Best compact router?

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Forum topic by one19 posted 05-03-2016 02:45 AM 2408 views 0 times favorited 36 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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65 posts in 1472 days

05-03-2016 02:45 AM

Hello again. I’m looking for real-world user advice about palm/compact routers. I’ve looked at reviews for Bosch Colt, as well as units from Dewalt, PC, Ridgid, and Makita. I’ll use this tool for round-overs, shallow dados, and some bit of freehand clean up under counter tops. Do LEDs really help? How about things like noise, ease-of-control, and overall reliability? Does a clear sub-base really help?

As always, thanks for your thoughts!

36 replies so far

View clin's profile


947 posts in 1167 days

#1 posted 05-03-2016 03:03 AM

I’m not sure if this is in the same size range as you’re talking about. I have a Dewalt DWP611 and love it.

The 611 has a clear base, but I don’t find a clear base helps me. And I can’t even recall if the 611 has any lighting built in. Almost all the time I’m using a trim bit with a ball bearing. I’m not looking at the bit. Just managing the router making sure the base stays flat; that type of thing.

Also, it seems to me these bases get scratched up so quickly that you can’t really see anything through them anyway. And there’s always a mess of saw dust and chips in the way as well.

Obviously if you’re routing freehand, anything that might help see what the bit is doing, or where you’re going could be helpful.

-- Clin

View one19's profile


65 posts in 1472 days

#2 posted 05-03-2016 03:07 AM

Exactly the kind of helpful commentary I need! Thanks, Clin.

View Mark Kornell's profile

Mark Kornell

1169 posts in 2701 days

#3 posted 05-03-2016 04:33 AM

I’ve got 3 compact routers. A Bosch Colt, a PC 7301 (laminate trimmer) and the DW611. The base on the PC is lousy for most tasks – hard to adjust and not square to the router. The new PC 450 unit seems to have much better base. The Colt isn’t a bad router, but the act of locking or unlocking the base causes the router to shift slightly so dialing in fine adjustments can be time-consuming.

The 611 is the router of choice for just about everything I don’t do on the router table. Sufficient power for most tasks you’d do freehand, but light and maneuverable. The plunge base is really good, too. I’ve also got 3 medium-size routers that I could use but they mostly collect dust.

Two other notes about the 611 – it has LEDs which work well. But the plastic base plates get scratched up pretty quickly, limiting the view, likely something that happens with any LED-equipped router. I also have the (optional) dust collection attachments and they work as advertised. Takes a bit of creativity to come up with a fitting to hook them to the shop vac, particularly with the plunge base, but worth the effort.

My biggest beef with the 611 is that the screw pattern is different between the plunge and fixed bases. I use a lot of shop-made base plates, but can’t switch them between the plunge and fixed bases.

-- Mark Kornell, Kornell Wood Design

View a1Jim's profile


117268 posts in 3748 days

#4 posted 05-03-2016 05:07 AM

I like my DeWalt combo set have a small plunge router makes it easy to do some operations,I also like the led lighting and clear base. Something to think about with compact routers ,they only accept 1/4” shank router bits which in my opinion don’t cut as cleanly as 1/2” shank router bits,because the 1/4 bits vibrate more than 1/2” router bits and the 1/4” makes more chatter marks.
I have 40 routers and the one I like best for quick round overs is this one if you can find one.

-- wood crafting & woodworking classes

View BlazerGator's profile


25 posts in 1360 days

#5 posted 05-03-2016 05:21 AM

I have the Colt, and I’ve been pretty happy with it. Honestly, the adjustment is a bit clunky, but it hasn’t bothered me. In addition to my bias towards Bosch, it felt more solid and had less plastic than the alternatives I was considering.

Models like the compact DeWalt appear to have more reliably precise adjustment. If that feature is critical to you, then the Colt might be a non-starter. On a side-note, my Colt has variable speed, which seems unnecessary now that I’ve had it for several years; with a 1/4” shank, I’m turning smaller bits, so I haven’t felt the need to dial it down.

Noise—I don’t notice a big drop-off compared to my PC 690, but it’s slightly higher-pitched.
Control—for the uses you listed, I think any of the compact models you’re considering will feel easier to handle than a full-sized router.

-- Blaze

View joey502's profile


544 posts in 1689 days

#6 posted 05-03-2016 08:57 AM

I have both the DW611 and the Bosch colt. I agree with everything said about both machines above.

The Dewalt is my go to handheld router. The lights and plunge base dust attachment are nice to have when cutting small mortises. I prefer loose tenon joinery and this machine does 1/4” mortises nicely. The light weight is also great when cutting an edge profile.

The Bosch Colt has only been used once since the DW arrived. It did not come with the plunge base, I am not sure if the plunge base was available at the time. The fixed base does not feel very stable to me and I do not feel comfortable with my paws so close to the bit.

View JoeinGa's profile


7739 posts in 2178 days

#7 posted 05-03-2016 11:41 AM

I’ve had one of these for about 5 years. Love it and use it for everything. In fact since I’ve had it I cant remember the last time I even bothered to take out that big behemoth Makita I have.

-- Perform A Random Act Of Kindness Today ... Pay It Forward

View one19's profile


65 posts in 1472 days

#8 posted 05-03-2016 02:42 PM

Excellent commentary, gents. Thanks again.

So far, between the reading I’ve done and your thoughts, it’s down to the Dewalt and Ridgid models. Seems like you get a lot for your money with the Ridgid, where as you have to buy every last accessory for the Dewalt, which doesn’t even come with an edge guide. That seems harsh because all the other competition models do. Any one have or use the Makita compact router?

View Paul's profile


721 posts in 1736 days

#9 posted 05-03-2016 02:53 PM

I’ve got the ridgid and bosch. I regret buying the Bosch it sits on a shelf and looks pretty.


View AZWoody's profile


1410 posts in 1394 days

#10 posted 05-03-2016 03:10 PM

I have the rigid and I bought it online from HD because they had a package that included a 1/4 sheet sander for the same price as if you bought just the router in the store.

View LJD4662's profile


35 posts in 1871 days

#11 posted 05-03-2016 03:13 PM

I have the Makita compact as well as the larger plunge router. I am satisfied with both of them. The stock base plate for the Makita is black and I felt it was too small (making the router tippy) but this is likely a problem for all compact routers. I’ve since made a larger clear base plate for it. I would have also liked some sort of depth micro adjustment. The depth adjuster is a rack and pinion gear. Although its well made, fine adjustments aren’t exactly easy to do.

View jimintx's profile


843 posts in 1755 days

#12 posted 05-03-2016 03:16 PM

That orange Ridgid is my personal choice.
Great price for a great little machine, with excellent features.

-- Jim, Houston, TX

View Monte Pittman's profile

Monte Pittman

29945 posts in 2509 days

#13 posted 05-03-2016 03:23 PM

I have 2 Bosch Colts. I Don’t recommend them. The Dewalt is my choice.

-- Nature created it, I just assemble it.

View pintodeluxe's profile


5781 posts in 2984 days

#14 posted 05-03-2016 04:33 PM

I have 4 trim routers and can share some differences between the common ones. For instance I have the PC 450 and the Dewalt 611 combo kits. At first glance they look identical except for color, however the Dewalt has better features. Two that stand out are LED lighting, and a better fixed router sub-base on the 611. It is much easier to round over an edge with the 611, because one side of the sub-base is oversized.

They are both accurate enough for inlay work, with good smooth plunge bases. So overall, I would say the Dewalt 611 is my favorite compact router. There are some excellent accessories available as well. The plunge base accepts the optional dust shroud, which seems to work well. The P.C. 42690 edge guide works with the 611 (use the short guide rods on position #1).

-- Willie, Washington "If You Choose Not To Decide, You Still Have Made a Choice" - Rush

View one19's profile


65 posts in 1472 days

#15 posted 05-03-2016 04:45 PM

You guys are the best, keep it coming! I love to over-analyze and research things to death!

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