Dewalt and PorterCable - Mega Router Review (Rating: 5)

Whether you are looking for your first router or adding a new model to a growing collection, DeWalt and Porter Cable fit the bill. The current crop of 2-1/4 h.p. combination kits have proven their merit for years. With the precision of a dedicated plunge router and the versatility of a fixed base, it's no wonder why their popularity continues to grow.
The newest crop of 1-1/4 h.p. combo kits are a great concept: squeeze all the functionality of a mid-size combo kit into a pint-sized package. However, these kits aren't afterthoughts. They are purpose-built compact routers that rival larger routers for light milling jobs. The features built into these well-conceived tools vary significantly from one machine to the next, so take the time to familiarize yourself with each package before pulling the trigger.
The 894PK features a 2-1/4 hp variable speed motor with integral 2-part safety switch. The plunge base operates smoothly and features adjustable turret-style depth stops. The plunge base features truly effective through-the-column dust collection with a standard shop vacuum.
The star of the show, however is the GripVac fixed base. Sure, it offers through-the-handle dust collection, but it is the rare combination of handle styles that helps the operator maintain complete control. One handle sits very low on the routers center of gravity, and the other handle is oriented vertically to keep the router from tipping. The large lever which locks the motor in the fixed base is easy on the hands and operates smoothly. Despite its tall appearance and fairly hefty weight, the GripVac base makes this router an edge profiling superstar. I did have an issue with bits slipping in the ¼" collet. The spindle lock button is small and makes one-wrench bit changes difficult, a problem easily remedied by purchasing a second 1-1/8" collet wrench.
The DeWalt 618PK is similar in appearance to the Porter Cable 890 series, however the design is almost entirely distinct. The accurate plunge base glides on phosphorous bronze bushings with no detectible wobble. Fine depth adjustment is accomplished via a spring-tensioned threaded knob. This feature, combined with the intuitive turret-style depth stop makes it simple to set depth of cut. Pop the cap off the built-in dust port and attach a supple shop vacuum hose, and you can efficiently collect most of the dust produced. The sight lines on the 618 are very good, making it easy to see the milling operation at hand. This is the first plunge base I have encountered that truly equals the accuracy of a dedicated plunge router.
The stance of the 618 fixed base is notably lower than the Porter Cable, which avoids the common "top-heavy" feeling some routers suffer from. This low center of gravity, combined with arguably the most comfortable handles on the market, make this my favorite router for cutting dovetail joints. Both bases accept the excellent DW6913 edge guide, sold separately.
The 611PK compact router is a revolution in routers. It combines the light weight and portability of a laminate trimmer with the full-featured benefits of a combo kit. The 611 plunge base has similar depth stop features as the 618, except the fine adjustment knob is retained by an O-ring rather than a spring-tensioned knob. Just like its bigger brother, the motor slides easily from one base to the other. Simply align the pins with the slots, and snap it in place - no twisting the base to engage it, as with some models. There are marks on the outside of the fixed base, indicating where the pins are. I wish DeWalt had made these alignment marks on both sides, because the motor fits into the base in two orientations. However, this is a minor complaint. The clamp that locks the motor in the base is small, but offers good mechanical advantage. I found that a relatively low amount of tension on the clamp secures the motor well. The push-button collet lock truly works well. Minimal pressure on the button facilitates easy bit changes with one wrench.
The 611 offers variable speed, and adds a pair of bright LED lights that automatically illuminate when the tool is switched on. The lights help you see the work clearly, which is a big help with precision work. No other router in this review includes lights, and it has me hopeful that future models will include this upgrade.
The 611 also accepts the same DW6913 edge guide (plunge base only). Buy one edge guide, and it works on both kits. The edge guide features micro-adjustment, and a smooth fence that glides easily along your work piece. A separate, oddly named, edge guide DNP618 fits the 611 fixed base. I would opt for the 6913 edge guide, because most operations that require an edge guide use the plunge base. Dust collection attachments are optional for both bases. I purchased these accessories and they too work well.
The 611 fixed base comes with a "D"shaped sub-base. This extra width inspires a surprising amount of confidence when edge profiling. The light doesn't help with visibility as much on the fixed base, but it doesn't hurt anything either. The depth adjustment ring proved easy to use and adjusted bit depth accurately.
The power switch is sealed with a clear membrane. This made it difficult to see or activate the switch at a glance. Hopefully the membrane will become more pliable with use.
The Porter Cable 450PK is seemingly a twin of the Dewalt 611. However, it doesn't include variable speed or LED lights. I also feel the fixed base missed the boat with the round sub-base. It was notably unstable when cutting round-overs, compared to the "D" shaped sub-base on the 611.
When following a straightedge, I prefer to use the round sides of the base. Using the flat sides of the base can actually introduce errors in your cut. Whatever kit you decide on, you will find a quality tool that is sure to fit your needs. The biggest challenge may be choosing just one.