Plasma cutters are an interesting tool. While few professions use them as a primary device, they are an excellent supplementary tool for a lot of professions, from many types of welding and construction to manufacturing jobs. They’re also great for hobbies.
Unfortunately due to this, there are a lot of models on the market, and it can be overwhelming to choose the right one for you. Picking out an “objectively best” model is nigh impossible, as what is the best is going to vary wildly depending on the person using it and what they need it for. The following list is my best effort, followed by a buying guide to help you figure out the criteria you want to look at when choosing your own.
Our Favorite Plasma Cutters on the Market
The 10 Best Plasma Cutters Reviews (2020)
1. Lotos LTP5000D Plasma Cutter - Top Overall Pick
This is a great, high performance plasma cutter for a solid mid-high range price. It’s similar to the Primeweld model above, though more expensive. It has the same ½” clean cut and ¾” severance cut maximum as the other. While not an inverter welder, it is still very energy efficient, with a high duty cycle due to its advanced PAPST cooling system preventing it from overheating.
It’s also quite a versatile machine when it comes to operation. It sets up within a minute, runs on household power anywhere in the world (with automatic dual voltage 110 and 220 or 120 and 240!), and has a wide range of consumables it can use to cut pretty much anything you throw at it; rusty or painted metal included, cut through with no issue.
If you’re looking for a cheap-ish model for regular use, this one is perfect, and easy to use (it’s also a no touch model, making it a little safer). The only real drawback is the lack of warranty, though Lotos products in my experience tend to be quite high quality.
2. Hobart 500566 Airforce 40i - Top Choice for Professional
This is a great machine for a professional or a “serious hobbyist” who needs a heavy duty tool for complex or large projects.
Hobart is a great brand with an excellent pedigree behind it, and this is no exception. Its performance is top notch, having a 7/8” max cut and a 5/8” clean cut capability; you can cut through pretty much anything with this plasma cutter. Despite that power it’s still relatively light weight, coming in at around 31 lbs and having a comfortable handle for lugging it around.
The machine needs very specific consumables (XT40R), but the performance is well worth the lack of versatility in what you can use. It has a very solid 50% duty cycle and auto-refire technology, meaning it can cut perforated or corrugated metals with ease. A you might expect of a machine with this power, it does run only on 240 volt power, so depending on where you live you’ll need an adapter.
The main drawback to this machine is price, not performance. The cost is amazingly high, about 7 times what our budget model costs. It’s well worth it for the performance and reliability for someone who plasma cuts on the daily, but otherwise is best steered clear of.
3. Forney Easy Weld 251 - Top Plasma Cutter Under $500
Forney makes an Easy Weld model for pretty much everything, so it should come as no surprise that they have a plasma cutter as well. This exemplifies all I’ve come to expect from Forney’s Easy Weld machines. It’s cheap, very easy to use (as the name implies) and give you a lot of bang for your buck in a small package.
You’re looking at around 21 lbs, with enough power to give you a ¼” clean cut in most materials (3/16” in aluminum). It uses special “Drag Torch Technology” that lets you just draw the torch head along the cutting material, making it easier to produce clean cuts with minimal slag.
It’s easy to use and ready out of the box with a little compressed air canister to make it go, and it runs on household power in most places in the US and UK.
While nothing in this package is going to blow your socks off, it’s the best bang for your buck in this price range you’re likely to find.
4. Hobart 500564 Airforce 12ci - Top Plasma Cutter Under $1000
This is an excellent, though fairly expensive plasma cutter. It has a great versatility for voltage inputs, working on 110 v, 115 v, and 120 v, meaning it works on household power pretty much anywhere in the world.
The duty cycle leaves much to be desired, running on average around 35%. This gives you a lot of downtime, though the performance makes that less of a sting than it usually would be. It produces a thinner arc of plasma than the norm, meaning it cuts more precisely, with less slag, and more efficiently (the heat doesn’t distribute far from the burn point). Of course it has a built in compressor, removing the need for any additional equipment to get started.
All of this is wrapped up in a nice lightweight (around 28 lbs) package, making it easy to move around, while still having the power and efficiency (as an inverter plasma cutter) to take on even the toughest jobs.
5. Mophorn CUT-40Z - Best Plasma Cutter With Built-in Compressor
This is a great machine for a very reasonable price. It cuts up to a maximum of a ½” severance, which is a little below what I’d expect of a machine of this price, but the ease of use somewhat makes up for it. It comes out of the box with an air compressor, making it ready to go almost immediately after unpacking it, saving you both time and money on buying a separate add-on for use.
One of the big stand outs for this machine are the numerous safety features. It has overheat, overload, and over pressure regulation and a great cooling system, keeping your machine up longer and safer than many on the market.
This one is a bit hard to judge as the price of air compressors vary wildly, but this is a great value for what you get, even if the performance at first seems a bit lacking for the asking price.
6. HeroCut HC3500 - Top Choice for Small Plasma Cutter
This thing is practically adorable. It weighs a bit less than 20 lbs, and is small enough to fit in a large glove compartment in your vehicle.
That said, it doesn’t skimp on the performance either, cutting to a little under half an inch (10 mm) in clean cuts and a little over (14 mm) for severance cuts. It comes with its own compressor, have a fairly low price, and is easy on both the wallet and storage space as a result.
This is a great model to just keep around whenever you need a cheap, simple plasma cutter with surprisingly good performance on job sites. I see this as a great backup machine for a professional welder or similar profession, or maybe something you keep in your back pocket (not quite literally) when you’re working construction somewhere with a decent generator and need to get a quick cut off.
It’s energy efficient, compact, runs off household power and generators, and won’t break the bank. A great little machine.
7. PRIMEWELD Premium & Rugged 50A Air Plasma Cutter - Top Portable Choice
PRIMEWELD Premium & Rugged 50A Air is a great mid-range portable model. It comes at a pretty reasonable price with the caveat that you need a plasma cutter for regular use. The mid-range price is backed up by a pretty solid three year warranty.
Its performance matches the pricing perfectly, cutting a 1/2” clean cut with a ¾” maximum severance. It is a highly energy efficient inverter model, giving it enough uptime to complete pretty much any job you throw at it. Couple that with working on household power (dual volt 110 v and 220 v) and the extreme portability at 26 lb and very easy to store dimensions, and you have a perfect all-rounder machine.
While not the most powerful machine on the market, it is the perfect power for any household project and even some professional circumstances.
8. Amico CUT-50 Plasma Cutter - Top Choice for Home Use
This one has an interesting and unique advantage: it automatically adapts to available voltage. Anything between 110 v and 240 v works on this plasma cutter, with or without an adapter. It has a surprisingly high depth of cut for a machine of this size and low price, providing a ¾” clean cut and a whopping 1” severance cut. It has a 60% duty cycle, and provides an excellent 85% energy efficiency due t it operating as an inverter unit.
This makes it an extremely flexible and high performance machine, for a low price, perfect for keeping around the house to use in emergencies or for occasional or semi-regular cutting jobs. As a bonus, it’s very lightweight at around 22 lbs, and easy to carry around large properties or between multiple smaller job sites.
There are very few downsides of note, save that it weirdly lacks a convenient handle, making it a bit awkward to carry around even though it’s fairly light.
9. SUPER DEAL CUT 50 - Best Budget Plasma Cutter
This is a superb budget model, costing only about two thirds the price of our under $500 plasma cutter. While it lacks a bit in performance (having a maximum severance of ½”), that can be forgiven for the low price.
Its all around specs are fairly good; it’s made of sturdy, durable iron, but isn’t super heavy (it weighs around 24 lbs), making it easy to move around for a number of different small jobs. It runs on household power in most places in the US, and is a very efficient inverter welder to boot, making it a great cheap model for use around a home, farm, or similar circumstances where domestic and professional uses might blur a bit.
The machine is very simply laid out, with a clear digital readout, a simple knob, and a safety minded touch start nozzle (the nozzle needs to be touch a surface for a moment before it starts cutting).
10. Reboot CUT40D - Top Choice for 110v
This is a solid, cheap, no frills model which works perfectly for someone who needs a plasma cutter to keep in their back pocket (figuratively speaking) for odd jobs and occasional emergencies. It has a low power draw, but decent performance, and runs n household power. A 60% duty cycle gives it plenty of up time and makes it easy to use for newcomers to plasma cutting or people that haven’t done it in a while.
It cuts a 2/5” clean cut, which isn’t half bad at all for a machine of this size and low price.
It’s not going to blow your mind, but you get what you pay for, and what you’re paying is a low price for a reliable, mid performance, compact and lightweight machine that acts as a serviceable backup machine or something you keep around for small jobs that are just beyond the scope of some other method of cutting.
Final Verdict: Our Favorite For Your Money
There were some strong contenders for the top spot, but the Lotos model took it in the end. It has the perfect confluence of price and performance, making it a great jack of all trades machines for most users. While the Hobart machines are superb, and highly powered, their expense also makes them a bit less reasonable for the casual user, knocking them down a peg.
Buyer’s Guide: How do I Choose the right Plasma Cutter?
There are a huge number of factors to look into when buying a tool or appliance like a plasma cutter. They need to be reliable, have a high performance, and be easy enough to use. This much is obvious; you want anything you buy to be these things. The question is…how do you determine whether it is those or not?
The answer, by breaking down everything that makes the item what it is and factoring that into your estimate. Let’s take a quick look at the overarching categories and the important sub-categories that make that up.
The main performance metrics to look at are: depth and quality of cut, energy efficiency, duty cycle, safety features, construction and materials, and power usage.
Cutting Depth and Quality
The two main type of cut that a plasma cutter will perform are clean cuts and severance cuts.
Clean cuts tend to be shallower but much nicer looking cuts, with fairly smooth edges left after the torch passes through.
Severance cuts, on the other hand, are ugly and leave behind a lot more slag and irregularly melted metal you’ll need to sand or file down later.
Most plasma cutters will tell you both their clean-cut and severance cut depths, with the latter usually being about 30% deeper than the former. A common average is for a machine to do ½” clean cuts, but ¼” severance cuts; this is by far the most common cut depth I’ve seen on a machine, though many others do vary from that baseline.
You want a machine that makes the most of the power it pulls in. At an absolute baseline, 60% is a must, with modern machines commonly pulling as high as 85%. Plasma cutters are energy hogs, and every percentage increase in efficiency exponentially saves you money in the long term.
Don’t give anything with 30% or less for a duty cycle the time of day. The higher the better, though you get diminishing returns above 60% or so since the machine will get some downtime no matter what as you perform non-cutting tasks.
This category pretty much falls into two smaller ones: safety features and construction, along with the warranty.
A good plasma cutter will offer a wide range of protections. The most important of these are overheat and overload protection, which will protect it from overheating if you accidentally use it beyond the recommended duty cycle or suffer an unexpected power surge respectively.
Over-current protection is also a nice one to have, as are a variety of other automatic shutoffs or features like needing the tip of the gun to touch a surface for one second before initial firing, preventing accidents.
Construction and Materials:
This is a pretty simple one: steel and aluminum are good materials, most others are not. You want your plasma cutter to be small and lightweight, even more than you would a welding machine. This also means you want something that won’t break if you drop it.
It should go without saying, but if your machine rattles when you shake it, send it back.
Like any appliance or tool, a warranty is a huge plus. You don’t want to spend $500 on a machine and have it break on you with no recourse. Even for very reliable brands like Hobart, stuff happens. Maybe you get in a vehicle accident on the way to a Jobsite, or your storage shed floods during a hurricane; whatever the reason, it’s always good to have a backup plan if it breaks.
Ease of Use
This covers everything about the actual usage of the machine. You want to look at power input, the settings and face, and any good extras that make it worth your while.
A plasma cutter should run on at least one kind of household power without needing an adapter; this means 110 volt and 120 volts are the most common you should look for. Many plasma cutters are dual or multi-voltage machines, which is always a plus.
Voltage selectors should be easy to use knobs with an easy to read the text. I prefer digital readouts, but analog readouts can be quite good too; they just need to be clear and made of durable enough stuff they don’t fade easily.
Everything should be properly labeled and easy to understand. If you need the manual just to figure out the buttons because they’re abbreviated in some esoteric manner, somebody wasn’t thinking the design through properly, and there might be other hidden flaws.
This is a catch-all for anything that might make a particular machine easier to use. A big one is a built-in compressor, meaning it works right out of the box with no need to purchase compressed air.
This also covers things like Forney’s Drag Torch technology, which makes it far easier to get a clean cut since you can simply (as the name says) drag the torch head across the surface instead of raising it after activation.