
The riving knife and blade guard actually have a quick-release so you can easily remove it. This is important because, in the past, these elements were so hard to install once removed people would simply leave it off. Now that there is a quick-release feature it makes it much easier to put back on and avoid the involuntary donation if OSHA decides to visit the job-site.
The latest advance in table saw safety is a feature that stops the spinning blade when it senses the presence of tissue, such as a finger or forearm. A company called SawStop was the first to offer this technology, and currently, it holds the exclusive right to sell saws with this feature in the United States. (Bosch introduced a portable table saw with blade-stopping technology in 2016, but was forced to take it off the market after a successful patent-infringement suit by SawStop.) In 2017, the CPSC proposed a new rule to make SawStop's technology mandatory on all table saws, but that rule is still under review. See the Buying Guide for more information.
The Porter-Cable looks like a beefed-up version of the Craftsman, with the same blade guard and anti-kickback pawls. This is the only saw in our test with a blade-tilting handwheel, which makes it easier to dial in a precise bevel angle. The motor mount and blade controls on this saw are very sturdy, without much play, which translates to a good-quality cut. Extending the fence for a wide rip requires a bit of effort on this saw, since the rails are stiff. All in all, this is a great saw for the price.
I really enjoyed your review and appreciate the significant time and effort put into it. How did you acquire the machines? Were they evaluation units provided by the manufacturers or did you buy them (randomly, like Consumer Reports)? If they were provided to you the cynic in me says you probably got cherry picked units. In looking at the various machines on line and checking out their comments, it’s quite clear pretty much all of them have a manufacturing distribution of performance and metrics e.g. for accuracy all the units you tested have comments ranging from great to truly awful. Same thing for build quality. I spent quite a while looking at the Dewalt but all the negative reviews on quality and accuracy turned me off it. I certainly do see many more positive reviews than negative reviews for the Dewalt, but it does leave you with the feeling that a dice roll is partly involved in buying a recommended table saw.
A magnetic switch is also good from a safety standpoint but may not be necessary on these smaller versions. A magnetic switch prevents the saw from starting back up if it loses power during a power outage. Basically, the power outage will turn off the saw. This is good because if for some reason the power were to come back on when you were not near the machine, the material could be shot out of it or damage the saw.
Other features include a battery-powered laser for lining up cuts. I found it to be pretty dim under bright shop lights and not lined up correctly with the blade. It is non-adjustable. A pullout rear extension provides some added support for long rip cuts. Rockwell also offers a couple of unique accessories: a sliding miter table ($179.99) and a power planer-style “Finisher” ($129.99). It mounts on the saw for flattening board edges.
After spending hours doing a lot of research and talking to professionals who use these tools on a regular basis we have put together a review for you that not only tells you three of the top table saws on the market today, but we tell you why they are popular and explain a bit about each so you have a good idea of what they are like. This table saw review will put much-needed information right at your fingertips so you can make a good decision on the right table saw for your needs.