Even a newbie can go around the table saw section at the local home improvement store and feel that some saws have easier adjustments than others. Some are simply easier while others are downright innovative in various ways. Porter-Cable came out of the value group for the overall win with adjustments that are both smooth and intuitive. Dual adjustment wheels mean that you’ll be able to accurately adjust your blade height and your bevel angle—a feature no other saw in this group has.
Ridgid notches a third place finish as the only saw to include an independent blade height lock. The adjustment wheel raises and lowers with multiple full turns like most saws, but integrates a lock into the center. For the bevel adjustment, the outside of the height adjustment wheel turns a rack and pinion style system to accurately change the blade angle – a feature Makita shares.
When using the side extension, a tape moves along so you won’t have to remember what measurement to lock the fence on or read a double marked measurement guide. It’s an innovation we like, but there are questions as to the long term durability of the tape itself. Like Ryobi, Ridgid uses a magnetic throat plate to secure it while leaving access simple.
The quality of cut is as good as I can get with a cabinet saw, with one key exception: It takes more time to get it set up just right. There isn’t as much lead up before the blade, so getting the wood to track true is harder with less fence. I kind of wish they had backed the blade up an inch or two assuming they couldn’t make the saw a bit deeper.
It’s the best of the three at keeping your shop clean. The SawStop has a blade guard and arbor enclosure that’s engineered and sculpted to maximize vacuum suction at the cutting edge. Plus, the guard hugs tightly to the blade, and like the Jet, opens at each side so that whichever way you’re cutting, dust goes down the vacuum chute instead of off to the side of your workspace. It’s lab-tested to be up to 99% effective, and it’s certainly the most impressive dust collection system we’ve seen to date.
It has all the safety features you need. This one has a big, brightly-colored stop button connected to an electric brake, so you can easily bring the blade to a halt. The stop button panel also has a thermal overload switch built in, so it’ll automatically switch the saw off if the motor becomes too hot. We also love that there’s a magnetic switch in the same panel, which prevents the machine from turning itself back on if power cuts out in your shop while you’re working.
And finally, there are a couple of jobsite table saws running around with flesh detection to drop the blade out of the way if it detects a strike. There’s a significant premium in cost for these saws and there has also been plenty of litigation regarding whether it should be required on every table saw and whether more than one company has the right to manufacturer the mechanism. But they’ll save you a much worse injury in the event of an accident.
That’s one major safety hazard which you can completely eliminate with one simple feature. In addition to the magnetic switch, be sure to look for thermal overload protection on the motor. You shouldn’t have any problems with burnout on motors this powerful, but it’s an important safety feature to have just in case, especially for folks who work with thicker hardwood stock. Thermal overload protection shuts the motor off automatically if it’s getting dangerously bogged down.
With both saws offering easy bevel and blade height adjustment, the ease of use comparison focuses mainly on the rip fences. Once the Bosch's rip fence is attached to the table, it moves smoothly across the table when unlocked. But unlocking the fence requires a bit of hand muscle. You can adjust the clamping pressure to alleviate this, but make it too loose and the fence may wobble out of square. Modifying the fence locking lever, or using a cheater bar (such as a push stick) works reasonably well.
Porter-Cable comes in as the most expensive of the value group, but also with the best overall performance in it. Of the three saws in this class, it had the best cutting power and also came in the top spot overall for height and bevel adjustment thanks to independent wheels. This may seem like a small consideration, but when you actually need to cut accurately beveled pieces, the adjustment wheel is a huge benefit over sliding the front height adjustment around.