Compact routers (also known as trim routers or palm routers) are a great tool for small trim and laminate jobs. They don’t have the hassle of full sized routers or having to set up a router table or table saw dado blades. So, most carpenters, tradesmen and other woodworkers are likely to want to invest in a good dedicated compact router at some point in time.
So we’ve decided to review some of the best compact routers on the market today. Our lead author on this article, Simon, investigated a sample of 7 of the best wood routers from top brands for this review. He settled on the Dewalt DCW600B as his top pick. You’ll notice Chris, our editor, has also jumped in with his two cents on a few of these ones as well! It looks like Chris agrees the Dewalt DCW600B is a top pick. We hope you enjoy this thorough review.
Best Compact Routers List
The best compact router tools are:
- Dewalt DCW600B – Cordless Router (Battery Sold Separately)
- Makita XTR01Z 18V – Cordless Router
- Bosch GKF125CEN Colt
- Bosch PR20EVS
- Ridgid R2401
- Dobetter DBTR700
- Porter-Cable PCE6435
This information is shared as personal opinion for our situation only, and does not constitute professional advice to you – so make your choice wisely and if in doubt, consult your nearest gardening shop!
First, we’ll provide a comparison table, then under this we’ll do a detailed review of each product.
Full Compact Router Reviews
1. Dewalt DCW600B – Cordless Router (Battery Sold Separately)
Our Rating: 10/10
It’s not often that we will rate a product so highly but the Dewalt DCW600B is a premium quality product that is well rated by both hobbyist woodworkers and professionals alike, making it one of the best palm routers on the market today.
Dewalt has manufactured a solid product with the DCW600B, it includes soft start, variable speeds and is sufficiently powerful with 16,000 – 25,000 RPM.
Portability is a key feature with this model as the cordless functionality allows this model to be one of the most powerful compact routers on the market. This reliability means that you can just as easily use this router on the jobsite as you would in the workshops.
The height adjustment ring is ergonomically placed to make depth adjustments quick and easy. We do want to point out however that the position of the ring makes it easy to accidentally change the height during use so a locking feature would be a good addition.
The dual LED lights do an excellent job of illuminating the work space and provide greater bit and stock visibility during use.
|Portability: This is one of the most powerful cordless routers on the market allowing for use in a workshop or on the jobsite.|
Rating: This is one of the highest rated routers on the market (in any size or category) and is well recommended by professionals.
Adjustments: The depth adjustment ring is easy and quick to use for ease of depth/height adjustments.
|Size: Despite being a compact router, many users still find it to be slightly too large and heavy for their needs.|
2. Makita XTR01Z 18V LXT Lithium-Ion Brushless Cordless Compact Router (Battery Sold Separately)
Our Rating: 9.5/10
The Makita XTR01Z offers the power of a corded router in a more portable model and does so with some premium quality features.
The variable speed control of 10,000 – 30,000 RPM offers increased control even when working with larger stock and is powerful enough to handle most heavy-duty work.
Accuracy and precision are more key features with this router and the rack and pinion depth adjustment system is both smooth to use and allows for ultra-fine precision.
Besides the Dewalt DCW600B, this is one of the highest rated compact routers on the market with most users (including professionals) having few issues when using this router.
The slim and ergonomic body is easy to hold for enhanced handling and the rubber grip is optimized for comfort during use.
If we are being honest, the only downside we can see to this model is that it doesn’t already come with a battery included (which will increase your initial cost). If you already own some tools in the Makita 18V range thought then this won’t even be an issue!
|Precision: The rack and pin system is smooth and allows for ultra-fine depth control.|
Highly Rated: Besides the Dewalt DCW600B, this is one of the highest rated routers on the market and is a high quality product.
Safety: The on/off button is separate from the additional lock button which helps to prevent accidental startups.
Comfort: The slim and ergonomically designed body is well suited for improved handling and comfort during use.
|Tool Only: The battery for this router is sold separately which will increase the initial cost if you don’t currently own a Makita 18V battery.|
3. Bosch GKF125CEN Colt
Our Rating: 9/10
Bosch has a number of impressive routers in their range and are somewhat of an industry leader in this category. The GKF125CEN Colt router is a powerful and comfortable compact router in their range.
The Bosch GKF125CEN is known as a powerful router with great specifications. It has an impressive 1.25HP, 7Ah motor which offers variable speeds of 16,000 – 35,000 RPM.
Not only is this product powerful but it’s also known to be reliable. Constant response circuitry keeps this product consistent throughout use and the soft-start significantly reduces torque on start up.
Despite the power of this router, handling and comfort are also optimized thanks to the palm grip design with finger support pockets. This allows for superior control and handling during use.
To get such a powerful router, however, there have been some compromises made on size and weight. For a compact router, this product is quite large and also heavy at 4.4 pounds so Fatigue could be an issue for people who use it for a long period of time.
Overall, we feel this is a really solid product that is both powerful and comfortable to use. The one thing we’d consider carefully is whether the size and weight are exactly what we want.
|Powerful: This is one of the most powerful compact routers available thanks to a 1.25HP, 7Ah motor offering variable speeds of 16,000 – 35,000 RPM.|
Control: Despite the power, handling is still optimized with this model as a result of the palm grip design with finger support pockets for improved handling and comfort.
Bit Capacity: The wide bit capacity allows the use of bits up to 1-5/16” for heavy-duty routing.
|Weight: With a weight of 4.4 pounds this router couldstart to feel heavy after long duration use.|
4. Bosch PR20EVS
Our Rating: 8.5/10
The Bosch PR20EVS is a great entry-level router that comes with an affordable price tag.
Some of the key features with this product are the power and ease of use. The 1HP, 5.6Ah motor provides variable speeds of 16,000 – 35,000 RPM which means it is well suited to handle a range of stock sizes.
The contoured, finger grip pockets also allow for enhanced grip and comfort during use to make this router much easier to handle.
This product features fast bit changes that also offer versatility depending on the user’s preference. You can use the traditional method of using two wrenches to change the bit or make use of the single wrench functionality as a result of the spindle lock system.
One issue many users have found with this model however is that it can easily lose its bit height during use which can be a real issue for those that need guaranteed accuracy on every cut.
|Price: This is one of the most inexpensive and affordable compact routers on the market, especially considering it’s from a reputable brand.|
Comfortable Handling: The contoured, finger grip pockets allow for good handling and control whilst also being very comfortable during use.
Powerful: The 1HP, 5.6Ah motor provides variable speeds of 16,000 – 35,000 RPM which is impressive enough to handle a range of different stock uses.
|Additional Extras: While this is a great value router, the additional accessories like the attachable guide piece all come with the extra cost which offset the affordable price of the basic model.|
Depth Adjustment: Many users claim that this router has issues holding its depth height during use and can be prone to losing it, especially when used on heavier stock.
5. Ridgid R2401 Laminate Trim Router
Our Rating: 8/10
The Ridgid R2401 is a no-frills router that comfortably covers most basic routing needs whilst doing so in what appears to be a comfortable and easy to handle casing. We also like that it comes with a good quality carry case.
One great aspect of this router is its ease and comfort of use. The overmold grip allows for comfortable handling allowing users to work from both sides of the router for increased versatility during work.
The router comes with both a square and a round base plate for added versatility of use with different stock materials, shapes and sizes and the included guide also comes with mounting holes which is a great addition.
The flat top head allows for easy bit changes. One downside we see is that the locking lever for ‘easy removal of the base’ is arguably not that easy and it does not work as smoothly as what many users expect.
Another thing that stops us from rating this router higher is the fact that the aftermarket accessories are quite limited, especially when compared with the competition.
However, we still think it is a good mid-range router that is well suited to a wide range of woodworking jobs.
|Comfortable: The overmold grip allows for a comfortable grip during use for improved control and reduced fatigue.|
Flat Top: The flat top router allows for quick and effortless bit changes while the no-mar top will protect the work surface from scratches.
Base Plates: The router comes with both a round and square base plate for increased versatility of use.
|Base Removal: The removal of the base and quick release latch are arguably not as smooth as other models and can be time consuming and slightly frustrating for some users.|
Accessories: The aftermarket accessory range for this product is quite limited, especially when compared with similar routers that offer extensive accessories.
6. Dobetter DBTR700
Our Rating: 8/10
Routers are typically quite expensive products and the Dobetter DBTR700 is a surprisingly good quality compact router that comes with a very affordable cost.
A 1.25HP, 6.5Ah motor is powerful enough for most uses and variable speeds of 10,000 – 32,000 RPM is a solid range meaning users can use this router on a large variety of woodworking jobs.
It also features soft start technology, a rack and pin depth adjustment system, and quick release cam lock for base removal making it a modern and efficient router.
The value of this product is quite clear. Not only is it a decent quality router but you also get a range of additional accessories including an edge guide and additional router bits for greater variety of use.
|Price: The clear pro with this product is that it’s an affordable price for a surprisingly good quality router.|
Well Rated: The average opinion for most users is that it’s a good quality router for the price with very few downsides.
Accessories: An edge guide, dust hood and additional bits are just some of the extra accessories included with this product.
|Hobbyist Product: The bits and overall accuracy and versatility are designed for hobbyist projects and not professional standard woodworking jobs.|
7. Porter-Cable PCE6435
Our Rating: 8/10
Porter-Cable has long been a specialist brand when it comes to producing routers. Their PCE6435 is a heavy-duty model in the compact router range.
The precision machined, cast aluminum fixed base is of high quality construction and the extra large locking clips combine to make what appears to be a solid and and well built product.
The 5.6Ah motor is sufficiently powerful and provides variable speeds of 16,000 – 35,000 RPM whilst the depth ring makes adjustments to the bit height fast and effortless.
While the build quality of this router appears good, there are a few minor issues that prevent this from being a top quality router. Some users have noted that the router can lose depth at times during use and the vibrations also cause the variable speed to change slightly during use which is not ideal when looking for accurate cuts.
Overall, we feel this is a very solid router that should easily handle most woodworking jobs and our only issue is that the lack of a locking feature for the depth ring and variable speed dial could prove frustrating for some users.
|Heavy-Duty: The precision machined, cast aluminum fixed base with extra large locking clips is well suited to heavy-duty use.|
Warranty: A 3-year manufacturer’s warranty is great for peace of mind with this purchase.
|Loose Depth: The depth control on this router is not solid or locked in with many users claiming it can lose depth height during use.|
Vibrations: The vibration from this router can often cause the variable speed to change slightly during use.
What is a Compact Router?
A compact router is also known as a trim, laminate or palm router. They are designed to be smaller routers for quicker jobs than your larger plunge or fixed base routers that tend to also come with higher horsepower and the capacity to hold larger bits. For people looking to do large profiling cuts, dovetailing and mortising, it’s worth moving over to a full size router.
The other reason you might prefer a larger router is for mounting to a router table. For such jobs, a fixed base full size router for table mounting is our preference. When you mount a router to a router table, you can do large jobs more efficiently and take advantages of tools such as router table fences. To get a router for mounting to a table, consider reading our best routers for router tables review article.
Alternatively, some palm routers can be used on router tables with the assistance of a router lift. Universal router lifts such as the Jess-Em Mast-R Lift II are designed to hold routers that were not designed to fit in router tables. See our review of the best router lifts for more details.
But most small or hobby jobs can be done by a handheld compact router. This is even more the case with compact routers entering the market in recent years that pack quite a bit of power into a smaller model.
What is the Benefit of a Compact Router?
At the most simple level, a compact router is easier to handle. They’re designed for you to be able to hold them comfortably in your palm and go about fine trim and laminate cuts. Over and above this obvious benefit is the simplicity of these models – compact routers tend not to have the ‘bells and whistles’ of plunge routers or as many parts to cause trouble. Many people therefore choose compact routers for their simplicity and ease of use for quick jobs.
What we Look for in the Best Compact Router
A compact router is usually smaller and less powerful than a full-size router, but this is not always the case with newer models. A full-size router can reach up to 3.0 max. HP while compact models are usually down around 1 to 1.5 HP. Note that horsepower ratings for routers are peak power not operating power, so you can’t compare this to, say, your 1.5 HP table saw which would generally be more powerful overall.
Something else to take a look out for is the ‘variable speed’ adjustment mechanism on the router. Usually variable speeds range from 10,000 – 32,000 RPM and can be adjusted using a simple dial near the thumb. A lower speed is often good for materials that have a propensity to char from higher speed routers.
The last thing in the ‘power’ category that’s worth looking out for is soft start capacity. Soft start allows your router to speed up over a few seconds rather than going from 0 to 100 immediately. It makes the start up less of a strain on the wrists and helps protect the product itself from wear over time.
Nothing beats holding the router in your palm and seeing how it feels. A nice comfortable grip that contours perfectly with your thumb can make all the different for how you feel about your router.
Depth control relates to how easy it is to adjust the depth of your router bit. Sometimes it can be a real nightmare getting a bit to the perfect depth – it feels like you’re pulling the whole tool apart every time. We’re fans of rack and pinion models which allow for fine micro adjustments which leads to a better experience while routing and a better quality and accurate groove depth in the end.
The emergence of cordless compact routers in recent times opened up a lot of new options – especially for professionals on the jobsite. But the lack of a cord is also great for the hobbyist who doesn’t want to have to deal with a cord getting in the way. The one downside of the portability is the need to recharge regularly, and many people still prefer the consistent power you can get from a corded model in the workshop.
It’s not easy to find the right compact router tool. This review of the best compact routers has provided some examples and our ratings of them for our personal circumstances. Personally, we’re quite bullish on the Dewalt DCW600B for ourselves. Of course, none of this constitutes advice – professional or otherwise – for you or your circumstances, so do your own due diligence and consult a professional.
We hope this general information has been useful though as you go about searching for the best compact router tool!
Simon & Chris