TOP-10 Best Compact Circular Saws | 2019 Useful Buyer’s Guide From An Experienced Handyman

What is the best compact circular saw? You should choose a cordless model allowing you to work in confined spaces that are hard to access. Lightweight options are also a priority, don’t count this out, especially if you are going to work with the tool for a long period of time. And last but not least is how powerful and fast the device is. Namely, the product should deliver no less than 5,000 RPM, which stands for the number of turns per minute. We believe that Makita XSR01PT Cordless Circular Saw fits these criteria best.

Why have we chosen it? While being a professional-grade tool, it is portable and convenient to use. It comes with a BL Brushless motor that is controlled electronically and operates at 5,200 RPM, while the electric brake will increase your performance. The product is safe as it offers protection from overload, discharge, and overheating.

I recently talked a good bit about the basics of circular saws, and the dangers that lie in using them incorrectly, or in choosing a low-end brand for such a precision, dangerous set of tasks. I hinted that portability is worth its weight in gold, but didn’t really touch on my experience with portable circular saws, or their own unique criteria.

I’m going to remedy that today, and I’m also going to talk about the three best ones (at least as I see it), and what makes them stand out. First thing’s first, though. Let’s talk about how these work, what distinguishes them from the ones we talked about before, what cases where they’re a better choice, and so on.

Makita XSR01PT Brushless Cordless Circular Saw Kit

Картинки по запросу Makita XSR01PT Brushless Cordless Circular Saw Kit

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In our last piece on saws, I made a point (possibly in excess) to extoll the quality of Makita. And, like I said there, this is a brand that your average Joe probably hasn’t heard of. This is because they’re very high-end, and yes, very costly tools, used by professionals. You don’t see them on construction sites or in corner-cutting fabrication shops, but in the possession of true professionals who take a craft personally and live it as a philosophy.

Makita builds seriously durable, powerful tools with as much safety and precaution as can be accomplished without rendering something inoperable. This portable circular saw is no exception. It’s chunkier than the other two we’re going to look at and alas, while I have a Makita standard circular saw, my portable saw isn’t remotely this good. Perhaps someone out there who loves me can put one of these under the tree for me this Christmas.

This is actually pretty special, it’s an entire kit, with carrying bag, maintenance tools, dual-charging platform and two Makita-branded battery packs. Oh yes, this is the Cadillac of portable saws, and if you have the budget for it, and are a serious craftsman, this is the one you want.


  • Weight: 23.1 pounds (this is for everything, the saw is about seven pounds).
  • Power: Lithium-Ion battery providing 36v, 180 watts.
  • Measurements: Metric, as God intended.
  • Guide Plate: Compact, but it has one.
  • Blade Guard: Full blade guard.
  • Braking: Release brake, and dead-switch for locking.
  • Optional Cord: It can be corded through an interface, but I recommend not ever doing this, unless you want to make a truly cinematic electrical explosion. You don’t.
  • Batteries Included: Yes.


This isn’t as powerful as a standard saw, but it’s Makita. I mean, come on, you know it’s going to pack as much punching weight as a portable, cordless tool possibly could. I’d love to know how they got a compact 36v motor to pack this kind of power, but I suppose that’s a trade secret Makita is in no hurry to divulge.

However, while I adore this saw, I want this saw, I must say, it’s only barely portable. It’s chunky and heavy, and almost but not quite defeats the point of portable tools. I did say almost.

Pros and Cons


  • Powerful for its size.
  • Full kit.
  • Makita quality. Which is redundant, Makita IS quality.
  • Includes batteries.
  • Full safety suite.
  • Good braking, solid reverse.
  • Great blade compatibility.


  • Very expensive. More expensive than most standard saws. Makita doesn’t come cheap.
  • It’s kind of heavy and bulky, for a portable tool.
  • While I love the charging dock, the carrying bag looks like a gimmick, and looks a bit chintzy.
  • The capacitors on this thing must be serious, and those can be scary if they give out.


It may be a little more obtuse than the more light weight, streamlined options we’ll look at next, but it’s Makita, it’s powerful, it’s ideal for serious craftsmen.

Types of Compact Circular Saws: Corded Vs Cordless

A portable, compact circular saw is very helpful, but I have to say, they’re actually quite a bit more dangerous due to the situations where they’re used, and the lack of supporting form factor elements. I’ll be sharing some stories about that in a moment, but before I do, let’s take a look at how a portable circular saw operates, and what makes them portable, compared to standard models.

Some compact circular saws are corded, but on the whole, they’re usually cordless. This means that, you guessed it, they’re battery-powered in the same way cordless drills or other cordless power tools are. In fact, the battery packs for these are usually more or less identical to ones other cordless tools use.

These are lithium-ion battery packs, which is the same kind of battery system used by wireless peripherals and smart phones of modernity. A difference is that they do charge somewhat faster, and have a different kind of regulatory capacitor bank, as powering an electric motor against resistance requires a higher joule and amperage level than operating integrated circuits.

On the whole, these batteries are pretty standardized, and interchangeable, with a few exceptions. If you want additional, third-party battery packs, you should choose wisely, and perhaps one day I’ll get around to talking in more detail about power tool battery packs and charging stations. For now, though, that’s it for power.

The more obvious difference is in form factor. While they usually have a compact guide plate, they’re smaller saws, both in blade diameter and in overall design. Not being stationary, they’re seldom articulated for plunge action, because it’d be counterintuitive and a bit pointless.

They’re lighter-weight than corded, standard circular saws and, something of a disadvantage, they’re usually less powerful, and thus unfit for working on some tougher materials, or longer-duration tasks. Thus, they’re not a substitute for a standard circular saw on a big project, but rather an additive part of your tool set. This doesn’t mean they’re not worth their weight in gold, though.

Using Your Compact Circular Saw Safely: Rules, Tips & Experience

I talked last time about how curves and big pieces of material can be a menace to put on a sawhorse/work table, and use a standard circular saw on. I mentioned how I sliced my hip open trying that. This was entirely because my compact saw wasn’t charged, and I was impatient and foolish.

This leads me to sharing some experience with these, and in accenting some of the dangers of them.

My first real memory of dangers with these were when I ran an arcade – an occupation I had for nearly two decades, until the owner passed away and the assets were dissolved. I had a small team of maintenance people – usually less than six (some were part-timers), but I always had at least three maintenance people onsite during business hours. It was a big arcade, and the prize games and pinball machines – things with more physical components and fragile cabinetry, were always breaking because children are horrible creatures that can ruin something by looking in its direction.

I had a group at one point, whom had this … I have to bite my tongue not to use obscenities in describing it … foolish habit of tossing each other tools across the maintenance area. These weren’t small (but still damn dangerous) things like screwdrivers or the like, all the time. No, no less than twice, I caught them tossing each other a compact circular saw. One day, one of them sliced their hand open catching it, because guess what? That blade can still hurt you if it’s not spinning! Real news flash, right? I put a stop to it when one day, one of them asked me of all people to throw them a smaller tool. I charged up a 20v capacitor and tossed that. Not a lethal shock by any stretch, but about like getting hold of a household electric socket. They quickly stopped this habit after that.

However, I think the most extreme example more accents why cords can be a menace with something more precise like this. I once had a corded handheld circular saw – and yes, they do exist (they were far less rare at the time). I was building a custom pinball machine for a local pizza place back in LA, and I hit a soft spot in the wood where it kind of took off on me, and crossed its own cord. Usually, when a cord is cut, nothing exciting happens, the thing just quits working and maybe a breaker in the box kicks off (usually doesn’t).

Well this time, it was like a movie. Sparks flew as the cord shredded, smoke filled the room, the saw dust ignited, three breakers not only blew in my box, but burned out, and an aging transformer on a nearby pole detonated. Yeah, that was a thing that happened. That transformer was going to go the next time we had a storm or little tremor anyhow from the looks of it, but I hastened its demise. Cords are stupid, and soon, portable cordless tools won’t have the sacrifice of power they do now, meaning there will just be no reasons for things to have cords anymore. Transformers everywhere will rejoice, of that I have positively no doubt.

WORX WORXSAW Compact Circular Saw – WX429L –

Картинки по запросу WORX WORXSAW Compact Circular Saw – WX429L

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Okay, now we go from the obscurity of Makita due to its prestige and cost, to obscurity due to not being a widely-advertised, low-budget brand. That’s not to say that Worx products are bad – they’re not. But, they’re also not something you can say is a go-to for super heavy use.

That said, my portable is a Worx, though not this particular model. It has lasted considerably longer than Worx products notoriously are reported to, which … I don’t frankly know what to make of that. Is it my care of my tools, is it that Worx is better than the detractors say? I don’t know.

What I do know is that for occasional use, this isn’t a bad choice. I’ve built so many pinball tables and custom arcade cabinets using my Worx for detail cutting, and haven’t had an issue.

But I should warn you that they feel flimsy, even if they’re not. I’ll get more into that in a minute. I would classify this as an “average user’s tool”, and I have seen these on job sites, with what little time as I’ve spent on construction sites – I’m a fabricator, not a carpenter. For carpentry, this is fine.


  • Weight: 4.4lbs
  • Power: Lithium-Ion battery providing 120v.
  • Measurements: N/A.
  • Guide Plate: No, just a basic track bar.
  • Blade Guard: Partial blade guard. BE CAREFUL.
  • Braking: Standard trigger release and that’s about it.
  • Optional Cord: It can be corded but again, it’s a bad idea, unless you’re really working this thing beyond battery capacity, which probably itself isn’t a fantastic idea.
  • Batteries Included: No. Which is an absolute crime in this modern era.


This is a weak saw, don’t go trying to cut something like mahogany with it. Am I the only one that thinks mahogany is a ridiculous and made up sounding name? Anyhow, your first impression with this saw is going to be iffy. It won’t be the performance – it’s about what you expect from a compact saw like this.

No, it’s all going to be tactile impression, as it feels a bit … shall I say, creaky and squishy and flimsy. It’s honestly not, I’ve dropped mine off tables and off a roof once, and it didn’t damage it. But it doesn’t feel satisfying.

Pros and Cons


  • Very affordable.
  • More durable than you think.
  • Worx gets a bad rap – their tools are pretty solid for budget offerings.
  • It can be corded or battery-powered.


  • It feels kind of squishy and unsatisfying to use, though frankly, it’s just that the materials don’t try to feel like luxury tools. It works just fine, and you get used to it.
  • This thing isn’t a power house.
  • It’s dangerous – there’s only minimal braking and guard components on this saw. Probably don’t use this alone.


I’ve been realistic – this is a budget tool and you get what you pay for. But, for the shorter-intensity, detail work that I use mine for, it’s fine.

Rockwell RK3441K Compact Circular Saw with Accessory Kit –

Картинки по запросу Rockwell RK3441K Compact Circular Saw with Accessory Kit

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Now, you’re going to go “Oh yeah, I know Rockwell, they’re way better than Worx right?”. Well, yes and no. Rockwell is kind of the “not-generic” budget tool brand, but they do have some attention to detail that something like a plain Worx saw doesn’t offer.

In the case of the RK3441K (man it needs a better name), it has angular lock and swivel, which isn’t something I’ve needed with my project types, but I can totally see where it’d come in handy in a lot of other situations.

Now, let me clarify – you’re barely paying any more for Rockwell than Worx, and as a result, you inherit some of the same compromises. What’s nice with this one though, is it’s a complete kit, and it’s a good bit more powerful than the Worx offering.

However, a problem with more power for roughly the same budget, is that it’s straining the motor. It’s not likely to burn out on you on a whim, but you won’t want to overwork this saw, as the motor probably doesn’t like running super hot.

This one also seems to be cord only, which is a disappointment, as I’ve extolled the woes of that.


  • Weight: 5lbs
  • Power: Lithium-Ion battery providing 120v, 1500w.
  • Measurements: Metric thank goodness.
  • Guide Plate: No, just a basic track bar.
  • Blade Guard: Partial blade guard. BE CAREFUL.
  • Braking: Standard trigger release and that’s about it.
  • Optional Cord: Oh there’s a cord, and it’s not optional with this one. And it’s why I wouldn’t personally have this saw.
  • Batteries Included: No. It doesn’t even use them.


This isn’t weak, for what it is. It also lacks some of the flimsy feel of the Worx saw, but I have to say, that cord is just a deal breaker for me. I think my story from earlier should more than explain why, if other issues with it tipping things over and yanking out the socket don’t hammer that home.

Honestly, anything portable shouldn’t require a cord, especially in the 21st century. And this, despite its overall superior quality to Worx, is why it’s my final recommendation, and not the other way around.

Pros and Cons


  • Very affordable.
  • More durable than you think.
  • Pretty powerful for what it is, honestly.
  • Actually a lot of bang for your buck, when you actually examine it closely.
  • Has a pretty spiffy warranty.


  • Well, that cord, as I said, is a huge deal breaker for me. It defeats the point of portability in my opinion, and I’m justifiably wary of cords after that incident.
  • This saw runs hot, and I worry about the durability of it under heavy use.
  • It claims you can cut drywall, but that’ll dull carbide blades like paper does to a knife.


10 Best Compact Circular Saws Comparison Table


Everything about this makes me want to recommend it as a good budget handheld saw, but that cord just really kills that for me. But if you’re ok with a cord, this is probably the saw for you if the Makita isn’t.


Nancy Kladiven

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