This class of drill/driver offers good power in a
lightweight tool, and at a moderate priceby Clayton DeKorne and Pete
In the maze of cordless tools, there are several different
classes of drill/drivers. Those intended for professional use
clearly set themselves apart from those intended for homeowners
(the one homeowner-market 14.4-volt drill we tried out worked
so poorly that we did not even include the results in this
article). Professional cordless drills have standard features
such as electric brakes and keyless chucks. They also have
longer runtimes and higher durability.
Tradespeople have largely migrated to 12-, 14.4-, and
18-volt power classes during the past few years. We are
focusing this tool review on 14.4-volt drills because this
class offers a practical compromise between performance, cost,
and weight. We collected most of the latest models on the
market and put them through some tough tests. The Panasonic
15.6-volt model was included in this tool class because
Panasonic does not offer a 14.4-volt model.
NiCad vs NiMH Batteries
also included new 14.4-volt nickel metal hydride (NiMH)
batteries. NiMH batteries, which hit the market in 1998,
provide longer runtimes than the more common nickel cadmium
(NiCad) batteries. Makita is the only manufacturer that
currently has NiMH batteries available on the market. Most
other manufacturers plan to introduce NiMH at some point in
We were able to test two drills using NiMH batteries —
the Makita, with a 2.2 amp-hour (Ah) battery, and the Hitachi,
with a prototype 3Ah battery (see Figure 1).
1. Nickel metal hydride (NiMH) batteries like the 2.2Ah
from Makita and 3Ah prototype from Hitachi increase runtimes
for each charge. However, they are more expensive than more
common NiCad batteries and cannot be charged as many times
before wearing out. With the added runtime, though,
manufacturers are claiming that NiMH total runtime over the
life of the battery is still greater than with
Although the Hitachi prototype battery was the only 3Ah
battery we tested, many NiMH batteries will show up for sale in
1999 with 3Ah ratings, which will increase runtimes.
These new NiMH batteries set the standard in our tests. In
each of our tests, we ranked all drill models relative to the
top performing NiMH model. However, enhanced runtimes will come
with added costs. Not only will this next generation of
batteries cost more than NiCads, but their lifespans will be
shorter by as much as 20% fewer charge cycles. Nevertheless,
because you get more runtime between charge cycles,
manufacturers claim that total runtime over the life of the
battery will still greatly exceed that of NiCads.
ready for testing, we first conditioned two batteries for each
drill by draining them and charging them five times (believe us
when we say that 12 drills can make quite a lot of noise when
they’re all running together at full speed for an hour or
so). Our tests were designed to objectively determine
performance limits for both low- and high-torque applications.
In the two high-speed tests, driving drywall screws and boring
spade bit holes, we used plywood to provide a uniform base
material. During both test runs, we also noted our subjective
likes and dislikes. In the end, you should be able to find the
information you need to make a good choice if you decide to
shop for one of these 14.4-volt models.
Light Load Runtime
Our first test was designed to determine the runtime of the
tools during a low-power application. We drove 1-1/4-inch
drywall screws into two glued-together sheets of 3/4-inch
plywood. We tested each drill twice, each time with a different
battery, to see how many screws could be driven on one charge
(see bar chart).
Both of us had the chance to work with every drill and we
took notes on how they felt during the task.