About two years ago I started getting serious about purchasing wood working tools and building my work shop. I knew that from the entertaining and educational posts at "The Pond" I would need two routers, one mounted in a table and one for free hand use. I also know most of you guys (and gals) have this thing about the PC-690 kit (which I'm sure is great) however at the time I only had about $100 to spend on each router.
After much research I settled on purchasing a Ryobi RE-185, 2 1/4hp, variable speed router. The RE-185 comes with both 1/4" and 3/8" collets common on most router bits. I liked the first RE-185 so much, that after the first couple of uses I bought another to go into my router table I built.
So far the 2 1/4hp router has had plenty of power to plow through any of the woods I've used, with some of the hardest being white oak and Honduras Rosewood. The variable speeds are a huge asset, especially when cuting the harder woods. So far I am very pleased with both routers and their performances.
The thing I like most about the router is the "pistol-grip" type handles and the controllability you have when using it free hand or with templates. In addition the RE-185 has a light that illuminates your work as you go and incorporates a "soft-start" that slowly brings the router bit up to speed. When you lock the router motor to install or remove bits it automatically shuts off power to the router, this is a great safety feature in my opinion, but probably standard on most routers. The RE-185 incorportates the typical heighth adjustment ring with a moveable height adjustment measurement ring that is marked off in 64ths of an inch (I believe).
At first I was concerned that my Ryobi's wouldn't work with some of the many attachments (such as template rings) that I had seen for the PC stuff, however, every attachment that I've thought about or have purchased worked fine with the Ryobi RE-185. The only negative thing I have to say about the router is that you can't find it at your local Lowes or Home Depot, however they will order you one but you could probably get a better price from Harbor Freight Tools.
I purchased my first RE-185 from Wood Craft via their web page and found the other on the Harbor Freight Tools web page. For right around $100.00 I feel that this was a good investment and seems that it should serve me well in the future. I'll keep you posted. (the specs of the RE-185 are on the Ryobi site.