Product Review: Mid-Priced Random Orbit Sanders

Sander Lineup

The random orbit sander (ROS) was first introduced to the power tool market in the early 1980s, and has grown to become the mainstay sander for hobbyist and professional woodworkers alike.

The reasons for the popularity of this tool category are simple. The ROS provides a dual action sanding motion that has the power of a standard orbital sander, with the added ability to cover its own tracks by randomizing the circular pattern and adding an elliptical motion to its sanding pattern, producing an outstanding surface finish. The concept is brilliant, and today’s power tool market is loaded with ROS options that can work for any budget.

About the Sander Line-up

I bought six sanders in the $40 to $70 price range to see how they performed and compared to one another in several important areas including power, vibration, dust collection, sound output and the quality of surface finish each could produce.

I focused on basic single-speed corded models, while there are several cordless and/or variable speed models on the market if those features are important to you. Here are some important facts about each tool in the test:

Price Paid Origin Amps (measured) Warranty
Black and Decker $40 China 2 2 year
Porter Cable $67 Mexico 2.3 3 year
DeWalt $59 Mexico 2.8 3 year
TackLife $40 China 2.2 2 year
Makita $69 US Assembly / China Parts 2.4 1 year
Bosch $49 Malaysia 2.4 1 year

 

Observations About Quality

All of the sanders in this line-up received largely positive reviews online, and the range of overall build quality, fit, and finish went from good to great. Based on subjective measures such as ergonomics, quality of dust bin, pad materials, switch, and fan, the standouts included DeWalt, Makita, and Bosch.

The only concerns that I noted were a dust bin on the Black and Decker that had a flimsy connection to the sander, and a plastic fan on the TackLife while the other tools included a metal fan, which suggests better durability.

Tests

I performed a battery of tests that I believed would represent the top buying criteria for shoppers in this class of sander.

1. Power
I adhered a 2” x 6” strip of veneer to a substrate, and timed each sander to see how long it would take to completely remove the strip. To ensure fairness, the same sandpaper product and grit was used on each sander.

ROS test timing stock removal

2. Sound Output
I measured the decibel output for each sander around the perimeter of the tool while it was sanding, and recorded the highest sustained reading.

measuring db on ROS

3. Dust Collection
I monitored each sander’s ability to collect dust using the standard dust-bin system that came with the sander.

Dust Collection

4. Surface Finish
I sanded a maple surface with each tool using both 100 grit, and then up to 220 grit on another surface. I then finished both surfaces with a dark stain to see if any swirl marks appeared in the finish.

Finish test for ROS

 

Test Results

Power – average time to remove veneer Sound Output Dust Collection Performance Vibration Surface Finish
Black and Decker :46 93 db Great Medium Good
Porter Cable :50 96 db Good Medium Good
DeWalt :36 98 db Good High Good
TackLife 1:06 95 db Poor High Good
Makita :40 98 db Great Medium Good
Bosch 1:02 95 db Great Low (smooth) Good

Sanding Results

The results surprised me in a few respects. First, the range of performance was much larger than I had expected, with the fastest sander (DeWalt) removing stock nearly twice as fast as the slowest (TackLife).

Also, I found that all of the sanders were capable of producing a swirl-free surface finish using 220 grit. The sound output for all of the tools was also higher than I had expected, with all of them in the range where you should definitely wear hearing protection when using any ROS.

Rockler Adapter for ROS

I also attempted to connect each tool to a shop vacuum system and found that I could easily connect the Bosch with its included 1-1/4” shop vacuum adapter. With the help of a general purpose adapter kit from Rockler (sourced below), I was able to connect most of the other sanders to my shop vacuum.

The only exception was the DeWalt unit which is designed to connect to a DeWalt vacuum system, and they sell a special adapter that allows it to be used with other shop vacuums.

Conclusions

Bosch ROS

Makita ROS

The overall standouts in the test for me were the sanders from Bosch and Makita. I slightly favored the Bosch unit because it was so smooth and quiet, but the Makita delivered considerably faster performance.

The DeWalt was the most powerful in the group, and capable of removing stock the fastest, so that unit would be a good consideration if performance is your primary requirement in a ROS, and you’re less concerned with sound levels and vibration. The Bosch unit also delivers good value at $49 compared to the Makita at $69.

Sources:

Manufacturer Model  Price Paid
Black and Decker BDERO100 $40
Porter Cable Model 382 $67
DeWalt DWE6421K $59
TackLife PRS01A $40
Makita BO5030K $69
Bosch ROS10 $49
Rockler Dust Right FlexiPort Hose Kit $15
Reply to Dave Vela
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19 Responses to “Product Review: Mid-Priced Random Orbit Sanders”

  1. Robert Titus
    Robert Titus

    Thank’s for the review . As a 40 years plus company we go through a lot of tools. This year seemed to be orbital sanders. For the last decade used the Porter Cable 5 in. 5 hole sanders. So with PC changing there tool line up I wasn’t a fan of trying there’s. Trying the Metabo, Bosch and Ridgid. Still miss the PC 5 hole model and like the Bosch even though the dust collection is the hardest to clean. Metabo nice long cord and a Good sander but only for flat horizontal surface’s as the dust bag keeps falling off. The Ridgid is strong and a great dust bag and built in diffrent size dust connections for shop vac. I going to try the Makita and see how it goes. We use up to 6 to 8 sanders at a time usealy 1 for every grit

    Reply
  2. Alex A. Holenko
    Alex A. Holenko

    This might be too funny to ask, but as a non-professional, I’ll go ahead with the question: any comments on the “Harbor Freight” products? Thank you!

    Reply
    • Customer Service
      Customer Service

      Hello Alex,

      Thank you for contacting us.

      I do not have enough experience with HF power tools to comment. My experience is limited to clamps, which has been a poor experience, and their disposable gloves, which hold up well and offer good value.

      If you have any other questions, please chat, email, or call Customer Service. 

      Sincerely,

      Sarah
      Wood Workers Guild of America Video Membership

      Reply
    • Jim Blackburn
      Jim Blackburn

      I am a professional and I tried out the Harbour Freight brand (the red one). I paid $19.95 on sale. I liked it so much I went back and bought three more so that I would have one for each of the grit paper that I use. I can tell very little difference between them and the name brands that I have. I have three Porter Cables and one DeWalt. Will they last as long? Only time will tell.

      Reply
  3. Stephen Thames
    Stephen Thames

    Why didn’t you include Black & Decker in your top 2 choices? According to the test results in this comparison it appears that it out performed all the others.

    Reply
    • Customer Service
      Customer Service

      Hello Stephen,

      Thank you for contacting us.

      Great question. The Black and Decker unit performed well overall, but just didn’t have the same level of build quality as the two top choices. It’s impossible to accurately assess longevity in a short test like this, but based on the general sense on build quality I suspect that it would not last as long as the top picks. But for occasional use, I believe that you would be happy with the B & D. -Paul

      If you have any other questions, please chat, email, or call Customer Service. 

      Sincerely,

      Sarah
      Wood Workers Guild of America Video Membership

      Reply
  4. Philip Lee Anderson
    Philip Lee Anderson

    I wish you would have included a high end ROS such as the Festool just to help determine if the premium price tool offers more value.

    Reply
  5. Paul G Ekeberg
    Paul G Ekeberg

    Why would you pick the Bosch over the Black and Decker and the Porter Cable? Both of those units removed the materail in a much shorter time.

    Reply
    • Customer Service
      Customer Service

      Hello Paul,

      Thank you for contacting us.

      The build quality on the Bosch unit is superb, and it is extremely smooth running compared to the others, making it a top pick.

      If you have any other questions, please chat, email, or call Customer Service. 

      Sincerely,
      Sarah
      Wood Workers Guild of America Video Membership

      Reply
      • Mike lewis
        Mike lewis

        The Bosch sander was the slowest and quietest . I must point out a block sander has both of these qualities , is less expensive , an will last a life time. It also interesting you didn’t compare or mention stroke length, one of the most important issues when it comes to ROS.

        Reply
    • Customer Service
      Customer Service

      Hello Hugh,

      Thank you for contacting us.

      I’m not sure, but it seems like it might have been discontinued.

      If you have any other questions, please chat, email, or call Customer Service. 

      Sincerely,

      Sarah
      Wood Workers Guild of America Video Membership

      Reply
  6. Dave Vela
    Dave Vela

    amazon reviews for the Bosch in Canada are terrible, it seems the lot was defective :S

    Reply
  7. Mark
    Mark

    I have a Bosch and it performs well. But the cover on the dust collection apparatus fits so tight it is very difficult to remove. So difficult that that it finally broke as I struggled to remove it. I ordered a replacement, and it fits just as tight and is equally difficult to remove.

    Reply
  8. Charles Clark
    Charles Clark

    I have run my Makita BO5030K for about 5 years now. Yesterday I noticed a little bearing noise. So I am going to get this one again & hope it last as long.

    Reply
  9. Henry J Majoué Jr
    Henry J Majoué Jr

    I use the Rockler hose connection on my DeWalt to connect to my shop vac, works great!

    Reply