In-Depth Review: Porter-Cable 7346SP 6-Inch Random Orbit Sander
I like the PORTER-CABLE 7346SP because it offers great polishing capabilities that you won't acquire from higher speed sanders. Instead of depending on 12,000 OPM in order to garner the same result every time, I can go 6,800 OPM to strip metal completely off of rust or 2,500 OPM to polish and buff my pain with no risk of burning the clear-coat paint or leaving swirl marks.
As a hobbyist, I highly recommend this and if you are going to purchase it, do yourself a favor and get the best price online.
Here are the alternatives to the PORTER-CABLE 7346SP.
1) Black & Decker BDERO100 Random Orbit Sander
The Black & Decker BDERO100 is three times cheaper than the PORTER-CABLE 7346SP. It's also quite a bit smaller seeing that it's the smallest random orbit sander on the list while the 7346SP is instead the largest sander when compared to these other alternative sanders. This Porter-Cable sander is heavier too, weighing 6 pounds to the BDERO100's 3.2 pounds. Is bigger necessarily better though?
At any rate, the 7346SP outweighs the BDERO100 by about 2.8 pounds. However, the B&D sander does significantly outdo the Porter-Cable unit by having a single-speed 12,000 OPM rate compared to the variable-speed 2,500 OPM to 6,800 OPM that the 7346SP. On the other hand, although it's slower, every orbit packs more of a punch with its 4.5-amp motor (which explains why it's so large; it's there to counterbalance the horsepower of its motor).
2) Bosch ROS20VSC Random Orbit Sander
The Bosch ROS20VSC is about half as expensive as the PORTER-CABLE 7346SP. However, in turn, is the PORTER-CABLE 7346SP twice the random orbit sander the Bosch ROS20VSC is? Let's check the specs and find out. The ROS20VSC is a little bigger than the Black & Decker BDERO100, but still falls short against the overall bigness of the PORTER-CABLE 7346SP. However, with its compact size it's surely better at maneuverability.
Meanwhile, the Bosch unit is also lighter than the Porter-Cable unit by 2.5 pounds (it weighs 3.5 pounds versus 6 pounds), which further cements its compact smallness and comfort when wielded. With that said, the Bosch ROS20VSC significantly outperforms the PORTER-CABLE 7346SP with its 12,000 OPM (the top speed of the Porter-Cable sander is 6,800 OPM, but it can go as low as 2,500 OPM). However, Bosch has a 2.5-amp motor. Porter-Cable has the stronger 4.5-amp motor.
3) PORTER-CABLE 382 5-Inch Random Orbit Sander
The PORTER-CABLE 382 is about three times cheaper than the PORTER-CABLE 7346SP, but it's nevertheless a little more expensive than the Black & Decker BDERO100. In terms of size, the PORTER-CABLE 382 is more or less average while its fellow PORTER-CABLE sibling is extra-large (on this list of handheld sanders, the 7346SP is definitely the biggest sander). Technically, the 382 is smaller and thusly more maneuverable than the 7346SP. However, the latter has a bigger 6-inch disk that covers a larger area.
The 382 weighs 3.6 pounds, which means it's heavier than the Black & Decker BDERO100 and the Bosch ROS20VSC but lighter than the 6-pound 7346SP. It's probably the third heaviest sander on this list next to the 7346SP and the 4-pound DEWALT DWE6421K. The PORTER-CABLE 382 also features 12,000 OPM in terms of consistent speed, while the slower 7346SP instead has 6,800 OPM that can be go down as low as 2,500 OPM. In fairness, the 7346SP also has a stronger 4.5-amp motor versus the 382's 1.9-amp sander.
4) 3M Random Orbital Sander 20317
The 3M 20317 Random Orbital Sander is significantly more expensive than the PORTER-CABLE 7346SP even though the 7346SP is the second most expensive sander on this list. This is because the 3M 20317 is the most expensive sander featured on this article as well. Do its specs and features justify its cost? According to 14 customers who rated it as a 4.8-star random orbital sander, yes it definitely is worth all that money.
The most expensive sander on this list is also the most maneuverable and easiest on your hands with its 2.4 pounds of weight and its average size comparable to the likes of the PORTER-CABLE 382 and Bosch ROS20VSC. It also has your requisite 5-inch sanding disk and 12,000 OPM top speed, which is definitely better than the 6,800 OPM top speed of the PORTER-CABLE 7346SP that's less suited for rough sanding and more suited for polishing without scuff marks and fine sanding prior to putting on that coat of paint or varnish (the 4.5-amp motor helps in bringing more mustard out of every orbit).
5) DEWALT DWE6421K Random Orbit Sander Kit
The DEWALT DWE6421K is a bit less expensive than the PORTER-CABLE 7346SP. However, that's not the only thing it has going for it. On top of having a top speed (and single-speed) of 12,000 OPM that trumps the 7346SP's 6,800 OPM, the DEWALT DWE6421K also lives up to its DeWalt legacy of excellence by being the second largest orbital sander on this list that allows faster and more coverage per swipe.
What's more, it has a decent 4-pound weight for something its size that's quite close to the 3.2 to 3.6 pounds of weight of its smaller counterparts. It's not a lightweight sander wonder like the 3M Random Orbital Sander 20317, but it definitely earns its high rating on Amazon from a whopping 142 reviewers. It also comes as a complete set with tools and a bag included. It's a slightly above average sander that doesn't sacrifice weight in order to better brace itself for a 3-amp motor.
Alternative Choices Comparison Table
Black & Decker BDERO100 Random Orbit Sander
Bosch ROS20VSC Random Orbit Sander
PORTER-CABLE 382 5-Inch Random Orbit Sander
3M Random Orbital Sander 20317
DEWALT DWE6421K Random Orbit Sander Kit
The Final Cut
The main takeaway that people will have from the PORTER-CABLE 7346SP is how it only has 6,800 OPM as its highest OPM setting when the average for sander smaller than it is 12,000 OPM. However, this was done intentionally in order to cater to fine sanding and polishing applications.
You can still do rough sanding with 6,800 OPM but you probably can't polish a car without scuff marks on the paint with 12,000 OPM or even 7,500 OPM. Furthermore, your arms won't get tired moving the sander because it has a counter-balance that keeps the unit stead.