Ryobi Router Review -
R163K, RE180PL, and P600
There are three Ryobi router models available at the moment: the R163K fixed base router, the RE180PL plunge router, and the P600 cordless trim router. Overall owner reviews are fairly good for the corded models, and excellent on the cordless model. Most comments I found from actual owners were positive, with the general consensus being that they work fine and you really can't beat them for the price.
Ryobi power tools in general are budget-priced and are designed primarily with the homeowner or hobbyist in mind. They work very well for occasional or light duty use, and cost far less than the heavy duty professional-grade tools. A Ryobi router is ideal for the homeowner or hobbyist that will not be using it every day, and can't justify spending hundreds of dollars for a tool that will sit on a shelf most of the time.
The Ryobi R163K is a simple fixed base model with a 1-1/2 peak HP single speed motor. It has a quick release button for easy depth adjustment, and a micro-adjust knob to help you get the depth of cut set accurately. There are two LED lights built in to illuminate the immediate area of the cut. It also has a spindle lock, which means you only have to use one wrench when changing bits.
The R163K has a cut depth of 0 - 2", and will accept 1/4" shank bits. It comes with guide bushings for use with router templates, and will accept an edge guide. It also comes with the collet wrench and a carrying bag.
People really like the LEDs that light up the work surface, and several commented that it has plenty of power for light-duty use. One Ryobi router review commented that this one is much better than an older model Ryobi he had. And you can't beat the price! 4 out of 5 reviewers on the Home Depot website would recommend it, giving it 4.0 out of 5 stars overall. The single poor review is from 2007, and he also makes a comment that leads me to believe he is comparing the Ryobi to Porter Cable and Dewalt models costing twice as much. CPO Tools also offers a reconditioned model that gets 4.8 stars with 13 reviews at the moment, and the reconditioned model at Amazon gets 4.1 stars with 8 reviews.
There aren't many complaints about the performance of the R163K. Several owners commented that the R163K is noisy, but a recent router test in Fine Woodworking Magazine found that all the brands in the test were loud enough to require hearing protection. I also found a video review that said it is difficult to hold the lock button in while you tighten the collet with a wrench.
One thing to be aware of with the R163K Ryobi router is that it will only accept 1/4" bits, which limits your selection somewhat. With the 1-1/2 HP motor, work would be quite slow with larger bits anyway. Overall, the R163K is a good choice for light-duty work or as your first router. If you need more power and the ability to use 1/2" bits, take a look at the Hitachi M12VC or one of the Milwaukee routers.
The Ryobi RE180PL is a plunge router with a 2.0 peak HP, variable speed, soft-start motor. It has a micro-adjustable depth stop for making repetitive plunge cuts up to 2" deep. It also has a spindle lock button for single-wrench blade changes. One big advantage with the Ryobi plunge router is that it has a 1/2" collet and comes with a 1/4" adapter, so all common router bits will work.
There are a number of different comments about the Ryobi plunge router online, and most are positive. There is a Ryobi router review on the LumberJocks forum of the RE180PL, and the reviewer gives it 3 out of 5 stars. He says it is easy to adjust the variable speed, it is comfortable, has enough power, the micro depth adjustment works well, and bit changes are easy with the spindle lock. However, the locking lever has had to be repositioned a couple of times, and the plunge mechanism has too much play for really precise, repeatable work.
Several other Ryobi router reviews have mentioned varying amounts of play in the plunge mechanism. Apparently some examples are better than others in this respect. One owner corrected this by inserting wax paper in the bushings, and says it works great!
Other owners echo the comments about the Ryobi plunge router being comfortable to use, which is very important with a hand held router. One fellow on the Ridgid forum said that for the money, "...it's a nice first router for someone learning, or an extra to have on hand to save bit changes in multi tasking." One guy on the Sawmill Creek forum owns a Milwaukee, a Bosch, and the Ryobi RE180PL, and he says the Ryobi is "...a darned fine tool!"
14 out of 19 reviewers of the RE180PL Ryobi plunge router on the Home Depot website recommend it, giving it 3.7 out of 5 stars. Consumer Guide gives it an overall "Excellent" rating after judging it for value, performance, features, and ease of use. On the diplo-best.com website, 27 reviewers gave it an average of 81 out of 100 points. The reconditioned model gets 4.7 out of 5 stars on the CPO Tools website with 11 reviews at the moment. At Amazon, the reconditioned model gets 3.2 stars with 5 reviews at the time of this writing. A couple of owners complained about play in the plunge mechanism (also noted above).
If you need a router with a better plunge mechanism or for daily use, a Hitachi KM12VC is just one step up in price and gets good reviews. The Milwaukee combo kits cost a little more than the Hitachi, but get exceptional reviews.
The "little brother" in the Ryobi router lineup is the cordless model P600. It is part of Ryobi's 18-volt ONE+ series of cordless tools. The Ryobi P600 runs at 26,000 RPM and is designed as a trim router or laminate trimmer. It does not come with a battery or charger (sold separately), but if you already own any of the Ryobi ONE+ tools, the batteries from your other tools will work.
The Ryobi P600 gets excellent ratings, averaging 4.8 out of 5 stars with 26 reviews on the Home Depot website. Many owners say it has plenty of power, though it will go through batteries quickly when under a heavy load. A number of owners made the comment that it is so handy (being cordless, small, and light) that they find themselves using it more often than their full size routers.
Either of these Ryobi routers are likely to serve your purposes well if you are a "weekend warrior" who doesn't need a router every day, but occasionally you just can't do without one. A Ryobi router will give you the ability to do jobs that you couldn't do otherwise, without having to invest a ton of money. You can get detailed specs on the Ryobi router models at RyobiTools.com.
Sidenote: If you are new to the world of routing, there are a number of great router books available. A good book can help you understand the tool's capabilities and learn the correct techniques, and each one of the books has something a little bit different to offer. The books that are recommended most often on the woodworking forums are:
The New Router Handbook by Patrick Spielman
The Router Book: A Complete Guide to the Machine and its Accessories by Pat Warner.
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