Festool ES150-5 Random Orbit Sander Review


The ES150-5 is only one of the Random Orbit Sanders made by Festool, the ES150 series is I believe at the top of their lineup. Festool actually has two ES150 models, one has a more aggressive 5mm orbit, the other is 3mm, more on that later. The ES150 comes in its own systainer along with a dust bag and a single piece of sandpaper.
Festool ES150-5
In Use
There are two obvious unique features to the ES150, the first is the hole in the center of the sandpaper. The ES150 is designed to actually pump air OUT of this port. The dust is pulled out through the 8 holes at the perimeter of the paper. By forcing air into the center of the paper it actually keeps the paper cleaner and provides for better dust collection.. None of the other RO sanders I've used could sand at the center spot anyway. Using this dead spot to increase the performance of the tool is a typical example of the applied engineering Festool designs into their products.
Plug It


The other feature is what Festool calls the "Plug-it" concept. The power cord is separate on this tool, the tool end plugs into the end of the handle. There are two reasons for this. One is for parts replacement, power cords typically wear out near where they attach to the tool. With the Plug-it type cord, it is easily replaced.

The other reason is to more easily facilitate swapping sanders. For instance, during sanding it would not be uncommon to use two or more types of sanders. With the Plug-it system one just swaps the power and vacuum ends to the desired tool thus eliminating trips all the way back to the power outlet. I don't know if Festool invented this concept but I do know folks have been shortening the cords on their power tools for years to try and achieve the same effect. I've been told that the Plug-it system is going to be adopted across the product line where it makes sense to do so.

Of course the length of the power cord matches the length of the Festool brand vacuum hose and it is a very useful length. I've mentioned this aspect before in my product reviews. It is such a simple thing but so beneficial and shows the forethought that goes into the product line - I wish other tool makers would adopt this concept.

As I've come to expect with Festool, the features of the tool do not end with what can be seen by the naked eye. The ergonomics of the tool including it's low vibration are all great; this is a sander you could use for hours without numbing your arm off. The ES150-5 is a very smooth and fairly quiet machine, I can't adequately describe the difference in ergonomics between the ROS machines I've used before and this one - however, its immediately obvious when used that the Festool machine is superior.
Underside As far as actual sanding, the tool does just exactly what you would expect, it sands. The tool is a little larger than many other makes of ROS but after using for about a minute it doesn't seem big at all. You can fit the machine with pads of different firmness levels, a "medium" pad comes with the machine. The machine I have has the 5mm orbit (ES150-5), I'm told that the 3mm (ES150-3) machine is the more popular of the two. This may because the folks who buy these also have the Festool Rotex to handle their more aggressive sanding tasks. If you already have or plan to get an aggressive sander then the 3mm model may make more sense. I find that the 5mm machine does a pretty good job in the shop so my opinion is that if you are only going to get one ROS, get the 150-5 for best all round coverage.
The sander is a little larger than most, instead of 5" paper it uses 6". The sand paper is hook and loop, you may be able to find other brands of paper that fits the machine, I don't know if you can find it with the center hole though. In any event, I would recommend the Festool brand sand paper; it's good quality stock and can be found in a very wide array of grits and applications. The cost per box is the same as other brands I've used therefore there isn't any reason to use anything else.

It isn't difficult at all to develop a preference for the Festool sanders and this one is certainly no exception. The quality and feel of the tools are clearly top-notch. I'm now a little undecided if I like the Festool RS2E half sheet sander more than the ES150-5. Both definitely have their areas to excel in but if I had to choose only one to use it would be a tough choice. I think if I needed a job-site sander the ES150-5 might be best, in the shop I use the RS2E a little more often.

In the interest of full disclosure Festool provided this product to facilitate this review.