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The Best Budget 5" Random Orbit Sanders (2014 Edition)

Entry-Level Random Orbit Sanders Compared

by Lorenz Prem on October 7 2014 5:07 am
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At first glance the sanders in the entry-level segment of the 5" random orbit sander market appear to be very similar. All of them are roughly the same size and shape, and their specs do not differ all that much.

Having reviewed all of them, I can tell you that they all feel different when the sand paper meets the work piece. Let's take a look at the most widely used 5" random orbit sanders, and figure out which one is the best of the bunch.

Hingmy

Best
Random Orbit
Sander

2014

Milwaukee 6021-21 Random Orbit Sander

The Milwaukee 6021-21 makes it to the top of this list thanks to its consistently high level of engineering. Everything about it was made to be the best solution in this price segment. The powerful motor, extremely sturdy body, and simple to use dust collection features are evidence of this. The grey, rubber skirt around the sanding disk is a piece of innovation every random orbit sander should have.

As good as the 6021-21 is, it cannot compete with higher priced sanders. It vibrates too much for all-day use, and gets convincingly beat by 6" random orbit sanders. It is, however, the best performing sander in this price range. The 6021-21 will perform well no matter the task or setting, and only a move to a more expensive class of sander will be an upgrade.

The Good

  • powerful, fast motor
  • variable speed
  • produces fast, flawless results
  • soft start minimizes startup jerks
  • motor brake when the power is turned off
  • power switch is protected from dust
  • think rubber covers the top of the sander
  • rubber skirt above the sanding pad makes easier to sand along vertical surfaces
  • clever design uses momentum to funnel dust to the dust port
  • the dust bag is very easy to empty
  • solid, double wall carrying case

The Bad

  • vibrates too much for all-day use
  • the body of the sander was not designed as a grip area
  • bag based dust collection leaves dust behind, but works well enough
  • user needs to remove the anti-theft device on the power cord
  • powers on when the sander is plugged in with power switch in the ON position

Bosch ROS20VSK Random Orbit Sander

The Bosch ROS20VSK performs about as well as the competition, but it does so with less noise and more poise. The dust collection canister with its pleated filter offers superior performance, but it has to be emptied every few minutes to be efficient. The kit includes everything you need to connect the sander to a dust collection hose.

The ROS20VSK is a good solution for contractors that need to complete small jobs in occupied spaces. Short of investing in a complete dust extractor/sander combo, the ROS20VSK outperforms everything on this list in terms of cleanliness. In the woodshop it delivers good top-end performance as well, but it stops short of being a chart topper. The ROS20VSK is an all-around excellent random orbit sander.

The Good

  • wide, comfortable top
  • variable speed
  • power switch is protected from dust
  • long power cord
  • very good, short, stubby vac port
  • kit includes hose adapter
  • well built, yet economically priced

The Bad

  • not particularly powerful or fast
  • dust canister clogs after a short time
Orbital Sanders by Motor draw
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No Data: 22

Makita BO5041K Random Orbit Sander

The BO5041K brings professional level features down to a lower price segement. The elongated handle, front grip, and trigger style power switch create a different feel when you do your sanding. Underneath the bolted on parts is a powerful, well built sander that performs well in all our tests. On the flip side, the dust collection system only really works with a dust collector attached, and excessive vibrations are a problem at slow speeds.

The BO5041K shines when sanding wide open work pieces where the extra handles make the sander more stable and don't get in the way. It'll outperform all sanders on this list in these workloads, but it'll lose to any well-built 6" random orbit sander by a wide margin. The BO5041K is a uniquely useful sander at a very attractive price point.

The Good

  • sands faster than most
  • 360 degree rotation fore grip
  • long handle
  • variable speed
  • trigger activated with lock on
  • great for reaching into cabinets and closed spaces
  • ok, but not great dust bag
  • heavy duty case
  • very quiet at low speeds, average at full speed

The Bad

  • vibrates excessively at slow speeds
  • no hose adapter for vacuum port
  • generic, single-tool case that is not part of a system
  • problematic friction fit on the dust port

Porter Cable Model 382 Random Orbit Sander

The Porter Cable Model 382 falls behind the field in our tests. Its mediocre single speed motor does not have the necessary power to compete with the larger sanders in this price segment. With patience results come quick enough, but in a head-to-head comparison the Model 382 is simply too slow.

The build quality and features of the Model 382 are as generic as they come. You are getting a full-featured sander for your money, but when you use the sander it'll be clear what you had to give up to get to that price point. The Model 382 is still a good option for occasional users. A few minutes of extra time here and there don't add up to much in a residential shop, and the results are the same.

The Good

  • good sanding performance with higher grits
  • good dust collection
  • excellent vacuum hose adapter
  • good ergonomics with a somewhat crude knob
  • sturdy power cord
  • counterbalanced for low vibration sanding
  • leaves behind scratch free surfaces with high grits

The Bad

  • single speed
  • underpowered for heavy sanding
  • mushy power switch
  • top of the sander gets slightly hot after 5 minutes of use

DeWalt 26453 Random Orbit Sander

The DeWalt DWE26453 is the brute in the lineup. Somewhat crudely designed and put together, it delivers uncompromising performance in the woodshop and on the job site. It'll likely survive rough treathment more consistently than any other sander on this list. Its powerful motor, long power cord, and sturdy dust port appeal to anyone who needs to get work done.

The forgettable cloth storage bag, unnecessarily bulky build, crude body contours, and abysmal dust collection canister make it a situational random orbit sander. There are better options for use in a woodshop, but the package is hard to beat for job site users. Finish quality is excellent.

The Good

  • great sanding performance
  • scratch free finish with finer grits
  • powerful motor
  • robust build
  • variable speed
  • long, coil-free power cord
  • multi-size dust hose adapter
  • good dust collection with a vac
  • secures disks without any movement
  • can be used for hours without needing to cool down
  • wiggle free fit between hose, adapter, and dust port
  • can sand up to an edge on 3 of 4 sides

The Bad

  • unnecessarily bulky
  • oddly shaped lower grip
  • poor dust collection bag
  • throw-away storage bag
  • finicky power switch
  • heavy when sanding overhead
Orbital Sanders by Max speed
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No Data: 6

Hitachi SV13YA Random Orbit Sander

The Hitachi SV13YA has a good motor and performs well enough in the woodshop, but poor accessories and outright missing parts make it a very poor value. There is no way to run this sander with a hose attached to the dust port. The poor power cord and budget case betray the cost savings this random orbit sander was designed to achieve for Hitachi.

On the test bench the SV13YA performs well, but does nothing better than most of the sanders on this list. I cannot recommend a product that performs about the same as another, but comes with serious flaws that prevent you from using it like you want to. The Hitachi SV13YA is a comparatively poor choice you should pass on, unless you can find it in the bargain bin.

The Good

  • average, but good motor power and speed
  • continuous variable speed
  • good sanding performance
  • pleasant top and body grip

The Bad

  • there is no way to run this sander in a clean fashion
  • no dust port adapter for round hoses
  • the dust collection bag performs very poorly
  • power switch is not protected from dust
  • plastic power cord
  • anti-theft device on power chord
  • poor vacuum formed hinge on case
  • speed dial is hard to use while wearing gloves

Makita BO5031K Random Orbit Sander Review

The BO5031K is a good all-rounder with only minor flaws. It is identical to the BO5041K, which appears on this list, both in terms of components used and performance. The hit and miss dust collection mechanism and excessive vibrations at slow speed carry over as well. If you don't need the variable speed control, Makita sells a cheaper version of this sander without the feature.

In the woodshop the BO5031K never makes you feel short-changed. Flawless results come easy and quickly, yet the sander never manages to be the best at anything. The Makita BO5031K may not be innovative or the best, but it'll perform well in any woodshop or on the road.

The Good

  • sands faster than most sanders of this size
  • good overall sanding performance
  • variable speed
  • single speed and long handle versions available
  • ok, but not great dust collection bag
  • very quiet at low speeds, average at full speed
  • power switch is shielded from dust

The Bad

  • hose adapter not included
  • one-off case that is not part of a system
  • anti-theft device on power cord
  • turns on when plugged in while the power switch is in the On position
  • shorter than average power cord
  • vibrates excessively at slow speed
Orbital Sanders by Price
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No Data: 21

Summary

The budget end of the 5" random orbit sander market is very competitive. The performance of all competitors is very close to each other, making build quality and ease-of-use the most important properties.

The Milwaukee 6021-21 makes it to the top of the list thanks to its consistently high level of engineering. It performs as good or better than every sander on this list, and it has a couple of incredibly useful features the competition does not have.

The DeWalt 26453 is a great option for rough work. Its simplicity gives it an edge when durability is important. The Bosch ROS20VSK, on the other, brings a level of sophistication the other sanders do not have. It has the best canister-based dust collection of any of the sanders.

The Makita BO5041K with its elongated handle performs the best when sanding wide open spaces. Remove the handles, and you have the BO5031K, a good all-rounder that does everything well without managing to impress.

The Hitachi SV13YA and the Porter Cable Model 382 lag behind the field. A few flaws make them a poor choice in a field of consistent performers.

About the Author
"Lorenz is the founder of Hingmy. When he is not reviewing power tools or improving the site, he is building things in his workshop or playing hockey."
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