Whether hanging a few pictures, putting up some shelves, or applying wall paper, choosing the best straight line laser level requires some basic knowledge of its inner workings. Adjustment controls for laser beam brightness, short or long beam projection, and the ability to adjust for even the tiniest fraction of measurement are critical in selecting the best straight line laser level. Mounting capabilities should also be considered, as many times, the unit will need to be placed on a vertical surface or even attached to the ceiling. Overall brightness of the laser beam is also important. Toughness and the ability to withstand the rigors of being dropped, stepped, on or otherwise mishandled are also worth considering.
Some straight line laser levels are combined with another tool, like a stud finder. While the designers and manufacturers likely created these combination units with convenience and practicality in mind, they may not provide the best, most accurate measurement and may be a bit bulky. Most of the best straight line laser levels have that singular purpose — to measure and determine a perfectly straight, level line. If there is a need to mount a laser line unit to a wall or ceiling, be sure that the unit has some sort of low-tack adhesive or other method for attaching the unit from a vertical or inverted surface.
Cheaper models of straight line laser level may have lower quality laser beam optics, seen when the beam closest to the base unit appears thin but begins to widen farther from the unit. All straight line laser levels tend to produce a wider beam at a distance, but the better quality, higher priced models will maintain a thinner, more accurate laser line even at those longer distances. High quality optics are important, but the design and materials used in securing those quality optics are just as important. This is a tool that will likely see a lot of use and that may be dropped, beaten, thrown, kicked, stepped on, or bumped around quite a bit. Higher priced straight line laser levels, manufactured by top tier companies, typically use better materials and utilize superior design in protecting the integrity of the laser and laser optics.
The overall durability, strength, and resilience of any straight line laser level will likely be in direct correlation with the purchase price — you get what you pay for. Look for a laser line level made by a top-of-the-line manufacturer, well known for designing and manufacturing quality tools that will withstand the rigorous trials associated with construction work. Sometimes, in the case of a single use or very limited use, a cheaper laser level may work just fine. Rather than buying a unit online, go to the local home improvement superstore, and take a look at some of the available straight line laser levels. A knowledgeable salesperson will likely have some good information on the specifics of the different types of laser line levels.
Other important features and capabilities to look for in a straight line laser level are quick and easy set-up, a clearly visible laser beam that projects well and can be seen even in bright environments. A cheaper laser level will probably not produce a beam that is bright enough to be seen when outside installing a fence, although there are laser levels that do produce a beam bright enough for this type of work. Ease of adjustment for measuring and leveling is critical, so controls should be simple to use and clearly marked on the unit. Remote controlled units allow the operator to adjust and set lines from a distance without disturbing the base unit. Bubble vials attached to the unit that aid in the proper indication of both level and plumb lines, self-leveling capability, integral slope dial, and simultaneous split beams are also helpful features.