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October 26, 2021

Professional Tool Reviews for Pros


Makita Sub-Compact Circular Saw Review: 6-1/2″ XSH04

Makita Sub-Compact Circular Saw Review: 6-1/2" XSH04
PTR Review
  • Build Quality 8.5
  • Ergonomics 9.0
  • Feature Set 9.0
  • Cutting Speed 7.0
  • Cut Quality 9.0
  • Value 7.0

If you're looking for the most compact 18V circular saw you can get your hands on, the Makita Sub-Compact Circular Saw fits the bill. If you don't need to be quite so compact, you might want to take a look at their XSH03 and see which one fits your preferences better. 

Overall Score 8.2 (out of 10)

The big deal surrounding the new Makita Sub-Compact Circular Saw involves its combination of performance and size. The entire Sub-Compact lineup is designed to have the compact size and weight of 12-volt tools without forcing you away from Makita’s 18-volt battery.


10-Second Summary

  • 6-1/2″ Blade
  • 2-1/4″ Max Cutting Depth
  • 5,000 RPM
  • Blade-Right Configuration
  • 6.4 Pounds with 2.0 Ah Battery (7.2 pounds with a 5.0 Ah pack)
  • Price: $179 bare tool

At 10-5/8″ long and just 6.4 pounds with a 2.0 Ah battery, this is one of the smallest saws you’ll find on an 18-volt platform. It’s no slouch in the performance department, though. The cutting capacity is 2-1/4″ with its brushless motor driving the 6-1/2″ blade at 5,000 RPM. Makita also claims that they’re getting up to 174 cuts on one 5.0 Ah battery… in 2 x 10 SPF, not 2 x 4.

Still not impressed?

Compared to Makita’s XSH03 6-1/2″ circular saw – a model that we use a lot in our shop – the new Makita XSH04 boasts identical speed and cut depths while shaving another 3 ounces off the bare tool weight.

Makita Sub-Compact Circular Saw Feature Set

  • Makita-built brushless motor
  • Automatic Speed Change technology
  • Dual LED lights
  • Electric brake
  • Aluminum base with magnesium blade cover and plastic guard
  • Dust blower
  • Includes dust extraction attachment

Comparisons to the XSH03

The saw we turn to most often in our shop is the Makita XSH03. It’s small size and light weight compared to the X2 models make it easy for those quick one-off cuts and small projects. We noticed that the specifications aren’t much different between these two saws. However, there are some things worth pointing out.

Makita Sub-Compact Circular Saw Review: 6-1/2" XSH04

Common Specifications for Both Models

  • 5000 RPM no load speed
  • 2-1/4″ max cut at 90°
  • 1-5/8″ max cut at 45°
  • $179 bare tool price

Weight with 5.0 Ah Battery and Blade

  • XSH03: 7.5 pounds
  • XSH04: 7.2 pounds

Blade Orientation

  • XSH03: Left
  • XSH04 Right

Overall Length

  • XSH03: 13″
  • XSH04: 10-5/8″

Material Selection

  • XSH03: Magnesium blade guard, safety cover, and base
  • XSH04: Plastic blade guard, magnesium safety cover, aluminum base

Makita Sub-Compact Circular Saw Review: 6-1/2" XSH04

Looking at the two models side by side, the Makita XSH04 Sub-Compact gives you slightly lower weight and a shorter profile, but you lose the all magnesium base/cover/guard construction for the same price. You’ll also be making a switch from blade-left to blade-right.

Interestingly, adding the optional rafter hook to the Sub-Compact model makes it about an ounce heavier than the XSH03.

Performance

One thing I love about using Makita saws is how smooth the cut is. Even though the power isn’t as high as you’ll find in X2 models, the harmonics of the brushless motor are dialed in to keep any vibration low.


Makita Sub-Compact Circular Saw Review: 6-1/2" XSH04

I made some test cuts in 2 x 12 PT to see if there is any real difference between the -03 and the -04. There really isn’t much. Both cut very well for their respective sizes and Makita’s stock blade does a nice job. Hopefully, we’ll see Max Efficiency blades start to come stock, but there’s no need to swap blades immediately from the one you get.

Makita does most of their promotion talking about a 2.0 Ah battery with the saw. I’ve been using a 5.0 Ah pack since it came in. It doesn’t add that much weight and you’ll get a lot more cuts before needing to recharge. Of course, Makita’s charging system is fast enough that you won’t be waiting around long to get back at it, even if you’re using a 2.0 Ah pack.

One thing I noticed is that the depth and bevel adjustments have some wobble to them that isn’t the norm. They’re still metal on metal components, it’s just that the tolerances where they connect aren’t as tight as we’re used to.

Price and Value

Pricing is an interesting talking point for this model. Like I’ve mentioned, it’s $179 – the same as the XSH03 that gives you a little better build quality. The new XSH06 18V X2 model is just $20 more, though kit prices start heading up with the need for two batteries. The Rear-Handle model is also $199 for the bare tool.

I’d like to see the price come down another $20 to give Makita a $159/$179/$199 pricing structure for their line. The XSH03 warrants a higher price than the XSH04. Of course, that’s just my humble opinion.

The Bottom Line

If you’re looking for the most compact 18V circular saw you can get your hands on, the Makita Sub-Compact Circular Saw fits the bill. If you don’t need to be quite so compact, you might want to take a look at their XSH03 and see which one fits your preferences better.

Makita Sub-Compact Circular Saw Specifications

  • Model: Makita XSH04Z (bare), XSH04RB (kit)
  • Power Source: Makita 18V LXT battery
  • Blade Diameter: 6-1/2″
  • No-Load Speed: 5,000 RPM
  • Max Cut Depth: 2-1/4″
  • Max Cut at 45°: 1-5/8″
  • Length: 10-5/8″
  • Weight: 6.4 pounds with 2.0 Ah battery, 7.2 pounds with 5.0 Ah battery
  • Blade Orientation: Right
  • Warranty: 3 years
  • Price:  $129.48 bare tool
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Cody

I bought this at home depot the other day as I was shopping for my first cordless circ saw. It felt cheap. It was cramped and seemed unrefined to me, with uninspiring wiggly toggles on the depth and bevel adjustors along with a weak feeling spring on the also-wiggly blade guard (which is plastic, by the way.) I don’t mind light tools, but they still need to feel solid. I returned it and checked out the xsh03, which seems more robust, as well as the rear handle model. Wound up leaving with the rear handle, which has by far the… Read more »

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