Cordless Circular Saws – M18 vs FlexVolt vs Makita

Saws Dewalt v Makita v Milwaukee

The circular saw has been around for many years and offers many unique advantages. They are one of the most powerful handheld tools you can own for cutting, similar power to a small table saw but fits in your hands. Overall, they are easy to use, affordable, portable and practical for so many applications. In the days of NiCd battery technology they simply could not build a competitive pro grade circular saw to keep up with corded, however over the last several years, we’ve seen changes in cordless batteries with increased amps, performance, sizing, costs, etc. With the industry demanding longer lasting batteries and corded performance, we wanted to see how these cordless 7-1/4″ circular saws from the top professional brands would perform.

  • MakitaXSH01Z ($199.95 bare) XSH01X ($399 w/3.0) – 36V, brushed, 10 Ah (5.0 x2), 18650 battery cells
  • Milwaukee2731-20 ($229.95 bare) 48-59-1890PC ($249 w/9.0) – 18V, brushless, 9.0 Ah, 18650 battery cells
  • DewaltDCS575 ($179.00 bare) DCS575T2 ($355 w/ 2.0) 54V, brushless, 9.0 Ah, 20700 battery cells

Questions to Answer:

We choose these 3 saws because we wanted to focus on the top rated pro brands with full size 7-1/4″ and stay within their respective main battery platforms (FlexVolt is where Dewalt is headed). We considered Bosch, Metabo and Hilti for the test but did not want to drop to a 6.5″ blade (these will out of the pro cordless market altogether within a few years) or jump to a different battery platform like 36v where costs sky rocket and options are very limited.

We wanted to answer several questions: 1. Can an brushless 18V, compete with a brushless 54V? Milwaukee says yes, so it’s worth testing. 2. Can the older 36V brush keep up with new brushless tech? Unfortunately we were not able to get a hold of Makita’s new 36V brushless still several months away. 3. When looking at the new 9.0Ah how does new cells FlexVolt 20700 effect run-time? Other brands are saying 50% plus improvements which is desperately needed for the larger Volt draw. We were not that impressed with the original FlexVolt runtime but were optimistic for this 9.0Ah.

Comparison Testing Parameters:

Rip 2x4 to 2x2 with circular saws

We ripped 8′ lengths of 2×4 material to get a feel for power and speed. Then to test battery life cutting .25” thick plywood panels doubled up (stacked on top of one another) in 1.5”W strips until each model’s battery life expires. While testing battery life, we also observed and noted the products ergonomics, dust interference and product weight.

 Performance Testing Results:              Total Linear Feet Cut / FT per Ah

  • Makita                                                                  280′ / 28′
  • Milwaukee                                                            277′ /  30.77′
  • Dewalt                                                                  290′ /  32.22′

Dewalt cut slightly more linear feet than Milwaukee and Makita also had a slight advantage in power. The Flexvolt lithium ion, 60V battery lasted the longest but also heavier compared to the other brands. With Milwaukee cutting less linear feet (but 2nd in Ft/Ah) than the other brands and rated least powerful it’s important to note all 3 of these performed extremely well and very very close in end performance.

Ergonomic Comparisons (1 – best ranking):     Line of Sight       Readability        

  • Dewalt                                                                                    2                                 3
  • Makita                                                                                    1                                  1
  • Milwaukee                                                                             3                                 2

Ergonomic Comparisons (1 – best ranking):  Dust Control   Guide Readability

  • Dewalt                                                                                    3                                3
  • Makita                                                                                    2                                1
  • Milwaukee                                                                             1                                2

Product Weights:                            Weight w/ Battery         

  • Dewalt                                                                11.05 lbs.
  • Makita                                                                10.35 lbs.
  • Milwaukee                                                         10.00 lbs.

 Power Comparison                                    RPM

  • Dewalt                                                               5800
  • Makita                                                               4800
  • Milwaukee                                                       5000

 Comparison Testing Conclusion

All brands tested offer unique features and benefits but it is safe to put to bed the question of do these saws have corded performance, Yes without question all 3 do. While we ranked one brand over another in various categories, results are subjective. All 3 models performed very well, delivered precise cuts, great power, solid handling, flexible and affordable.

New FlexVolt 20700

From our tests, Dewalt cut more linear feet, thanks to new battery cells (18650 vs 20700), higher voltage and more RPM’s this saw also edged out the others in power. It left a little to be desired on usability but overall with 9.0Ah battery very impressive. This model is the latest to hit the market so we certainly had the highest expectations which they delivered on. In our humble opinion, with the higher 54V (60V max) platform FlexVolt should have never released the 2.0/6.0Ah battery with 18650 cells. Dewalt should have came out of the gates clean with this 9.0Ah / 20700 celled batteries as there were already some early adopters who have been disappointed in the battery life. This new battery makes up much ground, just saying the FlexVolt launch would have been much more powerful if they were leading in power and runtime.

Makita XSR01 Saw

The Makita is the oldest model in this race using older brushed tech, Makita will soon add their new brushless 36V (18Vx2) XSR01 rear-handle pictured above but will kepp both in line up (XSH01 blade-left, XSR01 blade-right). We were surprised to see this unit really held up great (can’t wait to see what the new one can do)! It cut just 10 linear feet less than the Dewalt, ranked second for power, dust control and handling was good. We have no problem with any tool brand using two 18v batteries to build to more powerful 36V tools. This keeps everything on the same system we already invested in, please don’t give us a new battery/charger and $1000+ entry fee into a different platform.

The Milwaukee cut the least linear feet overall but very close, it really kept up with the higher Voltage saws, good dust, handling control and lightest of the 3. Milwaukee has proven with this saw and many of their other tools they can compete staying within the M18 platform and just using 1 battery which is always the easiest and preferred option for users. All M18 tools work with the 9.0 and all batteries work on this saw which means they are loyal to their users and in turn their users stay loyal. If/when they jump to the 20700 cell M18 battery packs and if/when they go to 18Vx2 platform (M36 or M18x2?) we very much look forward to what possibilities those doors might open.

Declaring a winner in this comparison isn’t easy or straightforward and hopefully seeing different options provided some more insights for your situation. Again, all products performed exceptionally well and very close. Power and run-time are always going to get the highest marks so Dewalt is our clear winner here! Stay tuned for future comparisons and as always, thank you for taking the time to read our blog we look forward to your feedback.

**** Coptool testing disclaimer ****
We are not a testing laboratory, we are not considering long term performance and while we try very hard to remove user error there are many variable (accessories, people, materials, etc) that affect each tests outcome. We deliberately do several test on the same battery to average high and low load performance for what we consider better real world conditions. Our findings are just our personal thoughts and opinions and do not represent any recommendations on products.  

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