Scales. I've always used my tape to set blade depth; there's no safer way to be accurate. But if I were to use the saw's scales, then the DeWalt DW364K's scale is the one for me. It's easy to see and calibrate accurately, which eliminates the need for a tape measure. For the other saws in the group with scales (Bosch, Craftsman, the DeWalt DW368K, and both Milwaukees), by the time you contort yourself to find the scale then tilt the saw for enough light to see it, you could've adjusted the saw with your tape. I actually appreciate that Makita, Hitachi, and Porter-Cable don't even bother to put a scale on the tool for blade depth.

The bevel scale is a different story. I use that scale a lot. Again, the DeWalt DW364K is my first choice. It's easy to use, read, and calibrate. Both Makita units take second and both Hitachis take third. The Bosch, Craftsman, DeWalt DW368K, the Milwaukee Tilt-Lok, and both Porter-Cable units get the job done but could be better. The Milwaukee 6375-20's scales are marked for every degree, which is nice. It also adjusts easily, but the high-gloss paint finish reflects light, making the numbers difficult to see.

Operation

Cut Depth. All of the saws in the group have ample depth-of-cut to get through 2-by at 90 or 45 degrees, but LVL stock is a different story. Neither the Makitas nor the DeWalt DW368K could clear a 1-3/4-inch LVL at a 45-degree bevel. Since I use LVL almost exclusively now for hip and valley rafters, these saws would come up short. The rest of the group made it through.

Electric Brake. It's a shame that some of these saws are manufactured without an electric brake as standard equipment. Of the 12 saws I tested, only the DeWalt DW364K, Hitachi 7802, and Porter-Cable 447K have electric brakes standard. It only takes one instance of the blade guard jamming open and your saw doing some serious damage to understand why I believe this should be an automatic feature on any circ saw.

Blade Change. All of the saws I tested use a spindle lock to secure the arbor while you loosen the nut holding the blade. The easiest to manipulate is the DeWalt DW364K. It's well placed (on top of the saw) so that you can engage the spindle lock and hold the saw steady while changing the blade with minimal effort. The Bosch, DeWalt DW368K, both Hitachis, and both Makitas have flat bars that you push to lock the shafts, and you can engage them without much strain and still maintain a stable hold on the tools. I didn't care for Porter-Cable's engagement pin; it worked fine, but it's small and uncomfortable to push. The blade locks on the Craftsman and the Milwaukee Tilt-Lok are adequate and do the job. The Milwaukee 6375-20's spindle lock pin is in the wrong place; because it's mounted toward the rear of the saw, it's hard to push the pin, crank the wrench, and keep a solid hold of the tool.

Features

The Bosch 1655K has a great mechanism for retracting the blade guard. This is a secondary lever located between the handle and top of the blade housing that enables you to safely retract the guard without putting your fingers near the blade. It's great for starting a plunge cut or for retracting the guard for cutting thin materials. The padded handle on both Hitachi saws makes them comfortable to grip and hold. I also like that the Bosch, both Porter-Cables, and the Milwaukee 6375-20 store the blade wrench on the saw. Both of the Porter-Cable saws have a unique dust ejection chute that channels sawdust out through a "chimney" on top of the saw. While this works, it gets in the way, so my crew didn't use it. Then the channel to the chimney clogged with sawdust, resulting in a lot of dust spray.