After reviewing the fixed base version a couple of weeks ago, I was very excited to get my hands on the MRP23EVS plunge router this week. If the engineering on the fixed base version is anything to go by, this router could be challenging for the title of "Best Plunge Router in the Land". Let's take a look at what the MRP23EVS brings to the table, and how it sets itself apart from the competition.
The Bosch MRP23EVS Plunge Router
The MRP23EVS is a professional, two-piece plunge router from Bosch. It combines a powerful 15 amp motor unit with a sturdy plunge base. A fixed base is available as well. The MRP23EVS is the successor to the well liked 1617 Series Router, one of the best routers of the past decade. The new versions brings the strengths of the 1617 forward while adding some remarkable improvements.
The most useful feature of the MRP23EVS is the trigger located in the right handle. It allows the operator to keep his or her hands on the router while making a cut. Doing so increases stability, control, and safety. I noticed that the router feels a lot more agile than the competition with their power switches on the motor unit.
Build quality is excellent throughout the unit. The entire motor mount is cast from a single piece of metal. Tolerances are tight throughout. The rubber covered handles are comfortable to hold onto and hard wearing. The motor unit is one of the heaviest and most powerful installed in a two piece router system. Equipped with a soft start feature and variable speed controls, the motor spins the bit anywhere between 10,000 and 25,000 rpm. The dial controlling the motor speed does not match the quality of the rest of the router. A little more tactile feedback would have made for a better implementation.
The motor mount of the MRP23EVS is cast from a solid piece of metal. A tongue cut out of the rear of the base forms the motor clamp. This is an improvement over the old split-base design, which deforms the entire base to secure the motor. The new design allows for tighter tolerances and longer service life. The double action lever that locks the motor in place takes very little force to open and close, yet secures the motor without any possibility of movement. A safety switch prevents the motor unit from falling out unintentionally.
The MRP23EVS is simply one of the best two-pice plunge routers you can buy.
The base plate of the MRP23EVs is cast from a single piece of metal. Two channels accept the mounting rods of the parallel guide. Thumb screws lock them in place. One side of the base plate is straight for use along a guide fence. The remainder of the plate is round with the bit spinning in the center. Unfortunately Bosch decided not to include a centering guide in the kit.
The sub base is made from transparent plastic. Visibility is excellent thanks to the lights built into the bottom of the motor. The opening in the sub base does not have groves for mounting guide bushings. You'll have to purchase the RA1126 Template Guide to mount the guide bushings contained in the RA1125 Template Guide Kit on the router. No other guide bushing set will fit on this router. Bosch does not manufacture a large opening sub base for this router. Unless you can find an after market solution, you cannot run large diameter bits in the MRP23EVS.
The top of the motor unit is flat to allow the router to stand upright upside-down. This makes bit changes easier. There is no spindle lock on the motor unit. Two wrenches are necessary to loosen and tighten the collet. The kit includes both a 1/4" and a 1/2" collet.
The Plunge Mechanism
The MRP23EVS has one of the best plunge ranges of all routers at a full 3 inches. The motor mount moves along two guide shaft, which conceal the springs. Resistance is constant throughout most of the range. During the last 1/2 inch the springs become uncomfortably stiff.
The plunge lock lever on the left side of the router is spring loaded. It returns to the locked position by default. To reach it with the thumb of the left hand, the operator must shift his or her hand to the top of the handle. This is a bit inconvenient. Pulling the lever towards the grip unlocks the plunge. Simply letting go of the lever almost instantly locks the router. No further movement is possible no matter how roughly you handle the router.
Bosch improved the standard turret based depth stop by using a 7 position turret, each stop an 1/8 of an inch deeper than its predecessor. Two of the turret positions are adjustable for custom increments. You'll have to remove two screws to covert the adjustable positions to standard ones. On the negative side, the turret does not rotate as freely as the turrets on competing routers do, but it still works as intended.
The metal rod making contact with the turret is locked into place with a plastic thumbwheel. It takes little effort to lock the mechanism down to the point where even vigorous router plunges do not change the depth stop settings.
A movable, plastic pointer mounted to the top end of the rod indicates the plunge depth on a scale. A thin hairline maker produces unambiguous readings in both imperial and metric. The scale can be used over 2 inches of the router's 3 inch plunge range. That's more than enough to cover most scenarios.
Bosch added a clever fine adjustment knob to the top of the router. A full turn of the knob moves the bit 1/16 of an inch up or down. The scale built into the lower part of the knob allows for accurate measurements up to 1/512 of an inch. It rotates independently from the micro adjustment knob and can be zeroed out at any time. Since this mechanism works when the plunge mechanism is locked down, it allows the operator to dial in depth changes with incredible precision. The micro adjustment feature has a range of ~1/2 inch before it needs to be reset. The position of the mechanism is indicated by a crude scale just above the plunge lock lever.
As a whole the plunge mechanism of the MRP23EVS is one of the best of any router I have tested. Both hands stay on the handles at all times giving the operator great control over the movement and plunge action of the router. The depth stop is accurate, durable, and intuitive. The micro adjustment adds a level of sophistication a notch above the competition.
In the base configuration the MSP23EVS has no dust collection. The motor's downdraft launches dust in every direction. You'll have to purchase either the RA1177AT Dust Extraction Hood Kit, or the RA1054 Router Guide (which comes with a below-the-table dust shroud) to get any sort of dust collection at all.
The dust shroud works well to collect dust above the bit. It attaches in seconds with two thumbs screws. The shroud is barely bigger than the hole in the sub base, which leaves no room for large bits. You'll have to do without dust collection when using large bits.
The parallel guide and the shroud kit both include a below-the-table dust shroud. These work well when most of the cut happens below the table. Running the router with both above and below-the-table dust collection is possible, but you'd need two vacuum hoses.
The MRP23EVS is one of the best plunge routers I have ever tested in my shop. Having the controls within reach without moving my hands off the handles is a game changer. You can position the router perfectly and transition into a cut with a simple squeeze of your right index finger. The motor of the MRP23EVS has more than enough power to complete any cut you could ever ask of this router. The hefty weight of the unit ensure it remains stable at all times. The LED lights that illuminate the area around the bit are probably the feature I am going to miss the most going back to my old 1617 router.
The most important observation during my tests is that the MRP23EVS makes everything easy. The depth adjustment mechanism takes very little brain power to use. Once configured it simply works. There is never any doubt over what the bit is going to do. You can handle this router carelessly and still be assured that the settings remain unchanged.
Only the cumbersome dust collection system and inability to run large diameter bits are reasons to pause. Getting this router to be clean takes a lot of effort. With the shroud attached the vacuum hose feels a little too much like a foreign object.
The proprietary guide bushing system works well enough, but you'll have to spend well over $100 to get it. If you don't have a set already, that should not be a problem. Everyone else is going to be a little upset about having to spend good money just to get another gizmo that looks different, but does the same thing.
This router was clearly engineered for heavy professional use. The motor and plunge base both will withstand continuous use on a production schedule. Engineered to be repairable the MRP23EVS should be on the list of every business owner, who is looking for a tool that lets the employees perform at their best, lasts for years, and is affordable.
The MRP23EVS is part of a three piece router system consisting of the motor unit, a fixed base, and the plunge base. Bosch sells kits that include different combinations of these parts. The MRF23EVS kit comes with the fixed base and the motor unit. The largest kit, the MRC23EVSK, includes both base options along with the motor unit and a carry case.
The MRP23EVS is one of the best two piece plunge routers on the market. It combines simple, elegant engineering with quality materials to create a powerful package that will last a long time under heavy use. The excellent depth adjustment mechanism, convenient trigger, plunge lock, LED work lights, and motor mount let the router fade into the background during a cut. This router can change the way you work.
The somewhat cumbersome dust collection system, missing accessories, and proprietary template bushings add unwanted complexity to the mix. It seems nothing can be perfect. The MRP23EVS, however, managed to get pretty darn close. Only a couple of routers are as good as this one.
- power switch in the handle
- one of the longest plunge ranges on the market
- exceptional depth adjustment mechanism
- good spring resistance in the plunge lock lever
- great visibility around the bit
- 7 position depth stop turret
- LED lights in the motor unit illuminate the bit and cut
- accurate hairline plunge depth scale
- micro-adjustment can be used when the plunge mechanism is locked
- exceeding accurate micro-adjustment scale
- swivel power cord mount
- smooth plunge action
- flat side on the sub base to follow a guide fence
- soft start motor
- sits stable on a workbench upside down for easy bit changes
- clear sub base
- left hand needs to shift to the top of the handle to reach the plunge lock lever
- sub base does not have grooves for guide bushings
- must use the Bosch Template set
- missing essential accessories (centering guide, large hole sub base, guide fence, guide bushings, dust shroud ...)
- no spindle lock (but it is not really necessary)