Power & Performance

I field-tested the tools with my crew before taking them into the shop. Working in materials ranging from drywall and OSB to tile and metal roofing, we found the tools almost equally powerful and easy to use. They all worked well on site, and the odder the cut, the better they seemed to work. My guys really liked them for cutting holes for vent pipes in metal roofs–from inside the building. Using each tool with a multipurpose bit, they cut through the sheathing, tar paper, and metal roofing sandwich. We usually use a hole saw for this, but the cut-out saws out-performed them in this application, enabling us to get precise cuts in tough materials.

Another tricky cut we run into is replacing valves in shower enclosures. Often the stem on the new one is larger than the old one and we have to surgically widen the hole in the tile. Again, each saw enabled us in almost equal fashion to remove the tile we needed–and leave the tile that had to stay. Overall performance here showed that the tools in the group were nose-and-nose right out of the gate.

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On/off switches vary among the tools, but they all worked well.

Credit: Photo: David Sharpe

Power. To get a sense for side-by-side power and how cleanly each tool cut, I tested the tools in the shop cutting 3/4-inch-thick plastic laminate countertop with an MDF substrate using a multipurpose bit. The countertop was a chore for all the saws, and cutting went slowly. I was tempted to push the saws harder because all the motors had enough power, but you have to move slowly with a steady pressure with these tools to keep the bits from breaking. The power output among the tools was so close it was hard to notice any differences, even between corded and cordless models. If I had to pick, the corded RotoZip and Craftsman seemed to have slightly more power while the cordless Ryobi seemed to have slightly less. The rest, corded and cordless, were about even.

Following the Line. It's important to note that these saws cut best using a guide like a straight edge or template. Cutting freehand, it was somewhat difficult to keep the saws on the line. For hacking out sheathing to access something in the subfloor, that's no big deal, but for doing a sink cut-out or other countertop work, using the right guide helps ensure you get the cut you want.

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Craftsman's saw has two LED work lights to guide your cuts.

Credit: Photo: David Sharpe

Side Handles. The DeWalt, RotoZip, cordless RotoZip, and the Craftsman have detachable side handles, which gave me much greater control of the tools. The handle on both RotoZips and the Craftsman snapped on and off easily; however, I didn't like the corded RotoZip's or Craftsman's handle position. Each attaches to the right side of the saw with the cord coming out of the back of the tool. As a left-handed user, I found that the cord got in the way and that it was harder to see the cut. The RotoZip 18-volt has the same handle as the corded version, but because there is no cord to obstruct my view, using this saw was easier.

The DeWalt handle can be positioned on any side of the saw. The Ryobi and the Makita do not have provisions for side handles.

Close-Quarters Cutting. One of the great things about these slim tools is how close they can cut to things like a wall or backsplash–and the closer you can get, the better. The DeWalt, RotoZip, cordless RotoZip, Craftsman, and Ryobi all cut just under 1-1/2 inches away from an obstruction. Makita's slim design enabled it to cut within 1-1/4 inches of an obstruction–nice.

Noise. While I don't have decibel testing equipment, I sure could tell which tools ran the loudest and which purred. The corded RotoZip and Craftsman were extremely quiet. The DeWalt and RotoZip 18-volt were next, still comfortable to my ears. The Makita was getting noisy, and the Ryobi made me reach for the ear protection.