Reviews

Can a Budget-Friendly Compact Circular Saw Get the DIY Job Done? I Put One to the Test

Small, but not as mighty as I would have liked; find out what happened when I tested the Black+Decker compact circular saw.
Glenda Taylor Avatar
Black+Decker compact circular saw review
Photo: Glenda Taylor

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DIYers looking for manageability in a circular saw may want to consider buying a compact circular saw for several reasons—they’re usually less expensive, more portable, and easier to maneuver. As part of an extensive hands-on test of the best circular saws on the market today, I tested a couple of compact models, including the Black+Decker 20V MAX PowerConnect 5½-inch cordless circular saw.

I’ve used many Black+Decker power tools over the years with excellent results, but unfortunately, the company’s PowerConnect 5½-inch compact circular saw didn’t live up to my standards this time. That could be due to several factors. Ahead, find out what I liked and disliked about this Black+Decker power tool, and discover which compact circular saws I think make better investments.

Black+Decker 20V MAX PowerConnect 5½-Inch Cordless Circular Saw: At a Glance

Rating: 5/10

PROS

  • Small and lightweight enough to use with one hand
  • Ergonomic, nonslip grip with a conveniently located power trigger
  • Easy to adjust shoe base for making bevel cuts

CONS

  • Comes with a low-capacity 1.5 amp-hour (Ah) battery
  • Not enough power to cut through standard construction materials
  • Blade guard didn’t retract smoothly—it stuck and jerked

Get the Black+Decker compact circular saw at:

What is the Black+Decker 20V MAX PowerConnect 5½-inch cordless circular saw?

This Black+Decker BDCCS20C is a lightweight circular saw with a compact 5½-inch blade. It weighs 8.1 pounds and is 14.25 inches long and 9.25 inches tall. In comparison, a standard 7¼-inch circular saw weighs about 2 to 5 pounds more, is 6 to 12 inches longer, and is about 3 to 6 inches wider. The PowerConnect circular saw sells as a kit with a 1.5Ah rechargeable lithium-ion battery and a battery charger.

I appreciated the included battery because many cordless power tools are sold as “tool only,” leaving users to purchase the battery and charger separately, which can double the purchase price. The downside is that Black+Decker’s battery is pretty weak. I started testing the saw on a piece of dimensional lumber but didn’t get far before it bogged down. This slower performance could work for the occasional user who needs it for light-duty DIY projects, such as cutting ¼-inch plywood or paneling. However, it wouldn’t be up to par for anyone who regularly needs to cut thicker wood consistently and quickly.

The less-than-impressive power of this compact circular saw could have resulted from its low-capacity battery. I couldn’t make that determination because I did not have a higher-capacity Black+Decker battery to swap in. If you already have this tool and are experiencing a lack of cutting power, you might want to try testing it with a higher-capacity Black+Decker 20-volt battery.

How easy is this Black+Decker circular saw to use?

If I had tested the Black+Decker compact circular saw based solely on its design, I would have given it a much higher rating. It comes with a padded ergonomic handle, making it easy to hold and maneuver the saw with just one hand. It also features a knob on the front that is well positioned for use with a second hand if you want added stability.

The PowerConnect compact circular saw has the ability to make beveled 45-degree cuts, which are commonly used for creating mitered corners. Like some of the best compact circular saws other team members tested, the Black+Decker saw features tool-free adjustments that are handy when the user is changing blades and adjusting blade depth. Older circular saws required wrenches to change blades and make other adjustments, so Black+Decker is right on the money with these updated design features.

Who knows? Perhaps incorporating a stronger motor or including a higher-capacity battery with the BDCCS20C would turn this lethargic saw into a powerhouse.

Other Compact Circular Saw Options

The following three were top performers in our hands-on tests, and each provides the power for a wide range of projects.

Makita8V LXT cordless 5⅜-inch circular trim saw, available at Amazon, The Home Depot, or Acme Tools.

I tested the Makita XSS03Z compact circular saw and was quite impressed. It weighs just 6 pounds but features a speed of up to 3,600 rpm. It cut quickly through both plywood and dimensional lumber. Despite its small size, the XSS03Z can cut up to 2 inches deep, which is quite an accomplishment for a compact circular saw. On the downside, you’ll have to purchase a battery separately—we tested it with a Makita 18V 5Ah battery.

Makita SH02R1 12V MAX CXT 3⅜-inch circular saw kit, available at Amazon, The Home Depot, or Acme Tools.

Those looking for a compact circular saw in the super-compact category might want to consider the Makita SH02R1. This little saw is designed for getting into restricted spots and for single-hand use. It comes with a 2Ah lithium-ion battery and a charger, so there’s nothing else to buy. Our test team found it exceptional for cutting through thin materials, such as cabinet backs. It features a powerful 1,500 rpm for making clean cuts.

Dremel US20V-01 20V MAX cordless compact saw kit, available at Amazon, The Home Depot, or  Acme Tools.

Dremel is well known for making quality rotary tools and multitools, and the company has also hit the target with the US20V-01. This compact circular saw features an impressive 15,000 rpm and accommodates a 4-inch blade. Our testing team noted that the blades for the US20V-01 come with abrasive edges that cut quickly through various thin materials, such as plexiglass, drywall, and thin plywood. An added perk: The US20V-01 comes with a 20V battery and charger.

Meet the Tester

Glenda Taylor is a product tester and writer specializing in the construction, remodeling, and real estate industry. She and her husband own a general contracting company, and Taylor is experienced in both residential and commercial building applications. She tests a wide range of power tools as well as other home-improvement, household, and lawn-and-garden products

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Glenda Taylor

Staff Writer

Glenda Taylor is a BobVila.com staff writer with a background in the residential remodeling, home building, and home improvement industries. She started writing for BobVila.com in 2016 and covers a range of topics, including construction methods, code compliance, tool use, and the latest news in the housing and real estate industries. 

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