Best Value & Performance
Hypertherm has been setting the standard in plasma cutting systems for years. They build a high quality product and they back it up with incredible customer service and support. On top of all that their units are made right here in the U.S.A. They even OEM products for other manufacturers in the industry. The Powermax45 is the result of 1000’s of hours of research and on-site testing and experience. It’s not cheap, but it is THE BEST
OUR TOP 3
Welcome to our plasma cutter reviews section. The goal of this guide is to give you all the info you need to find the best plasma cutter for for the money. If you are investing hundreds to thousands of dollars in a piece of equipment, you want to make sure it’s going to stand up to heavy use and get the job done. The following reviews and comparisons highlight the top rated plasma cutting systems on the market.
We’re going to be highlighting the best performing models on the market. These tools are designed to operate in practically any capacity from industrial use to at home or on the farm. They have high duty cycles, chew up less consumables, and are more durable than the inexpensive brands. This translates to a higher up-front cost, but a lower cost to operate over the long haul. This is important when profitability is a concern.
Each of the models that made the top 3 of our comparison can handle a heavy workload, cut cleanly through at least 1/2″ of steel, and offer reliable performance day in and day out.
Cutting thick steel requires adequate power. Each of these units requires 50A of power from a 230v outlet.
With all of this in mind we’ve put together this guide to help you make your selection a little easier.
FULL REVIEWS OF THE TOP 3
Hypertherm’s reputation rests solidly on their products ability to do exactly what they say it will. In that regard the Powermax45 is an absolute beast. This guy can make precise cuts through 1/2″ steel all day long. And while it carries a hefty price tag, it’s easy on consumables (186% more efficient than some models) which means it’s easier on your checkbook over the long haul.
As an added perk, Hypetherm’s consumables are less expensive than those of many other manufacturers. This is something that should NOT be overlooked if you’re operating a business where maintaining profit margins is important.
The controls on the Powermax45 are very straightforward. There’s a mode switch that toggles between three primary modes:
- Continuous pilot arc – this mode allows you to easily cut perforated metal such as grating.
- Non-continuous pilot arc – this is the standard setting used for cutting metal plate of varying thickness.
- Gouging – for punching holes in plate metal (use specific gouging consumables for best results)
The amperage knob adjusts how much power you need. This should be adjusted based on the thickness of the material you intend to cut as well as the ideal distance of the tip from the metal.
The torch is comfortable to grip and easy to operate. This makes extended cuts relatively easy on the hands.
The unit was designed to be portable. Connecting the gas and torch are quick and easy, meaning you can setup and break down in very little time.
While it’s tough to gauge reliability in a test, the Powermax series of cutters are popular with professionals for a reason. They are made with quality components and the company backs up their product with impressive customer support. This combined with the units performance made it a lock for our #1 position.
Dimensions: 13.7″H x 6.75″W x 16.75″D
Power Requirements: 230-240 VAC, 50 amp circuit, single phase
Max Cut: 1/2″
Max Sever: 1″
Requires external air compressor: Yes
Here’s a video from Hypertherm covering the basics of the Powermax45
The Spectrum 625 X-treme is a workhorse of a cutter. It’s actually rated to cut 5/8″ mild steel vs the 1/2″ max for the Hypertherm. In terms of build construction and quality it is essentially an industrial quality tool. It even offers both 110V and 220v power so you can use it just about anywhere. Obviously you’re limited on thickness when using with 110V.
It offers much of the same functionality of the Powermax45 including an auto re-fire capability that allows for cutting materials like grates and other perforated metals. It also offers quick and secure attachments for the torch, gas, and power.
To be totally honest the comparison eventually came down to price. The consumables for the Miller are slightly more expensive and the unit itself costs a bit more as well. Other than that, it would make a solid addition to any shop.
One very surprising aspect of the 625 is its’ size and weight. At only 21 pounds, it is a full 16lbs lighter than the Powermax45. If you’re looking for a unit that is extremely portable this is a huge plus.
The controls and operation of the 625 X-treme are simple and straightforward. It comes with the XT-40 handheld torch, which has been redesigned to be more efficient than previous models with consumables.
All in all this little unit packs a powerful punch.
Dimensions: 9″H x 5″W x 13″D
Torch: XT40R with 12ft lead
Power Requirements: 110/115/120 V @ 15A/20A or 220/230/240 V @40A
Max Cut: 5/8″
Max Sever: 1″
Requires external air compressor: Yes
Here’s a quick video of the unit in action.
The AirForce 40i is a highly economical and works on all conductive metals. It is based around inverter technology that is both reliable and efficient. The end result is a highly capable plasma cutting system in a relatively portable package. The 40i is designed for both heavy industrial use and light shop use.
Capable of cutting up to 5/8″ steel cleanly, this bad boy can tackle just about anything you throw at it. It can even sever up to 7/8″ steel. The duty cycle while cutting 5/8″ material is 50% at 40A, 240V. So as long as you supply it with enough power, it will go all day.
Designed for heavy workloads, this is a true commercial grade cutter. The specifications say it is rated to cut 7/8″ steel, but it is capable of cutting even thicker sheets if necessary. The newly designed power inverter saves space, meaning this unit is actually smaller than other units with similar capabilities.
On top of that the unit has a built-in compressor so it eliminates the need to carry an external compressor with you.
Powerful Inverter – efficient and compact, cutting ability at half the weight of prior model.
Auto-Refire – this features comes in handy when you’re working on painted material or perforated surfaces. Basically allows you to keep going without having to re-trigger the torch.
Line Voltage Compensation – provides for steady performance even under less than ideal power input voltage conditions. Allows for cleaner cuts under less than ideal circumstances
Runs on 20A circuit
Thermal overload protection
Dimensions: 11.25 x 8.25 x 14.25 inches
Torch: XT40R with 12ft lead
Power Requirements: 208-240 VAC, 50 amp circuit, single phase
Max Cut: 5/8″
Max Sever: 7/8″
Requires external air compressor: Yes
If you’re looking for a unit that offers the most bang for the buck, the Ramsond has it in spades. I’ll admit when this model came out a few years ago I was pretty skeptical of how well such an inexpensive unit would perform. On top of that there were some initial quality control issues. Many of these issues have been eliminated by upgrading the internal components. The result is a solid and reliable plasma cutting system.
The Ramsond gets the best budget option because of it’s impressive capabilities and low price. In addition to being powerful it’s also lightweight tipping the scales at only 19 pounds. This guy is completely portable.
The maximum cut limit is 3/4″ with a 60% duty cycle. That is SERIOUSLY impressive for a unit this size and price. Sever cuts can be made on thicknesses up to 1″. Keep in mind that is a rough cut, and should NOT be considered for a regular working load.
The CUT 50 can run on either 110 or 220v. It’s important to remember that running on 110v lowers the cutting capability of the unit. So if you’re looking to cut thicker materials make sure you’re using a 220V outlet.
Because of this flexibility, the unit doesn’t ship with a plug so you’ll need to install your own based on your power. This comes in handy when you need to travel with your unit since where you’re going may not have the same outlets as your shop.
It does require an external air compressor. Most shop compressors will do fine, as with any cutter you’ll want one with enough force to keep the tip cool and free of molten metal.
While this unit and others in it’s price range are not going to offer the same performance as the Hypertherm Powermax45 or the Miller extreme, it does get pretty damn close.
For well below $1000 you are getting a unit that can consistently cut 3/4″ steel. If you’re going to need a duty cycle greater than 60% then check out the Hypertherm and Miller units. But for anything other than heavy shop work, this unit is a fantastic value.
CUT 50DY SPECS:
Dimensions: 14.2 x 6 x 9 inches
Max Air Pressure: 150 PSI
Hose Length: 10ft
Duty Cycle: 60%
Max Cut Thickness: 3/4″
Compressor: external air compressor required
Warranty: 1 Year Parts and Labor
THINGS TO KEEP IN MIND
Any tool that you buy is an investment. And when it comes to plasma cutting systems you get what you pay for. There are plenty of models out there that are cheaper than those that made our top three. If you’re shopping based on price alone, check out our post on the best plasma cutters under $500, or skip to the bottom of this article for our vote for the best inexpensive cutter out there. You can also check out our reviews of units with built in air compressors.
BEST PORTABLE PLASMA CUTTER
While the three cutters listed above are great additions to any shop, sometimes you want something that is easily portable. And while most models are relatively easy to carry around, the Hobart 250i is the perfect unit when you need something that is both lightweight, compact, and portable. One of the best features of this small plasma cutter is that it doesn’t require an air compressor.
It only operates on 110V so don’t expect it to cut through anything thicker that 1/4″ (and even that will be slower than the models listed above) but it’s a great unit to have if you need something portable.
BEST CHEAP PLASMA CUTTER
Our Lotos Plasma Cutter Review
Check out our post on budget plasma cutters that come in under $500. There is one Chinese produced unit that gets pretty good reviews. The Lotos LT5000D (number 2 in or top 3) is usually priced just over $400. This is a pretty sweet deal on a piece that is very capable.
Features to Consider When Purchasing
Other than the quality of the manufacture there are a host of important features you should consider when making your purchasing decision. Let’s run through a few of these in order of importance.
One of the most important considerations when purchasing a plasma cutter is it’s power output. This will ultimately determine how thick of a cut it can make, how long it’s duty cycle is, and how quick and accurate the cuts will be.
If you’re regularly working with materials that are 1/4″ thick or less then a 25 amp unit should suffice. If you need to cut metals up to 1/2″ thick then you’re going to want a unit with at least 50 amps. And if you work with materials that are up to 1″ thick you’ll want a unit with at least 80 Amps.
Max Cut Capabilities
One of the specs you’ll see listed on most units is it’s max cut capabilities. This is essentially the thickest material it can cut. DO NOT expect to be able to work on this thickness of material for extended periods of time or for the cuts to be particularly clean. Basically you’re operating at the extreme upper limit of what that particular unit is capable of handling.
Most models are going to require an air compressor. Don’t skimp on this component. A good compressor will force enough air through the tip that the molten metal won’t stick to the torch. This will drastically reduce the life of your torch.
If you’re new to welding, be sure to get a good set of goggles and gloves. Safety is important when working with this kind of equipment.
There are plenty of other models on the market. We will continue to provide reviews of new and existing cutters. Just remember that you get what you pay for when it comes to commercial grade tools. A great price isn’t always a good deal. Be sure to do your research. Make sure the cutter you choose is capable of easily handling the workload you’re going to throw at it.
We look to feature review of models from such trusted names as Hobart, Everlast, Lotos, Hypertherm, Thermal Dynamics, Miller and more in the near future.
We will also be discussing specifics questions such as what is the best cutter for home use or a shop, for a CNC table, auto body work, and more.
For those that are interested in metal artwork we also discuss which models are best designed for highly accurate work with sheet metal.
Plasma cutters are not a small investment. Before you make your purchase make sure you have all of the information you need to make an informed decision.
That’s why we’re here. We provide you with the vital statistics of what you need to know about each model before you make your buying decision.
Welding Accessories and Safety Gear
You should always consider safety first when doing any type of welding or cutting. In addition to discussing cutters we also review accessories including welding machines, helmets and goggles, gloves and other essentials that you will need to safely use your new equipment. Take a few minutes to look around our site and see what we have to offer. And please feel free to leave feedback about models you would like us to review in the future. We’re always looking to improve our site.
For more on each model check out the following resources: