BATTERIES AND CHARGERS Nickel-metal-hydride (NiMH) batteries represent the latest breakthrough in batteries. They're smaller and run longer than standard nickel-cadmium (Nicad) batteries. NiMH batteries also pose less of a hazard when it comes to disposal than Nicads because they don't contain any cadmium, which is highly toxic. Makita, Bosch, Hitachi and DeWalt offer NiMH batteries, and other manufacturers will soon produce these power cells too. All cordless drills come with a battery charger, with recharge times ranging from 15 minutes to three hours. But faster isn't necessarily better. A contractor might depend on fast recharges, but slower recharging isn't usually a concern at home, especially if you have two batteries. What's more, there are drawbacks to fast charging. A quick recharge can damage a battery by generating excessive heat, unless it's a specially designed unit. If you want a speedy recharge, go with a tool from Makita, Hitachi or Panasonic, whose "smart" chargers are equipped with temperature sensors and feedback circuitry that protect batteries. These units provide a charge in as little as nine minutes without battery damage. BUYING BASICS Check out drills in home centers, noting their weight and balance. Try out vertical and horizontal drilling positions to see how comfortable you feel. Contoured grips and rubber cushioning on some models make them very comfortable, even when you're applying direct palm pressure. While you're at it, see how easy it is to change clutch settings and operate the keyless chuck. Home centers often discount hand tools, so be on the lookout for promotions. If you know the model you want, check out prices over the phone. Mail-order suppliers with sizable drill offerings include William Alden Co. (www.williamalden.com, 800-249-8665), Tool Crib of the North (www.toolcribofthenorth.com, 800/ 358-3096) and Woodworker's Supply (800-231-2748). If you purchase a drill online or through mail order, be sure to account for the shipping charges when comparing prices against those at a home center.