I had the opportunity to take a look at the Ryobi P523 18V One+ Jig Saw to check out its features and performance. This is mid-range Jig Saw that sees the majority of its competition coming from Porter-Cable and Skil when you look at the $50 – 75 price range. The P523 has a host of features that I was able to evaluate including tool-free blade changes, Blade Saver, Speed Match, and a variable speed lever. On paper, this 18V jig saw matches up with the top speeds of any class of cordless jig saw at up to 3000 SPM.
Ryobi P523 Jig Saw Features
- Tool-free Blade Clamp – allows for quick blade changes
- Blade Saver – allows you to adjust the base vertically to use more of the blade
- Speed Match – optimizes orbital action and speed based on the material you’re cutting
- Variable Speed Lever – lets you dial in the speed required without relying on consistent trigger pressure
- Trigger Lock – locks the trigger in the “on” position
Ryobi P523 Jig Saw Specs
- Power Source: Ryobi One+ 18V Battery
- Speed: 1100 – 3000 strokes per minute
- Bevel Capacity: 45 degrees left and right
- Stroke Length: 1 inch
- Blade Shank Compatibility: T-shank or Universal Shank
- Weight: 4.4 pounds
- Warranty: 3 year limited
- Price: $59.97 (Home Depot)
Ryobi P523 Jig Saw in Use
Getting the Ryobi P523 set up was relatively easy. The first thing that I needed to do was install a blade. Since I was just making some cuts through mainly cypress wood, I selected a 6 TPI Ridgid blade to handle the job of rough cutting and 14 TPI for the smoother cuts. The battery simply snaps into place and I chose a 4.0 amp hour pack to run through my testing.
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Blade installation is one of the features I found to be great about this jig saw. Simply push the blade clamp open by pushing the tab forward with you thumb. When the blade is in place, there won’t be a audible click. When you release the blade clamp, it will only return to the closed position when the blade is fully in place. It’s not a big deal if you’re a little short. Just give the blade a little push and the clamp will snap closed when it’s deep enough. The blade will be ejected once you open the blade clamp to release it.
The Blade Saver feature of the Ryobi P523 is one that I am very excited about. This allows you to adjust the height of the base to make use of more teeth on your blade. The adjustment isn’t tool-free, unfortunately. You’ll need to use the included Allen key to loosen two bolts first. Pull the base down and there are three positive stops that give you access to about an additional half inch of your blade. The stops are a little difficult to feel at first, but I got used to finding them quickly.
Speed Match is a fun name, but a little deceptive. What this actually does is adjust the amount of orbiting action in your cut. Regardless of the name, it’s another great feature of the P523 Jig Saw. This is a tool-free adjustment that happens by simply selecting the level of orbiting action you want (0 – 3). A handy pictorial guide is on both sides of the jig saw to remind you what material each setting is best for. In addition, the manual provides more detailed guidance on setting selection. If you look closely, you’ll notice that as you adjust the Speed Match setting, what is actually happening is that the blade roller is being moved forward to limit the orbiting action.
The variable speed lever is another feature that I quickly decided I liked a lot. This allows more or less infinite speed setting between 1100 and 3000 strokes per minute. I notice that when I’m cutting and moving, it can be difficult to maintain consistent pressure on a variable speed trigger to keep the speed dialed in. With the variable speed lever, you still have the benefit of infinite speed selections without having to maintain that constant pressure.
The variable speed lever is also very well complemented by the trigger lock. Instead of only locking in the Ryobi P523 at top speed, you can still optimize it and keep your hands off the trigger to find the most comfortable grip. I found that the two handed grip I used on the jig saw put my left thumb in perfect position to make slight adjustments to the speed in the midst of a cut while still maintaining excellent control.
Bevel cuts can be accomplished up to 45 degrees both left and right. This is another adjustment that ins’t tool free. Again, the included Allen wrench will help you loosen two bolts and set the base to 15, 30, or 45 degree on the positive stops.
Ergonomically, the design of the Ryobi P523 Jig Saw is very good. Weight isn’t typically an issue with a jig saw since the vast majority of the time you’ll be cutting on the surface of a work piece. The rubber overmold on the handle made my grip very secure and comfortable while helping to absorb the little bit of vibration that was being produced.
The sight line blower could use a little bit of help. For the most part, it did an okay job of keeping my sight line clear on rough cuts. When I was making slower cuts with a 14 TPI blade, it had a much harder time keeping the saw dust blown away from my drawn lines that I was trying to follow.
Ryobi P523 Conclusions
I found the Ryobi P523 Jig Saw to be a lot of fun to use. In a hour of cutting, I used about half of the available power in the 4.0 amp hour One+ battery pack. For a tool that is considered to be a rough cut saw, I enjoyed surprisingly smooth cuts at high speed.
There are a few shortcomings. The most glaring is the sight line blower. A little bit of additional research showed that this is the most common complaint on the Ryobi P523. I did see that Ryobi is actively pursuing an improvement on this for the next model. It would also be nice to see a tool-free adjustment option for making bevel cuts and to make quicker use of the Blade Saver feature. You also won’t find any on board blade storage for this model. This isn’t a big deal for me since I tend to carry my jigsaw in the tool box and have sets of blades that have their own storage container.
Overall, this is a tough jig saw to beat, especially for the $59.97 price. If you are using a jig saw for may hours on a daily basis, I can understand if you want to look to a corded model or at a higher price point for an upgraded model. For those of us that only need it for occasional or light daily use, the Ryobi P523 Jig Saw is a major win. Combined with the Ridgid Jig Saw blade 10 packs from Home Depot (~ $9 per set), this tool has a permanent home in my grab and go tool box.
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