October 13, 2008

Dremel Multi-Max Oscillating Tool, Bosch PS50 Oscillating Tool - Review

Update: Because there is so much interest in these tools, we're going to keep updating this article as we use the tools more and as you write us and let us know any questions or comments that you have. In a sense, this will be a 'living document.' Sounds very intellectual for a review of a couple of power tools.

Update II: We've spent more time with these tools and have updated our review with further thoughts. We also have review up of the Rockwell SoniCrafter Oscillating Tool and the Fein MultiMaster.


We're going to review these tools together because it seems that there are two questions to be answered here: 1) should I get an oscillating tool? and 2) which one should I get? The answer to the first question is a simple, yes. Of course you should get an oscillating tool. The Fein Multi-Master, which has essentially been the only one on the market for years (aside from the mini-model making Proxxon) is without question one of our favorite tools. Its durability and versatility make it the go-to in a wide range of circumstances. Oscillating tools can cut, plunge cut, sand, grind, and polish. To this point, they've been indispensable to the carpenter, and because of the price, unreasonable for the homeowner.

But now that Fein's patent has worn out, both Dremel and Bosch are offering their own versions at lower prices. A while back Proxxon struck some sort of licensing deal which allowed them to make their oscillating tool, but due to the fact that it was so much smaller than the Fein, it wasn't a competitor (our full review of the Proxxon is here).

This review is going to be broken down into the following categories; ergonomics and ease of use, power, accessories, the case, and price. We're going to comment on both the Dremel and the Bosch for each one and add in comments on the Fein and Proxxon where we see fit. Our goal isn't to pick a winner, but rather, since we've already decided that you need an oscillating tool, to lay it out which one's best for your needs.

So onward with the Bosch v. Dremel v. Fein v. Proxxon smackdown...


Ergonomics & Ease of Use
The Bosch is without question the thinnest and longest of the oscillating tools and it feels the best in the hands, far better than both the Dremel and the Fein. The lack of cord only contributes to how much we liked handling the tool. The Bosch is comfortable with both one hand and two hands on the tool. The speed adjustment is right where you need it and there is also a battery charge indicator. The rubber grip material is in all the right places, particularly the head of the tool, so there is added protection when the tool starts to heat up.

The Dremel is a bit of a disappointment in this area and it's the first time we've ever seen anything by Dremel not feel perfect in the hands. The body is squared off, giving it four distinct sides, whereas the Bosch is more rounded. The rear motor vent protrudes from the underside of the tool and disrupts the cylindrical shape of the handle. They've built this around a single-handed hold, but because so much that we do with this tool is precision oriented, we oftentimes need both hands, which in this case is awkward. We're not saying that the Dremel is a failure in this department. It's not. The tool works easily in the hands. It's just that we've come to expect so much from the ergonomics of Dremel tools (like the perfection of the Dremel Driver) that any misstep is going to be noticed.

The Fein splits the difference between the two. Its corners are softer than the Dremel's, but it also isn't specifically designed for two-handed use like the Bosch.

This is really the most important piece of the puzzle. Is the tool powerful enough to get the job done and how does is compare with the mighty Fein? We were impressed with the strength of both the Bosch and the Dremel; probably more so with the Dremel because we were expecting it to be noticeably weaker than the others. There's no doubt that Dremel makes quality tools, it's just that they tend to opt for precision and ergonomics over straight up brute force. But here they delivered. Although their tool doesn't feel as solid in the hands as either the Fein or the Bosch, it was plenty powerful (it's 1.5 amps, the same as the Fein). With the wood-cutting blade in, we hummed right through a chunk of mahogany with no problem. The Dremel oscillates at between 10,000 opm and 21,000 opm. It's a good clip and it's the same top speed as the Fein.


The Bosch was also powerful, but we thought that the battery pooped out fairly quickly, so we charged one full and timed it while sanding a chunk of rough mahogany. The fully charged battery lasted about eight minutes. Not a whole lot of time. We then charged up the other battery and tested it in the same manner and got the same results; just under eight minutes. Granted, it's not like you'll be sanding down full lengths of 2x with the tool (you've got an orbital for that), but we were hoping for a little more juice, particularly with a 30-minute charger. Still, 8 minutes of power can go quite a ways if you're undercutting door jams or cutting in outlet boxes.

The Bosch has a speed range of 5,000 opm to 20,000 opm, making it neither the fastest (Dremel, Fein) nor the slowest (Proxxon), but giving it the biggest range of all the oscillating tools.

Update II:We would say that overall the Bosch is more powerful than the Dremel, but we've really come to have problems with the short battery life of the PS50. Time and again, We've been left with a half finished cut, waiting for a battery to charge up. To us, it's a real nuisance and a deal-breaker on the tool. How can a sanding tool only last for 8 minutes? When was the last time you've ever sanded something for less than 8 minutes? It bothers us to say this, because in all other aspects, the Bosch is a fantastic tool. The one situation where we could see getting around this issue is if you've fully gotten in to the Bosch 12-volt line of tools and have a number of extra batteries at your disposal.

As far as the Dremel/metal cutting question goes, we see that as more of a result of the attachment. The Dremel isn't built for the construction site, and it doesn't look like it can take the abuse of an entire day of cutting through nails, but it won't have a problem with a stray nail here and there. The Fein blades are far more durable and are better at dealing with that sort of thing. And something like a 1/2" copper pipe isn't a problem for the Dremel (you can watch a video of it here). So the bottom line here is that the Dremel can handle metal, but probably not all day every day.

Bosch_ps50_studs.jpgThe blade and scraper attachments for the Dremel have notches in them, to allow for a slightly quicker install; just undo the bolt enough to get the blade in and tighten up again. The Bosch doesn't have this and to change out an accessory, you've got to take the bolt and washer off entirely. The Dremel saves a bit of time here and it's nice not having to keep track of the bolt and washer once they're off. Both tools have little studs that ring the chuck (we're using 'chuck' her for lack of a better term) so the blade can be aligned to any position and won't slip during use. This was a big problem with the early model Feins. It's also worth mentioning that with both the Dremel and the Bosch, the bolt and washer have to be removed to install the sanding pad.

oscillating_delta_sanders.jpgCompatibility between the two tools is a bit tricky. The stud ring is a different size on each tool, so the accessories can't be easily transferred from one to the other. Why this is the case is a mystery to us, seeing as Bosch and Dremel are both owned by the same parent company, we figured that there would be some communication on this point. But the Bosch, at least comes with a little adapter plate that sits over the studs and creates a flat surface for the accessory to sit on. Without the adapter, it's possible to use the accessories from the other tool, but there's just a great likelihood of it slipping during use. With the adapter, the Bosch can also accept Fein's accessories.

The attachments that come with the tools are all of lesser durability than the Fein blades, which, while long-lasting, are violently expensive (how's that for hyperbole?). One cool thing about the Bosch plunge cute blade is that it comes with measurement markers down the face so you know how far you've cut in.

Update II: There's not a whole lot of information on Bosch attachements, but Dremel attachments are at Amazon. The prices are much lower than the Fein (as if that's hard to do), but they're definitely not as durable.

Bosch_ps50_case.jpgCases are just a hang-up for us, so if you're normal and couldn't care any less about them, just skip this section. Otherwise, if you're like us and can't stand over-molded plastic cases, you're going to be loving the Bosch. They've given us a wide open case with plenty of room for the tool, the cord, the charger, the extra battery, and a ton of extra space for whatever else you want. As the icing on the cake, they've also included a stand alone accessory box, that fits nicely in the corner of the case, but can taken out and used on the go. This is a great bit of thinking by Bosch and allows you to scrap the case all together. The smaller box can hold a large number of accessories as well as an extra battery, so you can operate with just the box, the charger and the tool.

dremel_multi_case.jpgThe Dremel case is a bit strange to us. Although it's over-molded plastic, which drives us crazy, it's about as good as one of those cases can be; there's plenty of room for the cord and quite a few accessories. But on the lid side, there are these pocket where blades and sanding pads can get trapped. We lost a blade into one of these pockets and getting it out was like getting a pick out of a guitar, if you've ever had to do that. It's sort of an up and down shaky thing.

The most expensive of the three (we've excluded the Proxxon) is, without question, the Fein. Depending on the model, you can drop over $300 for one. Although we did just notice one at Amazon for $150, it looks like a stripped down version with no case. The Bosch is going to be available in two kits, one for $200 and one for $230 (to see what's included in each kit, go here). The Dremel is going to be sold for $100.

And there you have it. We really liked both of the tools for different reasons. The Bosch is an ergonomic dream and has the widest range of speeds of all the tools. We're a bit worried about the lifespan of the battery. We'll be updating this post as we experience more and more how that 8 minutes of sanding time translates into actual job site experience. As for the Dremel, we had it in our heads that it would be weakest of the three, but it really held its own against two really tough tools. We're not convinced that it'll withstand the long term beatings that any job site will deliver, but in our tests it did everything that the other tools did.

Dremel Multi-Max Oscillating Tool at Amazon.com
Bosch PS50 Cutting Kit at Amazon.com
Bosch PS50 Carpenter Kit at Amazon.com
Fein MultiMaster at Amazon.com

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Posted by Doug Mahoney at October 13, 2008 4:58 AM
Recent Comments

1)To compare the cordless bosch with the other oscillating tools does not seem to be fair.
2) The Fein tool has a quick-tool changer, which is very efficient and should be mentioned.

Posted by: Wolfgang at April 18, 2012 9:50 AM

You mentioned that Fein Multi Master was the only one on the market for years.I purchased my Fein multi Master for just under $400.00 from Western tool after seeing advertised on TV.I had never heard of an oscillating saw previously to this and I didn't want to wait for shipping.Anyway It is my fault that the market is flooded with oscilating tools now for under $100.00.Never the less It is the best $400.00 I ever spent.It is absolutly the handiest tool I own.

Posted by: toolman at September 10, 2011 4:02 PM

I had the harbor freight tool and had to return it the day after I bought it. It will not keep the sanding pads mounted on the tool. I tried using several different lock washers as well as the one supplied and it still vibrated loose. I even tried using a cheater bar on the wrench to be able to make it tighter, but it still vibrated loose

Posted by: elbo at January 15, 2011 12:23 PM

To the above post:
Vibration and Oscillation are one and the same.
The word "vibration" is used more pertaining to mechanical objects.

Posted by: Nas at December 6, 2010 3:43 PM

Recieved my Dremel for Christmas last and it worked fine until today when it gave up.I havent used it that much so will try the Rockwell next.

Posted by: Williams at August 16, 2010 12:49 PM

The Bosch uses a lithium battery. These batteries typically need several charging cycles before reaching full capacity. Was this considered in the review? There was mention in the article of an update after more actual field use. I'm curious if the 8 minute lifespan increased?

Posted by: Davis at January 2, 2010 3:00 PM

The Chicago Electric tools are not made by Chicago Pneumatic. On the Harbor Freight website, you can view these multitool owner manuals - see the medical warning! These tools vibrate, not oscillate.

Posted by: John at December 29, 2009 5:26 AM

You mentioned that the Dremel Multi Max has the same motor ( 1.5 AMP) as the Fein, which I thought was 250W at 2.2 AMP??
Also, the Dremel oscillating tool looks a lot like the Hardin AZ318-2. Do you know where the Hardin tool is made?
great reviews

Posted by: chris ubinger at December 28, 2009 1:25 PM

Very informative reviews.

So far I've only picked up the Dremmel. It feels well made. Basically, the same size motor as the others. Fein is way to expensive for the home owner or hobbyist and possible for occasional professional use.

What you need to do in addition to evaluating look, feel and ergonomics is to really break down the internal design, gearing, materials composition before you can make a qualitative judgment of the durability of all of these brands. That's where the significant differences may lie. It's like comparing Ryobi drills to Milwaukee drills. Cost is much lower but the construction and the perceived life span is less.

Also, It would be much easier to decipher the above info if it were put into a simple chart form. List the brand of tool on one side, list of features and functionality on the other, check of if it's offered by each tool and how well it was implemented. Add a comments section and links.

Thanks, Mark

Posted by: Mark at December 27, 2009 9:48 AM

Does any one know if Dewalt is coming out soon with their battery version of the Fien Tool? Most of us have PLENTY of Dewalt batteries to offset run time and Dewalt makes durable construction tools.

Posted by: David Hincy at December 11, 2009 6:12 AM

My first Bosh was dead right out of the box (motor ran, no movement at shaft). The second one the gear box blew out before I could even run the first battery down trimming 1/2" drywall. !!! JUNK !!!

Posted by: Paul at December 3, 2009 10:18 PM

What about the Chicago Electric oscillating tool sold by Harbor Freight at $40.00?

Is Chicago electric the same as Chicago Pneumatic?

Posted by: Joe at November 2, 2009 12:28 PM

Too bad they don't provide a place on the machine to put the allen wrench so it won't get missed placed so easily. (I guess craftman tool set buyer can always give you their extras)

Posted by: calnal at November 1, 2009 1:26 AM

^^^for above comment^^^ Lock Washer Time!!!

Posted by: julian at October 28, 2009 2:13 PM

we just bought the dremel maxi tool and the blads keep comming off. the screw keeps vibrating soose and the blads comes off. we tighten it as tight as we can and it keeps happening . what can we do. thank you

Posted by: Leonard Grimes at October 4, 2009 10:31 AM

Tried unsuccessfully to access yaegerblades.com. It requires a password. What is it?

Posted by: niles at September 25, 2009 9:49 AM

Thanks great info...just saw a webpage for the Chicago brand multifunction power tool. Any info on it's performance....it's a 1.6 amp tool, more than Dremel and only $39.

Posted by: TK at September 6, 2009 4:39 AM

And, how about reviewing how these tools do with sanding? I mention this because I have the cheapo HF version and sanding is a bit of a problem. What with first, the hook-and-loop attachment, second, the thick soft sanding pad, there is too much flex and the sand paper tends to not move with the oscillating head. I wonder if the other tools do better in this regard.

Posted by: Bob Fry at September 4, 2009 10:24 AM

Don't laugh, but could you add the Harbor Freight knockoff to the review? http://www.harborfreight.com/cpi/ctaf/displayitem.taf?itemnumber=67256

Posted by: Bob Fry at September 4, 2009 10:18 AM

I Holoway on the website there is a FAQ section it gives you the size of screw that you need to replace it with. It says you need a M6x1 machine screw that is 18mm long.

Posted by: Ross at July 18, 2009 8:58 PM

I picked up the Dremel the other day, and I really like it. From what I can tell so far its a keeper. The only knock that I have is that the air vents are positioned right where you place your hands, so the tool tends to get quite hot to the touch after a while. A bummer I know, but far less of a hastle than haveing to wait for your bateries to charge with a cut half done. I haven't been able to try out the diamond paper yet because it's a special order item at Home Depot. If anyone has any experience with it let me know, I am very intrested.

Posted by: Ross at July 13, 2009 4:57 PM

I have been trying for 3 months to obtain a locking screw for my Multi-Max. Does anyone handle replacements? I really need that part.

Posted by: I Holoway at July 5, 2009 2:48 PM

I too would like the comparison with the voss 911 by king. It has basically the same oscillations 12000-21000 and is supposed to be compatible with the fein accessories. Vaccuum attachment available 2yr warranty and 30 day trial with refund including shipping.

Posted by: Galvin at July 1, 2009 3:44 PM

Just read your comparison on the oscillating tools. Very informative....Thanks. What do you know about the Voss 911 found at King group 1-866-546-4246? Keep up the good work....Have a great day...JT

Posted by: Jim at June 12, 2009 5:44 PM

FYI to the person looking to cut tile in a hotel. The new Rockwell SoniCrafter does include a vaccuum attachment in it's 72 piece kit for keeping up with the dust while cutting tile. I haven't used it but it seemed to be effective in the infomercial on TV. It is corded and appears to have similar power to the others. Just a thought if dust is key for you.

Posted by: Adam at May 3, 2009 12:25 PM

He did mean "blow molded" case. It's a shame that so much space is wasted in a lot of the dremel cases. I've dremeled out large sections of blow molded cases to fit other stuff with reasonably good results. I just bought a dremel multimax and am looking forward to trying it on some nails. gotta get a decent blade. maybe tack-welding some 32T sections of bimetal or HSS hacksaw blades to a holder? Maybe machine a holder and weld to the rigid scraper attachment?

Posted by: kelly at March 21, 2009 1:14 PM

I second the motion of a comparision that includes the Rockwell SoniCrafter.

I saw the infomercial and am considering getting it for my husband but would like further information before committing.

Accessory price comparisons would be helpful too.


Posted by: Darlene at March 9, 2009 10:25 AM

This article has great info but I am considering buying this type of tool for single tile replacing in various rooms at the hotel. Basically I would use this for cutting out grouts for minimum dust problem. The cutoff tool creates way too much dust but it cuts fast.
So, I like to see more info regarding cutting grouts. Thanks.

Posted by: Chuck B at February 20, 2009 11:35 AM

try yaegerblades.com. This site offers great aftermarket saw blades at $14-16. I tried them out and they are comparable to the OEM blades. I have saved a bundle of money over the past few months.

Posted by: Cullum Stanley at December 31, 2008 2:36 PM

The only one I have had my hands on is the Bosch unit. I really liked the feel of the tool and the fact that is cordless and uses lithium batteries.
I think this is one of those tools you could find lots of uses for. As soon as I get a job that I can try it on, I am going to try it.

Posted by: jeff at December 20, 2008 2:34 PM

Has anyone tried the Rockwell SoniCrafter? How does it rate to the others? The Dremel is only designed for wood, but for $20 more the Rockwell does ceramic and cement. Thoughts?

Posted by: kanegaro at November 23, 2008 9:19 AM

Looks like, among the corded oscillating tools (which is what I'm interested in... ergonomic or not, eight minutes is ridiculously short battery life) the Fein is still king. Thanks for the review... I'll be picking up one of these soon.

Posted by: macserv at November 8, 2008 11:48 PM

There's a review of the dremel on amazon that says it is only for use on wood, not metal,not for cutting through nails.

Posted by: Allyson at November 8, 2008 7:58 AM


Just a guess, but I think the author was referring to the design of the case as "over-molded" rather than the manufacturing process used to create it (i.e. the case is excessively contoured). It's just my interpretation, but it seems likely to me given that the criticism of this and other "over-molded" cases centers on the lack of room for accessories and flexibility in use.

Or maybe they really are referring to the manufacturing process since most of the cases that suffer this flaw are blow molded...

Posted by: Electron at October 17, 2008 1:07 PM

Can you compare the cost of blades, sandpaper, etc.? Also, are any of the blades, etc. compatible with each others' machines?

I have a fein, and love it, but the blades are just too expensive!

Posted by: Jamie at October 14, 2008 11:25 PM

I really enjoy ready your articles but I couldn't help but notice that you called the dremel case "over molded." The case is in fact "blow molded", much like a milk jug or gas can. An example of over molding would be the rubber grip on the Bosch unit or the rubber on your tooth brush handle. My background is in plastics engineering so you can see why I am pointing this out. Keep up the great work.

Posted by: mbaker at October 13, 2008 3:53 PM

Could we get some comments on how the actual POWER of the Bosch compares to the Fein, not just about the battery life?


Posted by: Chaim at October 13, 2008 8:50 AM
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