***** UPDATE 10/16/2015 Hammer Drill Test Showdown 3 for the latest cordless Hammer Drill models and 5.0Ah+ batteries
Several years ago when the first pro brushless drills hit the shelves for Milwaukee & Makita we did an 18V Hammer Drill Showdown with these same brands. At the time the Makita was at a disadvantage because they had just launched their first brushless drill which was made for the largest user base which doesn’t require a high torque tool but focuses more on runtime for medium duty applications. Of the 4 original drills only the Milwaukee remains the same, all 3 other tool companies have launched newer heavy duty hammer drills within the last year. The new Bosch Drill HDH181X however is not brushless, the torque has been increased and it now has the Active Response torque control feature but remains a 4 pole brushed motor which Bosch feels can hold it’s own against the brushless competition.
Why this is Not a Good Comparison Test
Let us be the first to point out all the flaws in this test and save you the time of calling us out. First off 3/4″ holes in concrete in not an application we see a lot of with these types of tools, of course you should be using an SDS-Plus drill and all these manufacturers offer cordless versions of those tools (we’re working on a test as we speak). Second a single test doesn’t paint an accurate picture of power and run time we should do a bunch of different tests adding one running out a battery doing 3/8” in concrete, then run a battery out doing 2-9/16” with a self-feed bit in wood, followed by a full battery driving self tapping screws into metal, etc. When we have 5-10 different tests then you could give a much more definitive answer on run time. Third we should take out the human element of people applying different pressure and not drilling the exactly same depths or wobbling the drills or getting tired. A stationary rig with equal force would be the way to go here for sure. We do understand all these issues however the main purpose of this test was actually as a training exercise the folks at Ohio Power Tool were doing with their staff to give the guys a chance to use all the tools and see what the differences were so they could talk intelligently firsthand about each tool. They also spend time with all the reps who demo each tool individually in various applications but rarely do they ever do side by sides like this. We just wanted to share some of this testing and hopefully you may find some of this information helpful.
The Wrist Breaking Torque Test
We wanted to revisit the torque test we had done before and see what kind of numbers we see as compared to what the manufacturers are claiming as well as test out this new Bosch feature that will cut the tool power if it were to jam up. Running tool on the Skidmore is kind of like putting your car on a dyno. What the manufacturer claims is a cars horsepower is always a bit lower when you translate that to at the wheel on a dyno. The same can be true for power tools (at least for impact tools) on the Skidmore.
Putting hammer drills on a Skidmore is not what it is made for and kind of like a split second bull ride. When the drill tops out, unlike an impact, it jerks out of your hand and you obviously can’t apply anymore force. In this test we found the Milwaukee to be about the same as last time topping out around 6000 bolt tension or slightly above which roughly estimates 660-690 in-lbs. The Dewalt was about the same on most tests but we would give it a slight advantage on some of the pulls topping out in the 6250 range or 675-700 in-lbs. What was the biggest surprise and easiest on Kris’s wrist (the repair tech who of his own wrists on the line testing these tools) was the Bosch. The Active Response torque control feature made a big impact here as when the tool began to jerk it would stop and the LED light would come on and flicker. Our prediction was that this feature would kick in too early and not allow the tool to reach its full potential but the opposite was true and applied almost 7000 bolt tension before doing so which is in the mid 700 in-lbs range where it claims (752 in-lbs). Again if we mounted these tools in a rig and did not allow for any movement perhaps the other tools would hit their published torque numbers as well but we wanted to know what was possible to hold on to as you would in the real world. The winner in this challenge was the new Makita which we expected with its published 1090 in-lbs rating. It actually hit 9000 bolt tension range (close to published rates) but it was equally harder to hold on too, definitely needed the extra long handle.
Our biggest concern here is people not understanding what the power this Makita tool brings to the table and pitching the side handle as they may have done with drills in the past. Only a few years ago the highest rates 18v were around 550 in-lbs so if pretty short time these tools have doubled in torque. That being the case this tool could seriously cause some injuries if guys don’t give these drills the proper respect.
Drilling into Concrete
Last time we used 1/2” carbide bits (and regretted it then) but we didn’t get any smarter and this time we went with 3/4″ Bosch Blue Granite bits to really put these tools to the test. Using the hammer drills in concrete does not test the top end torque but it is extremely taxing on the tools. We wanted to test speed as well as battery life so we recorded the first 2 users who did 4 holes each (total of 8 holes/tool) for this small sample of out of the gate performance. We averaged these first 8 hole (again this is not a laboratory test, just a quick sampling). The remaining holes were drilled by several different folks who all drilled 1 or 2 holes with each tool so hopefully consistent in their inconsistency. The time differences varied by 50+% which means the best times from any one of these drills could beat the worst of any other. Looking at the average you get a little better idea how they performed overall.
Speed Per Hole for the First 8 Holes (Min-Max, Avg, total):
Dewalt – 24.0-48.9, 35.7 avg, 16 total
Makita – 18.2-33.6, 26.0 avg, 16 total
Milwaukee – 18.8-37.5, 27.5 avg, 16 total
Bosch – 24.4-34.3, 28.6 avg, 12 total
All 4 of these units were generally pretty comparable in this application with nobody sticking out as they shouldn’t be in the competition. The Bosch as the only brushed tool and held its own pretty well in the beginning but began to slow and by the 12th hole was too hot to hold at the handle. All 3 remaining brushless drills died/overheated on the 16 holes which unfortunately makes this part of the test pretty inconclusive. Both Milwaukee and Dewalt started the 17th holes Milwaukee got about ½ way and Dewalt not even that far. The Makita was the fastest of the 4 but in this test all drills we in high speed setting so doesn’t utilize that high top end torque. The Dewalt was the worse of 4 on vibration which most likely lead to the widest range of speed results, user discomfort may have lead to some of the longer drill times as there were also several pretty fast times.
Overall 4th place – Bosch 18V Cordless Hammer Drill HDH181X-01L ($319)
The only brushed hammer drill in the running we feel pretty confident saying this is one of the beat brushed drill around. It did have pretty respectable drilling speed though the first several holes in concrete but over heated in this rigorous test and just couldn’t keep up with the brushless counterparts. From a safety director stand point this would probably be the winner. We can see how the Active Response feature was a real benefit and could prevent unnecessary injuries on the jobsite especially with inexperienced users. To our surprise this feature didn’t hinder the overall power and actually looks like it helped on the peak output. If Bosch could put this feature on a brushless drill as powerful as the Makita and put that tool in a combo kit with their Socket Ready impact driver ($279) Bosch would have a home run on their hands.
Overall 3rd Place – Dewalt Brushless 20VMAX Hammer Drill DCD995M2 ($299)
In torque testing it did edge out the Milwaukee but probably not enough that you would notice in real world applications. For the testing in concrete it was noticeably slower and the vibration was also noticeably more than the Milwaukee or Makita. The top metal part also got extremely hot but kept up to 16 holes before quitting so the runtime with the 4.0Ah (all were tested with 4.0Ah) was right in line so we had to rank it above the Bosch. This was the lightest of the 4 units and the only with 3 torque/speed settings so again depending on your priorities this could be the tool for you.
Overall 2nd Place – Milwaukee M18 FUEL Hammer Drill 2604-22 ($299)
This same drill won the previous concrete drilling challenge in 2012 but with new models from all the competition it was a big question mark if this one would still hold up. It was a pretty close call between 1 and 4 this go around, there were pluses and minuses for each drill. In the end we put the Milwaukee at the number 2 spot because our main focus here was the concrete testing and it really held up well. Good speed, potentially the best runtime (although too close to call) and low vibration.
Overall Winner – Makita 18V Brushless Hammer Drill XPH07 ($319)
Based on the stats and being the newest of the bunch this was Makita’s competition to loss but they did not disappoint. The Makita backed up their claim for more torque and we do understand why it comes with that ridiculously long second handle (you’ll need it). It had excellent performance in our concrete testing with lowest vibration of the bunch with very nice speed (fastest average time). If you are looking for the most powerful cordless hammer drill we think Makita has it, at least for the time being.
Takeaways from this Test for Our Team
First, we were pretty surprised to see such similar performance in the all the models for the concrete testing, we were hoping for a more definitive winner. We may revisit another type of test to determine a more clear runtime winner. Second, as the torque on these drills continues to climb we thing features like Bosch’s Active Response torque control could really be a big advantage. Milwaukee is putting a similar feature on their M18 Hole Hawg (coming soon) and Makita & Dewalt do similar things on their grinders and other tools so they are all capable. Finally, next time we do testing it’ll be something much less brutal on the guys. In the future we’ll leave 1/2” or 3/4” holes in concrete for the rotary hammer drill just wanted to compare it more closely to the previous showdown.