Who Makes the Best Miter Saw? [Manufacturer Analysis]
As the name would suggest, a miter saw is used to make miter cuts. While it’s true that you can cut miters with a miter framing ruler and a circular saw, or even just a handsaw, the way to cut miter joints with perfect flushes every time is with a miter saw. But what is a good miter saw and who makes the best miter saw?
The question is not as loaded as it seems. We are not talking about the best car or the best fashion designer where aesthetics and personal biases can come into play. We can totally explain our selections here. The determining factors are not always quantifiable but we will do our best to explain our reasoning.
Defining who makes the best miter saw
The most advanced miter saws are sliding compound miter saws (single or double-bevel). Therefore, our selections will first and foremost pit the top-of-the-line 10” or 12” sliding compound miter saws from the leading manufacturers.
They will square off in terms of performance, accuracy, ease of use, reliability, and features such as positioning system, dust collection, available accessories, etc.
Having the best top-of-the-line miter saw rates highly but we will also look at the rest of the company’s lineup of miter saws. Besides the flagship miter saw, a company ranks higher if it also has, for example, an awesome entry-level miter saw, an awesome cordless miter saw, and so on.
Number One Choice: Festool
German power tools manufacturer Festool comes away with all the marbles on the strength of its only miter saw, the Festool Kapex (model number KS 120).
The Festool Kapex KS 120 Sliding Compound Miter Saw is widely regarded as the top dog, but is it because it costs about twice as much as other manufacturers’ best miter saws? There’s truth in that. After all, it feels good to tell your friends, and maybe your Facebook friends and strangers, that you are the proud owner of a Festool Kapex. But you’ve got to believe us when we say that this is only the icing on the cake.
You’ll know that the Kapex means business as soon as you see one with your very own eyes. It is a 10.25” sliding compound miter saw with the appearance of a seriously built precision machine, yet you won’t believe how light it is.
This is, in large part, thanks to its magnesium alloy base. At 47 lbs., the Festool Kapex is the lightest and most portable 10” miter saw available.
The handle is reassuring and amazingly balanced. It is positioned furthest away from the blade, and you have to press your thumb on the safety and pull the trigger at the same time to operate this saw.
This safety feature and the distance of the handle mean, using this miter saw will take a bit of getting used to and can be slightly annoying at the start but this is the only complaint we have against the Kapex.
With a powerful 1,600W motor and aggressive blade installation, the 10.25” Kapex cuts more like a 12” miter saw. Variable speed control allows you to optimize this miter saw for different workpiece thicknesses.
The large bevel gauge is a real pleasure to use and the counter spring-balanced bevel control is super smooth and allows for micro adjustments. Combine these with the best dual-line laser positioning system, and you’ll find yourself making precise cuts time after time.
Included with the Festool miter saw are a good clamp and a precise angle transfer device. Available add-ons include the awesome Festool CLEANTEC CT 26 dust extractor, crown stop, trimming attachment, clamping kit, and more.
Number Two Choice: DeWalt
American power tools brand DeWalt secured the second spot with the most badass 12” sliding miter saw (the DeWalt DWS780), the best ever cordless miter saw (the DeWalt Flexvolt 120V max DHS790AT2), and the top-selling affordable 12” compound miter saw (the DeWalt DW715).
The DWS780 is a 12” sliding dual-bevel compound miter saw powered by a beefy 15A motor with 3,800 idle rpm. This large, serious power tool features a tall back fence and industry-leading maximum miter angles of 60 degrees right and 50 degrees left. The cutting capacity is massive for all cuts.
Instead of a laser system, it uses the DeWalt XPS cross-cut positioning system that uses a shadow for guidance. We found the cut lines to be remarkably accurate and easy to adjust. We thought the DeWalt DWS780 would weigh a ton but it turned out to be a fairly portable 56 lbs.
The DeWalt Flexvolt DHS790AT2 looks a lot like the DWS780 except it provides the option of running on two 60V batteries in addition to electricity—that’s where the name Flexvolt comes in. In the Flexvolt DHS790AT2, we finally have a battery-powered cordless 12” miter saw that is as powerful as any corded miter saw.
The new CUTLINE positioning system is even better than the one in the DWS780. Needless to say, this groundbreaking miter saw is expensive but it’s still about 40% cheaper than the Festool Kapex. The massive batteries will add quite a few pounds to its 56-lb. weight. Just carry the batteries separately if you have to move it.
Finally, the 12” single-bevel compound DeWalt DW715 is a bestseller (if not the top-seller) everywhere. It’s so affordable because it is made in China. However, the quality control has proven to be excellent, so this is a through-and-through DeWalt-pedigree power tool.
The DW715 is a great miter saw even if you don’t take the price into account— it is all the miter saw that most non-professionals will ever need.
DeWalt also offers the best range of accessories for their miter saws. If only we didn’t fall in love with the Festool Kapex, we could have put DeWalt in the top spot.
Seriously, No. 2 is as good as No. 1 for those who would rather spend half the price of the Kapex, and those who are in the market for the best cordless miter saw or the best entry-level 12” miter saw. Our only real complaint about the DeWalt miter saws is their below average dust collection.
Number Three Choice: Bosch
At No. 3, we have another German power tools maker, Bosch. One characteristic of Bosch miter saws that we, and many other people, favor is that all adjustments are located up front, instead of at the back like on all other brands.
With the adjustments at the front, there’s a chance you could accidentally throw off the bevel control and such during use, but our experience with Bosch miter saws showed that this is not very likely at all.
Wanting all the controls at the front, should be enough to make someone opt for a Bosch miter saw over the other leading models. You won’t have to worry about sacrificing performance as the Bosch is right up there with the best.
We were mightily impressed by the 12” dual-bevel compound Bosch GCM12SD with Axial-Glide, Bosch’s special twist on the slide bar, and the 8.5” single-bevel compound Bosch CMS8, the best sub-10” miter saw on the market.
Now, why should anyone pick a miter saw with smaller than 10” blade? Marketing and today’s ultra-competitive prices make us think that we shouldn’t buy a miter saw smaller than 10”, but this should not be a hard rule at all.
The 8.5” Bosch CMS8 is a wise choice if you don’t need the extra cutting capacity of larger saws. You can pay less for a larger miter saw than the premium-priced CMS8 but you won’t find such perfect balance in other saws. In addition, the CMS8 is highly portable at just 37 lbs.
All Bosch miter saws are very well-built. The covers feature steel castings, unlike the flimsy stamped steel you might find on a number of similarly priced products. And we have yet to talk about the flagship Bosch GCM12SD.
The GCM12SD is a 12” dual-bevel compound miter saw with Axial-Glide. Axial-Glide simply means the GCM12SD uses hinged arms to move the saw frontward and backward, instead of the slide bars used in sliding miter saws.
The advantage is even longer cuts, and you won’t need any extra back room for the GCM12SD like you do with slide bar designs. Although the Bosch GCM12SD isn’t the last word in accuracy, it is near flawless in everything else.
So, we have ranked who makes the best miter saw: Festool, DeWalt, and Bosch in this order. However, it doesn’t mean that No. 1 is a better buy than No. 2 or No. 2 is a better buy than No. 3. At this level, there are no wrong or bad choices, so just go with your own personal needs and preference.