Porter Cable 352VS vs. Makita 9903 – Belt Sander Comparison
If you have been researching on portable belt sanders then you have surely come across the Porter-Cable 352VS and the Makita 9903. They are both excellent portable sanding solutions and have fairly similar features. How do you choose between those two? That is exactly what we will find out in this Porter-Cable 352VS vs Makita 9903 comparisons guide.
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Porter Cable 352VS vs. Makita 9903
1. Motor and Power
The Porter-Cable has a decent 8 Amps motor. This is great for general purpose sanding. It can also be comfortably used for heavy-duty sanding over both soft or high-density material like hardwood.
On the other hand, the Makita 9903 has an even more powerful motor rated at 8.8 Amps. This means that it can deliver a little bit more performance and is a little bit more “performing” than the Porter-Cable 352. This small difference can be felt when the unit is used to sand thick layers of hardwood for an extended time.
Both models are rated at 120V.
Speed is where those two units have a difference that directly affects the type of finish those 2 sanders produce.
Both units have a variable speed control that is easily accessible and both have an on-memory chip that remembers the last used setting.
The no-load speed of the Makita 9903 is 690 - 1440 SFPM while the Porter-Cable does 850 - 1,300 SFPM. The Makita 9903 is a little bit better here again.
The lower speed of 690 FPM of the Makita over the lowest speed of the Porter-Cable at 850 FPM allows more control and accuracy when working with a sensitive surface. It removes materials slower and bigger difference in speed means the Makita is more versatile.
3. Sanding Quality
The sanding quality is dependent on two main things. The sanding pad grit and the speed of the unit. When fitted with an appropriate sanding pad, both units should perform well. However, since the Makita 9903 is more flexible in terms of speed, the finish of the sanding can be more “fine-tuned” to the users liking.
Furthermore, it is good to note than the Makita 9903 comes with an 80 grit sanding pad out of the box. The Porter-Cable 352VS does not come with a sanding pad and you will have to purchase one separately. On the bright side, sanding pads are very cheap.
Ease of use and ergonomics is also where there is a notable difference between those 2 models. The Porter-Cable has a more elevated handle that makes it more comfortable to hold. The Makita model has a more flush front-grip design handle that may make it uncomfortable to the hand especially if held for a long time. However, for casual usage that are only a few minutes long, both will feel quite comfortable.
The grips on both units are not spectacular. They use a plastic unibody that while not uncomfortable, will not prevent the sander from slipping if not help with adequate force.
Both units employ a ball bearing mechanism which not only makes them run more efficiently but also drastically help reduce vibrations. The Porter-Cable 352VS has the handle grip further away from the sanding pad which will help reduce vibrations a little bit better than the Makita 9903. The difference is very small but still present, especially when sanding with a coarse grit sand paper.
The Porter-Cable model is heavier at 10.8 lbs than the 9.5 lbs of the Makita 9903. Since when sanding horizontally with a belt sander, the heavier the unit the better, the Porter-Cable will feel more comfortable to the hand. You will have to apply less force and basically, the weight of the device is what does the sanding for you.
On the other hand, the lighter weight of the Makita 9903 is better for vertical sanding. It is lighter and hence generates less fatigue when used in uncomfortable positions.
Both units come with a dust collection system that kicks in when the sanders are switched on and automatically stops when switched off. This will help keep your sanding area clean at all times. Customers of the Porter-Cable have noticed clogging in the sanding pad when used for an extended time. This has not been a problem for the Makita 9903 as far as user feedback is concerned. The Porter-Cable may require more frequent maintenance than the Makita. It is something to keep in mind if you are busy with a thousand things at work.
For beginners out there, tracking is simply the way the sander keeps the sanding pad centered on the rollers. Without good tracking, you will not get an efficient and productive belt sander. Luckily, both units have a modern and excellent tracking mechanism that works automatically without user intervention.
Noise may be of a big concern especially if you sand in a small workshop that echoes the sound back. The Makita 9903 will be a better choice at 85dB if you prefer a quieter sander than the Porter-Cable, that a few users report as being noisier.
The Porter-Cable 352VS is more affordable than the Makita 9903 by around $50. This is a big difference in price, but one that is perfectly justifiable. The Porter-Cable does not come with accessories and doesn’t even come with a sanding pad. The Makita 9903 is also delivered with bare attachments. But it comes with a coarse 80 grit sanding pad out of the box along with having a little bit better specs across the board.
As we have seen, those 2 models trade blows almost equally. A slight advantage goes to the Makita 9903 almost everywhere, but not enough to write home about. If you are on a strict budget, the Porter-Cable 352VS definitely does the job. However, if you can afford the little extra that the Makita 9903 is offered at, it is a better value for money purchase.