10 Router Comparison

As we all know, router is the most versatile tool in any shop. Therefore many of us have more than one router. Here, I'm going to review and compare 10 routers in two categories.

  1. Light to medium duty; Porter-Cable 690/693, Dewalt 620, Bosch 1604 2-medium to heavy duty; Porter-Cable 7518/7539, Dewalt 625, Bosch 1613EVS/1615EVS and Hitachi M12V
  2. Plunge or fixed base? This question is actually not as deep as "to be or not to be ". If one wants to start a cut in the middle of a board, plunge routers provide all the safety, accuracy and convenience you need. On the other hand, fixed based routers do much better hanging upside down in a router table.
  3. Operating knobs, levers, buttons and switches. This issue is pretty gray since it's a matter of personal preference, as well as what one got used to use, though it's not that difficult to adapt another type in a very short period of time, depending of the frequency of use.
  4. Power and variable speed. There never is too much of it!
  5. Price. What's the best value? Is there such a concept?
  6. Accessories and other attachments – Are they available? Do you really need them?
  7. All comes down to – Details, to which I usually pay very much attention.

Porter-Cable 690/693

This tool had came very close to end the first argument; Fixed or plunge. Especially when they were(maybe still some available) packed together(motor, interchangeable plunge and fixed bases) they represented a very good value and versatility. Though I found securing the motor into the plunge base could be designed in a way more "user friendly " fashion, but being the only option in its class, P-C is happy with the sales graph and I don't think there will be any improvement about that anytime soon. These routers have 10 Amp. motors and they are capable of doing many routing tasks without a hiccup(within its capacity). All kinds of accessories and attachments are available from a wide variety of sources. I think their collets is the very best, regardless their duty class.(75XX series share the same collet.) Also, the other good thing about it; Their collets can travel beyond their sub-base, an often ignored, but when the time comes, appreciated feature. (Though, this nothing to do with the collet design; Because, both 690 and 693's based are designed to allow maximum travel of the motor unit, beyond the sub-base line.) It's also available with a D-handle (I called "toted ") base, which is 691. Bottom line; It's a keeper.

Dewalt 620

This router is another classic design. Use to have gray and black cap, but now it's grown up, stronger and wearing a yellow cap. It's a head to head competitor to P-C's 690. DW 620's motor can be taking out of its base and placed in P-C 693's plunge base. Its 9 Amp. motor is as powerful as 690 and it has a same kind of toggle switch as 690, BUT has a rack & pinion type of height adjustment system which is very accurate and convenient. Seems to be though, it's a little bit noisier than 690. It also accepts same kind of template bushings. Although, I give the edge to Dewalt due to its height adjustment system, which makes it up for minus one amper.

Bosch 1604

Another screw type fixed base with +1 amper(11 Amp.) Well designed collet

and smoother height adjustment, as well as the good proportioned, close to the base knobs (also available with toted base, 1606) makes this router favorable. Unfortunately, you're doomed to buy Bosch's template guides only, which may not be a big problem for some who don't yet have a router. On the other hand, diameter "size selection " of Bosch templates are not as good as the standard type which are widely available. Otherwise, it's a very well built, powerful and easy to use router. Typical good Bosch quality.

Porter-Cable 7518

Now in the heavy weight class, this router is the second heaviest and has one exceptional feature that makes 7518 just perfect for the table use; Lots of room in its base. I said it's exceptional, because 7518 is THE ONLY router that can accept ANY router bit, EVER made. Now, this a no-non sense statement. This is a very important feature, especially if you intent to use it in a table. First of all; you don't need any insert, sub-base, etc. You can directly(take its black phenolic base off, of course.) mount 7518 to a 3/4 " MDF or plywood, topped with a plastic laminate. Then chuck any bit, you'll still have room to make 1/4 " deep, 7/16 " wide rabbet for 3-1/2 " opening to use shop made 1/4 " thick plywood "0 " clearance inserts. 4 7/16 " mounting screws are good choice to secure this monster. Just like any other "thing ", it's not perfect. In my honest and well thought opinion; 1-it's slowest speed should be 8000 rpm, not 10000. 2-Both Variable speed step-switch and power switch are not up to expectations. In the owners' manual it says "turn the power off before you change the speed " but the switch is so soft, just a touch is good enough to shift the speed. I found the location and the design of these switches to be inappropriate. They're always in the way during the height adjustment operations. Accidentally shifting the speed, as well as turning it on, are possible. 3-Very heavy duty, brute force, and rough fit and finish are the first impressions. Don't plan to use this beast hand held for a long time, unless you look like Arnold, but it's designed for table use anyway. 4-Its screw type height adjustment system is prone to get jammed if it's not cleaned from the accumulated dust & chips. I think its clamp handle(exactly the same as 690's) is insufficient, as well as its overall height adjustment system. This router deserves a better system.(like a rack & pinion.)

Porter-Cable 7539

Yes, this is the heaviest router in the market, regardless fixed or plunge. Using this router in a table must be an agony. Using it hand held has the same effect due to its weight; therefore I took it back to the dealer in 2 days for a full refund! 3-7/16 " base opening is missing the 3,5 " panel bits by 1/16 " of an inch. It's a mystery! All that weight is pretty tough to lift or push with a single nut, even with the extension knob. Unfortunately this router has no room in my shop.

Dewalt DW-625

This is the finest router in the market. Weight to power ratio is excellent and perfect for heavy duty hand-held use. It also has the smoothest cut, probably due to the largest bearings found in any router. Also, spring loaded half nut can be instantly repositioned, then fine adjustment can be done by twisting this nut. All other plungers(except Bosch 1613EVS) here, force your wrist to exercise very comprehensively. All controls are very well laid out, very powerful and smooth operation make this router is the top ranking router. Just like any other one, this router has down sides as well. 1-Collet travel distance stops 1/2 " before its base line. 2-It has a nice arbor lock, but collet requires two step twisting with the wrench. Basically, I never had any difficulty releasing a bit, but it just takes little longer than P-C collets. 3-Base opening is only 2-9/16 ". If I have to choose only one router, DW 625 would be my choice.

Hitachi M12V

This is another fine machine, though its collet design(end of the rotor-arbor) can be questioned, it's not as smooth as some other ones. It's 2-1/2 " base opening limits the use of bits larger than that size. This is a straight forward machine, good quality and well built.

Bosch 1613EVS

I'd put it in the same spot with Hitachi, except the power, which is max. 11 Amp. Its speed range(12k-to-22k) is another sign that this router is not intended for use of larger diameter. bits. Micro-adjustment, though is exceptional. Collet works good, but plunge action is not always the same for some unknown reason. Easy to use and well balanced machine.

Bosch 1615EVS

Same overall features as its younger brother 1613EVS. I find it too heavy, though it's powerful. Maximum. speed is dropped to 19k, min. is again 12000 rpm., but the base opening is increased.(1-3/4 " in 1613 and 2-5/8 " in 1615.) Both routers has the most depth stops(8) than any other router. No micro-adjustment. Overall good quality machine, but not in the top of my list.

Note: I know that many routers with small base openings are used to use large diameter bits by mounting them from outside, which, I personally don't approve. I'd suggest to get the base of your router to be machined for sufficient opening diameter instead. Much safer and convenient.

I skipped most of the specification data, which are easily obtainable from catalogs and tried to focus on the details regarding the actual use of these machines.

I haven't used Freud FT-2000E, Makita 361X BRA, Ryobi RE 600, Skil and Sears, therefore I can't comment on these routers.

H.C. Sakman - 3/16/98
"Chico "



© 2003 by Ellis Walentine by special arrangement with Wayne Miller of Badger Pond. All rights reserved.
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