What is the best cordless drill? This kind of tool is designed to drill and drive screws, while some models also have a hammer action. The first thing to consider when buying a product is voltage, which is the electromotive force that determines the power of the device and how well it handles tough materials. The second essential factor is the speed the tool generates. This parameter is expressed in revolutions per minute (RPM), so the higher RPM your drill has the better. Since the major downside to any cordless drill is a limited runtime, one more important thing to consider is the battery lifespan. Check the product’s description to make sure that that is enough time for you to complete the task. We believe that Black+Decker 20V MAX Drill & Home Tool Kit fits these criteria best.

It was only a matter of time before I got around to talking about drills, wasn’t it? I mean, I managed to write five, count them five pieces about planers, and you can sum them up as “they shave wood”. So, why did it take me so long to get around to drills, especially cordless ones? Hell, I don’t know, but I’m going to talk about them right now.

So, as I usually do, first we’re going to talk a little bit about the history of this tool, and the theory behind how the modern version works. Then, we’ll look at three examples of very solid modern cordless drills, their strengths, weaknesses and so on. This time around, though, all three of the ones I’m talking about are pretty solid, where I usually pick a “meh” product for budgetary concerns or the like. I don’t feel like doing that this time, so I’m not going to.

BLACK+DECKER 20V MAX Drill & Home Tool Kit

BLACK+DECKER 20V MAX Drill & Home Tool Kit: photo

Well now, we’re starting off pretty darn strong with an offering by Black+Decker. Has anyone noticed that they suddenly, at some point started using “+” instead of “&” and we just didn’t notice? I don’t get that, it’s dumb.

Dumb name changes aside, Black+Decker tools are really solid and sought after by professionals, contractors and heavy hobbyists alike. What makes this one stand out is the fact that you’re getting a mini-workshop, not just a basic drill. You get a full set of bits and bores, screwdriver bits, torque bits, a ratchet-action screwdriver, a channel lock, a standard pair of pliers, a needle nose plier pair, two screwdrivers, a hammer, rotary cutters, a box knife, and a really nice tape measure. Holy crap, that’s a lot of cool stuff, with a cool case to keep it all in.

Features

  • Power: 20v lithium-ion battery.
  • Battery Life: Approx. 5hrs.
  • Weight: 3.5 pounds.
  • Reverse: Yes.
  • Safety Lock: Yes.
  • Torque Adjustment: Yes.

Performance

All the cool extras aside, how’s the drill itself? Well, I actually have one of these, as I got this set as a birthday present this year, just in time to use it for my MAME cabinet project. Other foibles with that project aside, when I needed to drill or screw or bore things? This drill did it, it did it well, and it did it very safely.

This is an excellent drill, though it does like to strop the hell out of flathead screws if you’re not careful.

Pros Cons
  • Black+Decker quality.
  • Lots of extras and bits.
  • Powerful.
  • Long battery life.
  • Affordable.
  • Strips screws.
  • Battery life is good but could be better.
  • Warranty leaves a lot to be desired.

Conclusion

Warranty aside, this is an excellent drill I am happy to recommend for personal use.

A Brief History

It’s important to understand where this tool came from and where it’s been, to really appreciate what a modern cordless drill can do for you. In all reality, drills were originally cordless before the advent of hydraulic, pneumatic and electric power tools. This isn’t a tool we’re 100% certain of the chronology for, as far as when they first appeared. We know primitive forms of them were completely at home in the bronze age being used by near east, north African and eastern European civilizations of the time.

These tools used a swiveling crank, not unlike what a pepper mill or something of the sort would use now, to turn a drill bit. This meant that the drilling power of the tool was entirely dependent on the muscle power of its user, and they were the definition of tedious to use. Still, they were a significant invention without which most of civilization as we know it prior to 1880 or so, could not have happened.

Like planets, drills didn’t change much for most of history, just getting better materials, nicer tooling and better bit threading to them as time went by. Steam power made massive drilling (and drilling through things like rock or metal) possible, and soon thereafter, pneumatic drills were a common sight and sound in most mechanic workshops and industrial facilities.

It’s worth noting that pneumatic drills, which use compressors and air pressure to drive them, are still very heavily used by mechanics and machine fabrication shops, making that characteristic whining sound we associate with such work.

Cordless drills really weren’t practical until battery power caught up with them in the 1970s, which is when the first rechargeable batteries of any real use, caught on.

How Cordless Drills Work

A cordless drill can actually be a drill, a screwdriver or even a powered socket wrench. This is because one of the characteristics of their design in modernity is the ability to change out various bits to serve this purpose. This is done by loosening a nozzle/knob that causes the grips to let go of the bit.

The basic technology behind these is remarkably simple. They use a lithium-ion battery pack, a dual-polarity switch, and an electric motor. The dual-polarity switch allows its spin direction to be reversed easily. The lithium-ion battery is the same basic rechargeable power source used by smartphones and handheld devices, albeit designed to put out a stronger voltage.

Some cordless drills have an additional adjustment for speed or torque, which just increases resistance to the motor-mounted cam in one of a couple of ways. Some cordless drills can also be corded, offering a port for a wall plug, and thus containing a transformer to step down 110v power to something more along the lines of what the motor can handle.

Pros&Cons Of Using Cordless Drills

Advantages

The advantages of a cordless drill are pretty obvious. Any time you can use a tool without a cord tethering you can be a better time. You can get to places you otherwise couldn’t, and use it in places where there may in fact be no other source of power to even use.

They also tend to be lower-maintenance and more durable than corded drills for the sheer fact that their ability to be easily-dropped has led tool designers to better fortify them. They’re more rugged all in all.

They’re also more energy-efficient, as it takes less power to charge the batteries, and they make better use of every joule of energy due to the balancing of the motor as a whole.

Disadvantages

The disadvantages of these are entirely also the battery issue. Batteries can’t provide the degree of power per unit of time which a wall socket can. It’s just not possible without the battery being dangerous, massive and heavy. This is why smartphones need to use lower-wattage CPUs for example. This means they’re not as powerful as a corded or pneumatic drill. They may one day be, but that day isn’t now.

This reduced power results in stripped screws or drill bits getting stuck from time to time, a common annoyance with cordless drills. They also do run the power down faster than a lot of other cordless power tools. It takes a lot of oomph to turn that motor against such resistance, so where something like a chainsaw or bush trimmer might get six hours or more, cordless drills often get four or less.

While more rugged, this means there are some jobs these just can’t do, such as drilling through cement or stone or tightening bolts to the machine precision that pneumatic tools can achieve. Generally, though, they’re usually powerful enough to get most jobs most people need to do, done without issue.

Importance Of Good Brands

Okay, let me tell you above all else why you don’t want to skimp on your cordless drill. I had a WEN cordless drill once, and WEN is the most budget tool brand to ever budget. One day it didn’t like drilling into the pressboard I was trying to thread for screws. Instead of locking on me as most drills would, it surreptitiously snapped its grip, sending half the drill bit blade across the room. It propelled with such ferocity that is embedded in a cinderblock wall.

If that had hit someone, it would’ve been like being shot. I mean, wow. You get what you pay for, and on top of bad drills being dangerous, they’ll crap out on you often, and that will really slow down your project and consistently cost you more money than just investing in a good drill to begin with.

Don’t cut corners, buy a good drill from a good brand, for your sanity and your safety.

DEWALT DCD777C2 20V Max Brushless Compact Drill Drive

DEWALT 20V Max Brushless Compact Drill Drive: photo

I haven’t had as great an experience with DeWalt as most other people seem to. Their tools always worked fine, but in my experience, they just never were quite as durable as they should be for the price, nor for how the brand presents itself.

As I said though, I seem to be more of an exception than the rule when it comes to this. I think my big issue with this particular one is that it’s over twice the price of the Black+Decker, with none of the extras. It’s a good drill, but really, it’s not better than the Black+Decker, so this price kind of baffles me if we’re being completely honest. The brushless motor is a nice touch, which I could see driving this price up a little, but not to the level they’re charging, criminy.

Features

  • Power: 20v lithium-ion battery.
  • Battery Life: Approx. 6hrs.
  • Weight: 2.5 pounds.
  • Reverse: Yes.
  • Safety Lock: Yes.
  • Torque Adjustment: Yes.

Performance

I didn’t sound very positive in my introduction of this drill, did I? Well, the drill itself is still quite solid and powerful. It does have the longest battery life I’ve seen, it’s nice and compact, and it’s comfortable to use.

I can’t get past the price for what you get, though. It’s not a big enough improvement for the cost (it’s almost the price of an industrial cordless drill for Pete’s sake), so while it’s a good drill, I just don’t see the price versus quality being justified here.

Pros Cons
  • Really good quality.
  • Brushless.
  • Compact.
  • Very long battery life.
  • No extras.
  • This drill is, as I’ve pointed out, horrendously overpriced, and that’s a legit mark against it – a big one in fact.

Conclusion

It’s a great drill, but I can’t think of a reason to pay the price they want for it. Perhaps in a year or two, it will go down a good bit, at which point it’ll be a really good bargain.

Bosch 12-Volt Max Brushless 3/8-Inch Drill

Bosch 12-Volt Max Brushless: photo

Now, this Bosch drill, while pricier and without the extras, is a little bit of a different story. I think it could stand to be maybe ten dollars cheaper than it is, but Bosch is a higher grade of a tool than DeWalt or Black+Decker. Their whole schtick is that they produce industrial/commercial level tools for personal or commonplace use, and not for a commercial price.

They achieve this with this drill, but for the price, I think they could at least give you an extended bit set, not just a chintzy carrying case. They know what they’re doing with that.

Features

  • Power: 12v lithium-ion battery.
  • Battery Life: Approx. 6hrs.
  • Weight: 0.8oz.
  • Reverse: Yes.
  • Safety Lock: Yes.
  • Torque Adjustment: Yes.

Performance

This is a compact drill, so it’s maybe not as powerful as a less compact one, but where it shines is its ease of use in difficult locations. They like to demonstrate it being used by electricians, and that’s definitely one of the fields where I can see this drill performing spectacularly.

It’s also well-grounded, meaning you won’t get fried working on boxes. Don’t work on live lines, that’s idiotic, but even so. I used a similar drill to this for awkward angles in my arcade cabinet, and, yeah, I’m less upset about the price for the product with this one.

Pros Cons
  • Fantastic quality.
  • Nice and compact and light.
  • Powerful for its size.
  • No extras.
  • Still a tiny bit overpriced, but not to the point of absurdity.

Conclusion

I recommend having a drill like this around but as a compliment to a bigger drill, not a substitute for it. It’s great for reaching awkward areas and is tremendously portable.

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