Nearly all table saws will fall into two main categories. They will either be a “contractor saw” or “cabinet saw.” Your budget, available space, and what type of work you plan on doing will determine what type of saw you should purchase.
A contractor saw is light and portable and is limited on how large of pieces you can cut. This is what you will see at stores like Home Depot and Lowe’s. They are typically louder and have smaller motors. Brand new, they can range from about $250-$600.
-Small, some can even fold up for easy storage
-Light weight, they are meant to be carried to different job sites.
-Less Expensive, they are about 1/5 the cost of a typical cabinet saw.
-Difficult to cut large sheets and larger boards with
-Can be uncomfortably loud depending on the drive method
– Motors are not strong enough to cut thick hardwood.
Cabinet saws are larger, quieter, more accurate, larger motors and are usually sold through woodworking tool stores. They are not by any means portable since they have a cast iron table top, and large motors inside. But once they are setup you will see that this is the heart of any shop. It may be a little overkill for most to have a cabinet saw if you are just a hobbyist, but they are very nice to have if you plan on doing a lot of projects. They are much more expensive than contractor saws, starting at just over a thousand dollars and going up to as much as $4,000-$5,000 thousand for a high end saw.
-Very powerful, most cabinet saws are at least 3hp and can cut through several inches of very hard wood.
-Quiet, because they are belt driven and everything is enclosed in the cabinet they are not as loud as contractor saws.
-Large cutting capability, most come with long fence guides allowing you to rip sheets of plywood and cut larger pieces.
-Accuracy, due to the heavy mechanism (the trunnion) used to hold the blade in place, and the large/flat tables with sturdy fences, they can be very accurate when tuned properly.
– Take up more space
– More expensive
I also think it is worth mentioning a table saw called the Saw Stop. Most schools have standardized on this saw due to the fact that it decreases the cost of their insurance policy. The Saw Stop is a table saw that can sense if your hands or fingers ever touch the blade, and it instantly sucks the blade down into the saw sparing your hands and fingers. They are a higher end saw, but are very well built. They carry both a contractor and cabinet saw style. If you are in the market for a saw I would recommend at least looking into it, table saws are an inherently dangerous tool, and this is a great option for guaranteeing that you will not have any serious accidents.