SKIL CR540601 Review
Pros: Long-lasting battery, good sightlines, inexpensive
Cons: So-so cutting power, no positive stops, fiddly bevel adjustments
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Our Analysis and Test Results
In a competitive class of circular saws, the SKIL CR540601 cuts out a place for itself as an affordable machine with above-average performance. The saw's standout features are its battery and sightlines. The SKIL has one of the longest-lasting batteries that we've seen, and its unique sightlines make lining up cuts a cinch. Our chief complaints are that it's a little underpowered and a little awkward to make bevel adjustments. That said, the SKIL can handle long rips and full depth crosscuts. Moreover, this saw comes at a price that is accessible to those who are not making a living with their tools.
Ease of Use
The ease of use metric covers every aspect of saw performance aside from cutting power and battery life. The SKIL earned an average rating in this analysis. However, this is a difficult metric to attain high marks due to the large number of features analyzed. Specifically, we hone in on the adjustments of the shoe such as cutting depth and bevel. We look for clearly and accurately marked blade adjustment as well as features like positive stops at common bevel angles. Additionally, we look at the accuracy of the sightlines, the ease of swapping blades, and the weight of the saw. Quite literally, we want to know how difficult it is to interact with the saw with the goal of making quality cuts.
The SKIL's bevel settings are stamped into the metal components of the shoe, which aren't the easiest to see when the saw is covered with dust. The bevel is secured with a threaded knob that works okay, but depending on the bevel setting, the knob can be hard to grip. In contrast to the bevel, the blade depth is secured with a lever that is easy and effective, no matter where it is set. Also, the depth markers are raised, making them much easier to see.
Like the blade depth, the sightline system is very effective and easy to use — especially for the uninitiated. We will admit that the plastic window is unusual; however we found it to be dead-on accurate and intuitive. We were less than impressed with the blade removal, mostly because the blade lock button is a bit hard to reach. That said, we have definitely seen worse. Finally, the SKIL comes in at 5.8 lbs. (without the battery) — that's pretty light for the class.
All in all, the SKIL's ease of use evaluation rendered middle of the road results with some notable bright spots.
Cutting is the paramount assessment in any saw review. However, our tests in this metric are focused on cutting power. This is because the ease of use metric covers the accuracy of the sightlines, bevel, and blade depth. So, all that is left to assess is the limits of the saw's motor. The SKIL is below average in this evaluation, but that doesn't mean it's incapable of effectively cutting lumber.
The cutting evaluation consists of three timed tests: a 10' rip down the length of a 2x6" plank of softwood, a full-depth crosscut of a 6x12" softwood header, and a full depth crosscut of hardwood. Cordless saws have a limiter that will cut power if the motor is at risk of overloading. So, we want to push the saw right up to that point, but not beyond. Making a quick cut is a good measure of a saw's power — or, more specifically, its torque — because the teeth of the blade are taking deeper bites into the wood the faster the cut is being made. Having repeated each of these tests twice (once for each tester), it's safe to say that the SKIL does not like to be rushed. The motor takes on a jerky, uneven character when pressed. However, the saw will continue spinning, working its way through the cut.
Batteries are not all created equal. In fact, batteries with the same voltage and amp hour rating may vary drastically in the amount of work they can produce. Battery longevity is one area that the SKIL shows itself to be a great value because it can keep up the cutting for as long as high-end saws.
To measure the battery life of a saw, we take a sheet of 3/4" plywood and, using a guide, repeatedly ripped off 1/4" strips. The guide prevents any wandering in a long cut, thus promoting uniformity in the drain on the battery. The SKIL impressed all by making 40.5 rips — that's 324 linear feet — before giving up the ghost. Few saws, at any price, can claim such a capacity for repeated cutting on a single charge.
We find the SKIL CR540601 to be a fantastic deal. The saw is accurate, fairly easy to operate, and powerful enough for most users. More to the point, it's all of these things while remaining very affordable compared to its peers.
The SKIL received average marks in the ease of use and cutting evaluations but it excelled in the battery test. If an average raking in 2 out of 3 metrics isn't all that compelling, keep in mind that the saw's price point is well below average for the class. Besides, this saw will meet the needs of most DIYers — it will even fit into some professional applications. So, if you're looking for a saw that won't cost you an arm and a leg but will still perform to reasonable standards, look no further than the SKILL CR540601.
— Nick Miley and Austin Palmer