The spotlights of each saw that competed in our recent grand circular saw shootout continue today with the Hilti 22V Circular Saw. Not everyone is as familiar with Hilti as they are with the other brands, but those who know Hilti tools generally consider them excellent even if they are pricey. The company’s products are often found on large, industrial construction jobs due to their reputation for durability and eye-popping warranty: 20 years for defects, 2 years just for wear and tear, and 1-day turnaround on repairs. Of course, these benefits are part of the premium price. So how did Hilti’s competitor compete? You’re about to find out!
Battery and Motor
Of the sixteen entrants, the Hilti 22V Circular Saw is just one of two saws at this voltage (nominally 21.6V, while the other entrants offered 18V, 20V, and 36V). All saws used the largest pack available, in Hilti’s case a 5.2 amp-hour, 112 watt-hour battery. These 22V batteries are also backward-compatible with the company’s 18V line. In fact, Hilti’s 18V batteries were always 22V batteries labeled as 18V in the US to avoid confusion in the marketplace. The battery pack has an extra cell in each series set. Go figure.
The Hilti’s motor is brushed, as were about half the saws’ motors in the shootout. Brushed motors offer neither the longevity nor the “smart” electronics of brushless motors, but perhaps Hilti figured it’s stellar warranty countered the brushed motor. In any event, the motor turns the blade at a no-load speed of 4,000 RPM, about mid-range among its competitors. The Metabo circular saw at 2,700 RPM proved to be just too slow for a good cut contrasted with the very fast 5,500 RPM on the DeWalt 20V Max (and that’s with a 7-1/4-inch blade!).
It wasn’t that long ago that there was a fairly clear distinction between sidewinder circular saws with blade-right design and worm drive circular saws with blade left design. But that distinction doesn’t really exist anymore and the blade-left Hilti SCW 22-A is a good example. It sports a 6-1/2-inch blade, as did about half of the saws. Although there are no bevel stops, its bevel capacity is 0-50°, allowing cuts 2-1/4-inch at 90° and 1-5/8-inch at 45°. A metal blade guard and blade brake protect the user before, during, and after the cut.
Other Notable Features
A rafter hook makes hanging easy when you can’t set the saw on a work surface or the floor and an LED work light illuminates the cut line. The whole package weighs in at 8.78 pounds, which is certainly among the lightest of the 16-saw group. Only four were lighter and two of those were so close as to be imperceptible. The Ryobi One+ saw weighed in at 6.66 pounds and the Makita rear-handle saw at 12.67 pounds, with most of the competitors around 10 pounds.
I Got A Feeling
I began each saw’s test with ergonomics to familiarize myself with the feel before moving on to more quantifiable measures. The Hilti 22V Circular Saw rates Very Good for grip and trigger comfort. Both have a very nice feel and the push-down safety button is easy to operate.
Accuracy, Visibility, Guard
Sometimes we just need to make a rough cut and whether the blade is precise or not doesn’t matter. Still, we need to be able to trust our tools for accuracy: when we aim it at a line, we want to know it’s going down that line. Not to the left, not to the right, not some other cockeyed direction. I tested the Hilti’s cutline marker accuracy at both 90° and at 45° and found the saw to be dead-on with both measures. The markers at the rear of the shoe also line up. The saw’s ability to track against a straightedge rate Very Good as well.
Blade visibility rates Very Good to Excellent, no doubt thanks to the blade-left orientation. Of course, that’s because I’m right-handed, putting the cutline and blade in my line of sight. Although preferences vary, generally our left-handed friends have benefitted from blade-right sidewinders for years, and now the “righties” get to see the cutline easily without looking over the saw.
In conjunction with the blade brake (which the Hilti has), the blade guard is a circular saw’s most important safety feature for the user, the blade, and finished surfaces around the work area. Cut quality and accuracy can be compromised if the guard action doesn’t smoothly retract during the cut and everything else can be compromised (feet, hands, floors, blade teeth) if the guard action doesn’t quickly return to its resting position after the cut (with the brake quickly ending the blade’s rotation). The Hilti 22V Circular Saw guard action rates Very Good. Even on shave cuts which have the potential to snag the guard, it’s large outboard lobe aides the action.
Bevels, Deep Cuts, Speed
The Hilti’s bevel angle settings are in 1°, printed-on markings with good contrast, earning a Very Good rating. The printed markings could wear off, however.
I tried to push all the saws to their limits, mimicking their employment on a jobsite. To do this, each saw had to cut a 2-inch deep, 4-foot line in OSB. The Hilti SCW 22-A’s fastest cut was 14.24 seconds, making it the 10th fastest out of 16 saws. It garners just a Fair to Good rating for deep cutting ability. It had little reserve power, slowed and then stalled when I pushed it harder. Its power just didn’t line up with the rest of its solid features.
The Bottom Line
The Hilti 22V Circular Saw is a well-designed saw that rates very highly in general performance settings but falls behind in a power output comparison. It did tie for the best cutting performance even though its deep cut rating was hampered by the lack of power when pushed. With 60.9 points, it placed 10th out of 16th contestants. Other things equal, Hilti has a solid foundation to build from. If they move to a brushless motor and 7-1/4-inch blade in the next generation, they’ll have a saw to contend near the top.
Hilti 22V Circular Saw Features
- Brushless Motor: No
- Rafter Hook: No
- Metal Blade Guard: Yes
- Blade Brake: Yes
- LED Light: Yes
- Riving Knife: No
- Bevel Stops: None
Hilti 22V Circular Saw Specifications
- Model: Hilti SCW 22-A
- Voltage: 22V (21.6V)
- Kitted Battery: (2) 22V 5.2 Ah
- Tested Battery: 5.2 Ah battery; 112 Wh rating
- Blade Diameter: 6-1/2″
- Blade Orientation: Left
- No Load Speed: 4,000 RPM
- Depth of Cut: 2 1/4” at 90°; 1 5/8” at 45°
- Bevel Capacity: 0-50°
- Weight with Battery: 8.78 pounds
- Warranty: 20 years
- Price: $257.74