The Makita 9903 is a compact 3x21 belt sander with clean, simple body lines. Like the majority of belt sanders, most of the Makita’s body — the motor housing, belt cover and handles — are made from strong, durable reinforced plastic. Some components that overhang the left-hand side of the tool are cast metal. This makes it feel a bit imbalanced, especially when sanding on narrower work surfaces.
The Makita’s rear grip was really terrific, and its smooth operating “On/Off” trigger and trigger lock were very easy to use. I didn’t like the location of its variable-speed dial, as you have to tip the sander up to see the markings. I thought the Makita’s front handle was oddly designed looks-wise, and its bulky shape wasn’t particularly comfortable to grip. I did appreciate the Makita’s nice, long 16-ft. power cord.
The 9903 comes with a largish canvas dust bag with a plastic clip that slides on and off the bottom edge. In theory, a clip is less likely to clog and jam than a zipper. But in use, the clip sometimes caught on the edge of the workpiece and slid off, dumping the bag’s dusty contents all over!
When put through its paces, the Makita ran smoothly and tracked its belt very evenly. Its tracking adjustment knob worked better and more precisely than the adjusters on any of the other 3x21s. I was somewhat underwhelmed by the Makita’s power delivery. Its motor slowed noticeably even when the running belt simply came in contact with the work surface. Pressing down on the sander slowed the motor — and reduced sanding aggressiveness — even more. Disappointing, especially when you consider the 9903’s highest-in-group price tag.