A table saw is essentially an inverted circular saw attached to a flat surface. The big difference is in the way it is used. With a circular saw, you push the saw through the material to be cut. With a table saw, you push the material through the saw. By pushing the material through the saw, you also push an edge of the material against the fence, a surface that is parallel to the blade, which produces much more accurate and straighter cuts.
We tested 3 table saws and found them all to be very similar in many ways except for one, the fence design. As previously mentioned, the material being cut is pushed up tight to the fence of the saw. So the fence needs to change position based on the size of the wood you want to cut. On almost every saw we evaluated, the design for how the fence moves was the same. The one standout was the DeWalt table saw design. The fence on their design is moved with a rack and pinion system that always kept it perfectly parallel to the blade. If the fence is not parallel, the material can be incorrectly cut and even bind up creating a dangerous condition. With the other fence designs we found it much easier for the fence to become incorrectly aligned. But with the DeWalt system, this was never an issue. DeWalt makes several table saws in different sizes. The larger the table saw the easier it is to cut larger sheets, as the work surface is bigger. But if you are working with someone else who can help you manage the larger pieces, the DEWALT DW745 10-Inch Compact Job-Site Table Saw should be big enough. I personally wouldn’t buy a table saw made by another manufacturer.
If you are on a tighter budget, another option to consider is the Kreg Rip-Cut attachment for your circular saw. While it can’t produce the same results as a table saw, we were surprised by how good the results actually were. It works by attaching to your circular saw, and essentially adds a portable fence which keeps your saw at a specified distance from the edge of the material being cut. If you don’t plan to build your own cabinets, where precision matters the most, the Keg Rip-Cut is a great, inexpensive alternative to a table saw.