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April 15, 2021

Professional Tool Reviews for Pros


Best Cordless Router Reviews 2021

I have a confession—I love routing. I find it therapeutic. There’s something about running a bit down an edge and adding an element of creativity that’s enjoyable. Recent upgrades in battery and motor technology are letting us cut the cord on trim routers and making the experience that much better. We decided to bring in the best cordless router models and test them head-to-head in a review that also happens to be great for my mental health.


Best Cordless Router

Milwaukee M18 Fuel Compact Router 2723

Best Cordless Router | Milwaukee M18 Fuel Cordless Compact Router

Milwaukee was one of the latest to the cordless router party, but the extra time allowed them to put together a complete package. It’s near the top in bit speed and power, has excellent visibility to your workpiece, excellent grip, and precise adjustments.

Even Milwaukee’s add-on bases seem to be a notch better in design compared to the others. It’s pretty clear the design team did their homework on this model.

Best Cordless Router Value

Makita 18V LXT Cordless Compact Router XTR01

Best Cordless Router Value

Makita notches a win for the best cordless router value thanks to its combination of a quality design and $129 bare tool price. For $279, you get a charger, 5.0Ah battery, and an interlocking hard case to store it all in. It’s not everyday one of the premium brands wins the best value, but Makita’s is too good to pass up!

The Bits We Used

There are a lot of routers bits to choose from. We frequently turn to Bosch for our router bits because of how long their carbide cutting edges last and the wide variety of bits they make. If all you need is a trim router, check out Bosch’s 6-piece, 1/4-inch bit set (RBS006). It runs $103.99 and includes:

  • 3/8-inch trimming
  • 1/4-inch straight
  • 1/2-inch straight
  • 1/4-inch roundover
  • 1 1/4-inch chamfer
  • 1/2-inch dovetail

If a larger router is also in your future, Bosch RBS010 10-piece router bit set includes a mix of 1/4-inch and 1/2-inch shank bits for $149.99.

Bosch Router Bit Set
  • 1/4-inch straight (1/2-inch shank)
  • 3/4-inch straight (1/2-inch shank)
  • 1/2-inch dovetail (1/2-inch shank)
  • 1-1/4 inch roundover (1/2-inch shank)
  • 1-3/8 inch Roman ogee (1/2-inch shank)
  • 1-1/4 inch chamfer (1/2-inch shank)
  • 1/2-inch trimming (1/2-inch shank)
  • 1/2-inch straight (1/4-inch shank)
  • 9/16-inch V-groove (1/4-inch shank)
  • 7/16-inch core box (1/4-inch shank)

Best Cordless Router from Brands We Trust

Bosch 12V Max EC Brushless Palm Edge Router GFK12V-25N

Best Bosch Cordless Router

Pros

  • Lightweight design
  • Wide-open sightlines to the bit
  • Ergonomics designed specifically for edge routing
  • Super-fine 0.04-inch per turn micro-adjustment
  • Only 12V model

Cons

  • Niche edge functionality limits the types of routing you can do compared to other cordless models
  • Limited runtime

Bosch’s 12V router is specifically designed for light edge routing. Because of this, it’s able to get away with a 12V power source and a slower 13,000 RPM bit speed. Don’t try to push this one into other tasks—there’s not enough power for that by design.

For what Bosch developed this to do, it’s excellent. We love how easy it is to see the bit engage your material and the ergonomics are dialed in for edge routing.

On the convenience side, we really like Bosch’s pullout collet lock that doesn’t require you to hold a button down while you’re tightening or loosening.

With Bosch’s Core18V battery system and ProFactor advanced tools, we’re hoping to see a full cordless version of the Colt trim router coming later this year.

DeWalt Max XR Brushless Cordless Compact Router DCW600

Best Cordless Router DeWalt

Pros

  • Excellent power under load
  • Stops the bit fast when you turn off the power
  • Very effective twist depth adjustment system
  • Variable speed dial

Cons

  • Largest diameter barrel of the group
  • Macro adjustments take longer than other models
  • No fence/guide attachment included

DeWalt builds their cordless trim router on the foundation of the popular DWP611 corded model. It steps out from the rest of the group thanks to a full barrel twist adjustment instead of using smaller dials. It takes a little getting used to if you’re moving over from another brand, but it’s effective. The downside is that macro adjustments take longer.

It has one of the slower top speeds at 25,500 RPM, but the power level is right up there with the rest and it seems to make more efficient use of its battery.

It’s heavier and bulkier in diameter than the others and some folks might be turned off by that. It didn’t bother our testing team much, though.

In addition to the bare tool, you add some value with the brushless woodworking kit that includes the router, XR D-handle jigsaw, 5Ah battery, and charger. There aren’t any other kit options and you’ll need to grab any bases or other accessories separately.

Kobalt 24V Max Cordless Router KR 124B-03

Best Kobalt Cordless Router

Pros

  • Variable speed dial
  • Very good power under load
  • Good sightlines
  • Fastest bit speed
  • 5-year warranty

Cons

  • Micro-adjustment slides freely
  • Slightly top heavy
  • Have to remove the base to change bits

Kobalt’s cordless router is less expensive than all but one of the routers on our list and doesn’t sacrifice performance to give it to you. With 30,000 RPM on the top end, it’s just slightly behind the top models in power and certainly not underpowered.

It has good a sightline to the bit and the controls are easy enough to use. However, the micro-adjustment’s free movement might be an issue for some folks. On the other hand, it matches Makita in scoring top marks for its ergonomics.

On the convenience side, there’s no way to change the bit without completely removing the router from its base because of the collet lock placement. It’s usually easier to change bits on any trim router with the base off, so this isn’t going to be an issue for everyone.

This is one of our best cordless router models that doesn’t include a battery and charger. However, the fence comes with it and it has one of the better warranties out there at 5 years.

Makita 18V LXT Cordless Compact Router XTR01

Makita Cordless Router

Pros

  • Power lock button provides an additional safety step
  • Excellent power under load
  • Very good sightline to the bit
  • Nice plunge base included in the kit
  • Compact overall size
  • Bare tool is less expensive than DeWalt or Milwaukee
  • Available combo that includes fixed and plunge bases

Cons

  • Micro-adjustment slides freely

Makita’s design is very similar to Kobalt’s. It shares the free-sliding micro-adjustment that may frustrate some folks. The collet lock is in a similar position, but the cutout area of the base is more generous and you’re able to change bits without removing the base if you like.

On the positive side, it matches Kobalt’s top ergonomics score but isn’t as top-heavy with a 5.0Ah battery on it. Its sightline is a bit better and it feels more powerful even though it has the same 30,000 RPM top speed.

Makita is the only model that includes an extra safety in addition to the power button. While none of these routers are likely to turn on rolling around your toolbox, it is a nice bit of insurance to carry. Both the power and lock/unlock buttons are blister buttons, something that PTR Reviewer, Tom Gaige doesn’t care for.

What’s interesting is that Makita makes a strong case for the best cordless router value. It’s $129 as a bare tool—$50 less than Milwaukee and $70 less than DeWalt. The kit options are more in line with its competition, though. It’s worth noting that both kits include an interlocking hard case.

Milwaukee M18 Fuel Cordless Compact Router 2723

Milwaukee M18 Fuel Cordless Router

Pros

  • Excellent power under load
  • Stops the bit fast when you turn the power off
  • Excellent sightline to the bit
  • Well-designed plunge and offset bases
  • Very good ergonomics
  • Second fast bits speed
  • Variable speed dial
  • 5-year warranty

Cons

  • No significant drawbacks

As we said above, Milwaukee pulled together the best aspects of the other routers and made a complete package that doesn’t have any major downsides in our opinion. It takes the RPMs a little higher to 31,000 as feels as powerful as DeWalt and Makita at the top of our charts.

The base cutout provides the best sightline to the bit. The dial-based micro-adjustment and push-button macro adjustment are the easiest to use and its controls are well-places for easy use as well.

If there’s a chink in Milwaukee’s armor, it’s that its ergonomics aren’t quite as good as Kobalt and Makita, but they are very good.

Price $179 bare tool price is where we expect it to be for the top tier of the class. There are also a variety of combos available to get you the bases you want, though none include a battery and charger (see below). Depending on your favorite retailer, there are several tool combos available that include the router.

  • Fixed and plunge base combo (2723-20PB)
  • Fixed, plunge, and offset base combo (2723-20BB)
  • Offset and fixed base combo (2723-20OB)

Ridgid 18V Octane Cordless Router R860443B

Best Ridgid Cordless Router

Pros

  • Lightweight design
  • Good power under load
  • Included fence guide is very sturdy

Cons

  • Plastic tool housing doesn’t glide against the fence as easily
  • Allows some movement in the micro-adjustment when locked

Ridgid stakes its efforts in pursuit of the best cordless router title by relying on Octane’s improved performance. What actually sets it apart, though, is how lightweight it is. Weighing just 2.3 pounds, it’s more than 1/2 a pound lighter than any of the other 18V/20V max models.

The Octane boost does help. It wasn’t quite hit the same level as our top performers, but its 30,000 RPMs were certainly capable of the routing we tested it on.

One design quirk that you may have to get used to is that the micro adjustment and speed dial are on opposite sides. Another oddity is that you have to pull the power switch out rather than pushing it in. You can use your thumb to accomplish that easily enough, but it’s very different.

Pricing on Ridgid’s cordless router is $129 as a bare tool and there aren’t any kits or combos available at the moment. As you’re shopping, keep in mind Ridgid’s Lifetime Service Agreement on the tool. It also now applies to any batteries and chargers you purchase separately.

Ryobi One+ 18V Cordless Trim Router P601

Ryobi Cordless Router

Pros

  • Easy-to-use Micro adjustment
  • Good material visibility
  • Lightweight design

Cons

  • Single speed only
  • Top heavy
  • Plastic body construction instead of metal
  • No fence included

Ryobi is by far the least expensive of our cordless router. That’s great for getting into cordless routing, but it does come with some trade-offs. The most obvious is that it’s a single-speed brushed motor router dialed in at 29,000 RPM.

It’s fairly lightweight as a bare tool, weighing 2.8 pounds. However, the stem pack design adds quite a bit of height and gives it a top-heavy balance when you have a battery inserted. It also creates a more off-center profile around the top.

There’s not as much power and you’ll need to slow down to let the motor and bit do the work compared to the others in our group.

Like Ridgid, the housing is plastic, but it slides better on its macro adjustment and locks down more securely.

Let’s not get too hung up on some of these details, though. This is a $69 cordless router and it’s capable of getting a lot of work done. Yes, there are professionals that demand more features and performance. But for the average DIYer or someone who’s just getting started, it’s a budget-friendly way to cut the cord. If that’s not enough, check out some of the combo options:

  • 15-piece bit set with router: $109
  • 4-piece roundover bit set with router: $79
  • Random orbit sander and router bare tool combo: $99
  • Orbital jigsaw with router bare tool combo: $119

And there are a bunch more at The Home Depot!


Choosing the Best Cordless Router: What We Look For

Performance

As of right now, the best cordless routers are all trim routers. That may change in the future as battery and motor technology improve. The top speed we’ve seen is 31,000 RPM and anything closing in on the 30,000 RPM mark should have no problem with most 1/4-inch shank router bits.

Smooth operation is an absolute must. With a bit spinning at 10’s of 1000’s of RPMs, any wobble is an absolute failure for the tool. Beyond that, we check to see how well the router keeps up with the pace we naturally want to work. If it’s slowing us down compared to a corded model, it lessens the value of cutting the cord.

That said, even lower speed models can get the job done. Just understand that you’ll need to slow down to let the motor keep its RPMs as high as it can.

As you’re shopping, look for models with a brushless motor. They can extend your runtime up to 50% over brushed motors along with providing more power and extending the tool’s overall life. It can make the difference between finishing your project and having to wait for an hour for your battery to charge.

Ergonomics

For cordless routers, weight isn’t a huge concern, but it does come into play because you’re almost always working on top of the material you’re routing. Still, some people prefer lighter weights and that’s perfectly okay!

Pay attention to the gripping surface. The size of your hands is a big factor in whether a slim or thicker barrel fits well. While we tend to prefer smaller diameters, it’s just that—a preference. You might like a larger diameter.

Rubber overmold should also cover much of the gripping surface to provide some grip and comfort. Consider how latches and dials affect your grip along with how easy it is for you to reach any adjustments.

Features

What makes or breaks your experience with a router ties in heavily with the feature set. Here are the primary things we look for that can make our experience better:

  • Power switch design and placement
  • Speed dial placement for variable speed models
  • Micro adjustment design and movement
  • Macro adjustment design and movement
  • Base removal
  • Bit change design
  • View of the bit and material while you’re working, including how well LED lights illuminate your view
  • Presence of an electric brake to stop the bit quickly
  • Included and/or available accessories, such as additional base plates, fences, and bases

Value

Here at Pro Tool Reviews, finding the best cordless router value isn’t just a look at the price. It’s what you get for your money. A big part of that is directly tied to tool itself. Also keep in mind how long he warranty is, how tough it is to get service if you need it, what other tools are compatible with the same battery, and the added value of combo kits.

Why You Can Trust Pro Tool Reviews

Ever check out a “review” site and you can’t tell if they actually tested the tools or if they’re just “recommending” the Amazon top sellers? That’s not us. We won’t recommend anything unless we’d actually use it ourselves and we don’t really care who the primary retailer is. It’s all about giving you a legitimate recommendation and our honest opinion of each product.

We’ve been in business since 2008 covering tools, writing reviews, and reporting on industry news in the construction, automotive, and lawn care industries. Our Pro reviewers work in the trades and have the skills and experience to know whether tools can perform well in the field.

Each year, we bring in and review more than 250 individual products. Our team will put our hands on hundreds of additional tools at media events and trade shows throughout the year.

We consult with innovators in the technology and design of tools to gain a broader grasp of where these products fit and how they work.

We work with more than two dozen professional contractors around the United States who review products for us on real job sites and consult with us on testing methods, categories, and weighting.

The end result is information you can trust because of the editorial, scientific, and real-world professional experience we collectively utilize each and every time we pick up and test a tool.

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Jerry Albert

Ryobi makes a woodworking base for theirs, available from Ryobi.com. It gives you two handles for greater versatility and stability.

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