Pros: Solid, accurate construction, double bevel for versatility, high quality.
Cons: Expensive, blade not as nice as I would like, startup torque.
I recently managed to work my way through my tool wish list to the Miter Saw category (next up: drill press, jointer, and surface planer). I spent considerable time shopping for the right Miter saw. The first think you have to decide is the class of saw you want. I break these into 10", 12", and sliding saws. Now, I could not justify the cost of a sliding miter saw (they are usually over $500.00). And, the 10" saws don't have the crosscut capacity I wanted. I'm trying to avoid crosscuts on my table saw, and you need a 12" saw to get to 8" of crosscut. So, I decided I wanted a 12" miter saw.
Given the class of tool I wanted, I had to choose from among a wide variety of brands. After looking at quite a few saws, it came down to DeWalt, Delta, and Makita. Now, I just did not think the Delta was as nicely built as the other two, though it is a bit cheaper. I really liked the Makita soft start feature, but I was less impressed with the repeatability of the settings and heard others state that they drift with time. Nearly every review of the DeWalt saws seems to include the phrase "best saw made", so I decided to purchase a DW705, the standard DeWalt 12" miter saw. Of course, you've probably noticed by now that that's not what this review is for. I actually ended up buying the DW706, the next more expensive model.
I was going to buy a saw in June, so I was watching prices. It is interesting to me that a dozen venders sell these products, all at exactly the same price. The DW705 was always $299.00 everywhere. I would also drool at the nicer DW706, but it was $399.00, more than I wanted to spend. However, I was in Home Depot on June 1 and noticed that they had changed the price of the DW706 to $449.00. Home Depot has a price guarantee: they will beat any competitor's price by 10%. I called Sears and they had the saw still at $399.00. I took that price to Home Depot and walked out with the DW706 for $360, only $60.00 more than the DW705 (though that went on sale a few days later for $249.00 at Amazon.com). Since then, everyone except Amazon.com has raised the price to $449.00. I felt like I was engaging in power tool arbitrage. I'm also getting an 18 guage brad nailer as a rebate. Given that that tool is selling used (I have one already) for over $100.00. I think I got a very good deal.
There is no doubt that this is a top quality power tool. Out of the box, all of the settings were right on the dot other than the bevel indicator. It needed a slight adjustment, though the stop was on the dot. There are several differences between this saw and the DW705. The biggest difference is the double bevel feature. Most compound miter saws allow you to swing the saw left and right in excess of 45 degrees (50 degrees in the DW706) and tilt the blade from 90 vertical over to the right about 45 degrees. They don't support tilting to the left. This is because the motor is direct drive and on the right side of the blade. The DW706 moves the motor to the back of the saw and uses a belt drive. This allows the saw to tilt up to 45 degrees left or right. This avoids an asymmetry in conventional saws that can make some cuts impossible and can require lots of flipping of the material. Accommodating this feature required making the right back fence the same nice sliding fence as the left. The DW705 only has the tall sliding fence on one side. Move the motor also has a side benefit that the saw can accommodate considerably deeper stock. You can miter 6 inch base molding vertically (a neat trick with a 6" radius blade). You can crosscut or bevel a 2 by 8 on this saw.
The DeWalt saws have very positive stops for common miter settings. These are also adjustable should they drift. I found them much more solid than any other saw I looked at.
The motor has a great deal of torque when starting and that big 12" blade is pretty massive, so the saw tends to jump when started. It should be fastened down securely. The electric brake stops that big blade in a few seconds, something I consider an essential safety feature. The blade wrench has a snap-down storage location on the back of the saw. When I opened the box, all I had to do was pull out the saw, put on the dust bag, and plug it in (no assembly required).
The negatives are that you can't use the larger number of DW705 accessories and I don't think the blade is as good as I would like and I'll probably replace it. The cuts are very clean, but not as ultra clean as my Freud-made table saw blade. The saw comes with a dust bag and I can attest that at least 10% of the sawdust gets into that bag. I'm going to try to find an adapter for my shop vac to suck up. Right now it makes quite a mess.
The DW706 is a fairly big tool and not near as portable as they say in the advertising. It weights in at 44 lbs. There is a handle on top, which makes it easy, though bulky, to carry. Were I looking for portability, I would buy the slightly lighter and smaller DW705.
The DW706 has a one year warranty. This is a top quality, very well constructed power tool that will last a very long time. I definitely recommend it. It's probably on the pricy side for the home handyman (which I am), but if you get a deal, it's will be one of the finest tools in your shop. Professionals should definitely consider spending the extra dollars for the double-bevel feature alone.
Please remember that miter saws can be very dangerous. Don't use a smaller blade, disable the blade guard, or tamper with the safety features. Always keep your hands at least 6" from the blade. Always cut stable, fixed stock and be sure you saw is mounted on a stable work surface. Consider clamping rather than holding.