Reviews

Is DeWalt’s Cordless 20V MAX the Best Compact Router?

I tested DeWalt’s newest cordless compact router, the DCW600B. Find out where it excelled and what I think it could do better.
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DeWalt Compact Router Review

Photo: Glenda Taylor

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DeWalt has long been a top contender in the power tool industry, producing high-quality tools for pros and DIYers, so I was excited to test the company’s newest cordless compact router, the DeWalt 20V Max XR Brushless Cordless Compact Router. Not only did this model (the DCW600B) compact router earn a spot on our lineup of the best wood routers, it also earned the best overall award.

I put DeWalt through its paces by creating numerous edge shapes and profiles on hardwood and softwood boards (pine and oak). It helped create smooth, precise edge profiles that required only minimal sanding. It’s not perfect, of course—but it’s pretty darn close.

The DeWalt 20V Max XR Brushless Cordless Compact Router: At a Glance

Rating: 9.2/10

DeWalt Compact Router Review
Photo: Glenda Taylor

PROS

  • Brushless motor enhances battery life and reduces wear on the motor
  • Adjustable speed dial allows users to select the best speed for the material
  • Users can make micro-adjustments to bit depth for highly precise routing

CONS

  • Not suitable for heavy-duty use as it only comes with a ¼-inch collet
  • Lacks plunge capability, so starting a cut in the center of the material can be challenging
  • No dust port is available, which makes this router unsuited to indoor use

Get the DeWalt 20V Max XR Brushless Cordless Compact Router at:

What is the cordless DeWalt compact router?

All wood routers use a spinning bit to shape and contour the edges of boards and countertops to give them a finished look, and DeWalt’s compact router does that quite well.

DeWalt’s compact router offers nearly as much power as its full-size cousin, the DeWalt DW618, but in a smaller package. A good deal of its power comes from the inclusion of a brushless motor, which enhances performance and prolongs battery life. The primary differences between the two models are weight, power source, and collet (bit holder) size. In my performance tests, the compact model was every bit as precise—and it was easier to use!

DeWalt Compact Router Review
Photo: Glenda Taylor

What powers the DeWalt compact router?

While many power tools still need to be plugged in, DeWalt’s compact router is cordless. It runs on a rechargeable lithium-ion battery and—with the correct battery—it doesn’t lack in the power department. I used a DeWalt MAX 5 amp-hour (Ah) battery that kept the tool running for more than 3 hours of continuous testing. Ultimately, this router will be as good as the battery powering it, so I recommend a minimum 3Ah DeWalt MAX battery. Fortunately, DeWalt MAX batteries are interchangeable with other DeWalt MAX tools and chargers, so users who already have DeWalt power tools may not need to purchase an additional battery.

The cordless ability of this router makes it more versatile than a corded model because it can go anywhere—even to a remote location, such as an off-grid cabin—and it will still function. The downside to cordless tools, including the DeWalt compact router, is the need to recharge batteries. The risk of running out of battery power can be reduced by purchasing a second battery and keeping it charged to swap in if the first one runs down.

Is the DeWalt compact router as good as a full-size router?

Yes, and no. I found the DeWalt compact router every bit as good as other popular wood routers I tested for creating smooth routed edges and designs on hard and soft wood (oak and pine). However, it’s designed for small-to-moderate-size woodworking projects because it comes with a ¼-inch collet but not a ½-inch collet.

A collet is a circular holder that secures a router bit during use. This compact router comes with only a ¼-inch collet, so it only accepts router bits with ¼-inch or smaller shanks. For many DIYers and woodworkers, a ¼-inch collet is all they will ever need, but for those who want to tackle larger projects, such as creating edge profiles on thick countertops, a bigger router bit may be necessary.

This router did an excellent job routing edge profiles with only a ¼-inch collet, and its bright LED light made it easy to see the material, so I feel it deserves a spot in any well-stocked woodworking shop.

DeWalt Compact Router Review
Photo: Glenda Taylor

Is the DeWalt compact router comfortable to use for extended periods?

Not only is this router comfortable to use, but at less than 4 pounds, I found I could use it continuously for more than an hour—without suffering from hand or wrist fatigue. Of course, user results may vary based on their arm and hand strength.

The router features nonslip padding on the sides of the tool that helps reduce vibration while running and helps prevent slippage. I alternated between using one hand and two hands to control the router. While using two hands offers the best control, this compact router is small and lightweight enough for someone with medium-to-large hands to use with just one hand. This can come in handy if the other hand is needed to hold a board still while routing the edge.

No worries, however, if your hands are too small to use it one-handed—using clamps to secure a board is standard practice when routing and provides excellent stability.

DeWalt Compact Router Review
Photo: Glenda Taylor

Can the DeWalt compact router create professional edge profiles?

I found the DeWalt compact router capable of creating edge designs and profiles as smooth and precise as larger routers. One key to professional-looking results is the maximum speed a router generates, measured in rotations per minute (rpm). Until recently, only corded electric routers could maintain speeds over 20,000 rpm, which is beneficial for creating the type of smooth edge profiles that don’t require much sanding.

This model offers a maximum speed of 25,500 rpm, making it fast enough to create smooth details and edges.

However, in some cases, a slower speed might work better, such as when routing very dense woods, like maple or cherry, or when the user is routing out joint details, such as creating dado or mortise-and-dovetail joints. Fortunately, this compact router has a variable speed dial that allows users to select speeds from 8,000 to 25,500 rpm. Remember that a router can only do so much. Skill also plays a vital role. Practicing on scrap wood to hone skills and using high-quality router bits can also help.

DeWalt Compact Router Review
Photo: Glenda Taylor

Is the DeWalt compact router right for you?

Woodworkers who create small projects, such as bookcases or cabinets, or professional carpenters who need to create finished edge profiles on trim boards might want to consider investing in the DeWalt compact router. It provides powerful routing speeds in a lightweight, compact tool that doesn’t weigh the user down.

It’s also a top option for those working without access to an electrical outlet. However, for those looking to use larger, heavier-duty bits with shanks more than ¼ inch in diameter—this is not the router. This model only comes with a ¼-inch collet so that it only accepts bits no larger than ¼ inch in diameter.

Also, this compact router is best suited for outdoor and open-shop use because it does not come with a dust port for attaching a shop-type vacuum. Still, it’s a top-notch compact router that easily competes with other popular brands and is well-suited to most DIY projects.

The Best Wood Router Review
Photo: Glenda Taylor

Where to Buy the DeWalt Compact Router

Get the DeWalt 20V Max XR Brushless Cordless Compact Router at:

Meet the Tester

Glenda Taylor is a product tester and writer specializing in construction, remodeling, and real estate. She and her husband own a general contracting company, and she 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 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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