Our carpentry crew uses a variety of tools in Makita’s LXT 18-volt and CXT 12-volt battery platforms. Recently, our company hired a new carpenter, who brought with him—along with a wide range of experience, talent, and knowledge—Makita’s new XGT 40-volt 7 1/4‑inch rear-handle circular saw. Since we are big fans of the older, LXT 36-volt (two 18-volt batteries) version of the saw, we were eager to see how new hire Ryan O’Malley’s saw compared.

Similar design. The baseplates, bevel adjustments, blade housings, blade guards, and main handles on Makita’s 40-volt (model GSR01Z) and 36-volt (model XSR01Z) rear-handle circular saws are nearly identical. With a 7 1/4-inch blade, the cutting capacity of both saws is 2 9/16 inches, deep enough to gang-cut 2x3s on edge.

However, the single battery approach of the XGT 40-volt saw allowed Makita to redesign it, changing the ergonomics and balance enough to make it “feel better” during use—as well as slightly lighter—than the LXT with its two 18-volt batteries. The design of the 40-volt battery makes checking the charge level easy even when it’s secured in the tool, and it can be easily swapped out with a single hand. In contrast, the level indicator lights on Makita’s 18-volt batteries are difficult to see on many LXT tools, and removing the two batteries from the 36-volt saw is awkward and difficult—even more so with gloves. Also, the XGT saw comes with an on-board wrench for changing the blade; the LXT saw doesn’t.

Performance. To compare power, we ran both saws through the same obstacle course of LVLs and ply rips, using fully charged 4-Ah batteries and 24-tooth framing blades. The saws performed similarly when cutting through a 14-inch LVL 10 times in rapid succession, but the 40-volt saw felt more comfortable with better balance.

To test the new Makita XGT 40-volt rear-handle saw against its 36-volt predecessor, the authors made multiple crosscuts in a 14-inch LVL (top photo) and rips in a triple layer of 5/8-inch OSB (above) with both saws and compared results.

In our second test, we made five full rips through a three-layer stack of 5/8-inch Zip System sheathing, or 40 lineal feet of near-continuous cutting through almost 2 inches of OSB. Presumably because the battery’s indicator lights are not visible, the 36-volt saw has a top-mounted LED battery-level indicator, a great feature that also shows when the motor is working too hard or being over-torqued, alerting the user to slow down. Both saws ripped through the sheathing at similar speeds and nearly drained their batteries by the end of the test.

To test the saws’ potential under extreme (albeit somewhat unrealistic) conditions, we swapped the framing blades with Avanti 140-tooth plywood blades (available at Home Depot) and attempted to rip the sheathing. Unloaded, the 40-volt saw can reach a blade speed of 6,400 rpm, roughly 25% faster than the 36-volt saw, at nearly the same decibel rating. In this test, the XGT saw outperformed the LXT—the latter bogged down after a foot of cutting, while the XGT cut about 4 to 5 feet before bogging down.

Corking the dust port when the XGT is not connected to dust extraction keeps sawdust from being deposited in a pile on the work surface.

The only downside we could find to the XGT, aside from price (about $400 vs. $350 for the LXT), is the dust port. When not connected to a vacuum hose, though, the port is easily corked to prevent it from depositing dust directly onto the workpiece and obscuring any marks or lines or contributing to unsafe walking surfaces.

The 40V XGT saw is an upgrade from the older, two-battery 36V LXT saw, though it would mean investing in a completely new battery platform and set of cordless tools. makitatools.com

Photos by Josh Blye.