Cordless drill reviews

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

04.What to look for

  • 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.

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