Seven Best Compact Routers in 2020: Review & Buying Guide

Best compact router

Are you in a hurry and simply want to know what is the best small router right now? Makita RT0701C is your best choice. Read on to find out why.

While bulkier routers may provide the power and precision that is the hallmark of a routing tool, they are more cumbersome and take more time to set up and use. That is why I’ve put together a list of the 7 best compact routers, highlighting what each one does best, as well as provide a helpful buyer’s guide.

Top Pick
Makita RT0701CX3 1-1/4 HP Compact Router Kit (Renewed)
DEWALT Router, Fixed Base, Variable Speed, 1-1/4-HP Max...
Bosch GKF125CEN - Palm Router + Palm Router Edge Guide
PORTER-CABLE Router, Compact, 1.25 HP (450)
M18 FUEL Compact Router (Bare Tool) 2723-20
Title
Makita RT0701CX3 1-1/4 HP Compact Router Kit (Renewed)
DEWALT Router, Fixed Base, Variable Speed, 1-1/4-HP Max...
Bosch GKF125CEN - Palm Router + Palm Router Edge Guide
PORTER-CABLE Router, Compact, 1.25 HP (450)
M18 FUEL Compact Router (Bare Tool) 2723-20
Motor
1-1/4 HP
1-1/4 HP
1-1/4 HP
1-1/4 HP
1-1/4 HP
Cordless?
RPM Range
10,000-30,000 RPM
16,000-27,000 RPM
16,000-35,000 RPM
27,000 RPM
10,000-31,000 RPM
Prime
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# of Reviews
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Client Rating
Top Pick
Makita RT0701CX3 1-1/4 HP Compact Router Kit (Renewed)
Title
Makita RT0701CX3 1-1/4 HP Compact Router Kit (Renewed)
Motor
1-1/4 HP
Cordless?
RPM Range
10,000-30,000 RPM
Prime
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# of Reviews
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Client Rating
Learn More
DEWALT Router, Fixed Base, Variable Speed, 1-1/4-HP Max...
Title
DEWALT Router, Fixed Base, Variable Speed, 1-1/4-HP Max...
Motor
1-1/4 HP
Cordless?
RPM Range
16,000-27,000 RPM
Prime
# of Reviews
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Client Rating
Learn More
Bosch GKF125CEN - Palm Router + Palm Router Edge Guide
Title
Bosch GKF125CEN - Palm Router + Palm Router Edge Guide
Motor
1-1/4 HP
Cordless?
RPM Range
16,000-35,000 RPM
Prime
# of Reviews
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Client Rating
Learn More
PORTER-CABLE Router, Compact, 1.25 HP (450)
Title
PORTER-CABLE Router, Compact, 1.25 HP (450)
Motor
1-1/4 HP
Cordless?
RPM Range
27,000 RPM
Prime
# of Reviews
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Client Rating
Learn More
M18 FUEL Compact Router (Bare Tool) 2723-20
Title
M18 FUEL Compact Router (Bare Tool) 2723-20
Motor
1-1/4 HP
Cordless?
RPM Range
10,000-31,000 RPM
Prime
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# of Reviews
-
Client Rating
Learn More

Compact Router Buying Guide

This buying guide will explain what features you should look for in a handheld woodworking router to help you make an informed decision.

Type

  • Corded – This is the more common type of palm router as the direct power connection ensures consistent power delivery to the motor. This is especially important for this class of power tool as its small size and priority on precision requires a steady stream of power to maintain proper functioning.
  • Cordless – This is a far less common type of trim router as few companies can manage to maintain a high enough battery power supply to prevent the motor from bogging down. That said, companies that manage to get the power balance right provide one of the most versatile and maneuverable mini routers available.

Power

While this is one of the more important factors regardless of the power tool, small routers do not necessarily need to be the most powerful. Most compact routers hover around the same general motor power of 1 ¼ to 1 ½ hp– but this can oversimplify things.

More important than the general “power” of a palm router is its torque as this ultimately determines how well it performs under load. In this context, you should consider the amps that the motor draws as this helps provide a fuller idea of how powerful a compact router is under load than the horsepower alone.

Speed

The speed of a palm router refers to how quickly the motor spins the cutting/grinding bit and is given in rotations per minute or RPMs. It may seem like the speed of a small woodworking router is one of the most important factors, but it largely depends on what types of projects you use the router for.

More accurately, the speed of a compact router will influence how well it performs when cutting different types of wood or materials. This is why variable speed compact routers are generally seen as better performing than fixed-speed models, though it may not matter if you always use the same materials.

Depth

This can be one of the more important aspects of choosing the best small router but will often hinge more on how advanced of a woodworker you are. If you intend to use your compact router exclusively for traditional trim projects, then the plunge depth of the router likely will not come into play in terms of maximum range.

Of course, if you need to cut out inlays or make certain types of joints, the compact router’s plunge depth range becomes far more important. Keep in mind, most of those tasks can be accomplished with different tools and techniques, but they are some of the most attractive reasons to use a compact router for experienced woodworkers.

Adjustment

Due to the nature of compact routers (and routers in general), the precision of the router is arguably as important as the power or speed of the tool. Considering that woodworkers generally use mini routers, in particular, for projects that use delicate workpieces and require smaller cuts with smoother finishes.

There are a couple of things to consider with a router’s adjustments with the first being how firm they are as an adjustment system that shifts is worthless. Beyond the stability of an adjustment system, the precision it can achieve is also important with those accurate down to 1/64” being some of the best.

Compact Router Review: The 7 Best Models


Makita RT0701C Compact Router

Sale
Makita RT0701CX3 1-1/4 HP Compact Router Kit (Renewed)
  • Variable speed control dial (10,000 - 30,000 RPM) to match the speed to the application
  • Smooth rack-and-pinion fine depth adjustment system for more precise settings. AMPS : 6.5
  • Slim and ergonomically designed body for increased comfort and control

OVERVIEW

Makita is well-known as a power tool brand that leans in on the power aspect due to its high-quality motors, but the Makita RT0701C compact router skirts the line a bit. While it is more than powerful enough at 1 ¼ hp and pushing 6 ½ amps, it is not the most powerful model reviewed here.

That said, it seems as if Makita understands the importance of precision with small routers as this model is exceptionally precise. For starters, this is one of the few compact routers on our list that uses a rack and pinion system which may not be the easiest or most convenient but tends to be more stable.

On top of that, you should not have any difficulty routing a wide range of materials with the Makita RT0701C palm router thanks to its broad speed settings ranging from 10000 to 30000 rpms. What is even more unexpected is that this is an inexpensive compact router, though it comes with a major flaw.

Specifically, the Makita RT0701C compact router is one of the few models on our list where the collet chuck is not as secure which can lead to a host of issues. Granted, this is not a ubiquitous issue, and this compact router also comes with a double-insulated aluminum housing while only weighing 4 lbs.

Pros

  • Has a 1 ¼ hp motor
  • Has a broad speed range
  • Is more precise
  • Is less expensive

Cons

  • Unstable depth lock
  • Not the most convenient

DEWALT DWP611 Compact Router

Sale
DEWALT Router, Fixed Base, Variable Speed, 1-1/4-HP Max...
  • Imported from: Mexico
  • POWER TOOLS
  • Commercial Brand: DEWALT

OVERVIEW

DEWALT was once known as a high-end professional power tool brand but has had to reclaim its reputation following its acquisition by Black and Decker. That said, the DEWALT DWP611 compact router is another step in that direction as it does not present any major flaws.

Arguably the only performance issue with this compact router is that its speed range of 16000 to 27000 RPMs is a bit narrow but still good enough for the most common materials. It also does not hurt that while its horsepower may be average at 1 ¼ hp, it can generate more torque than most pushing 7 amps.

As if that were not enough, the DEWALT DWP611 compact router can handle a wider range of tasks than many of its competitors’ thanks to a 1/64” minimum adjustment. Unfortunately, you may have to fight a little bit to get that kind of precision as this compact router is not the easiest to use.

Still, when you combine its adjustment range with a maximum plunge depth of 1 ½”, you get one of the more robust compact routers available out there. The DEWALT DWP611 compact router also comes with dual LEDs to illuminate the cut and an aluminum housing to provide some additional durability.

Pros

  • Has a 1 ¼ hp motor
  • Can make a 1 ½” plunge
  • Can make 1/64” adjustment
  • Has LED light

Cons

  • Not the easiest to use
  • Not the broadest speed range

Bosch GKF125CEN Palm Router

Bosch GKF125CEN - Palm Router + Palm Router Edge Guide
  • EASE OF USE: Revolutionary new depth adjustment system for easy and precise depth adjustment
  • POWER: Featuring a 1.25-HP, 7.0 Amp motor for compact versatility with 16,000-35,000 RPM
  • Straight edge guide designed for palm routers – mounts to Bosch GKF125CE, PR10E and PR20EVS palm routers’ PR001 and the PR101 fixed bases using the included mounting hardware

OVERVIEW

Bosch has long been considered one of the best professional tool brands on the market noted primarily for its precision– often at the expense of top-tier power. Thankfully, the Bosch GKF125CEN palm router covers both ends of the spectrums and presents one of the better-performing options on our list.

In terms of its raw power, the 1 ¼ hp motor is nothing special, but the fact that it can push 7 amps means it offers more torque than many of its competitors. On top of that, this compact router can cut and shape a wide range of different materials thanks to a speed range of 16000 to 35000 RPMs.

While not the most impressive on our list, the Bosch GKF125CEN Palm Router also boasts a solid maximum plunge depth of 1 3/16”. One of the odder aspects of the compact router is that it seems to be one of the least durable on our list– something that is extremely uncommon for Bosch power tools.

What makes this quality even more perplexing is that the Bosch GKF125CEN Palm Router comes with both soft-start and constant response circuitry to prevent these issues. To make matters worse, the wrench provided to change the routing bits is a bit smaller than the spindle-lock’s chuck.

Pros

  • Has a 1 ¼ hp motor
  • Has a broad speed range
  • Is very precise
  • Has LED light

Cons

  • Not the most durable
  • Not the right wrench

Milwaukee M18 FUEL 2723-20 Compact Router

M18 FUEL Compact Router (Bare Tool) 2723-20
  • POWERSTATE Brushless Motor: Power of corded compact routers and higher SPM to complete cuts in hard woods
  • REDLINK PLUS Intelligence ensures maximum performance and protects from overloads, heating and over-discharge
  • Variable speed dial ranges between 10,000 and 31,000 rpm, providing precise control for clean edges and details

OVERVIEW

Milwaukee finishes the list of big-name professional-grade power tool brands for our list and does so with a bang. For starters, this is the only cordless model included in this compact router review, but that is mostly because it is one of the few cordless tools in its class that performed well enough to be included.

While cordless motors are a bit different than corded ones, the 18-volt battery of the Milwaukee M18 FUEL 2723-20 compact router still pushes 900 watts and helps generate 1 ¼ hp or power. As if that were not enough, this compact router also boasts an impressive speed range of 10000 to 31000 rpm.

Keeping in line with excellent performance, the Milwaukee M18 FUEL 2723-20 compact router also offers some of the best adjustments you can find, including 1/64” steps. Of course, this compact router only continues to take the top spots in specs with the largest plunge depth at 2”.

Even the overall build of the Milwaukee M18 FUEL 2723-20 compact router is one of the best as this is also the only model on our list that uses a brushless motor. The only serious downside of this router is that the battery pack makes it heavier than most and all of its great quality comes at a high cost.

Pros

  • Is a cordless router
  • Has a 1 ¼ hp motor
  • Has a broad speed range
  • Has a brushless motor

Cons

  • Is more expensive
  • Is a heavier router
  • Battery is not included

Goplus Wood Router Tool Combo Kit

Goplus Wood Router Tool Combo Kit, 1.25HP Compact Router Kit...
  • 【Strong Power & Variable Speed Control】6.5-Amp motor features max horsepower of 1.25. 710W powerful compact router provides reliable power to meet various applications. Besides, 6 variable speed...
  • 【Fixed Base & Plunge Base】Round base is the most basic base for cutting, trimming and grooving wood. It cuts smoothly and quickly through simple operation. Plunge base can adjust the processing...
  • 【Easy Operation】No tools are required for the removal and installation of the motor. Just insert router into base and lock the trigger to get ready. Attached dust cover can combine with vacuum...

OVERVIEW

Goplus may be a Chinese company that does not specialize in power tools, but it still offers a decent value given its competition. It is also worth noting that the Goplus compact router is an inexpensive model that manages to avoid some of the design pitfalls found on more expensive options from more reputable brands.

While the power of this compact router is nothing to brag about neither does it disappoint with a 1 ¼ hp motor that pushes 6 ½ amps. Even better, that motor is more than powerful enough to drive the Goplus compact router to cut shape all kinds of materials with a speed range of 10000 to 32000 RPMs.

One of the more unusual aspects of this compact router is its base cover that includes a vac port– something that you will not see on most of the higher-end competition. On top of that, the Goplus compact router also provides an easily accessible point to replace the motor’s carbon brushes.

To provide even more value, this compact router comes with a complete kit that features 2 different bases, including a solid plunge base– though the maximum plunge depth is not provided. It is worth noting that the Goplus compact router is not compatible with most bushings which will limit its versatility.

Pros

  • Has a 1 ¼ hp motor
  • Has a broad speed range
  • Comes with a kit
  • Is less expensive

Cons

  • Cannot accept bushings
  • Is a heavier router

Ridgid R2401 Laminate Trim Router

Ridgid R2401 Laminate Trim Router
  • Round and Square Bases - for added versatility and convenience
  • Easy Access Micro Adjust Dial – for precise depth control
  • Flat Top – router sits upside down for easier bit changes

OVERVIEW

Ridgid may not be one of the professional-grade power tool brands, but it is still a solid consumer-grade option– though it may be a tad expensive for its market. That said, this is still a reasonable trim router that performs well where some of the more reputable brands fail.

It is also worth noting that the Ridgid R2401 Laminate Trim Router comes with a complete kit that further increases its overall value, including multiple bases. However, this still does not overlook the fact that it is not as powerful as some, pushing only 5 amps despite a motor that generates 1 ½ hp.

To compound its somewhat disappointing power, this compact router also has one of the most narrow speed ranges with a minimum speed of 20000 RPMs– though the maximum speed is solid at 30000 RPMs. On the other hand, the less powerful motor is also lightweight, making this one of the lighter compact routers on our list at only 3 ⅘ lbs.

It is also worth noting that though the motor may not offer the best torque, its high horsepower output is part of what makes it more durable than some of the more powerful competition. To make the Ridgid R2401 compact router more user-friendly, it also comes with an LED light.

Pros

  • Has a 1 ½ hp motor
  • Comes with 2 bases
  • Is a lightweight router
  • Has LED light

Cons

  • Not the broadest speed range
  • Not the most powerful

PORTER-CABLE 450 Compact Router

PORTER-CABLE Router, Compact, 1.25 HP (450)
  • Ergonomically designed to allow for comfortable and assured, single handed control
  • Durable 1.25HP motor delivers the power to meet the toughest applications, Fixed speed, 27,000 rpm
  • Soft-starting motor features full-time electronic feedback that maintains motor speed through the cut

OVERVIEW

PORTER-CABLE is an interesting company in that its tools tend to perform as well or better than professional-grade models, but it often lacks some of the high-end extra features. This is especially notable with the PORTER-CABLE 450 compact router which is the only fixed-speed router I’ve decided to include in this small router review.

The fixed-speed design means that this compact router does not provide the same kind of cutting versatility as some of its competition. On the other hand, it is still more than powerful enough for its suited tasks with a 1 ¼ hp motor that pushes an impressive 7 amps for more torque.

As if that were not enough, the PORTER-CABLE 450 compact router also boasts an impressive adjustment system that is precise down to 1/64”. Even better, this compact router also offers a maximum plunge depth of 1 ½” which is on par with some of the best performing models reviewed here.

In terms of its general build, the PORTER-CABLE 450 compact router keeps in line with the brand’s high-quality thanks to soft-start circuitry and an aluminum housing. Outside of the fixed-speed, the only real problem with this compact router is its weight which comes in at a hefty 5 ⅖ lbs.

Pros

  • Has a 1 ¼ hp motor
  • Can make 1/64” adjustments
  • Can make a 1 ½” plunge
  • Is more durable

Cons

  • Has a fixed speed
  • Is a heavier router

Which compact router is the best?

As we can see, the best compact router will depend as much on what kind of projects you plan to use it for as much as the specs of the router itself. Still, it is a good idea to make sure that the router is powerful enough for the tasks you have in mind while also providing enough precision to effectively accomplish them.

While it is an expensive option, the Milwaukee M18 FUEL 2723-20 Compact Router is a cordless option with plenty of power and an excellent build. On the other hand, if you are looking for an inexpensive option, the Makita RT0701C Compact Router comes with solid specs without serious downsides.

As part of the company’s resurgence, the DEWALT DWP611 Router is powerful while also offering some of the better adjustments. That said, if precision is the most important quality for your work, then the Bosch GKF125CEN Palm Router is a great solution– assuming you do not overwork it.

The PORTER-CABLE 450 Compact Router is one of the more reliable models on our list with plenty of power and precision, but it is a fixed-speed router. For anyone who has issues working with power tools for extended periods, the Ridgid R2401 Laminate Trim Router is lightweight and easy to use.

None of these routers look like a good fit for you? Check out the review of the best woodworking routers and see if you can find a better router for your needs. Also, take a look at the review of the best router tables in case you need one for your workshop.

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