*** See newer models of these same brands in our September 2014 update of this Head to Head in 18V Hammer Drill Showdown 2.
We got the most current top 4 contenders in the cordless 18V category and pitted them head to head to see where they stacked up. Two with brushed motors, two brushless, all with their highest 3.0 amp/hour batteries brand new and fully charged. Since we are talking hammer drills our thought was let’s see how the hammer action works and drill lots and lots of ½” holes in concrete… a test we later regretted but good news, feeling is starting to return to our hands. We also wanted to test out the actual torque for each vs what they claim and get an in/lbs number on the Dewalt hammer drill, to see how they stack up. See all 46 pics in this Facebook Album.
The Wrist Breaking Torque Test
To measure toque we had some help from the expert tool repair technicians at Ohio Power Tool who use their Skidmore torque tester. This actually measures “bolt tension in lbs” for impact wrenches, then we converted them all to in/lbs torque. Is this test laboratory perfect, probably not but they all did the same test so we feel the comparisons are going to hold true. Since hammer drills don’t work to build torque like impacts this also means we basically locked up each drill to get the number with small variations that occur as the drill is basically jerks out of your hand. We would like to give Kris a special thank you for putting his wrists on the line for tool science.
Each of the Bosch, Dewalt and Milwaukee all ended up consistently between 5500-6000 on each test of the Skidmore which roughly translates to 625 in/lbs to 685 in/lbs. At that torque this was not fun testing and with the variations between each test we were not able to declared any particular ranking order here like we had hoped. We had thought perhaps Dewalt might be hiding some lower performance numbers by not publishing their torque but perhaps they are on to something because nailing down the exact measurement (at least with this test) is neither safe nor easy.
The big surprise to us was how much lower the numbers on the Makita Brushless were. It made sense because in this group, the Makita looked like the kicker on a pro football team. We were still hoping for some big numbers out of the box for some reason (maybe just because it says brushless) but the Makita published number is only 400 in/lbs so perhaps this should not be a surprise. We were seeing roughly 370-380 in/lbs in our test. They do have another higher torque 18V LXT hammer drill (brush motor) that has been around for some time BHP454 ($276, Amazon) but this is the new brushless so we had to include it… for better or worse.
Performance & Battery Life in Concrete
If you are going to purchase a hammer drill the thought is of course, at some point you’ll have a need for drilling into concrete, if not buy a drill/driver. We used 4 identical ½” carbide hammer bits and went to town drilling holes as consistently as possible in 1 month old concrete. About 1.5 holes in we realized what a terrible idea this was. For overall performance in this challenge we felt there was a clear winner and a clear loser. The Milwaukee M18 Fuel really smoked it, drilling the fastest and lasting the longest. The Dewalt and Bosch both did pretty well but it was hard to pick a clear winner in the speed category. The Dewalt did however edge out the Bosch on battery life. On consecutive holes we did feel a little more heat off the Bosch but were getting pretty decent heat off both.
It was very noticeable when going side by side how both brushless tools hardly created any heat even when struggling. The lower torque of the Makita really was not well suited to handle the ½” holes in concrete, not only did it do the least holes overall but it took a really long time to do each. If we had done a different test that did not require the same amount of torque we probably would have gotten a chance to see the brushless motor shine a little more. Holes drilled – Makita 19, Milwaukee 34, Bosch 22, Dewalt 26
Comfort and Ease of Use
Comfort is clearly a very important consideration when selecting the right tool. Power tools are getting smaller, lighter and more comfortable with each new iteration. Makita clearly made a decision with their new brushless to focus on the comfortable lighter weight demanding user which makes up more of the everyday routine tasks. The smallest of the bunch and nearly a full 1 lb lighter this would clearly be the one we would grab if you were trying to precisely pre-drill holes for screws but definitely not from drilling ½” holes in concrete, it didn’t even have a side handle. We were also surprised that while the Milwaukee Fuel is shorter in length it actually weights slightly more than the Bosch. The Dewalt was the longest and heaviest of the bunch.
The Dollar and Sense
The Makita 18V LXT Brushless is probably the newest of the group to hit the street with the hammer drill LXPH05 ($319 est) not even available yet. The combo kit which also includes the new single speed brushless impact driver LXT239 ($379 est) is starting to pop up, which is how we got our hands on this unit. More on the new brushless impact from this kit to follow.
The Milwaukee M18 Fuel is also a brushless but clearly targeting the heavy duty pro user looking for high end torque. This model is the 2604-22 ($299, Ohio Power Tool) and as of now, is not available in any of the combo kits. There is also a limited time promotion going on with select Milwaukee retailers for a free M18 Red Lithium XC battery 48-11-1828 ($119, Ohio Power Tool) instantly with each purchase. See more info on that promo in our previous post here.
The Dewalt 20v Max (still an 18v) tools were not launched that long ago either but already are undergoing updates. Their brushless impact driver is already out in the market and we would expect a new brushless hammer drills out within a year. This hammer drill kit DCD985L2 ($275, Amazon) is not a bad price and part of the combo kit with an impact driver DCK290L2 ($305, Amazon) also pretty reasonable. The batteries in these kits are not the new ones which include the fuel gauge like you get with their brushless impact kits. <sp
The Bosch 18V Brute Tough hammer drill is now the oldest of the 4 units (still launched less than a year ago) and is available as part of the CLPK221-181 ($308, Ohio Power Tool) kit with the impact driver. Strangely the hammer drill kit alone HDH181-01 ($329, Ohio Power Tool) is actually more than the combo because of current sale pricing. These kits do feature the new Bosch HC batteries which are rated for cold weather and include fuel gauges. Having seen this model take sledge hammer blows and a 500 ft fall from a helicopter we do feel pretty good about their overall dependability. The Bosch 18V tools also have a free battery promo but this time it’s a mail-in rebate for 2 slimpack batteries. See our previous post here on that deal, which runs until June 15th, 2012.
Overall we like the deals that are currently available from both Milwaukee and Bosch, which make pretty compelling reasons to go those routes for the time being. With Dewalt’s pending updates to batteries and promising a brushless hammer drill at some point soon we might wait to see what that looks like. On the Makita the price seems pretty steep for the low performance in the high torque range. We are hoping these will come down a little one they are more common in stores and online.
For the hammer drill challenge the Milwaukee M18 Fuel was the clear winner. There was no question it drill the holes faster and simply more of them. Between the Bosch and Dewalt it was close, possibly a slight advantage to the Bosch on speed but a few more holes with the Dewalt these were very close. The Makita felt out of place here however it did manage a respectable 19 holes but was just because that little brushless motor wouldn’t quite. Those were a very long 19 holes in the making; this task was not for this hammer drill.
Don’t just take our word on it, Steve Maxwell also did a similar auger test and produced this really slick video that highlights many of the points better than we could here.