The Best Compact Circular Saw 2021

The circular saw is one of the handiest tools a woodworker can have. Unlike most power saws, circular saws are portable and operated in your hand. And unlike reciprocating saws, circular saws allow a high degree of precision when cutting. Circular saws are easy to control and make precise cuts that are plumb and square.

compact circular saw

However, standard circular saws do have some drawbacks. Weighing in at ten pounds or more, they work best when rested on the material to be cut. They don’t work well if you only have one hand, and they are real headaches if you need to cut in a tight space or above your head. Enter the compact circular saw.

Compact circular saws are designed to be operated one-handed. Most weigh in at around five pounds and use compact circular saw blades of 3 3/8, 4 ½, or 5 ½ inches. Which compact circular saw is the best? Read on to find out. Are you questioning if you need a miter saw or circular saw? If so. check out Miter Saw vs Circular Saw: Do you Really Need Both?

A Quick Look at Our Top Picks for the Best Compact Circular Saw:

WORX WORXSAW 4 ½ Inch Compact Circular Saw

The 4 ½ inch compact Worxsaw from Worx is a budget-friendly saw. At just 4.4 pounds, it is light enough to hold and operate one-handed. The 4 ½ inch blade is big enough to cut through 2x dimensional lumber in a single pass.

Things we like:

  • Big enough to cut 2x dimensional lumber.
  • Built for one-handed operation.
  • Corded design means it is never out of power.
  • Comes with a rip fence to set up straight cuts.

Things we don’t like:

  • With a 4.0 amp motor turning at 3,500 RPM, some users report it struggles to cut 2x lumber in a single pass.
  • Some users find the ergonomics of the saw hard to handle with one hand.
  • Corded design means it is not as portable as others.

Makita 12V Max CXT Cordless Compact Circular Saw, 3 3/8 Inch

Makita’s 3 3/8 inch Max CXT circular saw is the lightest, and most portable saw of the bunch. At only 3.5 pounds, it really is light enough to use with one hand. The cordless design means it can go anywhere. With the small 3 3/8 inch blade, it is limited to cutting material no more than one inch thick.

Things we like:

  • Lightweight and cordless design make this saw truly portable.
  • A good saw to keep in a toolbox for woodworkers on the go.

Things we don’t like:

  • Some users report this saw struggles to cut thick material.
  • The battery is not compatible with other Makita 12V tools, so you have to buy new chargers and batteries.

Rockwell 4 ½ Compact Circular Saw

The 4 ½ inch compact circular saw from Rockwell is a step up in power and capability from other compact circular saws. While any 4 ½ inch circular saw has the cutting depth to handle 2x lumber, the 5 amp motor running at 3,500 RPM allows the Rockwell saw the power to handle the job.

Things we like:

  • Lots of power in a small package. Many users report this saw handles 2x lumber and hardwood flooring without slowing down.
  • With the right blade, makes a good saw for cutting tile or metal.
  • Metal body housing is more durable than plastic models.
  • Corded design doesn’t run out of power.

Things we don’t like:

  • Many users report that the bolt holding the blade in place is subject to breakage. Even brand-new saws seem to suffer from this issue.

Porter Cable 4 ½ Compact Circular Saw Kit

Porter Cable has a reputation for making contractor-grade tools, and their 4 ½ inch compact circular saw is no exception. It has a 5.5 amp motor that spins at 3,500 RPM. The maximum cutting depth is 1 11/16 inches, enough to cut 2x lumber.

Things we like:

  • A real powerhouse that consistently cuts 2x lumber.
  • Comes with a rip fence to guide cuts.
  • The kit includes a bag to hold the saw and accessories.

Things we don’t like:

  • Some users report the handle ergonomics are difficult to use.
  • At six pounds, it is the heaviest compact circular saw reviewed.

Black and Decker 20V Max 5 ½ Inch Cordless Compact Circular Saw

OK, so it’s not really a compact circular saw. But the Black and Decker 20V Max 5 ½ inch cordless circular saw can do a lot of the same things as a compact circular saw. This saw has a maximum cutting depth of 1 ¾ inches, more than enough to slice through 2x dimensional lumber.

Things we like:

  • Big enough to handle 2x lumber regularly without bogging down.
  • Cordless design lets you use this saw anywhere.
  • Performance from the 5 ½ inch blade is closer to a full-sized saw than to the 4 ½ inch models.

Things we don’t like:

  • Traditional design means it’s harder to use one-handed.
  • At 7.5 pounds, it is significantly heavier than compact circular saws.

Compact Circular Saws Vs. Full-Sized Circular Saws

The good old circular saw is a staple of every carpenter’s toolkit, and for good reason. Circular saws can perform the work of just about any other saw, given the right setup. Need to cut a miter? Circular saws can handle it! Framing a shed or house? You’ll want a circular saw. With the right blade, you can even cut metal. Traditional circular saws are a great generalist tool.

On the other hand, compact circular saws are a specialist tool. They can’t do everything the way a full-sized circular saw can. They are useful in some specific situations, though. Reasons to buy a compact circular saw include:

  • You find yourself performing cuts one-handed more often than two-handed.
  • Your work requires you to move around a lot, and a big saw slows you down.
  • Big saws don’t fit into the kind of tight places where you need to cut.
  • Most of your cuts are overhead or at awkward angles, and a big saw is dangerous.
  • The material you cut is almost always one inch thick or less.

Which Saw is Right for You

compact circular saw

If you really need a compact saw, our choice is the Porter-Cable 4 ½ inch circular saw. This saw has the power to cut whatever you can throw at it, and the durability to keep cutting for years.

If you are on a budget, or if you will be cutting lots of 2x lumber, we recommend the Black and Decker 5 ½ inch 20V Max cordless circular saw. It’s not quite as compact as the other saws, but the durability and power of this saw make it stand out.

About Brandon Potters

Hi, I’m Brandon and I can’t express how excited I am that you chose The Saw Guy as your resource for project ideas, tool reviews, and all-around guide to the world of DIY. I spent years in the construction industry refining my knowledge of various trades and even spent a few years working at a major hardware store. ​If there is anyone who can help you make a well-informed, unbiased, budget-conscious decision, it’s me and my team.

Leave a Comment