Publication Date: September/October 2002
Cordless tools improve every year. If it's not battery
performance, it's power -- or new features, switches, or
advanced charging systems. The hammerdrilling function, one of
the latest and best improvements to cordless driver/drills,
makes them even more valuable on site. The ability to quickly
switch to hammer mode from drill mode and back again saves
trips to the gang box for a cord and new tool.
I tested 14 of the newest cordless hammerdrills to see if their
power, performance, and other features were on par with their
Out of the box, each tool looked solid and nicely put together.
It shows that the race for cordless drill superiority is a
tight contest among manufacturers. I tested tools in five
voltages: 14.4, 15.6, 18, 19.2, and 24.
The 14.4s included the Bosch 3670-04, DeWalt DW984K-2, Makita
8433DWDE, Milwaukee 0514-24, and Porter-Cable 9877. Metabo's
SBT15.6 Plus and Panasonic's EY6931NQKW were the 15.6-volt
entrants. The 18-volters included the Bosch 3870-04, DeWalt
DW988K-2, Hitachi DV18DV, Makita 8443DWDE, and Milwaukee
0524-24. Porter-Cable's 9887 was the 19.2-volt tool. The
24-volter was Hitachi's DV24DV.
The great thing about a cordless hammerdrill is that if you
need a hammer function to set a junction box on a concrete
ceiling or set expansion bolts for attaching to masonry, you've
probably already got your cordless drill out anyway for driving
screws. Now, you can use the same tool for the whole shootin'
Using 1/4-inch, 3/8-inch, and 1/2-inch masonry bits, I drilled
a series of 1-1/2-inch-deep holes in 2,500-psi concrete until
each tool's batteries ran out of gas. With 1/4- and 3/8-inch
bits, the tools drilled so many holes I lost count. Drilling
with the 1/2-inch bit, however, let me evaluate power, feel,
and how many holes these tools can drill on one charge. For
this part of the test I put the tools in three groups: low,
medium, and high volts. (The Metabo and Panasonic 15.6s went in
the low-volt group; the Porter-Cable 19.2 joined the
All the drills in the low-volt group drilled 14 to 16 holes.
The 15.6-volt Metabo and Panasonic tools have a slight power
edge. The medium-volt group drilled 19 to 21 holes each. The
19.2-volt Porter-Cable model had more power than the 18-volt
tools in the group, popping two to three more holes.
In a class by itself, the Hitachi 24-volt not surprisingly
outperformed all the others by nearly 35 percent. It hammered
24 to 26 1/2-inch-diameter holes on a single charge. While the
other tools in this group are drill/drivers with a hammer
function, the Hitachi 24-volt tool is the only dedicated
hammerdrill in the group. It's designed to compete with your
corded hammerdrill and, considering its performance, size, and
shape, it does. The portability and easy set-up of this tool
make it a natural for most projects requiring heavy, but not
too heavy, hammerdrilling.
For hardcore wood drilling, the 24-volter goes hard. It easily
sent a 2-inch boring bit through a 4-by eight times. I was up
to my ankles in wood chips before the tool quit. As for hard
pounding, I'd go to this tool first if I had to drill a deep
hole for sending wire or conduit through a brick or block wall
or setting lots of 1/2-inch lag shields.
Vibration and Comfort
The hole-drilling test highlighted important differences
between the tools. In all voltage groups, the DeWalt,
Porter-Cable, and Bosch drills performed the best. They show
minimal vibration and little slowdown, especially when they hit
tough spots like aggregate. The heavier-feeling Bosch 18-volt
model came in at the tail end of this first group. Next, I
liked both Makitas, then both Milwaukees and the Panasonic
tool. Hitachi's 18-volt tool and the Metabo 15.6-volter
finished up in order.
The 24-volt Hitachi felt good drilling, too. Its long body
makes it tough for overhead applications, but great for floor
drilling. This isn't a tool that you'd do any screw driving
A hammerdrill's chuck quality is important. The chuck has to
spin the bit while a gear in the tool housing impacts it
somewhere between 15,000 and 30,000 times a minute.
Thank-fully, the new generation of keyless chucks can quickly
grab and hold just as powerfully as keyed chucks do.
Hands down, Bosch and DeWalt have the best chucks on their
14.4- and 18-volt tools. Both manufacturers use an impressive
Rohm chuck that grabs the bit and centers it quickly, then
locks it in place with a ratcheting mechanism. This mechanism
delivers great holding power without the usual forearm-busting,
two-hand twist. They also have slip rings on the front that
allow you to contact the work piece if you're drilling in a
corner without grinding the chuck into it. Metabo's chuck also
has a slip ring.
Both Milwaukee tools also have good chucks. They feature
all-metal construction and impressive holding power. The metal
adds a little weight, but I can accept that because the chuck
sees so much action. Both Porter-Cable tools, both Makitas, the
18-volt Hitachi, and the 15.6-volt Metabo did well in the chuck
category. They all performed fine; no bits slipped when
properly set and all held on tight when the going got rough.
The only concern I had was the amount of plastic on these
Panasonic's 15.6-volt tool has an interesting chuck. The
housing slides up and down. This releases a locking mechanism,
which ensures that the chuck stays tight all the time. It took
a little getting used to, but it sure beats losing bits when
you hit reverse.
Switch location, ease of use, and overall ergonomics can be a
tool's greatest selling points. I want a tool that I can use
all day without struggling to change functions or settings. The
less effort it takes to go from high to low gear, from forward
to reverse and all the variable torques, makes a tool that much
Both DeWalt drills fit my hand well. I have average-sized hands
and the switches were always in the right spot for me. Both of
the Bosch tools and both of the Porter-Cable tools are next in
comfort, with Hitachi's 18-volt tool after that. Panasonic,
Milwaukee, and Metabo units finish it up with Makita a
disappointing last. The tool has great switches and battery
interchange, but the grip didn't work for me. The hard black
plastic wasn't comfortable in my hand and got sweaty and
slippery after pounding all those 1/2-inch holes.
The slip rings on the Bosch and DeWalt chucks not only protect
your work, they're also helpful when drilling in tight spots
and actually make bit installation easier. I really like this
feature because I tend to change hammerdrill bits often when I
do several tasks like driving screws or drilling wood and
concrete. DeWalt's drill has three torque settings -- high,
medium, and low. I won't use the medium setting every day, but
I'd use this feature for certain applications like driving
brass screws where speed and torque control are
Milwaukee's battery is reversible, which alters the drill's
balance and configuration. When working in tight spaces, this
enables the battery to take up less room. Metabo's pulse
rotation switch helps loosen overly tight screws. I had to go
on the Internet to find out what this switch was for, because
it's not in the owner's manual. It makes a difference, though,
when backing out tough screws, because the screw head doesn't
strip as easily. I can see this coming in really handy if you
have to get a cabinet off the wall and the screw head is a
When I buy my next cordless drill, I'll definitely buy one with
a hammerdrill feature. It makes the tool more versatile and
valuable on site. There's no trade-off of weight or function
for the benefit either, other than a slightly higher price tag.
Since I get into enough stuff that requires larger holes, an
18-volt tool is right for me.
That said, DeWalt's DW988K-2 18-volt cordless hammerdrill is my
pick. It's got impressive ergonomics, power, and performance,
and it's reasonably priced. Bosch's 18-volt drill comes in a
close second. Even though it's a bit heavier, it's a great tool
that's easy to work with. Porter-Cable's 19.2-volt drill comes
in third; it's a good, reliable, solid tool. In the 14.4-volt
group, the order is the same -- DeWalt, Bosch, and Porter-Cable
-- as the tools are nearly identical.
Sharing the next spot are both Makitas, the 18-volt Hitachi,
both Milwaukees, and the 15.6-volt Panasonic -- they all
performed about the same. Metabo rounds off the pack.
The 24-volt Hitachi is in a class by itself. With its power and
dedicated design, you've got a ton of cordless power
is a Manhattan-based contractor
specializing in high-end commercial and residential
Hanley-Wood's Tools of the Trade has arranged with the
companies in this test to donate their tools to Habitat for
Thanks to American Tool for providing all the bits for this
This article is reprinted
courtesy of Tools of the Trade