Cordless drill reviews

These cordless drills are for the serious DIY enthusiast.
 
Learn more
 
 
 
 
 
  • Updated:17 Aug 2009
 

01 .Introduction

Cordless drill with battery pack

Test results for 10 cordless drills priced between $89 and $510.

A cordless drill is a must-have tool for the dedicated do-it-yourselfer or tradesperson. You’ll want one with lots of power and torque for drilling and screwdriving into a range of materials, a battery with plenty of juice, and useful features such as multiple gear and speed settings.

CHOICE put 10 cordless drills through a tough set of tests to find which ones are up to the job. We chose models in the high-end home user or low-end trade category, priced up to around $500 with 18 volt batteries and 13mm chuck size; these models should deliver enough power but still be within budget for a serious DIYer.

When we last tested cordless drills we looked at cheap models up to $50 and found none were very good; they simply didn’t have enough grunt for serious DIY jobs. However, as you’d expect it’s a different story with these more expensive drills. The recommended models can tackle heavy duty jobs, and even the cheapest and lowest-scoring model can manage some heavy duty work.

Please note: this information was current as of August 2009 but is still a useful guide to today's market.


Tips for using a drill

  • Safety Always check for wiring and pipes before drilling into a wall. Wear safety glasses and hearing protection, particularly when hammer drilling or in confined spaces.
  • Screwdriving If you’re not sure what clutch setting to use, start with a low torque setting and gradually increase it until you get the desired result (the clutch should slip just when the screw is fully sunk).
  • Drilling through timber Timber can usually be drilled at high speed (high gear) unless you’re using a particularly wide bit, say 13mm or more, or if the timber is especially hard. To avoid splintering the other side of the timber as the drill bit breaks through, clamp stiff cardboard to the back of the timber. Don’t force the drill; apply moderate pressure to let the drill work at its own rate, and ease off the pressure as the bit is about to break through.
  • Drilling through steel Use a bit rated for steel and set the drill to a slow speed (low gear). A little oil on the spot to be drilled helps lubricate and cool the drill bit. Clamping a piece of timber under the steel helps you achieve a clean exit hole and also protects your workbench.

Brand tested

  • AEG BSB 18
  • Black & Decker FS188F4-XE Firestorm
  • Bosch Blue GSR 18V
  • Bosch Green PSR 18VE
  • Dewalt DC725KA-XE
  • Hitachi DS18DFL
  • Makita BHP452SHE
  • Ozito OZCD18V2A
  • Ryobi CLK18/2-001
  • Worx WX165

Brands not tested

We also looked for drills from Hilti, Metabo, and Panasonic but were unable to buy these brands, as they were either outside our target price range, not easily available or undergoing changes to their product line.

 
 

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The following models scored the best results in our test:

What to buy
Brand Price
Bosch Blue GSR 18V $369
AEG BSB 18 $459
Ryobi CLK18/2-001 (LDD1802) $299
Dewalt DC725KA-XE $459

 

Results table

Full results for all models are shown in the table below.

PRODUCT
PERFORMANCE
FEATURES
SPECIFICATIONS
Brand / model (in rank order)
Overall
score
(%)
Performance
score
(%)
Battery
score
(%)
Torque
score
(%)
Ease of
use score
(%)
Hammer Side handle Work light Weight
(kg)
Number
of gear
ranges
Maximum speed
in each range
(rpm)
Clutch
settings
Driver
bit
storage
slots
Battery
type
Battery
capacity
(Ah)
Price
($)
Bosch Blue GSR 18V (A)
www.bosch.com.au
79 76 72 80 85 2.2 2 450, 1450 20 1 Ni-Cd 2 369
AEG BSB 18
1300 361 505
78 82 69 95 70 3.1 2 450, 1600 24 1 Ni-Cd 2 459
Ryobi CLK18/2-001 (B)
www.ryobi.com.au
76 77 93 60 75 2.2 2 440, 1600 23 1 Li-ion 2.4 299
Dewalt DC725KA-XE
www.dewalt.com.au
75 71 53 88 85 2.3 2 500, 1700 17 1 Ni-Cd 459
Makita BHP452SHE
www.makita.com.au
68 60 32 87 85 1.6 2 400, 1500 16 0 Li-ion 1.5 510
65 54 46 61 90 1.7 2 400, 1200 22 2 Li-ion 1.5 349
60 53 43 62 75 2.4 2 350, 1300 23 0 Ni-Cd 1.5 229
Bosch Green PSR 18VE
www.bosch.com.au
55 47 36 58 75 2 2 400, 1250 25 1 Ni-Cd 1.5 229
Black & Decker FS188F4-XE Firestorm
www.blackanddecker.com.au
52 49 38 60 60 2.7 3 420, 1300, 2000 22 2 Ni-Cd 210
Ozito OZCD18V2A
www.ozito.com.au
43 33 26 40 65 1.9 2 350, 1100 19 2 Ni-Cd 1.3 89

Using the table

Overall score is made up of:

  • Performance: 70%
  • Ease of use: 30%

Performance score consists of:

  • Battery life: 50%
  • Torque: 50%

Ease of use score consists of the following equally weighted components:

  • Comfort.
  • Balance. 
  • Operating the controls.
  • Price Recommended retail, as of July 2009. It pays to shop around; we paid much less than RRP for some models.

(A) Discontinued but may still be available in some shops. Replaced by GSR18V-LI model with Li-ion battery.

(B) Model number CLK18/2001 refers to the kit including drill, charger and torch; the drill’s model number is LDD1802. Replaced in August 2009 by new model LCD18022D with more compact battery pack (1.4Ah - the tested model's battery is 2.4Ah so battery life may not be the same).

ns Not stated.

How we test

Performance

Battery life First, our tester, Josh Giumelli of Kondinin Group, conditions each battery by fully charging and discharging it three times. He then fits each drill with a new 13mm spade bit and drills holes at slow speed through 50mm-thick dry jarrah timber, counting the number of holes achieved with one battery charge. Dry jarrah is very hard so this is a tough test. The best performer in this test was the AEG which managed 55 holes; the worst was the Makita, with just 8.5 holes. The battery is recharged and the test repeated at fast drilling speed. The best performer in this test was the Ryobi with 105.5 holes; the worst was again the Makita with 32.25. Then, after another recharge, he counts the number of 50mm tek screws (self-drilling screws that need no pilot hole) he can drive into 100mm dry jarrah. Again, the Ryobi was best in this test, managing 125 screws; the worst was the Ozito with 19.5.

Torque Each drill is mounted in a dynamometer to measure its stall torque. This is the rotational force at which the drill stops turning; the higher the torque the better. The AEG scored best with 40.46 Newton metres (Nm); the worst was the Ozito, with 17.05Nm.

Ease of use

The drills are assessed by four users, including a female left-hander, who rate them for comfort and balance while drilling holes and driving screws, both horizontally and vertically. They also assess the controls.

Profiles - what to buy

Bosch Blue GSR 18V

Price $369 Bosch Blue GSR 18v

Good points

  • Very good torque.
  • Good battery life.
  • Good overall performance.
  • Very good ease of use.

Bad points

  • None to mention.

AEG BSB 18

Price $459 AEG BSB 18

Good points

  • Excellent torque.
  • Very good overall performance.
  • Good ease of use.
  • Drill/hammer/driver lever accessible on both sides of the drill (good for left-handers).
  • Side handle.
  • Work light.

Bad points

  • Heavy.

Ryobi CLK18/2-001 (LDD1802)

Price $299Ryobi CLK18/2-001

Good points

  • Excellent battery life.
  • Good overall performance.
  • Good ease of use.
  • Spirit level.
  • Magnetic holder (for screws etc) on base of drill.
  • Torch supplied as accessory.

Bad points

  • Stiff gear selector.
  • Soft carry bag rather than hard carry case.
  • Note: Model number CLK18/2001 refers to the kit including drill, charger and torch; the drill’s model number is LDD1802.

Dewalt DC725KA-XE

Price $459 Dewalt DC725KA-XE

Good points

  • Very good torque.
  • Good overall performance.
  • Very good ease of use.
  • Drill/hammer/driver lever accessible on both sides of the drill (good for left-handers)
  • Work light.

Bad points

  • Battery life not as good as the other recommended models, although still better than the rest.

 

 

Profiles - the rest

Makita BHP452SHE

Price $510Makita BHP452SHE

Good points

  • Very good torque.
  • Comfortable and easy to use.
  • Work light.

Bad points

  • Poor battery life.

Hitachi DS18DFL

Price $299Hitachi DS18DFL

Good points

  • Excellent ease of use; lightweight and comfortable.

Bad points

  • Borderline battery score.

Worx WX165

Price $229 Worx WX165

Good points

  • Good ease of use.
  • Multi-position side handle.
  • Work light.

Bad points

  • Poor battery life.

Bosch Green PSR 18VE

Price $229Bosch green PSR 18VE

Good points

  • Easy and comfortable to use.
  • Work light.

Bad points

  • Poor battery life.

Black & Decker FS188F4-XE Firestorm

Price $210 Black and Decker Firestorm

Good points

  • Multi-position side handle.
  • Three-speed gear box.

Bad points

  • Fairly bulky and heavy.
  • Poor battery life.
  • Clutch doesn’t work as expected; it slips in drilling mode (when it shouldn’t) but not in screwdriving mode (when it should). When we queried this, the manufacturer told us this drill has had very few product quality issues and is used by tradesmen despite not having a trade warranty.

Ozito OZCD18V2A

Price $89Ozito OZCD18V2A

Good points

  • Lightweight.
  • Work light.
  • Spirit level on top of drill.
  • Inexpensive.

Bad points

  • Poor torque.
  • Poor battery life.
  • Charger is slow, has no status indicator light, and is tedious to attach to the battery.
  • Battery level monitor is not accurate.
  • Low build quality compared with the other models.
  • Chuck All the models on test have 13mm chucks, allowing the use of larger drill bits. Smaller and cheaper drills often only have 10mm chucks, which is still enough for most basic drilling/driving tasks. All the models have keyless chucks, so their chucks can be conveniently loosened and tightened by hand. Few cordless drills now use a chuck key.
  • Reversible direction Essential for removing screws from timber or other material. Ideally, the rotation button should be reachable with your thumb or forefinger without changing your grip.
  • Hammer This setting rocks the bit in and out to help when drilling into masonry. See the results table for the drills with this feature; we didn’t test hammer drilling.
  • Trigger/speed control This should be easy to operate and give good variable control from barely rotating to full speed. Good control at low speed is particularly important when trying to start a screw.
  • Multiple gears A range of gears will help you get the best results for different tasks. Low gear is for slow, powerful drilling, such as with a wide diameter bit, drilling through steel or driving screws. High gear is for fast drilling, such as with small diameter bits or when hammer drilling. The Black & Decker has three gears; its highest gear is for hammer drilling.
  • Clutch or torque selector This stops you overdriving or snapping a screw; the clutch should slip when the torque on the screw gets too high, thus stopping the drill head from turning. The clutch needs to be set according the depth and size of the screw, so a wide range of clutch settings is useful.
  • Controls These should be clearly labelled and easy to use.
  • Work light These are built into the body of the drill, usually around the collar or in front of the trigger, and are handy for lighting up the work surface as you drill.
  • Comfortable handle The drill should feel comfortable and well-balanced. Large, squarish handles made from hard plastic tend to be uncomfortable. A side handle is useful for steadying the drill during tough drilling jobs such as into masonry.
  • Battery A second battery charging up while you work is very handy for those times when the drill runs out of power halfway through a job. Most of the models on test have nickel-cadmium batteries (NiCd), which work well for power tools but need to be disposed of correctly at the end of their life, as cadmium is a toxic heavy metal. Some of the drills have lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries, which pose less environmental risk, can deliver as much or more power, and are claimed to charge faster and last longer. There’s a general trend in cordless power tools to phase out NiCd in favour of Li-ion batteries, but NiCd will probably be around for several years yet.