Cabinet Table Saw Vs. Contractor or Hybrid (What’s Better?)

Last Updated on August 28, 2022 by Barry Gray

There are two categories of woodworkers, those who own a table saw and those who will eventually have a table saw. Whether it be a cabinet saw, hybrid or contractor saw, over 97% of woodworkers own a table saw of some type, 

Cabinet saws have sturdy construction, high quality, and durable components matched with precision fences and powerful motors. Unfortunately, they have prices to match. Enter contractor and hybrid saws that offer more affordable prices and more flexibility in where they are used.

When it comes to cutting lumber and building projects with acceptable tolerances, the better the tool, the more efficiently these are achieved. It is particularly true of table saws where the quality of components can significantly impact the overall finish of a woodworking project.

My Recommendation

A cabinet saw is a good investment if you only spend a little time making cabinetry and other small projects every week.

If you operate a small business and need a saw that you can comfortably and reliably run for hours at a time, a contractor table saw may not be durable enough.

Hybrid saws offer an excellent middle ground for committed hobbyists and small-scale professional operations.

Cabinet Table Saw

cabinet table saw

Cabinet table saws are named after the cabinet they are built on. These are the top-of-the-range saws that most woodworkers have dreamed about getting.

Cabinet saws have a lot of advantages, and unfortunately, some disadvantages which we discuss below.

The Advantages Of A Cabinet Table Saw Are

  • Cabinet saws are manufactured to excellent tolerances
  • The quality of cabinet saws is higher than less expensive saws.
  • Cabinet saw tables are made from a durable slab of cast iron that won’t change shape.
  • Cabinet saws have more powerful motors (3hp – 5hp).
  • Cabinet saws trunnion and drive system are very robust and will last for a long time.
  • The motors drive a belt that rotates the blade.
  • The stability of the belt reduces any wobble or shake in the blade.
  • Because cabinet saws are belt-driven, they make less noise.
  • The cabinet saw will have quality fences that move and adjust more quickly and precisely.
  • Once the high-quality fences are set, they need no further adjustments.
  • As the table saw is built on a cabinet, dust extraction is more effective and easily managed.
  • Cabinet tables saws come with saw stop capability, which reduces (eliminates?) the chance of injury.

In summary, cabinet saws are more substantial in overall construction; they’re built using more cast iron and steel, heavier trunnions, gearing, Arbor assemblies, and more powerful motors with higher quality fences. 

All these factors make the cabinet table saw a sought-after piece of equipment.

Disadvantages Of A Cabinet Table Saw

There are a few disadvantages of a cabinet table saw.

  • Cabinet table saws are the most expensive variant. For a DIY woodworker, the price of this equipment often pushes them out of range for most people.
  • Cabinet table saws are enormous and won’t fit inside most wood shops.
  • Cabinet table saws are very heavy, and not only aren’t they portable but they also can’t easily be moved around the shop.

The Contractor Table Saw

contractor table saw

Contractors’ table saws are designed to be light and easily transportable. They are often equipped with wheels to transport easily and maneuvered around a construction site. 

Contractors’ saws often come with stands that fold up for ease of transport and lifting.

The Advantages Of A Contractors Table Saw Are

  • Contractors’ table saws have engines in the 1hp to 2 hp range.
  • The motors in a contractor’s table saw are suitable for most applications.
  • Being smaller and lighter than a cabinet saw, contractors’ saws offer more flexibility.
  • Contractors’ saws are more rugged than benchtops and compact saws. 
  • Contractors’ saws are more robust than smaller units.
  • Contractors’ saws cost considerably less than cabinet saws.
  • Most contractors’ saws have a solid cast iron tabletop, although the extension part of the table may be less durable.

Disadvantages Of Contractor Table Saws

  • Contractor saws are noisier than cabinet saws.
  • Motors are generally exposed and hang off the back of the saw, although some models have electric motors built into the table below the saw.
  • Contractor saws’ trunnions, gearing, and arbor assembly are less substantial than those found on more expensive saws.
  • The fences used with contractor saws are generally of lower quality and less precise. 
  • It is virtually impossible to collect dust because of the table’s open design.

Contractor’s table saws are often used in home workshops because they are less expensive than cabinet table saws and have a more powerful motor than the newer portable ones.

Hybrid Table Saw

adjusting hybrid table saw

A hybrid table saw fits in the middle and is a contractor saw with a fully enclosed stand and motor inside instead of on the back.

Advantages Of A Hybrid Saw

  • Hybrid saws are built on a closed cabinet.
  • Hybrid saws are quieter than contractors’ saws.
  • Dust extraction is more effective because of the closed cabinet.
  • Hybrid saws have belt drive induction motors.
  • Hybrid saws are smaller and lighter than cabinet saw.
  • Hybrid table saws are less expensive than cabinet saws.

Disadvantages Of A Hybrid Saw

  • They do not have the work power of the cabinet saw.
  • Hybrid saws are more expensive than contractors’ saws.
  • Hybrid saws use contractor saw trunnion assemblies which are not as strong as cabinet saws.

What Are The Features to Look For

working with a table saw

When you begin to research the table saw which will be most appropriate for your needs, several factors should inform your decision.

Purchase Price Of The Table Saw

The price range between the different table saw types is significant, and whatever machine you choose should match your budget.

If you feel that you need higher quality, more powerful saw and the price of a new model pushes it out of your reach, look around for a second-hand unit. If these are rebuilt, they often are priced much more affordably.

What Do You Need Your Table Saw For?

If you have a commercial woodworking shop that is active most days of the week, and a table saw is needed, which can run for long periods, a cabinet saw is the best long-term, cost-effective solution.

If you need to transport the table saw to the site every day, you will have to look at a lighter-weight contractor’s saw, possibly with wheels that make it easier to move around and load on your truck. 

If you only work for a few hours a week and your spouse won’t give permission for the significant investment a cabinet saw requires,  but you still want some of the features that a cabinet saw offers, then a hybrid saw may be the perfect solution.

How Much Available Space Have You For The Table Saw

Although a cabinet saw features in most woodworkers’ dream woodshop, the reality is that it has a large footprint, and you must dedicate significant space for a machine that isn’t easy to move. 

If this is your situation, a hybrid table saw should work for you.

Photo of author

Barry Gray

Hi, I’m Barry. I’ve loved woodworking and bringing things back to life for more years than I care to remember. I hope my passion for tools comes across loud and clear in everything you read here on The Tool Square.

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