What We Like
Lightweight and ergonomic
Can be operated with one hand
Variable speed controls
Micro-filter system cuts down on dust
Hook-and-loop attachment makes swapping out sandpaper a breeze
Pad dampening system prevents swirl marks
What We Don't Like
Engine may not be powerful enough for big projects
Body heats up after 45 minutes of continuous use
Cord could be longer
For serious DIYers, considering whether to buy a random orbital sander is pretty similar to weighing to pros and cons of a dishwasher. Sure, you could do the dishes by hand, but it’s a heck of a lot more efficient (and a lot less exhausting) to let an electronic device handle it for you. If you have a lot of small to medium sanding projects on your hands, Bosch’s 5-Inch Random Orbit Sander is great to have around. While it’s not suited to sanding down a whole home’s worth of hardwood floors, it does make quick work of most DIY projects from woodworking to paint stripping. We put the sander to the test to see just what it was capable of. Keep reading for our assessment of the tool’s performance, design, competition, and more.
Setup Process: Straightforward and simple
With the Bosch random orbit sander, set up is as simple as installing a sanding disc. All you have to do is align the eight holes that run in an inner ring of the pad to the corresponding holes in the sanding disc and then press firmly. The pad affixes to the sander with the help of 35,000 long-life hooks (similar to Velcro) which ensure a firm grip that never falters. When you’re done using a pad, all you have to do is find the space between the disc and the main pad, and then peel it back.
I did encounter one minor hiccup in the removal process. After running the sander across our ceiling to address old paint, plaster, and drywall, the circular edge of the pad was harder to separate than it was when sanding flat surfaces that distributed the rotation and pressure across the diameter of the sanding disc. Longer fingernails would’ve helped, but I was able to get the pad off on the third try.
Performance: Handles small to medium projects with aplomb
Hardcore woodworkers might scoff at the 2.5 amps that power this Bosch sander, but skeptics are likely to be won over after a trial run. The sander comes with an 80-grain sanding pad which is a great starting point, but most projects require pads of a few different grains, so you’ll also need to acquire additional ones. Bosch’s six-piece set—with 60-, 120-, and 240-grit pads—will serve you well.
Once you’ve secured your work surface and attached the necessary sanding pad, plug the sander into a standard 120-volt outlet or extension cord, select one of six speeds (which vary in output from 7,500 and 12,000 OPMs), and then trigger the on button which rests atop the handle.
My first project for the Bosch was cleaning up three rough-pine bookshelves that I cut to fit a deep closet in my home. This allowed me to test out how well the sander worked on a handful of 5 x 25-inch surfaces (each with pronounced grain) and on edges, as I’d cut a 90-degree notch into the shelves to allow them to sit alongside hanging shelves I’d already installed.
The sander made quick work of the rough surface typically found on raw lumber—although it almost felt too easy at first.
To start, I used the included 80-grain pad and set the rotation speed to six. The sander made quick work of the rough surface typically found on raw lumber—although it almost felt too easy at first. But that perceived lack of energy transfer is integral to the design; in fact, I didn’t have to apply much pressure at all to get the desired results. Instead, I just guided the sander with the grain and it did the rest of the work.
The circular configuration also made it easy to get the sanding pad directly into the narrow notches and I was able to glide the sander across the ¼-inch-wide edges without any issues of being off balance. After completing a pass with the 80-grit sand disc, I repeated the process with 60- and then 120-grain pads, resting the device between applications as it started to heat up a bit after about 45 minutes of continuous use.
Features: Surprisingly effective microfilter system
While I waited for the sander to cool off after extended use, I took note of another surprising element: the built-in microfilter system. The system funnels sawdust into a microfilter canister, trapping particles as small as half-a-micron in diameter. The see-through body of the canister allows you to see how much dust has collected so you can avoid blockage, and I found it remained largely transparent even after several uses.
It started to heat up a bit after about 45 minutes of continuous use.
When it’s time to empty the dust, just twist the canister counter-clockwise and it comes off. A snap-open plastic lid then pulls back to reveal a network of thin white folded filter elements. I dumped out the dust and then gave the white filters a few brushes with my fingers to remove most of the sawdust that remained. Yes, it’s still relatively messy work, but it’s a far cry better than the sawdust that would be kicked up from hand-sanding, and it also assures that you won’t breathe in a lot of particulate.
My shelf project also highlighted another one of the sander’s best features: its ergonomic, lightweight design. To control the sander, you grab onto one of the device’s soft-grip surfaces—either from the top, around the base under the power cord, from the front of the device. The soft grip is not only comfortable, but it helps dampen the sander’s modest vibration. At just 3.5 pounds, it’s also light enough to work on overhead projects without any fatigue.
Design: Smartly engineered and surprising easy on the eyes
In many ways, Bosch’s design is refreshingly straightforward. Basic components include an on/off button on the front, speed control settings on the back, an 8-foot power cable, and a 5-inch-diameter sanding pad which sits under a dampening ring (this includes an integrated brake system designed to eliminate swirl marks on your finished project).
The soft grip is not only comfortable, but it helps dampen the sander’s modest vibration.
Anchored into the back of the sander, just above the circular body, is the microfilter dust canister that twists off for easy cleaning or to attach the device to a vacuum hose via the included adapter. The whole thing comes in a soft bag made of relatively burly canvas cotton, closed by a beefy zipper that arches across the body of the bag and halfway down either side, providing ample space to store the sander, manual, vacuum accessory, and a handful of additional sanding belts.
With a retail price just below $70, Bosch’s 5-inch random orbit sander is on par with brand name competitors. Most 2.5- to 3-amps models run anywhere from $50 to $100, so it’s not a bargain, but it’s also not a splurge.
Competition: A number of brand name options
Dewalt Variable-Speed Random Sander: Dewalt’s sander boasts a slightly bigger motor at 3 amps; offers spin speeds that range from 8,000 to 12,000 OPMs; and weighs less than Bosch’s model at just 2.9 pounds. The $90 device uses a dust collecting bag instead of a hard-plastic canister which may prove easier to empty as it doesn’t have any internal filters. Dewalt’s sander can also attach to a vacuum hose, but only those with a 1.25-inch diameter.
Black+Decker 5-Inch Random Orbit Sander: For smaller projects that require less power than the Bosch, Black+Decker’s 2-amp model is a solid choice at a more approachable $30 price point. There are a few minor drawbacks—namely a 6.5-foot cord (1.5 feet shorter than Bosch’s) and a cloth dust catcher that doesn’t do a great job containing microparticles. But, if you hook it up to an extension cord and work outdoors or in a workshop, those issues may be less of a concern.
The little workhorse you need.
The Bosch Palm Random Orbit Sander stands shoulders above its competition in performance, dust control, and ease of use. Its lightweight, ergonomic design makes it easy to handle all sorts of work without fatigue, the sand discs are easy to swap in and out, and the pad dampening system eliminates swirl marks.
- Product Name Palm Random Orbit Sander
- Product Brand Bosch
- MPN ROS20VSC
- Price $68.99
- Weight 3.5 lbs.
- Product Dimensions 9 x 5 x 6 in.
- Cord Length 8 ft
- Disc Size 5 in
- Voltage 120 V
- Amps 2.5 A
- Warranty 1 year, plus a 1-year service protection plan and a 30-day money-back guarantee
- What’s Included RS034 soft sanding pad, 2609170071 dampening ring, 2609199179 microfilter dust canister, VAC002 vacuum hose adapter, sanding disc, carrying bag