Unlike traditional sanders, a random orbital sander is designed with an oval loop sanding pattern, instead of a circular pattern as a sandpaper disc would have. In this way, there is less chance that the machine will leave circular streaks, and instead you are left with a finely-sanded and smooth surface. This is why orbital sanders are popular for delicate projects, especially for finishing.
However, not all random orbital sanders are the same – those that have a wide range of speed work ideally for different occasions. Pad sizes can also differ – some have five-inch pads while others are at six inches.
We have rounded up our favorite random orbital sanders here, to fill a range of needs. If you’re in a hurry, you must check out our top pick, the Milwaukee 2648-20 M18 Random Orbit Sander.
My top pick is the Milwaukee 2648-20 M18 Random Orbit Sander, which is a convenient cordless unit that you can use without worrying about dangling wires all over the place – perfect for outdoor projects. With up to 35 minutes of runtime for a single charge, it uses an M18 3.0Ah battery pack (sold separately) making it sufficient for the most common sanding and finishing projects.
What’s more, the variable speed ranges from 7,000 to 12,000 OPM so you can change it depending on the material or application that is needed. Since it uses redlithium™ battery technology, the battery charge lasts longer even when in storage, because it has no memory effect.
The sanding pad is five inches with an orbit diameter of 3/32-inch. Additionally, if you have any of the 18V tool series from Milwaukee, you can also use the m18 fuel batteries interchangeably with this tool. There’s also a vacuum attachment for effortless dust clean-up.
Things I Like About This Product: It’s cordless for convenient operation and it has a vacuum attachment for easy cleaning. The lithium battery allows the battery charge to last long in storage.
Things to Keep in Mind Before Buying This Product: When wearing gloves, the handle may be a bit off and it could take some time getting used to it.
Made with one-touch electronic speed control, the Makita XOB01Z 18V LXT Cordless 5-Inch Random Orbit Sander can be easily switched between three speeds (7,000/9,500/11,000 OPM). The different speeds allow you to work on different kinds of materials. The 1/8-inch random orbit action helps achieve a streak-free finish while the dust-sealed switch protects the gears and the motor inside.
When fully-charged, the cordless tool can run up to 40 minutes on the lowest speed and up to 20 minutes on the highest one. The included disc is a 5-inch abrasive at 120 grit with a hook and loop system for easy changes. Like most of the picks here, it has a dust collection port for keeping your workplace clean.
Things I Like About This Product: It has three speeds to choose from and it’s a cordless unit so it can run without annoying dangling wires.
Things to Keep in Mind Before Buying This Product: It is a little on the heavy side due to the battery design.
Also made with a 5-inch pad is the Black & Decker BDERO100 Random Orbit Sander, which uses a hook and loop system as well for quick sandpaper changes. With a 6-foot 5-inch cord, it also comes with its dust bag so your shop vac setup is nearly ready to go.
What I also like is that the switch is dust-sealed to protect the inner components. It has a 2-amp motor and it’s a corded device. You also might like this sander if you prefer unlimited power with 12,000 OPM, which is useful for difficult sanding jobs.
The pack also comes with a bonus sanding sheet for you to get started. It’s design allows you to sand in curves. It is backed by a 2-year limited manufacturer’s warranty as well.
Things I Like About This Product: The hook and loop system allows easy changes for your sandpaper and the dust-sealed switch protects the inner components.
Things to Keep in Mind Before Buying This Product: You might need an adapter to fit the shop vac hose into the dust port. It is also a single-speed random orbit sander.
If you prefer two types of sanding in one unit, you may be interested in the Bosch GET65-5N 5-Inch Dual-Mode Random Orbit Sander. It has a dual-mode design, in which you can use the standard random orbit and the direct drive eccentric orbit mode. The difference is that the turbo mode can remove up to three times faster than the regular one, making it ideal for difficult materials.
Since it has a dust port, you can easily connect it to your shop vac with a 1 1/2-inch or 1 1/4-inch hose. What’s more, the unit can take different kinds of abrasive discs from the multi-hole pad system. It has a slip-free design thanks to its slim build, which helps during hours of sanding.
There is also a pad guard at the front to keep it protected against different materials or surfaces when you work. Moreover, its auxiliary handle can be moved from left to right depending on your preferences.
Things I Like About This Product: I like the turbo mode, which can be helpful for really gritty tasks that the normal orbital sanding mode can’t handle.
Things to Keep in Mind Before Buying This Product: It can be a little difficult to look for back-up pads as compared with that of regular sanders.
For those who prefer pneumatic tools, the 3M 20317 Air Powered Random Orbital Sander may be for you. With up to 12,000 RPM, this one uses a 5-inch pad with a 3/16-inch diameter. The size of the 5-inch pad also allows it to be used on car paintwork. The special 3M Stikit disc pad not only makes it easy to attach, but it also helps to keep the sanding disc intact if it is one of those adhesive-backed types.
What’s more, the Stikit pads have a 45-degree tapered edge to help reduce vibration while working on your material. Due to the low-profile design, it can be used even in tight spaces. Because it has an aluminum body and composite cover, it can protect the inner workings of the random orbital sander.
Along with the package a Stikit disc pad, is a sample of 3M Air Tool Lubricant to get you started with your pneumatic sander, as well as a 24-mm pad wrench and instructions.
Things I Like About This Product: The special disc pad allows better adhesion during sanding while the tapered edge can reduce vibration. This tool also works well for small spaces due to its low-profile design.
Things to Keep in Mind Before Buying This Product: The design might not allow it to be connected to a shop vac or dust extractor easily.
With a jetstream design, the Festool 574993 Random Orbital Sander ETS 125 REQ-Plus can remove dust quicker than most units while the balanced vibration stop helps lessen user fatigue. The variable speed is step-less so you can adjust it finely to your liking and needs.
With a 5-inch pad, this lightweight tool can be connected to any dust extraction setup with a 1 1/6-inch diameter for the connection. Since it is not that heavy (only 2.4 pounds), you can use it even for overhead and vertical projects.
It has a sanding stroke of 5/64-inch so it is ideal for very delicate sanding projects. The pack includes a soft sander backing pad, a dust bag, and even a protector. Last but not least, it is backed by a 36-month all-inclusive service warranty.
Things I Like About This Product: The balanced vibration stop helps lessen user fatigue while the lightweight build is helpful when working on overhead and vertical projects.
Things to Keep in Mind Before Buying This Product: The sander uses special discs that aren’t interchangeable with other brands, as using a regular disc in this unit could result in dust buildup.
What I like about the Makita BO5041 3-Amp D-Handle Random Orbit Sander is its ergonomic rubberized palm grip, which helps to lessen user fatigue during hours of sanding. Its variable speed is from 4,000 to 12,000 OPM so you can work even on lighter materials with the slowest speed.
I also like the front handle design, which allows it to be adjusted to work in tight spaces. The abrasive paper is also quite easy to change using a hook-and-loop system with the 8-hole 5-inch size (with a 1/8-inch random orbit action). You can lock the tool using the trigger switch that’s conveniently located at the bottom side.
The tool’s double insulation also allows it to stand durable against wear and tear, and particularly it prevents overheating. And as with my previous pick, you can use the vacuum port for dust collection on your workspace. Because it uses a pad control system, starting up is less of a hassle.
Things I Like About This Product: It has an ergonomic rubber grip, a conveniently-located trigger switch, and has a wider range for its variable speed, which is ideal for lightweight projects.
Things to Keep in Mind Before Buying This Product: It would be better if the shop vac adapter was designed with a bigger diameter for better compatibility with different brands.
The Methodology: What I Considered When Picking the Random Orbital Sanders Featured Above
If you’re curious about how I picked the random orbital sanders mentioned above, here are some criteria that I considered:
Corded vs. Cordless vs. Pneumatic
When choosing a random orbital sander (or any power tool, for that matter), consider if you need a cordless, corded-electric, or a pneumatic tool for your needs.
Corded tools are best for unlimited power and if you’re going to need more time in sanding a material. The only downside is that they have dangling wires so they aren’t as flexible as the cordless ones.
If you want a more portable tool, you can try the cordless sander, since they can work well for outdoor projects. However, some of them can be a bit on the heavy side due to the battery, but that’s okay if you need to use it out of the house.
Pneumatic or air-powered orbital sanders also exist, such as the 3M 20317 Air Powered Random Orbital Sander. However, they can only run with an air compressor, as opposed to regular orbital sanders. Nonetheless, their length of usage tends to be longer than that of corded tools.
It is important for any tool with a motor to have an ergonomic grip. In this way, your tool will be steady yet your hands won’t feel fatigued when operating, especially when you are working for hours. Rubber grips are useful for keeping the random orbital sander in place when holding it.
Moreover, there are also special random orbital sanders that have a handle design that can be switched to the other side – perfect for left-handed users or tight spaces. A quality random orbital sander design also allows you to hold it properly even with gloves.
Dust Extraction Port
Many of us want to use a random orbital sander with a shop vac so it’s important to have some compatibility on a dust extraction setup. It helps a lot, since sanding (particularly wood) not only creates mess around your workshop but it can also pollute the air (and possibly cause breathing problems) so vacuuming them is a good practice.
In some cases, the tool’s dust extraction port may require an adapter, but that’s okay. As long as it fits just fine, then setting up your random orbital sander to your shop vac will be less of a hassle.
Variable-Speed or Single-Speed
For many, variable-speed tools are the best way to go, especially if you need to work with different kinds of projects and materials. It also helps lessen the workload on the random orbital sander if you only need to sand a surface with a light finish. However, single-speed sanders can work too if you just want to get the job done.
The majority of sanders that I have picked above have dust-sealed switches so that nothing gets inside of the tool. This is extremely important because if dust gets in your tool’s motor and inner workings, it can overheat and cause the whole tool to fail miserably. To prevent that, choosing a random orbital sander with a durable housing is important.
The random orbital sanders I chose above can use the standard disc types, but there are also exceptions. For instance, the Festool 574993 Random Orbital Sander ETS 125 REQ-Plus, which has a unique type of disc, is more ideal for those who need to sand a material very finely.
It is important to know if the random orbital sander you want to buy is compatible with the discs you have (or at least have an easy-to-buy type of disc). Using the wrong disc can sometimes lead to debris build-up inside the tool because of a difference in design.
Pad Size and Design
There are typically two sizes of random orbital sander pads – five inches and six inches. Majority of what I listed above are five inches so they work with the most common sanding projects out there.
Moreover, some pads have a unique backing, such as the 3M 20317 Air Powered Random Orbital Sander, which uses the special 3M Stikit disc pad. If you always tend to get annoyed with the disc not easily keeping its place then you might like this unit.
If you want cordless random orbital sanders that can be taken outdoors, you might like the Milwaukee 2648-20 M18 Random Orbit Sander and the Makita XOB01Z 18V LXT Cordless 5-Inch Random Orbit Sander. However, for corded-electric ones, the Black & Decker BDERO100 Random Orbit Sander are good choices.
Variable-speed units that I’d like to suggest include the Makita BO5041 3-Amp D-Handle Random Orbit Sander, the Milwaukee 2648-20 M18 Random Orbit Sander, and the Makita XOB01Z 18V LXT Cordless 5-Inch Random Orbit Sander. However, if single-speed units are okay for you, the Black & Decker BDERO100 Random Orbit Sander might work well.
Some units also have special features, such as the Bosch GET65-5N 5-Inch Dual-Mode Random Orbit Sander with its turbo mode, or the Festool 574993 Random Orbital Sander ETS 125 REQ-Plus, which has a unique type of disc tailored to achieve very smooth finishes. For those who want air-powered or pneumatic tools, the 3M 20317 Air Powered Random Orbital Sander might be what you’re looking for.