Source: TOOLS OF THE TRADE Magazine
Publication date: April 14, 2011

By Tim Uhler

Bosch 1677MD

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There are two versions of Bosch's saw, the standard model (1677M) and this one, which doesn't have a cord. You plug an extension cord directly into the base of the handle and loop it through a retainer piece to keep it from coming off. The operator is free to use any length cord and replace cords at will. I like this feature because it allows me to lift by the cord without damaging the tool. If there's a downside to the design, it's that you need to use a very pliable extension cord. Some of our 12-gauge cords are rather stiff, so instead of flopping out of the way, they stick straight out and rest uncomfortably against my forearm.

Of course, there is more to this saw than the cord system. The motor is powerful and won't bog down – even when cutting LVL material. The base is stiff and heavily ribbed, though we did notice a tendency for the depth- of-cut mechanism to bind after the saw took a fall.

Craftsman 28195

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We wanted to test this saw because Craftsman is not a brand we use very often. The motor and gearing run very smoothly and this is the only inline model with an electric brake. The brake is a nice addition; it's one less thing to worry about if you can release the trigger and know the blade is going to stop. I wish every saw had this feature.

However, this model's exterior components could use some work. The grip has a comfortable shape but the parts do not fit very well – there is a perceptible ridge where the two halves come together. Also, I have some concerns about the durability of the lock levers and base plate. Unlike the levers on other saws, which are metal or metal with a rubberized cover, these are made from solid plastic.

The base is a flat piece of aluminum, and in my experience this kind of plate will bend if the saw takes a hard enough fall. It's slightly contoured for reinforcement, but not nearly as much as the plates on other models.

DeWalt DWS535

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The DWS535 is the newest model we tested – and it shows. The blade guard is exceptional; we couldn't get it to snag even when cutting 45-degree miters at a 53-degree bevel. I like the design of the rafter hook: It's wide enough at the opening for 3-by material and then steps down to fit 2-by stock. The bevel gauge can be read from either side, in 5-degree increments from the front or 1-degree increments from behind. I don't normally use depth scales, but the one on this saw is so clearly marked (it's etched into the upper blade housing) that I found myself actually referring to it. The cord is heavily reinforced, and attached in such a way that you can hang the tool from it without causing damage.

Of all the saws we tested, this is my favorite, in part because of the rip guide (DWS5100), an excellent accessory that is well worth its $39 price. This guide is nothing like the cheap little versions that come with some other saws; it has a 14-1/2-inch rip capacity, two connection arms, and a 19-inch fence. It's the kind of accessory a pro carpenter would want to use – we use ours all the time.

Makita 5377MG

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The 5377MG has a number of things going for it: The hypoid gears run exceptionally smoothly and the tool is lighter and more compact than other models. For me, this is a very comfortable saw to use; I particularly like the way the grip fits my hand.

However, the saw has some shortcomings as well. First, the arbor is round instead of diamond-shaped, so the blade sometimes slips during very heavy cutting. In addition, the marks on the bevel gauge can be confusing. On most gauges, the numbers are below the indicator marks; on this one, they are to the right of the marks so we occasionally set the saw to the wrong bevel.

The most serious problem has to do with the guard: Although it works fine for the majority of cuts, it tends to snag on compound miters. This won't be an issue for the average carpenter, but it is a problem for us because we stick-frame roofs and need to cut jack rafters. It's too bad the saw has this glitch, because if the guard were better, this tool would be one of my favorites.

The 5377MG is one of two inline models from Makita; the other (5477NB) is about a pound heavier and $30 cheaper.

Milwaukee 6477-20

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There's a lot to like about this saw. It's powerful, the bevel settings are easy to read and adjust, and it feels well-made. I particularly like the shoe because it's made from a composite material that seems tougher than the aluminum or magnesium typically used for that part. The saw we tested took multiple falls without any damage to the shoe or the depth-setting mechanism.

Unfortunately, I did have some problems with this model. I'm right-handed, and the guard tended to snag when I made short trimming cuts – that is, when the stock was to the left and the waste piece fell to the right. Also, the saw's bigger and heavier than most other saws and feels awkward to handle. I attribute this to the base plate, which sticks out farther in front than the base plates on other models. I used this saw for a while and was never able get used to it.