Kobalt KCS 6524B-03 Review
Pros: Super long-lasting battery, easy to adjust shoe, powerful motor
Cons: No positive stops, imprecise sightlines, so-so blade removal
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Our Analysis and Test Results
What sets the Kobalt KCS apart from other cordless circular saws is the extraordinary battery life that its 4 amp-hour power cell delivers. It's no slouch in the cutting department either. The machine will make long rips and full depth cross cuts with the best of its peers. The saw has a simplistic design, too. Notably, bevel and depth adjustments are smooth and straightforward to operate. Our only complaints are that the saw lacks positive stops and a 22.5˚ mark on the bevel, as well as precise sightlines. However, these shortcomings are minor when compared to the saw's battery life.
Ease of use
The ease of use metric covers everything outside cutting power and battery life in our evaluation of circular saws. Unfortunately, the Kobalt does not fare well in this category. It's not that the saw is particularly difficult to use; quite the contrary. It's just missing a few of the features that promote seamless interactions with the saw.
When we evaluate a saw for its ease of use we primarily look at the shoe of the saw as the adjustments for bevel and cutting depth are tied into this component. The sightlines are also notched into the front of the shoe. Aside from the shoe, we assess the ease of changing blades, the weight of the saw, and features such as marked degrees and positive stops at common cut angles.
The features that the Kobalt lacks are few but significant. We like to see positive bevel stops at common cut angles such as 45˚ and 90˚. We also like to see a marker for the important, though less common 22.5˚. The Kobalt lacks all of these details. Additionally, the sightlines are slightly off. On the upside, the saw's adjustments for bevel and depth are clearly marked and are easy to set. Moreover, the sightlines are visible throughout a cut.
Cutting is an important part of any saw review. However, the cutting tests that we run are primarily a measure of the power of the motor driving the saw blade. The ease of use metric covers the accuracy of the cuts, and the following metric will cover how many cuts can be made on a single battery charge. The cutting analysis looks at ripping and crosscutting with the focus on pushing the saw to its limits. Despite its smaller 6 1/2" blade associated with medium power saws, the Kobalt is a leader in the class.
The first test is a full blade depth crosscut of a 6x12" softwood header. The goal for this test (and the ripping test to follow) is to push the saw through the cut as quickly as possible. All of the cordless circular saws that we have tested have a limiter that will shut-off power if the motor is overload. So, we want to take these saws right up to that edge and time them when making a cut. The Kobalt takes the pressure of this analysis in stride, performing like the leading 7 1/4" saws rather than its 6 1/2" peers.
The Kobalt delivered similar results for the softwood 2x6" ripping and full depth hardwood crosscut tests. While we wouldn't say that the cuts were effortless, they certainly impressed us as this model isn't billed as a framing saw. However, if one were to use this saw for framing and the like, they wouldn't be missing much except 3/4" of blade and a framing hook.
Last, but certainly not least is the battery metric. This is the evaluation where the Kobalt really shines. Despite its 4 amp-hour battery (some models were tested with 5 amp-hour batteries), this saw just couldn't be stopped. This saw ripped 360 linear feet of 3/4" plywood, or 45 full lengths of 8' sheeting before the battery finally conked out!
The way we test for battery life longevity is to set the saws to a practical task and see which saw can perform the most work. We start by marking out consecutive 1/4" rips on a sheet of plywood. We then make cuts down the length of the sheet using a guide to ensure consistency in our movements (i.e. no added friction from wondering). When the battery dies, we record the number of full-length cuts plus the length of the cut when the saw ceased to function. Many saws surprised us in their longevity in this test. However, the Kobalt KCS not only surprised us, it nearly wore us out making all those cuts.
The Kobalt is priced slightly above average. However, it performs at a level that outstrips similarly priced products and matches the performance of larger, more expensive saws. As such, we consider this saw to be a fantastic value.
The Kobalt KCS is a mid-sized saw that has ample cutting power, outstanding battery life, and well laid out bevel and depth adjustments. The ease of use functions are mostly satisfactory. However, the lack of positive stops in the bevel and precision in the sightlines are notable oversights. That said, this is one heck of a saw that will satisfy all but the most demanding users.
— Nick Miley and Austin Palmer