7 best compact circular saws for the money: Buyer’s Guide

Best compact circular saws

In a hurry? We believe that Makita SH02R1 is the best compact circular saw for the money that you can get right now.

I spent years being unaware of how much labor and time the best mini circular saw features could save me. These power tools are meant to be easy to use and are often targeted towards DIY hobbyists and casual woodworkers. The problem, however, is that the market is flooded with products that promise you a lot of things that you simply cannot verify.

This buyer’s guide will take a closer look at the benefits and features of the best small circular saw designs. I will then review six of the best handheld circular saw models available so that you can make a side by side comparison. Finally, I will give you my selection from that list and explain why I feel that particular product stands out when compared to the rest.

The compact circular saws we will look at include:

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Top Pick
Makita SH02R1 12V Max CXT Lithium-Ion Cordless Circular Saw...
Premium Choice
DEWALT DCS571B Atomic 20V Max Brushless 4-1/2 in. Cordless...
Great Value
WORX WORXSAW 4-1/2" Compact Circular Saw – WX429L
Title
Makita SH02R1
DEWALT DCS571B
WORX WORXSAW WX429L
Max RPM
1,500
4,500
3,500
Blade size
3-3/8"
4-1/2"
4-1/2"
Warranty
3-year limited warranty on tool, battery and charger
3-yr limited, 1-yr free service, 90-day money back
Manufacturer’s 3-year warranty
Client rating
Prime
-
Top Pick
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Makita SH02R1 12V Max CXT Lithium-Ion Cordless Circular Saw...
Title
Makita SH02R1
Max RPM
1,500
Blade size
3-3/8"
Warranty
3-year limited warranty on tool, battery and charger
Client rating
Prime
Premium Choice
Thumbnail
DEWALT DCS571B Atomic 20V Max Brushless 4-1/2 in. Cordless...
Title
DEWALT DCS571B
Max RPM
4,500
Blade size
4-1/2"
Warranty
3-yr limited, 1-yr free service, 90-day money back
Client rating
Prime
-
Great Value
Thumbnail
WORX WORXSAW 4-1/2" Compact Circular Saw – WX429L
Title
WORX WORXSAW WX429L
Max RPM
3,500
Blade size
4-1/2"
Warranty
Manufacturer’s 3-year warranty
Client rating
Prime

Table of Contents

Choosing The Best Compact Circular Saw

These power tools use abrasive discs or circular blades to cut a variety of materials. Like other circular saw designs, power from the motor is transferred to the blade or disc that creates chips in the material as it rotates.

Standard size for circular saw blades is 7.25-inches, with general use models ranging from the 6.25-inch designs up to 8.25-inches on the upper general use range. The best mini circular saw designs are less than 6.25-inches and can offer you distinct advantages, or disadvantages, depending upon the task at hand.

Why buy a small circular saw?

My late grandfather used his standard 7.25-inch circular saw or his table saw for most cuts. He also taught me that finding the right tool for the job can save a craftsman both time and money.

I discovered the trim saw (another name for these compact power tools) while shopping at a local store. Curiosity got the better of me and the rest, as they say, is history! The absolute advantage this tool has is its size, which allows you to:

  • Use smaller diameter blades that require less power to cut effectively;
  • Operate a power tool with a smaller profile and less weight, giving you more control;
  • Work for longer periods of time without becoming fatigued;
  • Easily store the best small circular saw models as well as its accessories.

These features will appeal to casual woodworkers, homeowners who work on DIY improvement projects, and those just starting to work with power tools. Features like this will be less important to serious woodworkers or professionals, but it does not mean that these compact circular saws will not be found in their shops or on the job site.

The advantage of size can also present some disadvantages as well, such as:

  • A smaller motor and gear system delivers less power to the blade needed on some cuts
  • The smaller profile offers less contact on the surface, making long cuts more difficult
  • These devices are often not designed for heavy-duty use or continuous operation without bogging down or overheating
  • Smaller blades will limit the thickness of material that you can cut through.

The above-mentioned limitations will make these power tools less used in commercial manufacturing and construction settings. They can be found in the tool kits of professionals who need a specialty cutter, however, as they are quicker then most hand-powered tools while being almost as mobile.

Good first choice for beginners?

If you are just starting out with woodworking, a smaller circular saw might appeal to you. The best compact circular saw models will provide you with features that are found on standard designs. A smaller power tool can be easier to control and will not wear you down easily.

You will need to keep in mind the projects you plan on building. If you are going to work on wood paneling and construction timbers with a two-inch thickness (think 2 x 4 or 2 x 8), a small circular saw should work fine. Large projects with thicker lumber may not be ideal for these saws, forcing you to consider a more standard circular saw size.

Finally, think about safety. The larger blades on standard saws may intimidate you, and they can be dangerous.

Smaller blades might provide you with more confidence, but you don’t want to be cavalier and become careless as compact blades can still cause serious injuries. These tools can be operated with one hand, which can present more danger than a larger saw that requires two-handed operation.

Using mini Circular Saws

These compact saws are great for making clean and straight crosscuts or rip cuts. You can cut through a variety of materials, based on the type of disc or blade that you install in your power tool.

There are many tricks that can make operating any hand-held circular saw, including compact models, easier. Some things you should keep in mind:

  • Blade settings – Set your blade depth before you cut and make sure it is not too deep;
  • Supporting material – Provide proper support as you cut, but allow the cutoff to fall freely;
  • Use a guide – Your hand can help along an edge, or you can clamp a guide for the saw to follow.
  • Start over – These tools cut straight, so start over if your cut line wanders off the mark;

Things to consider

Maximum RPMs

The trim saw is designed to provide clean cuts on the edges of your wood. They can do this consistently thanks to the thinner blades used with them. A thinner blade offers less resistance when making contact with the wood, allowing the blade to spin faster.

Keeping all of this in mind, you should look at a potential product's listed RPMs. Keep in mind that some manufacturers will list a top number that is produced under load, while others will advertise the max RPMs while cutting. More RPMs is one of the indicators you can use to determine a small circular saw's power.

Maximum cutting depth

Another critical bit of information will be the max cutting depth the saw is capable of. You want to shop for a saw capable of cutting through material widths that you normally work with.

Also, if the saw can be adjusted to an angle, you can make a bevel cut with it. A small circular saw will not cut as deeply when angled for a bevel cut as it would when cutting at 90-degrees.

Ergonomics

This is worth looking at, even with a compact circular saw that you can operate with one hand. It might be even more critical due to the strain that a single hand and wrist encounters when the saw is on. Look for a handle that allows you to have a normal grasping hand position while cutting, and offers a solid grip that will help prevent slipping.

Materials that aid with negating vibration is important if you will be making many cuts over a long period of time with your mini circular saw.

Cutting precision

Your focus here should be on design elements that keep the blade from slipping or falling out of alignment as it spins. Also, added visual aids like laser guides or LED lights can help you to stay on your mark as the saw cuts. Remember that thinner blades can cut more precisely, and they should also be considered at this stage of research.

Dust collection

You know how quickly dust builds up if you have ever used a circular blade before. This can be a real hassle with a more compact saw with less space around the blade and housing. Look for features that the manufacturer added on top of a standard hose connection as this may allow one saw to stand out over similar designs.

Build materials

It should be obvious, but you would be surprised how often this is looked over. Any materials used that stand out will be highlighted by the manufacturer. It may cost you a bit more money and could add some weight to the saw, but strong materials used in the build will extend the life of your compact circular saw.

Best Small Circular Saw Reviews

Makita SH02R1 Cordless Circular Saw Kit

Makita SH02R1 12V Max CXT Lithium-Ion Cordless Circular Saw...
  • Makita-built motor delivers 1,500 RPM for faster cutting
  • 3-3/8" blade delivers a maximum cutting depth of 1" for a wide range of cutting applications
  • Adjustable cutting depth from 1" at 90Degree and 5/8" at 45Degree

OVERVIEW

Makita offers a complete kit with your purchase, including multiple batteries. It comes with a protective case that can store the saw, batteries, as well as the charger. That makes it convenient to haul around and also gives much-needed protection in the shop or back of your work vehicle.

Pros

  • The smaller motor and battery power help to keep the price point lower on this cordless model. That price is more impressive considering that it comes with two batteries in the box;
  • This product can be adjusted to make a bevel cut up to 45-degrees This feature is lacking in other models of this size and makes it more versatile;
  • You can feel a nice balance between the battery weight on one side of the handle and the saw housing on the other. This small design element helps to prevent fatigue as you work throughout the day making repeated cuts.

Cons

  • While it uses a 3 3/8-inch blade, the 12 volt batteries seem a bit under whelming. An upgrade in voltage would improve performance greatly here;
  • It might be able to adjust for 45-degree bevel cuts, but the maximum cut depth is limited to 5/8-inch.

DEWALT DCS571B Atomic Brushless Cordless Saw

Sale
DEWALT DCS571B Atomic 20V Max Brushless 4-1/2 in. Cordless...
  • Brushless motor allows you to cut up to 339 linear feet of 3/4 in. Osb using DCB205 battery (sold separately)
  • Removable auxiliary handle for increased control
  • Hang hook for increased convenience

OVERVIEW

DeWALT is a known brand name in power tools, and this cordless circular saw represents the company’s foray into the compact circular saw market. They are known for great customer support that ranges from excellent documentation to service shops across North America. The extended warranty offered on this model is one of the better coverage plans on the market.

Pros

  • This product uses DeWALT's20-volt max battery system. It provides you with a lot of power for extended periods of time and you can swap batteries with other DeWALT products using the same system;
  • A brushless motor design makes it run more efficiently. It will also help to extend the life of the motor with fewer parts that could break down;
  • It includes handles with ergonomic grips. These will allow you to use both hands comfortably.

Cons

  • This product does not come with a battery included with your purchase. That means you will need to make an extra investment for a battery and charger on top of the cordless circular saw itself;
  • This product comes at a higher price point than most of the other products reviewed here. That is worth noting as the price does not include a battery or charger with purchase.

WORX WORXSAW WX429L

Sale
WORX WORXSAW 4-1/2" Compact Circular Saw – WX429L
  • Cut 2x4's in a single pass with an easily maneuverable compact saw that weighs 50% less than a traditional 7-1/4" circular saw
  • Thin blade makes for less tool strain, resulting in full size circular saw cutting speed and performance.Blade Size 4.5 inches. No-Load Speed 3500/rpm
  • Easy-set depth gauge lever and 0-45-degree bevel settings for quick adjustments. The WORXSAW is substantial enough to cut through nominal 2 inch lumber, yet light enough for the DIY'er to easily and...

OVERVIEW

This compact circular saw from WORX will be great for beginners who have a small budget. Its 4.5-inch blade will rip and crosscut softwoods without bogging down. I had to add this compact circular saw to our list just due to the sheer volume of positive reviews it has on Amazon.

Pros

  • Its small profile and weight makes it an ideal choice for DIY jobs in tight spaces and awkward positions
  • Very low price tag compared to other tools on this list. This tool provides excellent value for money
  • Easy to carry around and use with one hand

Cons

  • Low price tag means that the tool was built using lower-quality materials. This tool may not be the best choice for demanding professionals
  • It just isn't that powerful

Rockwell RK3441K

Sale
Rockwell RK3441K 4-1/2” Compact Circular Saw, 5 amps, 3500...
  • Compact but powerful 5-amp electric motor, matching performance of full-size saws at 3,500 rpm
  • At only 5 lbs., is 50% lighter than conventional 7-1/4” circular saws, cuts through 2x4s in a single pass
  • Left-handed blade design provides remarkable cut-line visibility

OVERVIEW

Rockwell has designed a compact product that is lightweight, coming in at about five pounds. That is a consideration that will be noticed if you use this saw over an extended period of time as you should not feel as fatigued as you would with a standard 7.25-inch circular saw.

Pros

  • A max cutting depth at 90-degrees of 1 11/16-inches. That should allow you to cut through a 2 x 4 in one pass with the saw;
  • A five amp motor will generate a good amount of power for a 4.5-inch blade. This will allow you to cut through most wood with less bogging down than a smaller motor would;
  • The three-year limited warranty offered by Rockwell provides great coverage. The length of time covered should boost consumer confidence in the product.

Cons

  • The model reviewed here is just the saw itself. You can shop for a blade at the same time you purchase this compact circular saw, but it would be more convenient if a blade was included with the initial purchase;
  • Rockwell does not have the same distribution network as other manufacturers do. That should not affect customer service but it can take longer to get parts or to fix issues that can develop with use.

TACKLIFE TCS115A

Sale
TACKLIFE Circular Saw with Metal Handle, 6 Blades(4-3/4" &...
  • ➤METAL HANDLE & LASER DESIGN: Comes with a unique metal handle, which helps to reduce fatigue for one-hand working, offering stronger clamping force to make the cutting more stable. Easy and quick...
  • ➤POWERFUL MOTOR & 6 BLADES: Features a 5. 8 Amps copper motor to deliver full-size performance at 3, 500 rpm, making cut wood, plastics, plaster board, PVC pipe, tile with ease. 6 Blades: 2x24T...
  • ➤FLEXIBLE 90° & 45° BEVEL CUTTING: Easy-set depth scaled gauge lever allows the cutting depth up to 1-11/16 inches(42. 9mm) at 90°; The bevel capacity at 45° is 1-3/8 inches (34. 9mm), you can...

OVERVIEW

A stand out feature on this mini circular saw is the handle design, which TACKLIFE has obviously spent considerable effort in making. While it may feel a bit large for those with small hands, this contact point is shaped to provide users with a natural hold. It also has elements that provide a solid grip a well as cushioning.

Pros

  • It can accept blades of 4.5-inch or 4.75-inches. This provides greater cutting depth, including bevel cuts, than smaller blades will produce;
  • A laser light is installed on the top of the body to help with alignment. It is placed in an area that should not be blocked by the operator or dust created during the cut;
  • This small circular saw is sold with six blades. That will allow you to cut tile, soft metals, or wood straight out of the box.

Cons

  • A point of concern here will be the plastic levers, which seem less sturdy than the rest of the build. The levers will probably wear out sooner than other components, and could break if accidentally dropped;
  • It comes with a metal handle that you can attach for two-handed use. A problem here is that the connection point has a split in it that weakens the overall structure and could present issues over time.

Rockwell RK3440K Versacut Ultra-Compact Saw

Rockwell RK3440K Versacut 4.0 Amp Ultra-Compact Circular Saw...
  • Powerful, 4.0 amp, multi-functional, ultra-compact circular saw
  • Cuts wide variety of materials such as tile, wood, sheet metal, plastics, flooring, and more. No-Load Speed- 3,500 rpm
  • Ergonomic design with slim grip handle improves comfort and enhances grip and control – guide with just one hand!

OVERVIEW

This second entry from Rockwell makes the list for its ultra-compact design. This product weighs only four pounds and has a profile small enough to fit into tight spaces or to be used easily overhead. Those features make it a good choice for DIY projects or construction areas that are awkward to access with larger circular saws.

Pros

  • It uses a simple design for the depth adjustment. This can be a handy feature when working with materials of different widths and helps to keep your workflow consistent;
  • Added safety features on this model include a lock-off switch. This helps to negate accidental start-ups that could cause serious injuries or damage to your project surface;
  • While it lacks a bevel cutting ability, the model accommodates thin blades. That should help to create more precision in your cuts through wood and other materials.

Cons

  • A two-year warranty stands out as shorter than what Rockwell offers on the other saw listed above. That could indicate that the product is not designed to last as long;
  • This compact circular saw has a maximum cut depth of 1 1/16-inches. This will not cut through a 2 x 4 with one pass and will limit its potential with some wood projects.

HYCHIKA MS-85C Mini Circular Saw

Mini Circular Saw, HYCHIKA Compact Circular Saw Tile Saw...
  • 【DURABLE AND POWERFUL MOTOR】: Featured with a 4 Amps copper motor, the compact circular saw can reach a high cutting speed of 4500RPM to cut tile, wood, plastics, plaster board, PVC with ease....
  • 【3 BLADES AND COMPACT】: Comes with 1x30T HW for wood cuts/ 1x36T HS for metal cuts/ 1pcs grit diamond blade for tile cuts, small size and weight also make it a good addition to your toolkit, great...
  • 【PRECISE AND ADJUSTABLE CUTTING DEPTH】: With the laser guide, the mini circular saw keeps the cutting on a straight line. Also the parallel guide attachment allows you to make a precise and quick...

OVERVIEW

This compact design by HYCHIKA is an option that is budget-friendly. It is limited in depth of cut due to the 3 3/8-inch blade, but it can generate up 4,500 RPMs with its motor. If you are looking for an entry-level saw to work on panels or lumber that is an inch or less in thickness, this power tool might be a good choice.

Pros

  • You will pay less for this item than you will for others on the list here. That can be important if you are limited in the funds you have available for a power tool;
  • It has a four amp electric motor that uses a lot of copper throughout its design. This consideration will help to keep it running cooler and prevent overheating with longer sessions;
  • Your purchase will include a parallel guide that attaches to the saw. This item will improve the quality of your cut and help with your workflow.

Cons

  • The dust port attachment point is located too close to the base. This could cause problems with the hose getting in the way as you work;
  • You will notice the cheaper materials used to keep the price point low on this model. That keeps the product low cost but it also means that it can wear out quicker than it would with stronger build materials.

Less Footprint And More Cut

All six products reviewed above are capable of making clean cuts, and they present features that will match up to most woodworker’s needs. With that being said, I do prefer the Makita SH02R1 Cordless Circular Saw Kit and feel it represents the best mini circular saw reviewed here.

To start off with, it is a cordless design. Most users looking at compact circular saws are looking at portability and ease of use in tight places. Battery-powered models offer you that, and this saw has a sleek profile that will not get in the way.

A 3 3/8-inch blade might sound too small, but the projects most beginning and intermediate woodworkers are working on will use paneling or lumber that is an inch or less in thickness.

It can make bevel cuts, something that ultra-compact models are not always designed to do. There is a nice balance to the saw, an added bonus to a cordless model that installs the battery in the handle base.

Finally, you get a three-year limited warranty on a cordless product with a friendly price point. These benefits, when taken together, make this a compact circular saw that should meet your basic woodworking needs!

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