Random orbital sanders: 4 models tested

Last updated July 2018

A random orbital sander is a sander with a circular sanding plate that sands with an oscillating movement pattern. This means that you get a really good result - provided that the sander is well balanced and has a good movement pattern with a suitable speed and level of vibration. This is a tool that's excellent for sanding paint or varnish from wood, or for doing a final sanding of your woodwork before you paint it. Random orbital sanders are also good for creating a neat final finish on material that isn't going to be painted.

When comparing sanders, you can say that a belt sander is intended for heavy rough sanding, while a random orbital sander is a finer sander that can also to an extent be used for removing larger areas of wood.

Buying an orbital sander

When you're buying a random orbital sander, you first need to consider your budget, and what you'll be using the tool for. Some sanders are good at removing larger areas of wood, while others are better at fine sanding. The very best can do both things.

The sanding plates on random orbital sanders both rotate and vibrate. With the right balance between these factors, the grain will never hit the same place twice. However, if it rotates too quickly the grain will hit the same spot, which results in a circular mark on the material. When you're looking for an orbital sander it can be useful to choose one with speed control. This means you're able to choose how quickly you want it to rotate.

Random orbital sanders are available both as battery and mains powered versions. There are even hybrid models that you can run on the battery but where you can also attach a mains cable if the battery runs out. Battery power has the advantage that you aren't limited by a cable. If you have large pieces of material to be sanded, or you're in an environment where the nearest power outlet isn't nearby, this is an advantage. The disadvantage, of course, is that you have to remember to recharge the battery between sessions. However, the lithium ion batteries used today don't discharge between uses. So you can recharge your batteries and then store them on a shelf until it's time to use them. Naturally, the advantage of mains powered machines is that they're always ready for use and that they aren't limited by battery life. However, battery-powered tools are becoming increasingly mainstream as lithium ion batteries are constantly increasing in capacity.

Other than the power supply and speed control, a number of other factors are important. The noise level is one such, and the amount of vibration is another. Dust extraction is also important. All of these aspects are crucial if you're to have as clean and healthy a work environment as possible. Other important parameters are aspects such as ergonomics, build quality and guarantees.

Products tested

How the test was made

We carry out our tests ourselves and test all products as they are intended to be used in reality. All of the random orbital sanders were tested in a carpentry workshop with access to a workbench, high quality sandpaper with various hole spacings, stains and a range of test pieces of different materials. The test pieces measure 300 x 70 mm. The sanders have been used constantly for a long period, but have also been tested in detail over a number of precision tests. For example, sanding results have been assessed by sanding a piece of ash with sandpaper grain sizes of 80, 100, 120 and 150. After this, we have stained the ash test piece with a dark stain to see if the sanders have left circular marks. The dark stain makes it easy to distinguish the results. When the stain has then hardened, we also tested sanding this away to assess the removal ability, using 80 grain sandpaper. The random orbital sanders have also been used to sand chopping blocks made from cross-cut timber, to impartially assess dust extraction and battery life. We have assessed a number of factors during these tests, of which the most important are:

Performance: How long does the sander run for before the battery dies? How strong is it? Does it have a good balance between strength and battery life? How quickly does the battery recharge again? What's the end result like?

Ease of use: How easy is it to find your way around the sander? How quick and easy is it to replace the sandpaper? What's the work environment like when using the machine? How easily accessible are buttons and controls?

Build quality: What's the noise level like? How well does the sander collect the dust? Does it make any strange noises? How strong is it?

Other aspects we have considered include ergonomics, functionality, design and guarantee. All parameters have been examined in relation to the price of the sander and the results it achieves, producing a final score that reflects its value for money.

AEG BEX18-125

User-friendly and time efficient with impressive end results

Type: Battery-powered (Li-ion) Voltage: 18V Sanding disk diameter: 125 mm Speed control: Yes (6 step) Oscillation: 2.4 Unloaded speed: 7,000-11,000 rpm Oscillation speed: 14,000-22,000 osc/min Weight: 2.1 kg Dimensions (LxWxH): 300x135x150 mm (with dust bag on) Noise level: 88.5 dB Miscellaneous: Soft start, integrated motor brake Accessories included: Sandpaper, dust bag Guarantee: 6 year
Badge Best in Test 2018.png

The AEG BEX18-125 is best in test as it produces a very neat end result while simultaneously being time efficient. It has extremely good random orbital movement, and a very high maximum speed. It removes material quickly and efficiently, while providing a perfect finish in a very short time. Because the machine has such an even, neat movement pattern, it's easy to control. We are also impressed by the dust extraction. If you connect the included nozzle to your workshop vacuum cleaner, it's even better - but it's actually perfectly sufficient without. However, the battery life is short. The machine doesn't include a battery, but we tried it out with a 4 Ah battery and it lasted for 25 minutes. So we recommend that you buy two batteries if you don't already have an extra AEG battery. This enables you to swap between them.

The BEX18-125 has a speed control that makes the sander very versatile. You can reach this with your thumb, provided that you're right-handed. Other than this button, there's also a start button. This is nicely accessible and easy to find. One advantage of the BEX18-125 is that you can start it right on the material to be sanded because it has a soft start and brake function. Another advantage is that it doesn't vibrate too much, so you can run it for a long time without your hands getting tired. Other than the battery life, it actually only has one disadvantage, and that's a minor detail - the fact that it's slightly rear-heavy. This means that it's best to use it with a two-hand grip to create an even pressure. Otherwise, this is a very good random orbital sander. It feels nice and solid and the rubberised handle gives a good grip. The sandpaper stays in place well thanks to the Velcro attachment. Given the value for money and the fact that you get a very long guarantee, we can't help but recommend the BEX18-125. It's ideal for anyone who wants a battery-powered sander that produces really good results. And who doesn't want that?

+Produces a perfect finish, long guarantee, controlled movement patterns, user-friendly, good ergonomics
Slightly poor battery life, rather rear-heavy
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4.5 of 5

Black & Decker BDCROS18N

Easily controlled sander that produces a very good end result

Type: Battery-powered (Li-ion) Voltage: 18V Sanding disk diameter: 125 mm Speed control: No Oscillation: 1.3 mm Unloaded speed: 12,000 rpm Weight: 0.9 kg Dimensions (LxWxH): 190x130x137 mm Noise level: 88.5 dB Miscellaneous: Soft start and brake Accessories included: 1 sanding sheet, dust bag Guarantee: 2 years

The Black & Decker BDCROS18N is an impressive sander both in terms of movement pattern and end result. It barely produces any vibrations at all, and is every easy to control - so easy that you can operate it with just one hand. We also achieved a faultless result in a very short time, without any scratches or unevenness in the test piece. It starts and brakes gently, which means that you can start it on the surface to be sanded. We give the BDCROS18N a big extra score for this. Machines that don't have this function risk scratching the material they're sanding. However, the dust filter feels very plasticky. It bends easily and the dust extraction is insufficient. It's also lacking a nozzle for a workshop vacuum cleaner. On the whole, this means that the work environment is worse from a health viewpoint.

Black & Decker only include a 1.5 Ah battery, which we managed to get 13 minutes' working time out of. This is pretty good given the battery size. But if you're going to be doing a lot of sanding, we recommend you instead to buy a higher capacity battery - ideally two, so that you can swap between them. However, this machine's major disadvantage is the charger. The charging time is several hours, which is really not acceptable. It's also a shame for an otherwise really good fine-finish sander. It's neat and light, with colour-marked buttons and a comfortable grip. However, a minor disadvantage of the BDCROS18N is its sanding capacity. This is OK, but far from the best. We'd also have liked to see speed control. Overall this means that this is a sander best suited for anyone who wants to do the final sanding of an object to obtain a fine, scratch-free surface. Here, it gives an excellent result that requires no overpainting - unless you want to, of course!

+Excellent end result, very easy to control, almost no vibrations, can be started on the item to be sanded, good grip
Poor dust extraction, average sanding capacity, very long charging time, no speed control
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3.5 of 5

Bosch AdvancedOrbit 18

Sander with stepless speed control and good dust extraction

Type: Battery-powered (Li-ion) Voltage: 18V Sanding disk diameter: 125 mm Speed control: Yes Oscillation: 3.2 mm Unloaded speed: 6,000-24,000 rpm Weight: 1.4 kg Noise level: 88.4 dB Accessories included: Support handle, dust extraction, 1 sanding sheet, paper assistant Guarantee: 3 years with registration, 2 years without User manual: PDF

The Bosch AdvancedOrbit 18 is a random orbital sander with good sanding capacity and a very welcome stepless speed control that works extremely well. The sander produces a very good sanding result, provided that you learn to control it. However, this isn't the easiest thing in the world, not even for someone used to fine-finish sanding. For example, the machine doesn't have a motor brake. The sudden stop this produces means that you risk damaging the item you're working on. We therefore recommend that you lift the machine up before you stop it. The machine also has a tendency to jerk and wobble worryingly during use. When you've learned to counteract this with the support handle, the end result is good, but it's not particularly comfortable to use. We would have preferred a solution that involved a more ergonomic working method. It also rattles quite a lot during use, and the various parts vibrate and feel rather plasticky. Overall, we get the feeling that the build quality doesn't really match up to the price. But it works throughout the test period. You also get a good guarantee if you register the product.

AdvancedOrbit 18 has a reasonable battery life. A battery isn't included with the machine, but we tested it with a 2.5 Ah battery. Despite this having quite a low capacity, we got 15 minutes of run time under load out of it, which is fine. If you buy a larger capacity battery, you extend the working time. Alternatively you can buy two batteries and alternate them. This means that you can charge a battery while you're using the other one. The dust extraction on the AdvancedOrbit 18 is acceptable. The filter is placed directly beneath the machine and collects the majority of the dust. The filter can also be dismantled so that you can clean it thoroughly. However, it seems that a certain amount of dust remains in the machine. Fortunately the outlet is circular, which means that it fits some workshop vacuum cleaners. If you have one of these you can keep your work environment properly clean. The AdvancedOrbit 18 is suitable for anyone who is prepared to spend a little more time learning to control the machine. This is then a random orbital sander with a number of advantages, particularly for anyone who already has Bosch products in their toolbox, as the batteries are interchangeable.

+Speed control, good guarantee if registered, good end results if you can control the machine
Very hard to control, noisy and plasticky
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3 of 5

RYOBI 18V R18ROS-0

Time efficient sander for surfaces to be painted

Type: Battery-powered (Li-ion) Voltage: 18 V Sanding disk diameter: 125 mm Speed control: No Oscillation: 2.5 mm Unloaded speed: 10,000 rpm Oscillation speed: 20,000 osc/min Weight: 1.6 kg Noise level: 88.5 dB Miscellaneous: Soft start Accessories included: Extra nozzle, 3 sandpapers Guarantee: 2 years

The RYOBI 18V R18ROS-0 is time efficient when it comes to removing wood and has satisfactory dust extraction. It has a movement pattern that means it carries out complete rotations. This makes it very effective at removing wood, but because random orbital sanders are often intended for final finishing, this solution may cause you problems. The sanding plate leaves small but clear circular marks behind. So the end result is OK, but no more than this. However, it's very good at quickly removing paint and varnish from wood. It also has an efficient dust extraction system. This ensures a good work environment despite it lacking a nozzle to attach a vacuum cleaner. The biggest disadvantage of the 18V R18ROS is that it lacks speed control. This means that it's difficult to adapt the speed to the task or the material.

The 18V R18ROS is OK in energy efficiency terms, given that it's quite a cheap sander. It doesn't include any batteries, so you choose the battery capacity yourself. We tested it with a 5 Ah battery, which gave about 30 minutes' working time. That's enough to allow a spare battery to recharge, but much less than the stated 50 minutes runtime for this battery. The R18ROS produces quite a lot of vibration and so it's not comfortable to use for longer sessions. However, it does have a rubberised grip that fits the hand well. The design is compact and easy to understand. The sander also feels well balanced. However, the battery indicator is poorly positioned on the underside of the machine so you have to turn it off to check the remaining battery. On the whole, the construction is appealing. The R18ROS performs best on surfaces that are to be painted, doing a quick and sufficiently good job. But it's too coarse for surfaces that will be the final finish.

+Good dust extraction, quick removal of wood, compact design
Movement pattern leads to marks, no speed control
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3 of 5