These machines combine beefy qualities of 3-hp cabinet saws with the 110-volt convenience of contractor-style saws. Does one belong in your shop?
Centuries ago, someone bred a horse with a donkey to produce the mule--a hybrid that packs strength and durability into a midsize package. Fast-forward to the late 20th century, when power-tool manufacturers crossbred 3-hp cabinet tablesaws with 1-1/2-hp open-leg contractor saws. The resulting hybrid saws typically look like cabinet saws (with dust- and noise-capturing closed bases) but perform and adjust more like contractor saws. So with these machines borrowing features from both "parents," do they really provide you with the best of both worlds? To find out, we gathered 10 models for head-to-head testing. We also tested two 3-hp cabinet saws that fall into the price range of these hybrids. In some respects, we found vast differences between the saws, and in others, it became a toss-up as to which unit performed best.
A catchy title means nothing without power
Each of the hybrids has a 110-volt induction motor, rated from 1-1/2 to 2 hp, mounted below the blade. To test each model's true power, we outfitted them with identical full-kerf 24-tooth blades, and then ripped 2"-thick red oak as fast as each saw could handle, at 0° and 45° bevels. One of the hybrid saws breezed through the wood without bogging down. It even bested the two 3-hp saws. Four saws cut only about half as fast as that one, but still cut everything we threw at them when we reduced the feed rate. As with a contractor saw, these hybrids will cut faster using thin-kerf blades.
Sturdy fence, miter gauge will be your best friends
All of the saws feature T-square-style fences, and most deflected between .003" and .006". Two deflected more than .007". When using a properly aligned blade guard or splitter, you likely won't notice a problem with this amount of fence deflection. But when we ripped on these two saws with no guard or splitter, the workpiece cutoff wandered into the back teeth of the blade slightly and resulted in a little spray of sawdust back toward us. Greater amounts of deflection could create potential kickback when you don't use the splitter.
The miter gauges are all basic units, with stops at 0° and 45°. We give a slight edge to those that use a retractable pin to contact the adjustable stops. The pins provide a more stable bearing surface than the wobbly flip-up metal tabs of the other miter gauges.
More findings that should help shape your decision
Safety guards. Because most guards prove difficult to remove and replace, you might be tempted to leave them off. Fortunately, two saws have quick-release systems that eliminate the hassle of installation. Two hybrid saws have separate riving knives for use when you need to remove the guard. These riving knives mount behind the blades to maintain the kerf openings and prevent kickback, but do not shield you from the blade.
Dust collection. The enclosed bases keep most of the dust out of your shop's air, but not all the debris goes into your dust collector. We found one saw with a shroud around the blade, and another with a hopper-shaped bottom, worked well to corral dust. The others allowed much dust to build up in the corners of the cabinet.
Aligning the tabletop to the blade. Only two hybrids sport cabinet-mounted trunnions, similar to those on true cabinet-style saws, that make it easy to align the miter slots to the blade. The other saws' trunnions mount directly to the underside of the tabletop more like a traditional contractor-style saw. They require loosening four to six bolts inside the cabinet, while you move the trunnion to make the adjustment--not an easy task in many of the saws.
Top Tool: Shop Fox W1748