Pros: Above table bit changes, height adjustments, height lock, quality construction, terrific features, reasonably priced, plunge-base.
Cons: no light, no edge guide, no wrench storage, flimsy switch
The FT-1700 is the smaller of Freud's two latest router offerings. It's a 13 amp, 2-1/4hp, variable speed fixed base router with some unique above table features. It comes with two collets ... a 1/2" and 1/4" to accommodate most router bit shafts. The collet can protrude through the throat opening far enough to allow above table bit changes when mounted in a router table. The FT-1700 also has above the table height adjustments, and includes a hex shaft with a knob that can be inserted from above the table to change bit heights. It also features an auto collet lock, and is backed by a generous 5 year warranty.
A new router wasn't at the top of my to-do list the day I bought this tool. Amazon was having one of their famed "frenzies", and this time it included excellent sale prices on Freud products in conjuction with a $75 off a $300 purchase incentive....the router just sort of helped me meet a price point! My $95 total price includes a proportionate percentage of the $75 discount from the base sale price of $126. I absolutely love all of the above table features. The above table bit change feature is a Godsend...especially for someone with an unheated shop in the northeastern US! If you've ever knelt before the router table gods to change bits or adjust the height, you'll understand the significance and the "it's about time logic" behind these overdue features. Kneeling on cold concrete under the table in January is no fun. It's hard to believe that this is not a common place feature on all routers that are table mountable. The alternative to squatting down, was to pull the whole router and insert out of the table to make bit changes...no all that convenient either. Thank you Freud! The FT-1700 can also be used with traditional below table methods if you prefer to pay homage. The collet features a very clever auto-lock mechanism that engages when the collet is extended through the throat plate. The simple pin springs into action when the collet gets extended. The shaft has a proprietary hole that accepts the pin and prevents it from spinning while changing bits, hence offering one handed bit changes while hovering above the table. It's really pretty slick!
The FT-1700 is the smaller of two new routers from Freud. The larger one is the 15 amp, 3-1/4hp FT-3000 that is due out very soon. The FT-1700 appears nicely made, and is well balance with a good "in-hand" feel. The router is manageably light, well balanced, and the handles are very comfortable so it's condusive to hand routing. The soft start and variable speed work well and are convenient safety features. The on/off switch is in a fairly convenient location that is readily reached with a thumb. The variable speed control dial is cleverly placed at the base of the router.
The FT-1700 is very quiet. In comparison to my older Freud FT-2000 and my Milwaukee 5615, which both have a rather loud throaty growl, the FT-1700 just makes a quiet whirring sound. In comparison, it sounded kind of wimpy at first, but actual use put that thought to rest promptly. It has plenty of power so far. It obviously won't plow through an oak panel with a 3" panel raising bit the way the 3hp Freud will, but the adequate power, generous throat opening, and variable speed features should allow it spin the big bits in non-commercial applications. If you need to spin large bits often, you'd probably be better off with a larger 15 amp router like FT-3000 or Milwaukee 5625.
The biggest complaint I had with my older Freud FT-2000 was that the throat opening was too small to accommodate large 3" bits. The FT-1700 remedies that complaint and will allow just about any bit on the market to pass through easily. As I stated, the FT-1700 is well built. It doesn't make quite the impression of being built like a tank the way my Milwaukee 5615 subjectively does, but it does make a favorable impression nonetheless. The Milwaukee has a smaller motor (11 amp), yet is at least as heavy, and has a very stout feel to it. In comparison, the adjustment knob and plastic housing on the FT-1700 have a more slippery feel, and the on/off switch appears to be rather feeble with some play in it. The threads on the height adjustment have a bit more play in them than the threads on my Milwaukee or FT-2000. The Milwaukee has above table height adjustment capability, but the required wrench was not included with mine, and it does not have above table bit change capability. The Freud included the wrench, plus it offers above table height lock in addition to the height adjustment... a nice convenience. Since I don't have the ability to make overly scientific evaluations, it's hard to accurately judge power. My unscientific impression is that the Milwaukee is extremely strong for it's 11 amp rating. My FT-2000 has monster power. The FT-1700 is much quieter and doesn't give the same initial impression of power for it's motor size, but it sure hogged through some heavy cuts of white oak using a 2-1/2" lock miter joint impressively....even with the speed adjustment turned down to the 10,000 to 12,000 rpm range. When all was said and done, I walked away satisfied with the power.
Another improvement of the FT-1700 over my older FT-2000 is that it comes with two separate collets. The FT-2000 came with a 1/2" collet and a 1/4" reducer that needed to be inserted into the 1/2" collet. It's so cumbersome that I've replaced most of my 1/4" bits with 1/2" bits to avoid having to use the reducer.
The FT-1700 came with the above table hex wrench, a collet wrench, a template for table mounting, mounting screws, and two collets. The base has holes that appear to accept an edge guide, but it didn't include one. It also has a dust collection attachment that I haven't tried out yet. The manual is good but is a bit on the sparse side. A plunge kit is not currently available for this router as far as I know....too bad, it would have put them so far ahead of the competition it wouldn't seem fair! Why is it no one seems to want to pull out the stops and make a quality router loaded to the gills with every possible feature? You know... worklight, on board wrench storage, variable speed, soft start, auto collet lock, dust chute, plunge option, multiple collets, above table features, edge guide, etc. Freud is now offering a plunge base for this router.
I also purchased a very fine Milwaukee 5625 3-1/2hp/15 amp router shortly after picking up the FT1700. It's a big powerful router with more above table features than most other large routers, and is receiving repeated #1 ratings for table use among the large routers. But believe or not, the FT1700 sits in my router table over 90% of the time while the 5625 sits on a shelf. The above table features are just too attractive to pass up, even if it means giving up a little power. Unless I'm doing large quantities of raised panels with a 3" bit (which is nearly never), I use the Freud. Unless you find an insane deal, or have a gift card to a store that doesn't sell the Freud, I honestly can't think of a decent reason to pick another router with this deal available.