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We purchase every product we review with our own funds—we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

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Shopping Guide for Best Compact Routers

Compact routers are a relatively recent addition to the woodworker's armory. They're small, light, and manageable, but some consumers fear that these tools don't have enough power to be more than an expensive extra with limited applications.

Cheap compact routers can disappoint, but big-brand, high-quality manufacturers have entered the marketplace with some exceptional tools. Our five finalists are:

Note: The above product recommendations were updated July 2017. The products below were our original choices and have yet to be updated.

Products we Considered

  • Makita
    1 1/4-HP Compact Kit
    Colt Palm Grip
  • SKIL
    1 3/4-HP Fixed Base Router
    Max Torque Variable Speed
    450 1.25 HP Compact Router


Power & Speed

You want your router to have decent horsepower because that's going to give you the necessary torque you need to run a variety of cutters. You also want a good range of speeds so your router can cope with different softwoods and hardwoods.

Performance & Handling

Figures only tell part of the story. They don't tell you what each compact router is like in the hand or what kind of work it can actually handle. In this section of our ratings, we examine depth adjustment, ease of use, cutter changing, and more.

Features & Accessories

In this part of our ratings, we look at bases, cases, edge guides, and more. In short, we help you understand what each router provides to extend its usefulness and make your life easier.


You might not expect to pay the same for a compact router as you would a full-size version, but there's still quite a large price variation between the cheapest and most expensive on our shortlist. In this section, we look at whether the investment each product requires is really worth it.


Power & Speed

Bosch PR20EVSK Colt Palm Grip

The Bosch PR20EVSK Colt Palm Grip Router is rated at 5.6 amps and 1 horsepower (hp). Amps should be useful for comparison, because effectively they rate the load the motor can take without overheating. However, not all manufacturers provide this figure. Horsepower, on the other hand, is quoted by everyone, but it's important to note that the quoted number is almost certainly a maximum figure. So, the Bosch isn't the most powerful compact router you'll find, but it still has a useful speed range of between 15,000 and 35,000 rpm. It also offers a soft-start function (as all good routers should), so the torque won't suddenly pull the tool out of your hand when you turn it on.

SKIL 1817 120V 1-3/4 HP Fixed Base Router

With up to 1 3/4 hp and 9.5 amps, the Skil 1817 Fixed Base Router has substantially more power than the Bosch. This is another soft-start motor, but it lacks the variable speed range of the Bosch. Having said that, it does run at a more than adequate 25,000 rpm. Also, as we'll see a little later, the Skil offers considerable performance advantages over some of our finalists.


In terms of power, the DeWalt DWP611PK Compact Router, with its 1.25-hp motor, is pitched in the mid-range. However, when you add a speed control that ranges between 16,000 and 27,000 rpm, you end up with a tool that offers great adaptability. This tool has a soft-start motor, and like the Bosch, it incorporates technology that matches power supplied to load. Therefore, it should maintain cutting capacity when you run into difficulties like irregular grain.

Milwaukee 5615-21

The Milwaukee 5615-21 BodyGrip Router is another 1 3/4-hp model, and it's rated at 11 amps -- so while initially similar to the Skil, it exceeds the performance of that model. It's clear that the manufacturer expects this tool to be put to use in a table, albeit occasionally. It may not entirely replace a full-size router, but it will be a viable alternative for many. It does have what some perceive as the disadvantage of a fixed 24,000 rpm speed, but it is, nevertheless, the most powerful of our finalists.

Makita RT0701CX3 1-1/4 HP Compact Router Kit

At 1.25 hp (and 6.5 amps) ,the Makita RT0700CX3 Compact Router appears to be much like the DeWalt at first glance. It, too, offers variable speed, though in the case of the Makita, that range is greater. (10,000 to 30,000 rpm, to be exact.) This range opens up the potential for even more flexibility than the DeWalt. The Makita also offers the soft-start motor and electric load control that you would expect of a quality tool.

With a fixed speed of 24,000 rpm, the Milwaukee 5615-21 BodyGrip Router is the most powerful of all our finalists.

Performance & Handling

The secret of successful routing is not trying to bite off more than your tool can chew. Making multiple small cuts, particularly with a compact tool like the Bosch PR20EVSK Colt Palm Grip Router, will invariably produce better results than plowing through the job in one pass. The Bosch isn't under-powered; it simply has a different focus. Weighing only about three pounds, the Bosch, with its aluminum base and single-handed grip, is particularly suited for tasks like cutting hinge mortices in situ. The collet is 1/4 of an inch, and although maximum cutter size is quoted at 1-5/16ths, you wouldn't want to try cutting ogee moldings into oak. The Bosch's strengths lie in decorative work and smaller edging and trimming tasks. There have been quite a few negative comments concerning accuracy of depth adjustment, but our research shows that the majority of these were made some time ago. We suspect that the manufacturer has made the necessary modifications and that this is no longer a problem.

One advantage the Skil 1817 Fixed Base Router has over some other products is that it's supplied with a 1/2-inch collet and a 1/4-inch adapter. This means that it can take larger cutters and remove more wood in a single pass. Owners pay something of a size and weight penalty in exchange for this benefit. The Skil weighs just a fraction over seven pounds. You could argue, however, that this weight lends increased stability to the instrument. Depth of cut is controlled by a "micro-fine" adjuster, but like the Bosch, there's no plunge facility. Unlike the Bosch, however, the Skil provides comfortable side handles that enhance control. For users, these handles furnish a good alternative to simply wrapping a hand around the user body.

Although the DeWalt DWP611PK Compact Router is available on its own, we've chosen the kit version that comes with an invaluable plunge base. On its normal base, the DeWalt weighs a fraction over four pounds. Even with the robust plunge base, it weighs only slightly over six pounds, making it a very easy tool to handle. That's further helped by a head that is only three inches across, making the DeWalt equally as comfortable as a palm router (and notably more powerful than the Bosch). Depth control can be as fine as 1/64th of an inch using the standard base and almost infinitely variable using the screw adjuster and 5-step turret on the plunge base. This tool operates smoothly and also benefits from large handles that maximize comfort and control.

The Milwaukee 5615-21 Compact Router offers a cutter capacity similar to that of the Skil. It can take both 1/2 and 1/4-inch bits; the smaller of these is not an adapter, but a proper, interchangeable collet. This tool, at eight pounds, can take on some serious work. Its heavier weight and larger bulk is counteracted by a "Bodygrip" design that is purported to make it easier to control. Chunky, tactile handles sit on either side of the fixed base, making it easy to manipulate. Like the DeWalt, depth control comes in increments as small as 1/64th of an inch; the mechanism itself offers both coarse and micro-fine adjustments. This tool is widely recognized as one of the most precise compact routers on the market today.

On its own, the Makita RT0700CX3 Compact Router weighs just under four pounds. The only tool on our shortlist that weighs less than this is the Bosch. Its various accessories (which we'll get to in a moment) are all durable plastic and/or aluminum alloy, so it remains an easy tool to handle in whichever of its many guises you choose. Collet size is 1/4 of an inch; it's not designed to make the heavier cuts you can make with the Skil or Milwaukee, but it offers an excellent range of adjustability and good depth control thanks to the rack and pinion fine adjuster. The plunge base only provides three pre-set depth stops (in many models, there are five), but that's a minor issue. This tool offers big, comfortable grips and the smooth rise and fall you need for accurate work.

The Milwaukee 5615-21 BodyGrip Router is widely recognized as one of the most precise compact routers on the market today.
Expert Consultant

Scott completed his first woodworking project in the 5th grade, and he’s been an avid woodworker ever since. For the past 46 years, Scott has enjoyed remodeling homes, building custom cabinets and mantels, installing hardwood floors/trim work, and many other unique projects.

Scott  |  Do-It-Yourself Guru And Carpenter

Features & Accessories

Bosch PR20EVSK Colt Palm Grip

The main feature worthy of note on the Bosch PR20EVSK Colt Palm Grip Router is its "Constant Response" motor circuitry. This feature is designed to increase power to the motor in response to heavy load. It's not foolproof -- you can still stall the cutter if you try to do too much -- but it does a good job of ironing out the occasional performance hiccups that are almost inevitable with routing. The Bosch sports a spindle lock which should make cutter changing a single-wrench task. However, a number of owners found this a bit awkward. In response to this problem, the manufacturer supplies a second shaft wrench for those who prefer to use it. Completing the Bosch's accessory set is a useful straight edge guide and a smart carrying case.

SKIL 1817 120V 1-3/4 HP Fixed Base Router

If you're looking for a compact router that you could use with a router table, the Skil 1817 Fixed Base Router with its 1/2-inch shank capacity offers that option. It wouldn't cope with major material removal, but if you need to do a lot of light but repetitive work, it's worth considering. The dual-position on/off switch (one on the side, one on top) would be an advantage in this case, as would the quick release lever for the base, which you could leave mounted while you adjusted the router itself. There's also a useful LED in the base to help illuminate whatever you are working on. Like the Bosch, there's a spindle lock for bit changing, but just a single collet wrench. There are holes in the base for an edge guide, but an edge guide is not supplied.


Given that we've already discussed the DeWalt's main accessory -- its excellent plunge base -- it's nice to see that this compact router has a number of other useful and thoughtful touches as well. There's a durable, clear sub-base so you can see what's going on and two LEDs to light your work piece. There's an easy-access speed control wheel near the top of the tool, quick-release levers for removing the fixed base, and a nice big button for the spindle lock that makes changing bits as simple as possible. Considering DeWalt's reputation for quality and attention to detail, we find it surprising that no carrying case is included.

Milwaukee 5615-21

The Milwaukee 5615-21 BodyGrip Router is a powerful and purposeful tool, but it doesn't offer much in the way of extras. There's no plunge, no spindle lock (you get two wrenches and you do it the "old" way), and no LEDs. It is, however, the only one of our finalists that allows depth adjustment while mounted in a router table. (This fact once again reiterates the type of work the Milwaukee can do.) You also get a superb, impact-resistant carrying case and a five-year warranty -- the best of any of the tools we've rated.

Makita RT0701CX3 1-1/4 HP Compact Router Kit

Much like the Bosch, the speed control on the Makita RT0700CX3 Compact Router is handily placed near the top. There's also a spindle lock for faster bit changing, and the bases themselves are quick and easy to swap. These features are all nice, but they're also fairly standard. When you look at the accessories provided, however, it's easy to see the true benefits of the Makita Compact Router Kit. In addition to the plunge base, there's also an offset base that can help you get into tight corners (and, unusually, a tilt version). This not only makes for easy and comparatively safe angled routing, it can be used to extend the styles of moulding you can cut by altering the angle of your bits. You also get an edge guide, a template guide, a couple of dust/chip nozzles, and a convenient carrying/storage bag. As an introduction to routing, the Makita Compact Router Kit is a tough package to beat.

As an "introduction to routing" package, the Makita RT0700CX3 is tough to beat.


Bosch PR20EVSK Colt Palm Grip

You can get the Bosch PR20EVSK Colt Palm Grip Router for $119, which is a pretty good price for a versatile little tool from a quality manufacturer. It's the smallest of the compact routers we've rated. It lacks a plunge facility, and you wouldn't want to try inverting it in a router table -- but that doesn't make it a bad product. Indeed, many satisfied owners will tell you that it does precisely what they expect it to do. It's light, easy to use, and a hot seller among DIYers and professionals alike. The key to using this small tool successfully is a proper understanding of its capabilities from the outset.

SKIL 1817 120V 1-3/4 HP Fixed Base Router

The Skil 1817 Fixed Base Router now sells for $136. What you get for your money is a tough, powerful little workhorse that, unlike many compact routers, can capably serve as a light table router. It doesn't have tremendous flexibility (a plunge facility would be nice), but for the money, it's an option worth considering. Once again, it's a question of choosing the right tool for the job, and very few owners of the Skil are disappointed with what they bought. One or two cautioned potential buyers not to expect the performance you'd get from a full-size, 1/2-inch router, but that really ought to go without saying. The main disappointment we encountered in our research was the lack of a carrying case, but if that's the worst people have to say about it, it must do its job pretty well!


Woodworkers, and power tool users in general, expect to pay a premium for the quality they get from DeWalt. At a price of $171, the DWP611PK Compact Router reflects a considerable value. This is a popular machine that is highly praised by the vast majority of its owners. In fact, our research turned up almost no complaints. A few would have liked a 1/2-inch collet (and thought that the DeWalt could handle one), but these detractors acknowledge that such a collet would push the router beyond what it was designed for.

Milwaukee 5615-21

The Milwaukee 5615-21 BodyGrip Router currently sells for $165. This no-nonsense tool blurs the line between compact and full-size routers. There have been complaints about excessive vibration in the past, but this problem seems to have been fixed by the manufacturer. Indeed, the majority of owners agree that despite its capacity for hard work, the Milwaukee is relatively easy to control with one hand. It doesn't have the bells and whistles that some owners would like, but it's powerful, accurate, and tough -- "rock solid," as one owner put it.

Makita RT0701CX3 1-1/4 HP Compact Router Kit

The fact that the Makita RT0700CX3 Compact Router sells for $218 right now makes it something of a steal. This easy-to-use router provides decent power for its class. The possibilities of what you can do with it are vastly extended by the huge number of accessories the manufacturer provides. These accessories are not gimmicks, but useful additions to any woodworker's arsenal. Not surprisingly, the Makita Compact Router Kit is highly praised by owners -- particularly (though by no means exclusively) those who bought it as a first router.

The Makita Compact Router Kit includes a large number of accessories that would be useful in any woodworker's arsenal.

Best of the Best

Our Best of the Best compact router is the Makita RT0700CX3. It's not the lowest-priced tool among our finalists, but it earns the award anyway because it's such a tremendous deal.

If you're looking for a small, cheap compact router, the Bosch and Skil are both unlikely to disappoint. The DeWalt is also an excellent tool for the money, as hundreds of happy owners will tell you. But as a complete package -- particularly for the woodworking beginner -- you just can't beat the Makita.

At the heart of the kit is a very good compact router. 1.25 hp is standard for many of these tools, but the Makita's speed range of 10,000 to 30,000 rpm is exceptional. It doesn't have the out-and-out cutting capabilities of the Milwaukee, but it has lots of flexibility so you can experiment with different rates of cut in different timbers and learn how to best work with each. Whether you're using the standard base or any of the additional options, the machine is light and well-balanced enough that holding it isn't a chore.

The router comes with the 1/4-inch collet you would expect, excellent depth control via a precision adjuster, and a spindle lock for rapid bit changing. There's also a load sensor on the motor that will automatically balance power output to the cutting conditions. These features are all very useful, but they're not unusual on this kind of tool. What is unusual is the huge range of accessories you get with this purchase: a plunge base (invaluable, in our opinion), an offset base for tight corners, an angled base that extends what you can do with your cutters, two different waste nozzles, an edge guide, a template guide, and a smart bag to carry it all in. All of impeccable quality. All for just $219.

On its own, the Makita is a very good compact router. As a complete package, the kit delivers superb value, and more than a few owners are delighted that they opted for it. The feelings of many are summed up by one owner who said, "It's everything you need for any project!"

Best of the Best
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As a complete package -- particularly for the woodworking beginner -- you just can't beat the Makita.

Best Bang for your Buck

All five of the compact routers on our shortlist are excellent tools. However, the very best compact router is the Dewalt.

Many consumers favor the Milwaukee tool because of the manufacturer's reputation for excellence. Indeed, the Milwaukee is a top-notch tool. However, this category is about the very best value for your money, and that's the Dewalt.

With 1.25 hp and 120 volts, it's not the most powerful tool here. Despite its "compact" categorization, the manufacturer obviously expects owners to put the Dewalt to some serious use. That doesn't mean it's cumbersome or unwieldy. A lot of thought has gone into the styiling and design, as evidenced by useful elements like the hand strap and large, comfortable handles.

The Dewalt may not be big on extra features or accessories, but it certainly does focus on performance. You wouldn't normally anticipate finding lightweight routers in a router table, but Dewalt expects you to use the DWP611PK in one. In fact, the manufacturer provides a special access hole so you can adjust depth while it's in-situ. This tool's depth setting, with its micro-fine adjuster, is recognized as one of the best in the field. So is the product's three-year warranty. 

This isn't a replacement for a full-size router, but it comes close. If you're looking for a smaller, more manageable model, the Dewalt would make an excellent choice. Our research has turned up numerous satisfied owners -- both hobbyists and professionals -- who agree. "A pleasure to use!" and "Good, solid control!" are typical of the compliments this product receives.

Best Bang for your Buck
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The Dewalt isn't the least expensive among our finalists, but it earns our 'Best Bang for Your Buck' award because it's such a tremendous deal.
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