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Tool Test: Impact Drivers

TOH readers put six selectable-speed impact drivers and 11 single-speed ones to the test

18-Volt Impact Drivers

Driving screws is a piece of cake for impact drivers, but brute torque can be overkill for some jobs. The selectable-speed driver is a new breed that allows you to choose the torque that suits the task. Kevin Bittenbender heads the crew that builds timber-frame homes at Bensonwood, in Walpole, New Hampshire. They put six selectable-speed models and 10 single-speed ones to the test. Here's their verdict.

Tests

All drivers tested by driving 4½-inch SDS structural wood screws into 6-inch-thick solid pine; 6-inch SDS screws into Douglas fir engineered lumber; 2 ½-inch deck screws into spruce 2x4s and oriented strand board (OSB) sheathing; and by drilling ¾-inch-diameter holes into spruce 2x4s.

Selectable-Speed Impact Drivers

Photo by Bill Mazza

Makita BTD144

Price: About $321; makita.com

Our two cents: "Had the fewest impacts on the low setting, making it perfect for trim work or fasteners made of brass or stainless steel."

Highlights: Shuts off after trigger is pressed for more than two minutes; saves battery from dying while stuffed in a tool bag.

Test results: Drove seventy-four 4 ½-inch SDS screws on one charge with the tool on its highest setting. Drove a 6-inch SDS screw in 13 seconds with the tool on its highest setting. Drove a 2 ½-inch deck screw in 16, 25, and 90 seconds on the high, medium, and low settings, respectively. Drilled a ¾-inch hole in 6 and 16 seconds on the high and medium settings and failed to finish the hole on low settings. Average recharge time: 27 ½ minutes.

Tool stats: 3.3 pounds; three speeds; maximum impacts per minute (ipm): 3,400; maximum rpm: 2,600; maximum torque: 1,420 in.-lbs. Includes built-in LED, brushless motor, battery-life meter, three-year tool warranty; kit includes two 3.0 ampere-hour (Ah) lithium-ion batteries.

*Please note this model will soon be replaced by the LXDT01, which has a slightly higher maximum torque.

Panasonic EY7550LR2S

Photo by Andrew McCaul

Price: About $299; panasonic.com

Our two cents: "Drove 163 6-inch structural wood screws, twice as many as its closest competitor."

Highlight: Switch and housing meet the strictest standards for dust and water resistance.

Test results: Drove 163 4 ½-inch SDS screws on one charge with the tool on its highest setting. Drove a 6-inch SDS screw in 14 seconds with the tool on its highest setting. Drove a 2 ½-inch deck screw in 14, 26, and 40 seconds on the high, medium, and low settings, respectively. Drilled a ¾-inch hole in 3, 10, and 16 seconds on the high, medium, and low settings, respectively. Average recharge time: 72 ½ minutes.

Tool stats: 3.5 pounds; three speeds; maximum ipm: 3,000; maximum rpm: 2,500; maximum torque: 1,370 in.-lbs. Includes built-in LED, brushless motor, two-year tool warranty; kit includes two 3.1Ah lithium-ion batteries.

Bosch 26618-01

Photo by Andrew McCaul

Price: About $311; boschtools.com

Our two cents: "Has the brightest LEDs of the drivers we tested."

Highlights: A slow fastening time in the low setting helps with control; ran the coolest of all the drivers.

Test results: Drove 105 4 ½-inch SDS screws on one charge with the tool on its highest setting. Drove a 6-inch SDS screw in 17 seconds with the tool on its highest setting. Drove a 2 ½-inch deck screw in 16, 16, and 21 seconds on the high, medium, and low settings, respectively. Drilled a ¾-inch hole in 8, 5, and 9 seconds on the high, medium, and low settings, respectively. Average recharge time: 30 minutes.

Tool stats: 4.2 pounds; three speeds; maximum ipm: 3,200; maximum rpm: 2,800; maximum torque: 1,500 in.-lbs. Includes built-in LED, three-year tool warranty; kit includes two 2.6Ah lithium-ion batteries.

Metabo SSD 18 LT

Photo by Andrew McCaul

Price: About $379; metabo.us

Our two cents: "Very comfortable, but became hot during the fastening test."

Highlight: Three-year battery warranty, more than any of the other tools.

Test results: Drove seventy-eight 4 ½-inch SDS screws on one charge with the tool on its highest setting. Drove a 6-inch SDS screw in 15 seconds with the tool on its highest setting. Drove a 2 ½-inch deck screw in 18, 28, and 40 seconds on the high, medium, and low settings, respectively. Drilled a ¾-inch hole in 3, 7, and 22 seconds on the high, medium, and low settings, respectively. Average recharge time: 60 minutes.

Tool stats: 4 pounds; three speeds; maximum ipm: 3,300; maximum rpm: 2,650; maximum torque: 1,416 in.-lbs. Includes wrist strap, built-in LED, battery-life meter, three-year tool warranty; kit includes two 3.0Ah lithium-ion batteries.

Hitachi WH18DL

Photo by Andrew McCaul

Price: About $267; hitachipowertools.com

Our two cents: "A solid budget pick, though with only two speeds, it doesn't allow you to dial in just the right torque setting."

Highlight: Lifetime tool warranty, the longest of the bunch.

Test results: Drove seventy-five 4 ½-inch SDS screws on one charge with the tool on its highest setting. Drove a 6-inch SDS screw in 20 seconds with the tool on its highest setting. Drove a 2 ½-inch deck screw in 16 and 26 seconds on the high and low settings, respectively. Drilled a ¾-inch hole in 5 and 14 seconds on the high and low settings, respectively. Average recharge time: 62 ½ minutes.

Tool stats: 3.5 pounds; two speeds; maximum ipm: 3,200; maximum rpm: 2,600; maximum torque: 1,330 in.-lbs. Includes built-in LED; kit includes two 3.0Ah lithium-ion batteries.

Panasonic EY7540LN2L

Photo by Bill Mazza

Price: About $310; panasonic.com

Our two cents: "While it was the only 14.4-volt tool tested, it drove more screws than almost all the 18-volt drivers. The direction switch is so close to the trigger that it was bumped accidently during use."

Highlight: Switches and housing meet the strictest standards for dust and water resistance.

Test results: Drove eighty-one 4 ½-inch SDS screws on one charge with the tool on its highest setting. Drove a 6-inch SDS screw in 14 seconds with the tool on its highest setting. Drove a 2 ½-inch deck screw in 22, 25, and 30 seconds on the high, medium, and low settings, respectively. Drilled a ¾-inch hole in 8, 13, and 30 seconds on the high, medium, and low settings, respectively. Average recharge time: 72 ½ minutes.

Tool stats: 3.3 pounds; three speeds; maximum ipm: 3,000; maximum rpm: 2,300; maximum torque: 1,330 in.-lbs.; built-in LED, brushless motor; two-year tool warranty; kit includes two 3.0Ah lithium-ion batteries.

*Please note this model will soon be replaced by the EY7546LR2L, which has a slightly higher rpm and a 3.3Ah battery.

Single-Speed Impact Drivers

Photo by Bill Mazza

The key to these tools is an anvil-and-ram system that hammers the bit in the direction it's rotating. The number of times it's hammered is measured in impacts per minute (ipm).

Milwaukee 2650-22

Price: About $240; milwaukeetool.com

Our two cents: "This was our favorite tool in part because it drove SDS screws faster than some of our corded impact drivers."

Highlights: One of the most comfortable grips, a good belt hook, and great battery life.

Test results: Drove eighty-five 4 ½-inch SDS screws on one charge. Drove a 6-inch SDS screw in 15 seconds. Drove a 2 ½-inch deck screw in 16 seconds. Drilled a ¾-inch hole in 4 ½ seconds. Average recharge time: 65 minutes.

Tool stats: 3.5 pounds; maximum ipm: 3,200; maximum rpm: 2,200; maximum torque: 1,400 in.-lbs. Includes built-in LED, five-year tool warranty; kit includes two 3.0Ah lithium-ion batteries.

* Please note this tool is also available with Milwaukee's new RedLithium battery.

Bosch 25618-01

Photo by Bill Mazza

Price: About $350; boschtools.com

Our two cents: "Our second-favorite tool because of the longest battery life."

Highlight: Drove the most screws on one charge, beating the next-closest tool by 18.

Test results: Drove 131 4 ½-inch SDS screws on one charge. Drove a 6-inch SDS screw in 22 seconds. Drove a 2 ½-inch deck screw in 22 seconds. Drilled a ¾-inch hole in 6 seconds. Average recharge time: 30 minutes.

Tool stats: 3.8 pounds; maximum ipm: 3,200; maximum rpm: 2,800; maximum torque: 1,500 in.-lbs. Includes built-in LED, one-year tool warranty; kit includes two 2.6Ah batteries.

Makita BTD141

Photo by Bill Mazza

Price: About $280; makita.com

Our two cents: "Ranks as our third-place impact driver because it was one of the most comfortable tools tested, with a quick recharge time."

Highlight: Only requires the user to push the bit into the chuck without pulling the chuck sleeve back.

Test results: Drove fifty-five 4 ½-inch SDS screws on one charge. Drove a 6-inch SDS screw in 18 seconds. Drove a 2 ½-inch deck screw in 21 seconds. Drilled a ¾-inch hole in 5 seconds. Average recharge time: 30 minutes.

Tool stats: 3.4 pounds; maximum ipm: 3,200; maximum rpm: 2,300; maximum torque: 1,330 in.-lbs. Includes built-in LED, three-year tool warranty; kit includes two 3.0Ah lithium-ion batteries.

DeWalt DC827KL

Photo by Bill Mazza

Price: About $265; dewalt.com

Our two cents: "Middle-of-the-road performance but with a comfortable grip."

Highlight: One-year free tool-service contract.

Test results: Drove seventy-four 4 ½-inch SDS screws on one charge. Drove a 6-inch SDS screw in 19 seconds. Drove a 2 ½-inch deck screw in 18 seconds. Drilled a ¾-inch hole in 4 seconds. Average recharge time: 55 minutes.

Tool stats: 3.7 pounds; maximum ipm: 2,700; maximum rpm: 2,400; maximum torque: 1,330 in.-lbs. Includes built-in LED, three-year-tool warranty; kit includes two 2.2Ah lithium-ion batteries.

Porter-Cable PC18ID

Photo by Bill Mazza

Price: About $70 (charger and 2.6Ah lithium-ion battery sold separately for about $125); portercable.com

Our two cents: "Tied for best fastening speed with deck screws. Its soft-side case was one of the best carrying cases of the bunch."

Highlight: Works with both lithium-ion and nickel-cadmium batteries.

Test results: Drove fifty-three 4 ½-inch SDS screws on one charge. Drove a 6-inch SDS screw in 19 seconds. Drove a 2 ½-inch deck screw in 14 seconds. Drilled a ¾-inch hole in 4 seconds. Average recharge time: 50 minutes.

Tool stats: 4.2 pounds; maximum ipm: 2,800; maximum rpm: 2,900; maximum torque: 1,600 in.-lbs. Includes built-in LED, three-year tool warranty.

Craftsman 17080

Photo by Bill Mazza

Price: About $75 (charger and 3.0Ah lithium-ion battery sold separately for about $120); craftsman.com

Our two cents: "Tied for second in drilling speed and was third in the number of deck screws it can drive."

Highlight: The battery has a built-in gauge to tell you how much juice is left.

Test results: Drove 106 4 ½-inch SDS screws on one charge. Drove a 6-inch SDS screw in 20 seconds. Drove a 2 ½-inch deck screw in 15 seconds. Drilled a ¾-inch hole in 4 seconds. Average recharge time: 50 minutes.

Tool stats: 4.65 pounds; maximum ipm: 3,500; maximum rpm: 2,500; maximum torque: 1,500 in.-lbs. Includes built-in LED, one-year tool warranty.

Hitachi WH18DSAL

Photo by Bill Mazza

Price: About $189; hitachipowertools.com

Our two cents: "One of the more comfortable tools, tied for third fastest in the deck-screw test, but it had the second-longest recharge time."

Highlight: Lifetime tool warranty.

Test results: Drove ninety-seven 4 ½-inch SDS screws on one charge. Drove a 6-inch long SDS screw in 18 seconds. Drove a 2 ½-inch deck screw in 16 seconds. Drilled a ¾-inch hole in 3 ½ seconds. Average recharge time: 80 minutes.

Tool stats: 3.3 pounds; maximum ipm: 3,200; maximum rpm: 2,600; maximum torque: 1,280 in.-lbs. Includes built-in LED, lifetime tool warranty; kit includes two 1.5Ah lithium-ion batteries.

Ridgid R86034K

Photo by Bill Mazza

Price: About $169; ridgid.com

Our two cents: "Bit changes are fast because you just push the bit into the chuck without pulling back on the sleeve, and the bit ejects when you do pull back on the sleeve."

Highlight: Battery has a built-in gauge to tell you how much juice is left.

Test results: Drove fifty-two 4 ½-inch SDS screws on one charge. Drove a 6-inch SDS screw in 23 seconds. Drove a 2 ½-inch deck screw in 16 seconds. Drilled a ¾-inch hole in 5 seconds. Average recharge time: 50 minutes.

Tool stats: 3.5 pounds; maximum ipm: 3,100; maximum rpm: 2,400; maximum torque: 1,400 in.-lbs. Includes built-in LED, lifetime tool warranty; 1.5Ah lithium-ion battery.

Rockwell RK2800K2

Photo by Bill Mazza

Price: About $189; rockwelltools.com

Our two cents: "The motor housing and chuck on this tool angles up, and it doesn't feel natural."

Highlight: Lifetime battery replacements.

Test results: Drove seventy-four 4 ½-inch SDS screws on one charge. Drove a 6-inch SDS screw in 23 seconds. Drove a 2 ½-inch deck screw in 14 seconds. Drilled a ¾-inch hole in 4 ½ seconds. Average recharge time: 90 minutes.

Tool stats: 3.1 pounds; maximum ipm: 3,000; maximum rpm: 2,400; maximum torque: 1,160 in.-lbs. Includes built-in LED, two-year tool warranty; kit includes two 1.5Ah lithium-ion batteries.

*Please note this tool was tested with an optional high-capacity 3.0Ah battery.

Ryboi P230

Photo by Bill Mazza

Price: About $70 (charger and 2.4Ah lithium-ion battery sold separately for about $119); ryobitools.com

Our two cents: "Surprisingly long battery life for such an inexpensive tool, but it lacked the same amount of protective rubber bumpers around the motor housing as other single-speed models."

Highlight: Holds two bits on board.

Test results: Drove 113 4 ½-inch SDS screws on one charge. Drove a 6-inch SDS screw in 21 seconds. Drove a 2 ½-inch deck screw in 17 seconds. Drilled a ¾-inch hole in 4 seconds. Average recharge time: 65 minutes.

Tool stats: 5.1 pounds; maximum ipm: 3,500; maximum rpm: 2,400; maximum torque: 1,200 in.-lbs. Includes three-year tool warranty.

Hilti SID18-A

Photo by Bill Mazza

Price: About $400; us.hilti.com

Our two cents: Great performer, right up there with Panasonic and Makita, but the longer recharge time keeps it out of the top spot.

Highlight: Four LEDs and easy-to-push button to change the impact rate.

Test results: Drove 168 4 ½-inch SDS screws on one charge with the tool on its highest setting. Drove a 6-inch SDS screw in 12 seconds with the tool on its highest setting. Drove a 2 ½-inch deck screw in 13, 16, and 22 seconds on the high, medium, and low settings, respectively. Drilled a ¾-inch hole in 3, 8, and 15 seconds on the high, medium, and low settings, respectively. Average recharge time: 55 minutes.

Tool stats: 3.8 pounds; three speeds; maximum ipm: 3,450; maximum rpm: 2,500; maximum torque: 1,460 in.-lbs. Includes built-in LED, brushless motor, battery-life meter, two-year tool warranty; kit includes two 3.3Ah lithium-ion batteries.