A table saw is an absolute must for a contractor, carpenter, or anyone who is serious about DIY work around the house. A good table saw allows you to cut and rip wood in straight lines with ease. If you’re in the market for a new saw, you’ve come to the right place. For someone who is just dipping their toes into the table saw marketplace, all of the different types of saws can be incredibly confusing. Which one you choose will depend on your skill level, your budget, and your needs. Without any further ado, let’s get right into the comparisons.
Table of Contents
The Four Main Types
Essentially, there are four basic types of saws: benchtop, cabinet, contractor, and hybrid. Each one has benefits and drawbacks.
If you keep scrolling, you’ll find a more in-depth analysis of each type of table saw and a comparison to other types. You should keep this quick overview in mind as you read on, though.
A benchtop table saw is also known as a jobsite table saw because it is portable and thus, can be moved to a jobsite. It is the most affordable and most lightweight saw; you should be able to lift it and move it without any help. Since it is lightweight, it is also the least capable saw. It’s great for DIY work but not the best for serious hobbyists or professionals.
A cabinet table saw is the heaviest and sturdiest type of saw. It’s typically made of metal with all of the workings housed in a cabinet. That can make it up to ten times heavier than a benchtop saw. Therefore, you won’t be able to move it around easily. Cabinet saws are designed for factories and professional workshops. However, some serious hobbyists also opt for a cabinet table saw because of the quality of the tool.
A contractor saw is something like the middle ground between a benchtop saw and a cabinet saw. The saw itself is more robust and powerful than a benchtop saw. Also, it comes on its own stand, so you don’t need a table. However, it is not as heavy as a cabinet saw. Many people choose a contractor saw when they start to become more serious about DIY projects.
A hybrid saw has features from a contractor saw and a cabinet saw. If you can’t decide between the two different types, this could be the way to go.
Related: The Four Basic Types of Table Saw
Cabinet Table Saw vs Contractor Table Saw
If you’ve decided to get serious about your DIY projects or if you are a professional, you’re going to need a robust table saw. It will provide precise, powerful cuts whenever you need. When it comes to joining pieces of lumber and building reliable structures, you need precise cuts. Even a quarter of an inch of imperfection can lead to problems. Therefore, you’re going to need either a contractor table saw or a cabinet table saw. Choosing between the two is sometimes difficult.
PORTABILITY: When it comes to the contractor saw and the cabinet saw, the clear winner for portability is the contractor saw. A contractor saw is a robust saw that is built on its own stand. Many models have wheels that can be attached to the legs so that they can be rolled to your jobsite. They’re light enough that you can roll them onto the bed of your truck and take them where you need to go. However, that portability comes at the expense of some durability. A cabinet saw is going to be much heavier and more stable. For example, cabinet saws can weigh over 600 pounds. That means they won’t be easily moved, but they also won’t move if you bump them while you’re working.
Winner: Contractor Saw
USEFUL FEATURES: The extra weight involved with cabinet models comes with advantages beyond just durability. All of that extra material means that you can opt for various features to make your projects more successful. Many cabinet saws feature a belt drive system instead of a direct drive; they motor turns the cutting wheel in the same fashion as a motorcycle engine turns a motorcycle wheel. Since they are belt driven, they have reduced noise over some smaller models. Also, the stability of the belt reduces any wobble or shake in the blade. Furthermore, the size of the cabinet allows you to collect any sawdust that develops through the course of the work. That creates easy clean-up. These features are some of the things reviewers look for when ranking the best table saws.
Cabinet models also tend to feature storage space in the cabinet, easy access to the motor for repairs, and enough space to use the saw as a workbench.
Winner: Cabinet Saw
PRICE: Sadly, so many tool choices come down to the simple economics. If you’re looking for the more affordable option, that will be the jobsite/contractor saw. If you’re looking for the most premium option available, that will be a cabinet saw. However, the price is not simply what you pay when you buy it. There are also maintenance costs. That can even the playing field somewhat.
A contractor saw will typically cost you less money to repair.You might need new arbours or trunnions after a while if the blade starts to wobble, but that shouldn’t be too expensive. A cabinet saw, on the other hand, has many more features and moving parts. That means it will cost you much more to repair. However, they’re built more robustly. Therefore, you shouldn’t need to repair them nearly as often. A good cabinet saw can last you for decades with minimal repair.
Winner: Cabinet Saw
Cabinet vs Hybrid Saw
What’s the difference between a cabinet saw and a hybrid? The hybrid is said to be between the jobsite models and the cabinet models. What this means is that the trunnions are attached to the legs of the saw instead of to the cabinet. Also, it typically means that the motor in a hybrid saw is smaller than a cabinet saw.
MOTOR: The motor in a hybrid table saw is typically one or two horsepower. This is enough for most jobs, but it might struggle under serious stress. A cabinet saw typically has a motor that is no less than three horsepower, and sometimes as much as five horsepower. This increased power will help you cut through just about anything. However, it also means that you’ll likely need a 220V outlet. It will suck up a lot more power. If you don’t intend to do a large amount of heavy duty cutting and ripping, five horsepower could be overpowered.
Winner: Hybrid Saw
PRICE: The price of a hybrid saw will be lower than the price of a cabinet saw. The caveat is the price of operating each type of model. Since most cabinet models require 220V, they consume a lot more volts when they’re operating. However, they consume much less amperage because there are two nodes supplying power to the motor. Also, the higher voltage will be more efficient, which means that you won’t have to draw as much power to reach a good cutting speed. You’ll actually save money with the higher voltage. However, that’s only true if you already have a 220V outlet or at least lines to put one in. if you have to convert from 120V to 220V, it might not be worth it.
Winner: Cabinet Saw, if you have 220V outlets. Hybrid Saw, if you don’t.
Track Saw vs Table Saw
On its surface, a track saw looks like a standard circular saw but they cost significantly more. Why is that? Track saws differ from circular saws in two significant ways. First, the track saw allows you to raise and lower the blade before you start cutting; that means that you’ll be able to dig into the surface that you’re cutting. Typically, with a circular saw, it’s only safe to feed it the edge. The ability to dig in is great for tiling and other flooring. The second feature is the track itself.
Track saws attach to an aluminum track that guides the saw as you cut. That allows you to create perfectly straight edges while still keeping a portable and lightweight saw. Many people use their track saw instead of a table saw. Is that a good idea?
POWER: Track saws are designed for portability and finesse. That’s why they’re a favorite of cabinetmakers and hardwood flooring experts. They can be brought to a jobsite easily and quickly. However, what you gain in portability, you sacrifice in power. In terms of raw power, a table saw will outclass a track saw any day.
Winner: Table Saw.
PORTABILITY: In terms of portability, there’s no contest. A track saw is infinitely more portable than even a benchtop table saw. A benchtop table saw typically weighs about 40 or 50 pounds. This can be carried from site to site fairly easily by one person. However, a track saw typically weighs less than fifteen pounds.
Furthermore, the track saw is handheld, which means that it can be used in corners and other hard to reach places. The wood has to be brought to the table saw, which greatly limits how you can use it.
Winner: Track Saw
PRICE: Track saws tend to have more features than a low-cost benchtop saw. That translates into higher prices. However, energy consumption is important. A 120V track saw will use less energy than a similar table saw. The energy savings likely will not even the price for several years. In this contest, the table saw wins.
Winner: Table Saw
Related: Track saw vs circular saw
Sliding Table Saw vs Cabinet Saw
A sliding table saw is also known as a European table saw. The specifications of a sliding saw and a cabinet saw tend to be fairly similar. The prices tend to be similar as well, with the sliding saw usually a little bit more expensive. The major difference is one of safety. With a standard table saw, the operator stands directly in line with the spinning saw blade. He or she feeds the workpiece into the saw blade, usually by pushing it with a scrap of wood. If the blade kicks back, it could send the workpiece at the operator. If the wood binds, applying more force could lead to fingers being exposed to the blade. Finally, if the scrap piece hits the blade, it could be shot back directly at the operator. These are all common dangers of working with a table saw.
The European saw inverts that. With a European sliding saw, the operator stands next to the blade. The workpiece is clamped to the table. Then, the operator slides the entire table past the blade. It’s sometimes a little more difficult to align the workpiece with the blade since you’re not directly in line with the blade.
FUNCTIONALITY: A standard cabinet saw is easier to use and use precisely. However, the European saw is much safer to use.
Winner: Cabinet Saw
Sliding Table Saw vs Panel Saw
You’ve likely seen a panel saw before and not even realized it. They’re often used at large hardware stores to cut down lumber. These are saws that fit against the wall and are nearly vertical. You place a piece of wood, typically a sheet of plywood, onto the machine and bring the blade down on the wood.
FUNCTIONALITY: A panel saw is great if you are cutting mostly panels of wood. If you use mostly plywood in your projects, the saw will work wonders. It will also save you a lot of space. It has a much smaller footprint in your shop. If you were to try to cut a piece of plywood with a table saw, you would need much more horizontal floor space to feed the wood into the blade. However, the panel saw typically only makes straight cuts. Also, the saw takes up a lot of wall space. A table saw can do everything a panel saw can do, albeit while requiring more floor space.
A panel saw also requires more vertical space. For example, if you were to rip a 12 foot long two by four, it’s entirely possible, you simply couldn’t fit it in your panel saw.
WINNER: Sliding Table Saw, unless you work primarily with wooden panels.
DeWalt Table Saw vs Cabinet Saw
DeWalt is one of the most popular tool companies in the world; they’re instantly recognizable by their yellow and black tools. They make everything from benchtop saws to cabinet saws. One of their most exciting recent advancements has been the introduction of cordless table saws. Typically, these are 60V benchtop models.
A cordless table saw is a game changer for outdoor use where outlets might be rare or for tight workshops where a cord is a tripping hazard.
A cabinet saw is going to have far more functions and far more power than a cordless table saw. However, if you want ease of use and operation, the clear winner is a Dewalt cordless.
As you can see, there are several different ways to rip a 2×4. If you’re primarily ripping boards of wood and not panels, a table saw will be your best option. If your primary concern is safety, a sliding table saw is the winner. If you need something quick and portable, choose a benchtop saw. If you need something that is more robust but can still travel with you, choose a contractor saw. If you’re focused on power and functionality, nothing beats a cabinet saw. For a happy medium, you could choose a hybrid.
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