The first thing I look for in a saw is good balance. What do I mean by that? When I hold the saw with a natural hand position, it should cut a straight line, and I should be able to trim a deck joist straight down without having to twist my arm in a weird way. The Porter-Cable PC15TCSMK has such great balance, it feels like an extension of my arm. A righty can cut with it using his left hand; I can pull its trigger with my little finger if I have to; and I can hit the cut line without looking at the blade.

The next thing I look for is whether the saw’s cord is long enough that I can cut an 8-foot sheet of plywood without the plug hanging up. The 10-foot cord of the Porter-Cable saw passes this test easily.

Weighing in at a light 9.5 pounds, the PC15TCSMK is easy to use all day long. Its second handle gives added control when needed. The 15-amp motor runs at 5,600 RPM for a smooth, accurate cut, even with the blade fully bedded in 4-by material. The depth control lever is tucked out of the way behind the motor, and the depth gauge is accurate. The bevel setting goes to 55 degrees in 1 degree increments; detents at 22.5 and 45 degrees make these common angles easy to set. The magnesium base plate is marked to ease lining up cuts, and even long cuts stay lined up. A cut-out right by the blade provides a good line of sight to the blade — helpful when cutting stair jacks, for example, where you need to stop the cut right at the inside corner.

I found the sawdust port to be both good and bad. When you’re cutting right-handed it’s good, as it dumps the dust to the right side of the saw. But if you’re cutting left-handed, it dumps the dust right into your pocket. This minor glitch (common to a lot of sidewinder saws) aside, this Porter-Cable saw would be a welcome addition to any tool box.

PC15TCSMK, Porter-Cable, 888/848-5175,, Street price: $120