In this guide we’ll take a look at the best circular saws.
I've compared power, blade quality, weight, and cost
to give you my top recommendations.
In this guide we’ll take a look at the best circular saws.
What Is The Best Circular Saw?
More Detailed Circular Saw Reviews
Our top circular saw recommendation is the Makita HS7601/2. As with all Makita products the build quality of this saw is excellent. Thanks to the motor’s double insulation (2 layers of insulating materials between the motor and the casing) it is less noisy than many of its competitors and its light weight (3.8 kg) and ergonomic design make it feel extremely well balanced and comfortable to hold and control. The solid aluminium base plate adjusts and locks easily from the rear for bevel and plunge cuts, provides good stability when making freehand cuts and extra accuracy when used in conjunction with the solid guide rail. The depth adjustment lever is also easy to operate. The saw delivers plenty of power and generates a max no-load speed of 5,200 RPM, more than enough for common applications. Its 7.5″ (190 mm) blade cuts to a depth of over 2.5″ (66 mm) with the base plate at 90 degrees and 1.8″ (46 mm) at 45 degrees and finished cuts are straight and precise. The saw also comes with an electric brake, its power cord is well-insulated and over 2 metres long and there is a dust extractor port at the rear that can be connected to a vacuum. At around £100 and a 3 year guarantee it’s hard to see where you can go wrong!
The DeWalt DWE560K comes a pretty close second to the Makita HS7601J/2 in our list of recommendations, and of course both brands are extremely reputable and preferred by professionals. The DWE560K is compact and lightweight (3.7 kg) but yet robust, and despite its powerful motor (that generates a no-load speed of 5,500 RPM) delivers one of the smoothest, controlled and least noisy and vibrating cutting operations we’ve come across. The nicely positioned depth adjustment level and the neat angle locks allow you to to easily adjust the base plate and cuts can be made to a depth of 2.5″ (65 mm) at 90 degrees and 1.6″ (42 mm) at 45 degrees. The integrated dust blowing mechanism and the cutaway lower saw guard both ensure a clearer view of the cut line resulting in a more accurate cut. Another neat feature is DeWalt’s patented AirLock system that hooks up to the dust extraction port at the rear of the saw and ensures efficient removal of dust and debris. Other plus points are a 24 tooth blade (the HS7601J/2 comes with a 12 tooth blade), a long power lead and a heavy duty nicely laid out carry case.
Top of our cordless circular saw recommendations is the Makita DHS680Z. The feature that sets this top-quality saw apart from the other cordless saws on our list is its brushless motor. Brushless motors run much more efficiently than their brushed counterparts with less wear and tear on the motor’s components, and they only generate as much power as is needed for the job. This means the battery holds its charge for much longer than a brushed motor battery. So depending on workload one 4 Ah or 5 Ah battery would probably be sufficient for a days work, but because the battery charge time is only 22 minutes with Makita’s air-cooled Makstar Optimum Charging System anyway, you could definitely save the cost of a second battery by taking an extended tea break! The 680 Watt motor provides a max no-load speed of 5,000 RPM (equivalent to many corded circular saws) but with automatic torque control and cutting even the hardest woods you would rarely need to test that level. The soft start, overload protection and electric brake all provide further safety controls during operation. The saw feels very balanced and comfortable to hold, weighing 3.3 kg as a bare tool and 3.8 kg with a 4 Ah battery. Other nice features include a larger than normal base plate that provides greater stability when cutting, a large lock-off lever and solid depth and bevel adjustors. The saw cuts to a maximum depth of 2.25″ (57 mm) at 90 degrees and 1.6″ (41 mm) at a 45 degree angle. To ensure clear visibility of the cut there is a dust blower function and a twin LED light. For the top quality and features, the Makita DHS680Z is still very reasonably priced and a 3 year guarantee is also included.
The DCS391N-XJ comes a pretty close second in the cordless department to the Makita DHS680Z. Again this saw is truly a great piece of kit, with a compact profile, high quality build, well-designed features and great performance for a cordless tool. It also weighs just 3.2 kg (without the battery – add 0.4 kg for a 3 Ah battery) which makes it very versatile. You can always identify a premium tool by the reduced noise levels and amount of vibration from the motor (which in this case is fan-cooled) and that is demonstrated by this saw. The fact that it comes with replaceable brushes also indicates that the tool is built to last a long time. Cordless circular saws come with smaller motors and slightly smaller diameter blades than the equivalent corded versions. The DCS391N-XJ’s 18 Volt Lithium-Ion battery powers a 760 Watt motor that is still enough to deliver a no-load speed of 3,700 RPM. With this specification keeping 2 x 3 Ah batteries on charge (you need to purchase batteries and charger separately) should be enough to cut through stock (down to 2.2″ (55 mm)) until you get tired before the saw! (if you want to cut at a 45 degree angle you can go down to 1.65″ (42 mm) – the bevel capacity is 50 degrees). A saw of this quality obviously features an electric brake. Other nice features include a cast-magnesium base plate, an easy-to-secure bevel adjustor and depth control lever, a solid grip handle with integrated intelligent trigger and a lock-off switch. In summary this tool is a great choice for professionals and serious DIYers, helped by an attractive price tag (around £100 for the bare tool)!
If you are after Makita quality but can’t stretch to the brushless DHS680Z then the DSS610Z would be your next best option. This circular saw is not as powerful as the DHS680Z (its motor delivers a no-load speed of 3,700 RPM compared to 5,000 RPM) but this rotational speed is still more than adequate to cut through the hardest of woods. The saw is compact and lightweight (3.4 kg with 3 Ah battery, 3.0 kg without), well-balanced, comfortable to hold with its high comfort grips, and quiet and smooth to operate. Comfort and balance is enhanced by the heavy aluminium base plate. The saw has many important safety features including a double safety trigger to prevent accidental starting, an electric brake to bring the blade to a halt in around 2 seconds and a large lock-off lever. All the components are solid. The depth control lever and bevel adjustor are well-finished and easy to operate, allowing cuts down to 2.2″ (57 mm) and 1.5″ (40 mm) (at 45 degrees) respectively. There is a dust blower and LED light fitted so you can see your way through a clear cut. Although this is a bare tool, meaning you have to purchase batteries and charger separately, the 18 Volt Lithium-Ion batteries you do purchase are designed for Makita’s complete LXT range of power tools so they can be interchanged. There is nothing negative to say about this saw. The price tag is not unreasonable and it comes with Makita’s 3 year guarantee.
One of the main reasons behind the success of the Evolution range of power tools is its patented multipurpose cutting blade and its ‘one saw and one blade cuts all’ slogan (not strictly true because Evolution supply other diamond-tipped blades for cutting stone, concrete and brick)! The blade supplied with the circular saws of Evolution’s competitors tends to be a coarse general purpose wood-cutting blade that requires (purchasing and) swapping out for more specific applications. Evolution scores heavily on this point, particularly as the supplied blade is suitable for cutting material other than wood, such as aluminium and steel. In fact because the blade is thin and the speed is so fast hardly any heat or burr is generated when cutting through metal. The Evolution Rage 1B is the base model of the Rage family of circular saws but extremely popular not least because of the above and its attractive price tag (around £50). As well as being sturdy and comfortable to use it has all the basic features of its more expensive competitors, including a powerful 1200 Watt motor, the ability to cut down 2.4″ (60 mm) at 90 degrees and 1.6″ (40 mm) at 45 degrees, and the ability to tilt to 45 degrees. The depth lever and tilt adjustors are large and easy to operate. Line of sight to the cut line is not impeded by the saw guard and this is also helped by an efficient dust extraction process. In summary it makes light work of many day to day tasks and is an ideal option for a DIYer’s home projects. It is also backed by a generous 3 year guarantee. (Note – if you are comparing the Rage to the Fury, the Rage has a larger specification e,g, it can cut through mild steel to 0.25″ (6 mm), compared to the Fury’s 0.12″ (3 mm)).
The Worx family of compact circular saws is one of the most popular on the market. Instead of coming with standard 7¼” (185 /190 mm) diameter blades they feature significantly smaller ones (e.g the Worx 427 comes with a just a 4½” (120 mm) blade). The motor does not require as much power as a standard circular saw (it is just over half the size of a standard saw’s motor at 700 Watts) and is therefore smaller and lighter, enough in fact to allow the saw to be operated with one hand instead of two. The saw itself weighs just 2.3 kg. This of course makes it incredibly versatile and a preferred choice for hobbyists, DIYer’s and also professionals such as electricians who need to negotiate tighter work spaces. The saw can still do everything a standard circular saw can but just to a smaller scale. It is great for cutting tiles, stone and masonry as well as wood, but it cuts down to lesser depths of 1.8″ (46 mm) at 90 degrees and 1.2″ (30 mm) at 45 degrees. Other great features of this saw are the bright laser guide to enhance the cutline and it comes complete with 3 blades (HSS for general purpose, TCT for harder woods and diamond tipped for tiles and masonry) and a 3 year guarantee.
The Bosch GKS 190 comes from Bosch’s Professional (aka “Blue”) range of tools, and is aimed towards the higher end of the market. This is a well designed and constructed, powerful (at 1400 Watts the most powerful in its class) heavy duty tool made with highly robust components. It weighs slightly more than similar models from other manufacturers but is nicely balanced and comfortable to hold with well-moulded handles, and the controls are well laid out. The blade can rotate up to 5,500 RPM (no-load speed) and can cut down to a depth of 2.8″ (70 mm) when set vertically and 2″ (50 mm) when adjusted to a 45 degree angle. Bevel capacity is an impressive 56 degrees. The cutting process is very smooth and the cuts themselves are precise and true, whether using the default vertical setting, setting the baseplate to the required angle, or using the solid guide rail. The cutting operation is also aided by a dust blower that maintains visibility of the cutting line and a wood chip deflector. A well-insulated long power cord, a well-made plastic case and a 3 year guarantee are all handy extras.
Ryobi’s most popular cordless circular saw is the RWSL1801M and it is one of over 100 cordless power tool products that belong to their popular One+ range. This suite of tools all use Ryobi’s 18 Volt Lithium-Ion family of batteries (and chargers), so it only becomes necessary to purchase one or two batteries for effectively powering a whole range of DIY and gardening tools. This of course is an attractive proposition for keen DIYers and some professionals too. For a circular saw such as the RWSL1801M though, it is preferable to purchase a higher capacity (4 Ah or 5 Ah) battery as anything less than this would drain too quickly even when faced with an average workload. The RWSL1801M itself is a powerful, robust circular saw and yet is one of the most versatile and lightest around, weighing just 2.8 kg without the battery (3.3 kg including a 4 Ah battery). The blade diameter of 5.9″(150 mm) is however 15 mm (just over ½”) less than that of its main competitors, meaning it cuts down vertically to 1.8″ (45 mm) and 1.3″ (32 mm at 45 degrees). For the majority of jobs though this should not be an issue (and if it was, you can always turn the piece over). However one of the features that makes this such a popular and efficient saw is the ultra thin blade. With the powerful motor generating a very impressive maximum no-load speed of 4,700 RPM (more powerful than many cordless saws) the blade, on account of its thin profile, produces an incredibly clean cut because it generates less heat, friction and waste material. For improved visibility of the cut the saw comes with an adjustable laser and a powerful blower to disperse sawdust. The depth and bevel adjustments of the base plate are well made and accurate and from a safety perspective there is a lock-off switch, electric brake and overload protection. At around £70 and with a 2 year guarantee this is a circular saw well worth considering!
Next in our list of corded circular saw recommendations is Black+Decker’s CD602. This is a well-built solid saw, at 5.4 kg a little heavier than the saws previously mentioned, but it does provide the operator with a good cutting experience in terms of comfort, lower noise and vibration levels. The 1150 Watt motor generates enough speed (5,000 RPM no load) to perform rip, cross and bevel cuts through the hardest of woods to a maximum depth of 2.2″ (55 mm) and bevel cuts to an angle of 45 degrees. The max depth figure is slightly less than its competitors because its blade diameter is slightly smaller at 6¾” (170 mm) compared to 7½” (185/190 mm). The baseplate depth and angle adjustments are accurate and reliable ensuring that the settings remain constant throughout the cutting process, The dust extraction process is very efficient with most waste material extracted through a port at the rear of the saw and preventing it from obscuring the cutting line. A neat feature of this saw is the safety lock that prevents accidental starting. This saw comes with a 2 year guarantee.
What is a Circular Saw?
The circular saw is the one of the most versatile power tools on the market today and the most common type of power saw. Corded or cordless you have all the versatility you need to cut into almost all common materials. With the right blade rip cuts (in the direction of the grain), cross cuts (against the grain), plunge cuts (lowering the blade directly into the middle of a section) and bevelled edges (cuts made at an angle) can all be made into wood, brick, stone, masonry, tiles and metal. And of course you can adjust the height, depth and angle of the cut. Although the circular saw can be mounted to a workbench, portability is its greatest asset. You grip the handle and offer the blade up to the workpiece in question, rather than with a table or band saw where you offer the workpiece up to a blade that is fixed in position. This actually makes the circular saw safer to work with than the table or band saw because you have more control over the blade.
The circular saw’s motor and gears are usually positioned to the left of the vertical blade surface with the handle and grip sitting above the motor. This means that the weight of the tool is on the left and when in operation will sit above the larger part of the workpiece that is fixed in position rather than above the offcut being removed. This arrangement allows for a great deal of control and also means that both hands are away from the blade.
Main Components / Features
We’ve already mentioned the circular saw’s motor and gears above, so let’s concentrate on the other main components of the circular saw.
This might sound obvious but the larger the blade, the deeper the cut! The maximum blade size a saw can accommodate will of course be determined by the size of the saw itself. You can go from a hobby saw with a blade diameter of 3″ to an industrial saw with an 18″ blade that cuts through slabs of concrete! The most common blade size used in circular saws of the corded variety has a 7¼” diameter (185 mm) and this lets you cut through material over 3″ (75 mm) thick. The blade capacity of cordless saws is usually slightly less at 6½” (165 mm) so your cutting depth is more in the region of 2½” (60 mm). Blades come with or without teeth. In general blades with teeth are either made from High Speed Steel (HSS) (for general usage) or Tungsten Carbide Tipped (TCT) (designed to cut through harder woods). Carbide-tipped blades can last up to 10 times longer than steel ones.For materials harder than wood there are specialist blades that use an abrasive cutting edge or a diamond rim instead of teeth. Some manufacturers, notably Evolution, produce a popular multipurpose “one-size fits all blade” that copes well with both wood and metals.
Also be aware that blades come in different thicknesses (kerf) and with different bore sizes. Thinner kerf blades are more expensive but are generally made from higher quality materials and produce more accurate results, Bore sizes are usually proportional to the blade diameter (e.g. 30 mm bore for a 255 mm blade, 20 mm bore for a 210 mm blade) but also vary in diameter from one manufacturer to another.
The general maxim for blades with teeth is the more teeth the smoother and slower the cut. When you purchase your saw it typically comes with a general purpose blade (often 24 tooth) that can be used for both rip and cross cuts in wood. However a “combination” blade is actually better for both of these cuts since its teeth combine one alternating larger tooth and (often) four smaller ones.
Blades with less teeth have deeper gullets for easier removal of waste material. Blades with more teeth tend to have them leaning alternately to left and right (called kerfed teeth). Dust particle and wood chips can accumulate between smaller teeth and one of the ideas behind kerfed teeth is to open up the small gaps between them and aid waste removal.
For specialist wood cuts 16 tooth blades are better for coarser rip cuts in timber whilst 40 tooth blades provide a finer finish and are more suited for cross-cutting. Some blades come with well over 100 teeth to minimize the chance of splintering. These are typically used by furniture makers for making the finest cuts into harder woods or by carpenters, joiners or construction workers for cutting plywood, particle board or MDF. But they can also be used for cutting plastic, acrylic, laminate and aluminium.
We then have a selection of blades that use a cutting edge instead of teeth to cut into material that is harder than wood.
Coarser masonry blades are used to cut into brick, concrete pavers, natural stone, soft rock such as limestone, and roof tiles. Finer masonry blades are more suitable for concrete and harder rocks like granite and marble. Ceramic tiles can also be cut by finer masonry blades but there are blades made specifically for tile cutting and these tend to be diamond-rimmed.
Diamond-rimmed blades are used to cut the hardest materials and there are different grades of coarse through fine. The coarsest diamond blades (often called “segmented” because their edge is crenulated) are used to cut rock and stone. You would usually douse the cut with water to dissipate the heat when using a segmented blade. Medium grade diamond blades have serrated edges and they are used to cut brick and concrete. The finest diamond blades are “continuous rim” (ie they have no serrations or indentations) and are typically used to cut slates. These blades can also be used wet. Finally there are specialist metal cutting blades designed to cut, wait for it, metals! Sheet metal, copper and brass can all be cut using a metal blade. A metal blade contain slots to dissipate heat.
It goes without saying but always choose the right blade for the task in hand. Avoid this advice at your peril since not only will your results be less than perfect but also you could compromise your own safety. Also note that the circular saw is definitely not designed to cut logs or trees – that’s what chainsaws are for.
The saw guard (blade cover) sits over the top and front of the saw to protect it from damage and prevent it from causing any harm to you! It also stops waste material flying everywhere. It comprises a fixed piece that sits over the top of the blade and a floating component over the bottom of the blade that retracts automatically when performing a cut but springs back into place when the cut is completed. The floating part has a handle that you can use to temporarily lift the cover when making plunge or bevelled cuts.
The circular saw’s two handles give you maximum control over the saw, by being located to the rear and above the saw’s heaviest component, its motor. Manufacturers go to great lengths to ensure their ergonomic designs provide maximum levels of comfort and stability. The power switch is usually set into the rear handle.
Baseplate (sometimes called shoe)
The metal baseplate is set in the middle of the saw below the fulcrum of the blade and surrounds the blade on both sides. It serves several purposes. Firstly it is designed to protect the blade from damage if you happen to drop the saw. The plate is usually made from aluminium but more expensive models have a heavier steel, magnesium or cast metal plate with strengthened ribs. Secondly having the baseplate resting on a flat surface ensures the saw remains steady throughout the cutting process. Protruding from the edge of the baseplate is a guide or ripping fence that can be offered up to the edge of the material and this ensures an accurate square cut. The baseplate also contains a calibrated rule to mark off against for exact lengths of cut, and 2 notches at the front to align the saw to the cutting line.
A depth adjustment lever situated behind the motor raises or lowers the baseplate parallel to the horizontal to expose more or less of the blade and hence determine the depth of cut. Located in front of the motor is another lever that acts in conjunction with a dial or protractor and allows the baseplate to be tilted to any angle for making bevelled cuts. You can also quickly lock the baseplate into one of several preset angles.
These days electric brakes are commonplace on circular saws and it is a safety feature you should consider before making a purchase. Hitting the trigger of a saw with an electric brake causes the electric current to reverse and the blade to come to a halt in around 2 seconds. Without an electric brake the blade would continue to spin for at least another 10 seconds. That 10 seconds could save an awful lot of damage!
Most circular saws come with a dust ejector that diverts dust away from the work area and your face when you are operating the saw. They also have dust collection ports that you can hook up to a vacuum cleaner hose.
Safety Precautions and Using The Saw
The circular saw is an incredibly versatile power tool. It can also be very dangerous if you do not take into account basic safety precautions. In this section we’ll review the strategies and techniques you need to know to stay safe, both you personally and when using the saw.
Safety – You!
In order to ensure your own safety make sure you are kitted out appropriately. Wear suitable work clothes or overalls and remove / tuck in / tie back anything loose, including your hair if necessary! Wear safety glasses, goggles or a face mask to protect your eyes from flying debris. Circular saws are noisy – wear ear defenders to protect your ears. Wear a mask to avoid inhaling dust particles.
Get organised and check out your immediate surroundings. Clear away anything not related to the job in hand, particularly from the floor area that might cause you to trip up or lose your balance. If you are making a blind (plunge) cut use a metal detecting accessory to check for hidden wires or pipes. If you are using a corded circular saw make sure the cable is long enough and use an extension lead if necessary to allow it to trail well away from the saw. Gather your saw, accessories and work pieces for cutting.
Check Over The Saw
If you have not already done so read the instruction manual thoroughly!
On corded saws check the cable is tightly gripped by the plug and there are no cracks visible. On cordless saws check the battery is fully charged and held tightly in place.
Turn your attention to the blade and make sure it is securely fixed and correct for the application, in terms of size, speed (speed is denoted on the blade itself and should be always be greater than the saw’s no-load RPM) and work piece being cut. The blade must not be damaged in any way (warped, chipped teeth etc) and needs to be as clean and sharp as possible in order to reduce the amount of heat, friction and the chance of kickback – sharper blades can cut their way out of a potential bind situation.
The saw guard is next. Unplug the saw or remove the battery and make sure the lower guard can move freely and the spring / pivoting mechanism that retracts the guard is not impeded in any way.
Check The Workpiece is Suitable For Cutting
A couple of common sense tips – ensure your workpiece is not too small that it cannot be adequately secured. The baseplate should also be able to rest on it comfortably. Finally the workpiece should preferably be dry and not warped or knotty. And if you are using a wood cutting blade make sure any rogue nails or suchlike are removed first.
Set The Blade Depth / Height
When you begin cutting the blade should protrude no more than 6-8 mm (approx ¼”) through the bottom of your workpiece (assuming you intend to cut completely through it as opposed to cutting out a channel for instance). This is to ensure minimal blade surface area is exposed if things were to go wrong or kickback occurs. If you do need to adjust its depth with the depth control lever make sure the power cable is unplugged or the battery disconnected.
Secure Your Workpiece
It is best to position your workpiece so the better surface is facing downwards. A circular saw cuts cleaner at the bottom and can cause splintering on the top surface, particularly if you are making cross cuts. Of course this doesn’t matter too much if you happen to be making cuts in rougher wood.
Never hold the workpiece while you cut it! It needs to be secured by its “keep” side with the waste side free to fall when the cut is completed. If the waste side is not free to fall the blade will bind and the saw will kickback. However if the waste piece is more than a thin strip it will still need something to support its weight otherwise splintering will occur towards the end of the cut as the waste piece falls away. Clamping the keep side to the side of a workbench or one or two sawhorses is the best ways of keeping your job secure. (If you are using two sawhorses the cut should be made outside the pair, not between them).
Measure & Mark Up
Measure the cut line with a tape measure and a straight and/or square edge and mark it in pencil. Make the line prominent (dark and thick) enough so that it doesn’t get ‘lost’ under any stray dust. The waste side of the cut should include the complete width of your cut line.
Align The Workpiece
For shorter rip cuts position and secure the saw’s rip fence and offer up your workpiece to it. For longer cuts replace the fence with the factory edge of a long piece of ¾” plywood as the rip fence will not be long enough. For cross cuts use a speed square as the fence.
Circular saws are designed for right-handers and waste material is ejected from the left hand side of the saw so if you are left handed beware! The motor sits to the left of the blade, the weight of the saw is therefore to the left, you need to support the saw from its left hand side and the keep side of the workpiece needs to be positioned to the left. So you are standing slightly towards the back and left of the saw as you make the cut.
Test The Saw
Test the on-off switch and the power supply. Turn the saw on, depress the trigger, wait for the blade to reach full speed, hold the saw up, look along the blade and check it rotates true to the vertical, then release the trigger. Releasing the trigger should invoke the electric brake (assuming one is fitted) and the blade should come to rest in around 2 seconds. Hopefully all is good and you’re ready to go. If the saw doesn’t work for any reason and you have covered basic troubleshooting, get it inspected and repaired by a professional or better still replace it!
Align The Saw!
Offer up the front of the baseplate to the workpiece and position the cut line between the two notches at the front of the baseplate. The blade should be aligned to the waste side of the cut line.
Hit The Trigger!
Hold the saw firmly in both hands, with one to the rear for activating the trigger and one on the front handle. Depress the trigger, wait for the blade to reach full speed, ensure the base plate sits firmly on the workpiece and tightly against the fence or guide, then feed the saw slowly into the cut. Let the inertia of the blade help you through the cut. Do not force the saw, overreach, or attempt to change its direction. Walk forward as you make the cut, following the marked line and keeping the side of the baseplate tight against the guide and its base firmly on the workpiece at all times. If you are using a corded saw make sure the power cable trails loosely behind you. The saw guard should be in an elevated position as the cut progresses and fall back when it’s complete. Sometimes when making a plunge cut or when bevel cutting and the baseplate has been adjusted over 45 degrees, the guard can catch the edge of the workpiece, so you have to lift the guard before you start the cut. Watch the waste piece fall away, have the saw clear the board and the guard spring back then release the trigger.
If during any of this process the blade binds or you anticipate any kickback release the trigger immediately, wait for the blade to stop and take corrective action.
Disconnect the saw, shake off loose debris, let it cool and give it a good wipe down. It is good practice to remove the blade and clean it separately. Then store the saw and blade away.
Circular Saw Buying Advice
Corded or Cordless?
Buying corded or cordless is usually the biggest decision you have to make. Cordless saws are that much more versatile and have pretty much caught up with corded in terms of power and durability, but they are more expensive. Plus you need to pay for a charger and at least 2 batteries that have to be kept fully charged to keep you up and running through a working day. No problem with power supply if corded of course, assuming you are always going to be near the power source, but make sure the power lead is of decent length (although you can also use an extension lead). If you do go cordless try and purchase from a manufacturer that produces a range of cordless power tools that can all share the same battery, and that will go some way to justifying the extra cost.
These days it is rare to here of a circular saw that is actually underpowered. Corded saws run at around 15 Amps and cordless 18 Volts, and both produce no-load speeds of around 5,000 RPM, more than adequate for most day to day tasks. People might say a saw is underpowered but that will be because they are using the wrong blade / material combination.
The more powerful the saw the larger and heavier it will be. Cordless saws with higher capacity batteries also weigh more. And the heavier the saw the more difficult it is to operate and the greater the likelihood of an accident. In general the saw shouldn’t exceed 5 Kg (including battery if cordless) in weight, but this would easily cover most general purpose circular saws on the market.
We’ve already discussed blades in detail above. The saw is already supplied with a general purpose blade (usually 7¼” diameter (185 mm) or 6½” (165 mm)) and you will only ever need to change it when it loses its sharpness or you require a special purpose blade. If and when you do decide to change it make sure it is fit for purpose and don’t compromise on quality or price. Carbide blades are the better option.
You need to feel totally in control of your saw so it should always feel comfortable and balanced in your hands with well placed handles. Handle grips should be contoured and non-slip.
Nice to Have Features
Some more important nice to have features include an electric brake, a laser guide, a lock off lever (so the saw cannot be switched on by accident), an efficient dust extraction mechanism, a brushless motor (if you can afford one) and a long warranty – 2 years is good, 3 years is even better!
As with most power tools paying more will get you better quality, produce a better end result and last you longer. But you need to marry that up against other obvious practicalities such as your budget and how often you will actually use your circular saw. And that of course depends on your confidence level in doing jobs yourself or paying a professional to do them. The greater your confidence the greater the payback! Best of luck!