What’s the difference between a Rotary Laser vs Line vs Dot Laser Level?

Whether you are surveying a lot, laying out a building, framing walls, installing a stair railing, or verifying a wall is plumb, there is a laser level that will make your life easier. With so many laser level options to choose from, knowing which type will best meet your needs is more difficult. We took a few minutes with our PLS Product Manager, Lewis Nelson, to discuss the difference between the PLS rotary, line, and dot laser levels.

Mechanical Differences


Rotary Laser: PLS HV2G

Rotary lasers work by taking a laser dot and spinning it to create a near solid line. Rotaries tend to be more accurate and stable because they are leveled using servo motors and dots tend to be a bit more accurate than lines. Rotaries are vital when working over larger areas over 100 feet. They are physically larger and the PLS rotaries are better designed for water and dust protection (IP67) and protection from drops (1- meter drop test).

Nearly all PLS line and dot lasers are auto-leveled using a hanging pendulum and gravity. They are smaller in size and ideal for use in smaller spaces or over short distances (less than 100 feet). Typically, small enough to fit easily on a contractor’s toolbelt, the PLS handheld laser family is still designed to withstand a 1-meter drop and protect from water and dust (IP54).

The Right Laser for the Job

If your job requires level precision over a large area over 100 feet, such as grading a lot, setting concrete forms for commercial or large-scale residential, or leveling a large area, we recommend the PLS rotary laser levels (H2, HV2R, HV2G). The H2 is horizontal level only, but if you need a vertical line or want to be able to slope the line (useful for excavation or sloping, suspended ceilings, or ensuring drain run off on a concrete slab), the HV2R and HV2G both feature manual slope and can be used both horizontally and vertically.

If you’re working in smaller spaces, framing individual rooms or finish work, we recommend our PLS Line, Point, or Combo lasers. They are compact, easy to set up, easy to carry, and designed for maximum utility on the job site.

Line lasers, such as the PLS 180, PLS 360, PLS 480, and HVL 100) are the lasers of choice for leveling horizontally or vertically whether you are laying out interior walls, leveling a door frame, installing cabinets, or even hanging interior designs.

Point lasers, such as the PLS 3 and PLS 5, are the easiest way to layout, mark, or verify plumb. This is useful for installing drywall track, laying out and marking ceiling fixtures from a floor layout, installing conduit or other tracks, or verifying plumb on any installation. The PLS 5 adds horizontal, 90-degree dots for quick square alignment and layout tasks.

Our favorite new tool in the PLS lineup is the PLS 6R and PLS 6G combo laser. This laser combines the functionality of our cross-line laser (the PLS 180) and the PLS 5-point laser all in one easy-to-use tool.

While featuring our previous laser levels, the following video produced in collaboration with Burns Tools gives a quick overview of the differences in each laser: