No need to ask “Where’s the beef?” here. These monster routers handle the biggest bits and toughest jobs with power to spare.

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When it's time to do some serious routing, such as making raised-panel doors or wide moldings, these juiced-up routers make cuts in one pass that lesser routers need two or more attempts to accomplish. That's why they handle the lion's share of the work in production woodworking shops. But they're not just for professionals.

To help you choose the one best suited for your needs, we put to the test seven plunge routers and two fixed-base models in multiple handheld and table-mounted applications. Here's what we found.

Controlling all that power proves crucial

After hand-routing deep mortises, rabbets, and edge profiles in red oak, we pushed each router to make a full raised-panel-profile cut in one pass. None of the routers bogged down enough to be a concern.

Next, we tested the electronic speed control on each router to see how well it maintained speed under load—vital to motor longevity. Seven of the nine routers held a tight spindle-speed range throughout all cuts. However, the speed of the two Porter-Cable routers—a 7518 fixed-base and 7539 plunge—repeatedly ramped up and down, searching for the no-load speed but seldom finding it during a 4' routing pass. This did not cause problems with overheating or cut quality, but it's an annoying trait.

The Porter-Cable models are also the only tested routers with five preset speeds on a slide-style switch located on top of the motor; the switch is easy to adjust in handheld mode, but more difficult to see the settings when upside down in a router table. The other routers have infinitely variable speed controls. The Festool OF2200EB, Makita RP2301FC, and Milwaukee 5625-20 conveniently include a small chart next to the speed dial that lists speeds for each dial position. With most of the others, you have to refer back to the owner's manual; the Hitachi M12V2 provides no guidance.

Need a lift? Not so fast, plungers

Only two test routers—the fixed-base Milwaukee and Porter-Cable units—will work in an aftermarket router lift. That's because you can remove their motors and mount them in the wraparound collars of most lifts. For plunge routers without a built-in lift, the only aftermarket option is the Router Raizer (routertechnologies.com), a $100 accessory that replaces your router's leadscrew and gives you the ability to make through-the-table bit adjustments. However, it won't add the ability to change bits above the table if your router isn't already capable.

Some work better in a router table than others

Besides power, what makes a good table router? Easy bit-height adjustments and bit changes top the list. Of the tested routers, only the Milwaukee, shown below, and Triton TRA 001 include a tool that extends through the tabletop to raise and lower the bit from above. This saves you from having to stoop. (You do, though, have to reach below the table to operate the base lock on the Milwaukee before making any adjustments.)

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You adjust bit height with the Milwaukee 5625-20 fixed-base router by using the included T-wrench to reach through a hole in the insert plate.

The Bosch 1619EVS (below), Hitachi, and Makita include extension handles for their elevation-changing leadscrews that, although you still have to reach below the table, make height changes easier than the remaining routers.

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Although you still have to reach below the table, Bosch's extension handle makes it easy to raise and lower the router as you eyeball the bit.

Only the Triton lets you change all bits above the table. With the Milwaukee, you can change most bits above the table, but large-diameter bits, such as panel-raisers, can block wrench access, depending on the size of the insert-plate opening. With the other routers, you change bits either by wrenching the collet below the table—not an easy task—or, if the router is mounted on an insert plate, by lifting it onto the tabletop (below).

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Some routers have no easy method for making adjustments or changing bits; with these it's best to simply lift the router from the table for these jobs.

The Hitachi and Triton owner's manuals specify removing the plunge spring (below) if mounting in a table for easier adjustments without the tension. The Bosch has a built-in spring bypass that also works well. The other plunge routers make no stipulations for table-mounting, so we tested them with springs intact.

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On the Triton TRA 001, an easily accessible twist cap makes removing—and for handheld use, reinstalling—the plunge spring a simple task.

Only the Bosch, Festool, Milwaukee, and Porter-Cable 7518 have base openings wide enough to retract a common 312 "-diameter panel-raising bit. To use a bit this size with the other routers, you have to set the bit's final height from the start, and then position the fence in front of the bit's bearing, moving the fence backward in intervals until you get the profile you want.

Sure, you can rout by hand, but prepare for a workout

Given a choice, we'd rather not use these routers for handheld jobs simply because of their size and awkwardness. Instead, we prefer a midsize router (112 to 214 hp). That said, the Bosch, Festool, and Makita routers stood out from the test field in handheld use. Here, plunge routers have a big advantage on the fixed-base models because they handle all edge- and joinery-routing as well as jobs where you need to lower the bit into the workpiece.

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To change bits in the Festool, you hold down the spindle lock, and then ratchet the wrench back and forth on the collet nut—no need to remove the wrench from the nut until you're done.
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The concentric dust-collection hoods that slide inside one another above the base, and the snap-on edging hood, helped gather in nearly all dust and chips created by this router.

Routers that include dust hoods did a good job of collecting chips and dust on closed-cut routing, such as mortises and dadoes, but not nearly as well when edge-routing. Only the Festool includes a hood for edge-routing, and it works great.

Top Tool for each use

What makes a router great for handheld use often works against it when table-mounted, and vice versa. So we picked a Top Tool for each use. For mounting in a table, we recommend the Milwaukee 5625-20 because of its responsive electronic speed control and power, no-fuss adjustments, and easy bit changes.

For handheld use, the Festool OF2200EB vaulted to the front of the line with quick-response power, the smoothest plunge action, easy bit changes, and exceptional dust collection. Granted, its $850 price is nearly as hefty as the router itself, but this well-engineered tool will not disappoint.

If you need one router for both handheld and router-table use, then get the Bosch 1619EVS.

Our Top Value award goes to the Hitachi M12V2. This $230 router proved capable in all aspects, and comes with a lot of helpful accessories.

The biggest, baddest routers on the market

Festool OF2200EB, $850

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888-337-8600, festoolusa.com
High Points:
▲ Three included hoods give this router the most effective dust collection in our test.
▲ The unique ratcheting spindle lock means you don't have to remove the wrench from the collet nut while tightening or loosening for quicker bit changes.
▲ A chart on the router body translates speed-dial markings to actual speeds.
▲ The only router to come in something other than a cardboard box: The plastic Systainer organizes accessories and stacks neatly with other Festool products.

Low Points:
▼Scales are marked in metric only, and with no leadscrew height adjuster, you rely solely on the turret-stop system for making fine adjustments.
​▼When mounted in a router table, you must work against the plunge spring's tension.
​▼ Does not come with a 14 " collet or adapter for 14 "-shank bits.
​▼ Instead of a plunge-lock lever, the OF2200EB has a rotating knob on the top of the left handle that takes a lot of getting used to.

Extra Points:
Despite weighing more than 18 lbs, it felt balanced and never created control or tipping issues.
​■All adjustable components on this router have a distinctive neon-green color for easy location.

Milwaukee 5625-20, $350

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800-729-3878, milwaukeetool.com
High Points:

▲ The lightest router in this class (12 lbs), the 5625-20 feels almost like a midsize router when compared to the other 3-hp heavyweights. Its nimbleness and large handles make it excellent for non-plunging tasks.
▲ Coarse and fine adjustments prove easy when setting bit depth in handheld mode.
▲ A chart on the router body translates speed-dial markings to actual speeds.
▲ Call us old school, but we still prefer changing bits with two wrenches, and Milwaukee's beefy wrenches are our favorites.

Low Points:
▼ No included dust-collection hoods or 14 " collet.
​▼ No flat edge on the subbase makes routing against a straightedge more prone to slight discrepancies.

Extra Points:
​■ The included T-wrench makes through-the-table height adjustments a snap, but you must first reach below the table to unlock the router base. You can change most bits above the table, but large-diameter bits block wrench access.
​​■ With just less than 134 " of collet adjustment up and down, you might have trouble with bit profiles longer than 2".

Hitachi M12V2, $230

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800-829-4752, hitachipowertools.com
High Point:

▲ Comes with more accessories than any other tested router.

Low Points:
▼ With the second-stiffest plunge action of all tested routers and a plunge lock that defaults to free-plunge until you manually secure the lever, this router takes some getting used to for handheld jobs.​
▼ Although its subbase has a 378 " opening, the 3716 " base opening limits the use of larger bits.​
▼ The depth-stop lock allowed 164 " of slippage over 25 test plunges.
​▼ The speed dial is marked in increments from 1 to 6, with no reference chart for actual speeds.

Extra Points:
The leadscrew extension makes bit-height changes easier than most, handheld or table-mounted.
​■The owner's manual instructs you to remove the plunge spring for use in a router table—an easy job—but it needs to be replaced for handheld routing.

Bosch 1619EVS, $325

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877-267-2499, boschtools.com
High Points:

▲ A built-in plunge-spring bypass eases router-table height adjustments, and reengages quickly for handheld use.
▲ Well-balanced with comfortable, easy-to-grip handles and good bit visibility during handheld routing.
▲ The spring-loaded plunge-lock lever locks when released—our favorite system.

Low Points:
▼ The speed dial, marked in increments from 1 to 6, requires using a reference chart in the owner's manual to translate to actual speeds.
​▼ The depth stop rod allowed the most slippage in our testing (132 " over 25 holes).

Extra Point:
​■An extension handle attaches to the leadscrew height adjuster to make cutting-depth changes easier than most, even in a router table.

DeWalt DW625, $300

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800-433-9258, dewalt.com
High Point:

▲ A well-balanced tool with clear bit visibility for handheld routing.

Low Points:
▼ To use the included 14 " collet, you must first remove the 12 " collet from its nut, then install the
14 " one, a headache we wish DeWalt would avoid by providing separate nut-and-collet assemblies.​
▼ The base opening prohibits the use of bits larger than 212 " in diameter.
​▼ The speed dial, marked in increments from 1 to 5, requires using a reference chart in the owner's manual to translate to actual speeds.

Extra Point:
​■Although this router plunges smoothly, you must manually engage the plunge-lock lever to stop plunging. It's a system that's not as easy to use as the Bosch and Porter-Cable 7539.

Makita RP2301FC, $320

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800-462-5482, makitatools.com
High Points:
▲ With LED lights surrounding the spindle to brighten the cutting area, a low profile for good balance, nice handles, smooth plunge action, and good bit visibility, this router excels in handheld use.
▲ A chart on the router body translates speed-dial markings to actual speeds.

Low Points:
▼ The depth-stop lock allowed 164 " of slippage over 25 test plunges.
​▼ No included dust-collection hoods, although a dust shield diverts chips.
​▼ The 2716 " base opening limits the use of larger bits.​
▼ The leadscrew adjuster proved finicky to use, even with the extension handle; we preferred using the plunge lock and turret stops alone for adjustments. ​
▼ When mounted in a table (and still under spring tension), coarse adjustments proved difficult unless the insert plate was screwed to the table or held in place by the fence.

Extra Point:
​■ A sleeve inserts into the 12 " collet for 14 "-shank bits.

Porter-Cable 7518, $350

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888-848-5175, portercable.com
High Points:

▲ At 4916 ", this router's base opening is largest in the test group.
▲ We like its two-wrench bit-changing system.

Low Points:
​▼ Electronic controls ramp the motor up and down under load trying to maintain the preset speed, with little success.​
▼ Does not come with a 14 " collet or adapter or any dust-collection hoods.
​▼ No flat edge on the subbase makes routing against a straightedge more prone to slight discrepancies.

Extra Points:
​■The five-speed slide switch on top of the motor, marked in rpm, was easy to set when handheld, but difficult in a router table.
​■You rotate the motor in the base for height adjustments, but each movement changes the location of the power switch and speed selector.

Porter-Cable 7539, $370

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888-848-5175, portercable.com
High Points:

▲ The spring-loaded plunge-lock lever locks when released—our favorite system because you won't plunge accidentally.
▲ We like its two-wrench bit-changing system.

Low Points:
▼ Like the 7518, this model's motor ramped up and down under load trying to maintain the preset speed, and its speed-selector switch is difficult to read in a router table. ​
▼ You get no 14 " collet or any dust-collection hoods, although a dust shield diverts chips.​
▼  The 7539 is top-heavy, and the stiff plunge action makes fine adjustments difficult.​
▼ When mounted in a table (and still under spring tension), coarse adjustments proved difficult unless the insert plate was screwed to the table or held in place by the fence.​
▼ The 31532 " base opening prohibits the use of larger bits.
​▼ No flat edge on the subbase makes routing against a straightedge more prone to slight discrepancies.

Triton TRA 001, $250

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800-624-2027, tritontools.com
High Points:

▲Through-the-table height adjustment, with automatic spindle lock when fully raised (or plunged in handheld mode), makes for easy bit changes above the table.
▲ A spring-loaded cover on the power switch prevents accidental start-ups because you must slide it open to start the router.

Low Points:
▼ This router is top-heavy and tippy when routing handheld, especially on narrow stock, and its round, ratcheting plunge controls built into the right handle proved clumsy and distracting.
​▼ The speed dial, marked in increments from 1 to 6, requires using a reference chart in the owner's manual to translate to actual speeds.​
▼  It does not have a scale for measuring bit depth.​
▼ The 3532 " base opening limits the use of larger bits.
​▼ No flat edge on the subbase makes routing against a straightedge more prone to slight discrepancies.

Extra Points:
 The owner's manual instructs you to remove the plunge spring for use in a router table—an easy job—but it needs to be replaced for handheld routing.

More Resources

Post your own review of these routers and read reviews from other woodworkers at toolreviews.woodmagazine.com.

Download PDF of 3-HP router comparison chart.

Download 3-HP Routers Chart