Compact circular saws have lots of fans because of their light weight and easy maneuverability. They let you work on thinner, lighter material without making you handle the extra weight of their full-size cousins. And they’re great for people just getting started with DIY or crafts, who maybe aren’t quite looking for the power of a full-size circular saw. The definition of “compact” varies a lot from brand to brand, but for our purposes, I’m looking at anything with a blade under 6” in diameter.
This segment of the market isn’t as dominated by the major power tool players as the full-size category. So you’ll see some names on our list you might not have see before, along with a couple of familiar ones. They’ve all stood up to scrutiny by thousands of users, but each has its own pluses and minuses.
Read on for all the details, but if you want, here's a cheat-sheet to my picks:
The 8 Best Compact Circular Saws
Let’s dig into the specifics of my top picks.
Makita is one of the giants of the power tool industry, and this tool is built to the standards you’d expect from them. With a top speed of just 1500 RPM, it won’t set any speed records for chewing through wood. But it delivers plenty of torque, so you can cut through material up to an inch thick, if you’re patient.
Like most of these saws, it’s not made for all-day every-day use, but specializes in cutting thinner material or hard-to-reach cuts. Its lower blade speed means it tends not to throw dust around as much as faster-spinning models. Some people have reported problems finding the optional vacuum attachment piece in the U.S., however. You might anticipate needing to call Makita’s support department for help if attaching to your vacuum is impotant.
The tool is part of Makita’s 12V Max CXT line, which features a number of other handy tools. If you’re starting (or expanding) a Makita tool collection, this would be an obvious choice for you.
- Lightweight and easy to handle
- Good battery life
- Non-standard blade/arbor size can mean limited selection of blades
This saw, like most Dremel products, is aimed at the hobbyist or craftsperson who needs to cut through thinner material. It’s not designed to make long rip cuts or handle material over 3/4” thick.
Where it really shines is making shorter, precise cuts through material around 1/4” to 1/2” thick. Rather than traditional toothed saw blades, it uses abrasive-coated disks. On thick material, or tough material like wood with embedded nails, the abrasives tend to wear off fairly quickly. You’d be better off with a more traditional toothed circular saw for such projects.
Dremel makes a variety of cutting disks for different material like plastic, tile, or stone. While the tool itself is not particularly expensive, replacement blades can be. So you’ll want to save this tool for those smaller, more awkward cuts. If you’ve got dozens of feet of material to rip through, look to a traditional circular saw.
- Optional auxiliary handle for extra control
- Includes multiple blades for wood, metal, PVC, etc.
- Can make flush cuts with appropriate blade
- Can overheat when cutting thick material
This saw can use both 4 1/2” and 4 3/8” blades, and has a maximum depth of cut of 1 11/16”. That’s more than enough to cut through 2x4s and similar material. The depth of cut drops to 1 1/8” at a 45° angle, so you won’t quite be able to make it through a 2x4 at that angle.
Cutting material of 1/2” to 3/4” is where this saw really excels, though. For thicker material, you may want to make your cut in multiple passes, to avoid overtaxing the motor. The vacuum hose attachment does an effective job of clearing sawdust, making it easier to see your cut line.
There seems to be some variability in the build quality of these units. Most customers report that they are solid and dependable cutting through materials up to 2x4 thickness. But a few have reported that the arbor has broken after only brief usage. Hopefully these concerns have been addressed, but be sure to put the tool to the test to make sure you got a good one.
Note that this saw has a 3/8” arbor, which is somewhat less common than a 5/8” arbor. You’ll have a more limited selection of blades to choose from, especially at hardware stores or home centers. You can find 3/8” arbor blades online, or you can look for an adapter that will let you use 5/8” arbor blades.
- Left-mounted blade improves visibility of cut line
- Easy-to-operate trigger and safety
- Some users report that the bolt holding the blade can snap off
The WX439L is the successor to the very popular Worx WX429L. It is similar in most respects to the WX429L, but has a slimmer handle that you may find more comfortable to grip. The WX439L also has a slightly higher maximum RPM (4100 vs 3500).
As with a number of other tools, this Worx saw has a 3/8” arbor to attach the blades. That’s less common than a 5/8” arbor, so you may need to order replacement blades online rather than get them locally. You could also purchase an adapter to let you use 5/8” arbor blades on this saw.
The included dust port adapter makes it easy to connect to your shop vacuum for dust control. The motor is powerful enough to cut through 3/4” material without much trouble, but you’ll probably need to go slowly on something like a 2x4.
- Slimmer handle than its predecessor is easier to grip
- Includes rip fence
- Dust port for connecting to a shop vacuum
- Rip fence is tricky to keep accurate when tightening
- Struggles to cut through full 2x products
This 4 1/2” circular saw from Genesis is pretty solidly-built, although it’s still designed for fairly light duty. The motor is powerful enough to cut through 2x4s or similar material without much trouble. And it’s light enough to use one-handed safely.
The inclusion of a rip fence and dust hose for connecting to a shop vacuum is something you might not expect for such a moderately-priced tool. One downside is that the dust hose is quite narrow and can clog up. If this happens, the saw might overheat and shut down until you clear the clog.
If you have blades already, you can buy just the bare tool.
- Cuts 2x material without any trouble
- Includes dust connector for shop vacuum
- Includes rip fence
- Narrow dust hose can clog up and cause overheating/shutdown
The GP766V is a 4 1/2” compact circular saw very similar in design to the popular Tacklife TCS115A. While it is designed for fairly light duty, the build quality is solid enough to make accurate cuts. The rip fence can also be tightened accurately, which is something some of its competitors struggle with.
Some reviewers complain about the placement of the safety and trigger, saying it forces their hands into an uncomfortable position. The motor is plenty powerful enough for 3/4” material. You’ll want to take it slow on something like a 2x4 to ensure you don’t overtax the motor, though.
- Includes both 24- and 40-tooth blades
- Included rip fence is accurate
- Packaged blades wear out quickly
- Control placement may make it difficult to grip
Despite the similar product number to the Rockwell RK3441K, this tool has several differences. It’s more than a pound lighter, for one, and it includes a laser guide to help follow your cut lines. The motor works great for thinner material like plywood, flooring, and the like. But take note that the saw’s maximum cut depth of 1 1/16” will not let you cut through 2x4s with a single cut. If you’ll be doing that more than occasionally, consider the RK3441K or a similar tool.
The safety mechanism on this saw operates a bit differently from most others. You need to press the base of the saw down onto the work surface to engage the trigger. Some users find this confusing and prefer a more standard safety button that you press with your finger.
- Very lightweight
- Laser guide for accurately following cut lines
- Safety mechanism can be confusing, requires pushing plate down onto work surface
This tool from Black & Decker is on the larger size for this roundup, with a 5 1/2” blade. As you’d expect, it’s a bit heavier too, at 7.6 lbs. But its more traditional circular-saw shape might appeal to you. And the two-handed operation can be safer than one-handed models in the event of kickback.
Overall customers find this saw adequate for most light-duty work, including cutting through 2x4s and similar material. But some people report the motor struggles on 2x material, so you’ll probably want to go slowly to ensure you don’t overtax it.
- Two-handled design for safe operation
- Depth of cut can handle 2x4s
- Motor can struggle on thicker material
Buying Guide to Compact Circular Saws
Compact circular saws are genreally a great option for cutting through thinner material (3/4” or less). They’re not designed for long rip cuts through tough material. As long as you use them for their intended purpose, you’ll be happy! But they don’t have the power to tackle all the cuts you can make with a full-size saw. And if you try to force them to do so, you’re likely to end up disappointed.
Below are some of the main criteria to keep in mind when you’re comparing these saws. You can also check out our complete buying guide to circular saws for even more information on what to look for. While it focuses mostly on full-size saws, almost everything applies to these mini circular saws as well.
Do I Need a Mini Circular Saw?
Honestly, if you already have a full-size circular saw (anything 7 1/2” and up in blade diameter), you probably don’t need a compact version. Your current saw can cut anything a compact circular saw can, and then some. But you might still want a smaller circular saw for a couple reasons.
The first is ease of use. Larger circular saws are quite a bit heavier (usually 6-10 pounds). This can make them unwieldy to use with smaller or thinner material. You might find yourself focusing more on trying to keep the saw balanced than on safely executing your cut. A compact circular saw will be much easier—and safer—to use, even one-handed.
The second is economics. While buying another tool might seem like the wrong way to save money, it depends on your needs. If you’ll be cutting material like tile or stone, you’ll need special saw blades. It can be considerably cheaper to buy small versions of these blades rather than the much larger ones that fit a full-size saw. After one or two blades, you might more than make up for the relatively small cost of the compact saw.
If you don’t already have a full-size circular saw, think through what kinds of projects you have in mind. You can start out with a mini circular saw and eventually “graduate” to a full-size one when you need it. But if you already have projects in mind that require a larger saw, it might be smart to start out there and add a compact version later as you see fit.
You can check out our guide to the best full-size cordless circular saws and best corded circular saws for some great picks in the full-size circular saw category.
Corded vs. Cordless
Cordless tools give you the freedom to work anywhere you want, without worrying about having a power outlet nearby. This is great for landscaping work or other projects outside of your home. But they do have drawbacks.
The biggest is that you now need to buy batteries and chargers that are compatible with the tool. If you already own cordless tools, you can save costs here by choosing a compact circular saw from the same manufacturer. Be sure to double-check, though, because the voltages might be different from your current tools, and might require different chargers!
The weight of the battery is another consideration. While the batteries for compact circular saws aren’t especially heavy, they will add a pound or so. Depending on your arm strength, this might be the difference between an easy-to-use tool and a workout you may not have bargained for.
Corded tools have the major benefit that they won’t ever run out of juice in the middle of a project. But they tether you to a power outlet—or an extension cord—which might be inconvenient. And having power cords running all over your work area adds a tripping hazard that you might prefer to avoid.
You can find great products in both categories, so it really comes down to your personal preference and how you think you’ll use the saw.
Blade Size and Cutting Depth
You’ll see a variety of different blade sizes among our picks. Smaller blade sizes generally equate to a smaller, lighter tool. This can be great for convenience, but also reduces the thickness of material you can cut.
If you’ll be cutting mostly thin material such as paneling, craft wood, plexiglass, and so forth, any saw will work. But the smaller saws on our list won’t be able to cut through thicker materials like 2x4s. (Despite their name, modern 2x4s are actually about 1 1/2” thick, so if you want to cut them, look for at least that much depth.) You can often work around a limited cutting depth by making two cuts, one from each side. But that adds extra steps to your project, so think through what types of material you will be working with.
I’ve called out the cutting depth of each saw so you don’t have to worry about figuring it out from the blade size. Just look for saws that can cut through the thickness of materials you plan to use them on!
Power is a tricky concept with tools like compact circular saws. All the corded models will run on standard U.S. 120 V circuits, but the amount of power their motors deliver will vary. Manufacturers like to quote “no load RPM” numbers, which (as the name implies) is the maximum speed of the motor when it is not under any load at all. Of course, when you’re cutting something, you’re putting quite a lot of load on the motor! So these numbers don’t mean a whole lot, and you should take them with a grain of salt. Just because its RPM rating is higher doesn’t always mean that saw will cut better than another. I’ve tried to call out in the reviews what materials a saw is best suited for.
With cordless saws, the battery voltages can vary from about 10 V up to around 20 V for compact circular saws. In general, higher voltages will generate more power. But again, the design of the saw and its motor come into play, so you can’t always just compare straight numbers. Read our reviews of each tool to see if there’s anything you need to know.
Ease of Use
Most of the tools I reviewed are fairly lightweight, especially compared to a full-size circular saw. Even so, there is some variation. If you’re on the smaller side or don’t have a lot of arm strength, you might get tired lifting and operating a heavier tool. Consider looking for the lightest compact circular saw that meets your needs.
Another aspect of circular saws that’s easy to overlook is which side the blade is on as you hold the tool in front of you. If you’re right-handed, having the blade on the left will make it easier to see the blade and follow your marked cut line as you push the tool with your right hand. Conversely, for lefties, a right-sided blade is best for visibility. This is more of an issue for larger circular saws, where the body of the saw can block your view of the blade and cut line. For these smaller saws, it’s not as big a problem, but for the ultimate in ease of use and accuracy, it’s worth considering.