Dremel Multi-Max Oscillating Tool, Bosch PS50 Oscillating Tool - Review
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.
The 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.
Compatibility 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.
Cases 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.
The 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