Bob's Router Roundup
Best for Big Jobs
Bosch 2.3-hp combo kit (photo, above) no. MRC23EVSK
My go-to handheld router, this kit comes with fixed and plunge bases, as well as 1⁄4" and 1⁄2" collets. Bosch engineers designed it with the power switch in the right handle of each base, so I never have to let go of the tool to turn it on or off. Along with loads of power and electronic feedback to maintain rpms, the MRC23EVSK also sports LEDs to brighten around the bit, the best plunge-lock system in the industry, and two wrenches to change bits. And it might not seem like much, but it's a joy to use a router that simply hums while making deep cuts; I appreciate the quality that went into this tool's design.
Tops in the Table
Milwaukee 31⁄4-hp fixed base router no. 5625-20
(in JessEm Mast-R-Lift II router lift) no. 02120
Although you can get by without one, it's been nearly two decades since I used a router table without a dedicated router lift, and this is my preferred setup. Although Milwaukee sells this router only with a fixed base—and it works well in that configuration—it's a workhorse in a lift. I've never been able to bog it down, even using wide panel-raising and tall crown-molding bits, thanks to feedback circuitry that maintains rpms. It's just one less thing to worry about. The router comes with only a 1⁄2" collet, so if you plan to use 1⁄4"-shank bits as well, you'll need to buy that collet separately.
Best for Finesse
DeWalt 11⁄4-hp combo kit no. DWP611PK
For some tasks, such as edge profiles or mortises, finesse matters more than muscle. That's when I reach for this router. Its lighter weight and LEDs make it super easy to rout within layout lines when I plunge-rout bowtie mortises for inlays, for example. The DW611PK accepts only 1⁄4"-shank bits, but that's fine because smaller bits equal more precision. The fixed base's elongated D-shaped subbase provides more contact with the workpiece surface to avoid tipping, and the plunge subbase accepts standard two-piece guide bushings.
Perfect for Profiles
Bosch 1-hp trim router no. PR20EVS
When it comes to small edge treatments and flush-trimming, I grab this dandy. (I actually own three of them, two of which always have 1⁄8" and 1⁄4" round-over bits installed and ready to go.) Its microadjuster makes it easy to fine-tune bit height, and the base grips easily, even with my large hands. I wish it had an LED, but I know this router so well I can trust it by feel when routing.