Which is the best cordless circular saw? That’s a tough question to answer, but what I can tell you is which models I think are the best in certain categories.
I’ve used quite a few cordless circular saws these past few years, and tried out even more. There are very many good circular saws, and some great ones, and a few fantastic standouts. But the best? That sometimes depends a lot more upon personal preferences than other types of tools. Other times, it simply comes down to power, runtime, and capacity.
Looking for more “best tool” recommendations? Check out our best cordless drills, best cordless impact drivers, and best cordless oscillating multi-tool recommendations. We also discussed the best cordless power tool brand, with my vote leaning towards Milwaukee.
I should point out that I only considered wood-cutting circular saws for this roundup, and not metal-cutting saws.
Best 18V: Milwaukee M18 Fuel 6-1/2″ 2730
If you want the best cordless circular saw, you’ll have to pony up the big bucks for the Milwaukee M18 Fuel 2730, their 6-1/2″ model that came out in late 2013. This is their first brushless circular saw, and there’s also a new 7-1/4″ saw that was added to Milwaukee’s line of M18 Fuel tools. More on that saw in a bit.
Milwaukee engineered the M18 Fuel 2730 circular saw with a brushless motor and a very robust housing. Even the shoe is overbuilt and sturdy. I know that the shoe shouldn’t be the first thing I look at in a circular saw, but it often is. A solid shoe tells you that a brand put their best effort into making the best circular saw possible.
Surprisingly, there’s no real competition to Milwaukee’s brushless circular saws. Makita was supposed to come out with a brushless circular saw of their own in early 2015, but I haven’t seen it in any stores yet.
Milwaukee’s 6-1/2″ is comfortable to use, it’s more powerful than most of the other 18V-class cordless saws I ever remember using, and it provides decent runtime. I prefer the 6-1/2″ blade size, and like that the saw is left-facing, which helps me better follow a cutline.
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But What About the New 7-1/4″ Model?
Milwaukee’s M18 Fuel 2731 brushless circular saw has corded-like blade size (7-1/4″) and corded-like performance, but with the convenience and portability of a cordless tool. It’s a best of a circular saw that performs very well, and provides greater cutting capacity than 6-1/2″ saws.
However, the saw is also a little bigger, heavier, and it’s right-facing which some users might not like. Many cordless saws are left-facing, and so you’ll need some practice if you’re upgrading from a lesser saw.
If greater cutting capacity is very important to you, then the 2731 is a great choice. But if you don’t really need the extra cutting capacity, the 6-1/2″ saw is a fantastic performer and will get you through the day with a little less arm fatigue.
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Editor’s Choice 18V: Dewalt 20V Max DCS391
I’m a sucker for Dewalt’s cordless circular saws. I am sure that Dewalt is working on brushless circular saws of their own, but in the meantime, the DCS391 saw is currently their premium model. There’s a lesser model, DCS393, but it lacks the fantastic magnesium shoe of the DCS391.
The Dewalt DCS391 offers a good balance between power, performance, runtime, and user comfort, and it’s not terribly expensive either.
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Best Budget 18V: Porter Cable
I don’t like cheap cordless circular saws, I really don’t. Inexpensive saws often have flimsy shoes and awkward knobs, and sometimes deliver lousy performance on top of all that. Less expensive cordless circular saws, especially those at the lower end of the pricing spectrum, also often have small blade sizes. When you see a 5-3/8″ blade size on an 18V-class circular saw, adjust your expectations as to how powerful the saw really is. Smaller blade = smaller motor.
5-3/8″ blades are also more difficult to find than 6-1/2″ and 7-1/4″ blade sizes. There are many brands that make general purpose blades, but when it’s time to find a plywood blade, nonferrous materials blade, a higher quality blade, or specialty blade, you won’t have much of a selection to choose from.
I reviewed Porter Cable’s 18V model a while back, and it surprised me. It looked like a cheap saw, but it performed decently and wasn’t at all flimsy as I had feared. Porter Cable is now focusing on their expanded 20V Max lineup, and so based on my experience with their 18V line, that’s the budget model I’d try first.
Ryobi will soon be coming out with a new 18V One+ 6-1/2″ circular saw, model P507, but I haven’t seen them in stores yet either. It seems like it might be on-par with Porter Cable’s 20V Max offering.
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Best 12V: Milwaukee M12 Fuel 2530
Milwaukee took all of the things users like about their M18 Fuel circular saws, and put them into an M12 Fuel saw, model 2530. Users have been asking for an M12 circular saw for quite some time, and Milwaukee didn’t disappoint them with their latest brushless tool.
As this saw is brushless, you get a great balance between power and runtime, and it’s built with a 5-3/8″ blade size. It has a 1-5/8″ cutting capacity, which means it can cleanly cut through 2X lumber materials. According to Milwaukee’s product page, the M12 Fuel saw can also accept 5-1/2″ sized blades.
If you need portable cutting convenience but can do without the greater power and cutting capacity of the M18 Fuel saw, the M12 model is smaller, lighter, and less expensive too. It’s really the only model you could use for serious work. Other 12V-class circular saws that are on the market are really small trim saws and don’t match up at all.
Buy Now(via Home Depot)
The “I Wish I Could Try it” Model: Festool TSC 55
The Festool TSC 55 brushless tracksaw is the second-ever cordless plunge-cutting tracksaw, and the only one currently available. (Update: Dewalt’s 28V model is hard to find, but still out there.) It can be powered by one or two Li-ion battery packs, and is the only Festool product that I have ever seen with a dust collection bag.
Sadly, Festool has no plans to bring the TSC 55 to the USA.
Festool has announced plans to bring the TSC 55 to the USA starting in the summer of 2015.
Right now, it looks like Milwaukee’s M18 Fuel brushless circular saws are leading the competition with a pretty sizable head start. You really have to try them out to appreciate the “corded-like performance” marketing claims that Milwaukee throws around. On the non-brushless side of things, I really like Dewalt’s cordless circular saw and could make do with Porter Cable’s lower budget offering. Ryobi’s has potential as a budget offering, but it’s not out yet and I didn’t test it yet.
I’ve used and tried other cordless circular saws that didn’t really make the figurative cut. I think that 2015 will be the year more of Milwaukee’s competitors catch up with the red team’s growing lineup of exclusive brushless tools, and if so I will look forward to testing them for the 2016 edition of this roundup.
Do you have a favorite cordless circular saw that you would recommend? Questions?