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Tool Test: 12-Volt Drill/Drivers

Finding the right 12 volt drill/driver is a balance between power, run time and comfort. Here's how today's newest tools stack up

Tool Test: 12-Volt Drill/Drivers

Thanks to lithium-ion batteries, compact drills that would have been laughably undersized a few years ago can now handle drilling and driving tasks once reserved for much larger, heavier tools. This Old House assistant editor Sal Vaglica put these ⅜-inch drills through their paces to find which ones have the best power, comfort, and run time.

How the test was done:

At the beginning of every test, each drill received a freshly charged battery.

Screwing power:

After setting the speed selector set to HIGH, all the clutches were set at 10. If that proved insufficient, then we dialed up the clutch until the drill was able to successfully drive a 1¼-inch-long fine-thread drywall screw into ½-inch-thick drywall and 2x pine lumber. Each fastener was driven to the same depth using a drywall bit. The test continued until the drill couldn't sink a screw completely.

Drilling power:

Using a new Irwin ¾-inch spade bit and a speed selector set to LOW, we bored hole after hole through ¾-inch-thick red oak until the battery conked out.

Torque:

For this torture test, each drill was fitted with a ⅜-inch socket so that we could drive a 3-inch long, ⅜-inch-diameter lag bolt into a pressure-treated pine 4x4 topped with a 2x4. When the tool stalled, we measured how much of the bolt remained above the lumber's surface.

Milwaukee 2410-22

Photo by Mark Weiss

Price: $150*; Milwaukee

Test results: Sank 509 screws, drilled 37 holes, recharged in 33 minutes.

Torque test (driving a lag screw): 4 stars.

My two cents: "Smooth, consistent power up until the very last fastener. Didn't bog down in the hole test. Shuts down if overloaded to prevent motor or battery damage."

Tool stats: 2.5 pounds, 250 in.-lbs. of torque, 1,500 max rpm, two speeds, 22 clutch settings, LED task light and battery-life meter, two batteries.

Warranty: 5 years on drill, 2 years on battery.

*All prices based on manufacturer-approved online distributors.

DeWalt DCD710s2

Photo by Don Penny/Time Inc. Digital Studio

Price: $160; DeWalt

Test results: Sank 536 screws, drilled 28 holes, recharged in 40 minutes.

Torque test (driving a lag screw): 4 stars.

My two cents: "Drove more screws than any in this bunch and almost matched the Milwaukee in the torque test. Has a comfortable grip and handy belt clip."

Tool stats: 2.4 pounds, (torque not provided), 1,500 max rpm, two speeds, 15 clutch settings, LED task light, two batteries.

Warranty: 3 years on drill, 3 years on battery.

Ridgid R82008

Photo by Mark Weiss

Price: $140; Ridgid

Test results: Sank 350 screws, drilled 34 holes, recharged in 35 minutes.

Torque test (driving a lag screw): 3 stars.

My two cents: "Second best at drilling holes and third best in torque test. Felt nicely balanced."

Tool stats: 2.25 pounds, 240 in.-lbs. of torque, 1,300 max rpm, two speeds, 18 clutch settings, LED task light, two batteries. Price includes LED flashlight.

Warranty: 3 years on drill, 3 years on battery.

Porter-Cable PCL120DDC-2

Photo by Wendell T. Webber

Price: $90; Delta/Porter-Cable

Test results: Sank 431 screws, drilled 29 holes, recharged in 34 minutes.

Torque test (driving a lag screw): 3 stars.

My two cents: "A respectable mix of battery life, torque, and fast recharge time. The belt hook was unusable and became hot when the tool was working hard."

Tool stats: 2.4 pounds, 220 in.-lbs. of torque, 1,200 max rpm, two speeds, 21 clutch settings, LED task light, two batteries.

Warranty: 3 years on drill, 3 years on battery.

Craftsman Nextec 17586

Photo by Mark Weiss

Price: $70; Craftsman

Test results: Sank 520 screws, drilled 25 holes, recharged in 30 minutes.

Torque test (driving a lag screw): 2 stars.

My two cents: "Very comfortable grip and quick recharge time. Lights on the charger are dim, hard to see."

Tool stats: 2.2 pounds, 195 in.-lbs. of torque, 1,300 max rpm, two speeds, 18 clutch settings, LED task light, one battery.

Warranty: 1 year on drill, 1 year on battery.

Bosch PS31-2A

Photo by Mark Weiss

Price: $150; Bosch

Test results: Sank 555 screws, drilled 28 holes, recharged in 31 minutes.

Torque test (driving a lag screw): 2 stars.

My two cents: "Drove the most screws. Had smooth, consistent power. Fell short in the torque test."

Tool stats: 2.14 pounds, 265 in.-lbs. of torque, 1,300 max rpm, two speeds, 21 clutch settings, LED task light, two batteries.

Warranty: 3 years on drill, 2 years on battery.

Hitachi DS10DFL

Photo by Mark Weiss

Price: $100; Hitachi

Test results: Sank 403 screws, drilled 20 holes, recharged in 40 minutes.

Torque test (driving a lag screw): 2 stars.

My two cents: "Very comfortable, though I had to move the clutch to 13 to sufficiently sink the screws."

Tool stats: 2.2 pounds, 195 in.-lbs. of torque, 1,300 max rpm, two speeds, 22 clutch settings, LED task light, two batteries.

Warranty: lifetime on drill, 2 years on battery.

Skil 2414-02

Photo by Mark Weiss

Price: $95; Skil

Test results: Sank 515 screws, drilled 28 holes, recharged in 49 minutes.

Torque test (driving a lag screw): 1 star.

My two cents: "One of the least powerful in the lag-bolt test, though it did drive a good number of screws. The battery behaved much like a NiCad in that the battery performance would die, then after a minute of resting it would come back to life. The tool's battery gauge was inaccurate."

Tool stats: 2.6 pounds, 284 in.-lbs. of torque, 1,500 max rpm, two speeds, 16 clutch settings, battery-life meter, two batteries.

Warranty: 1 year on drill, 1 year on battery.

Rockwell RK2510K2

Photo by Don Penny/Time Inc. Digital Studio

Price: $130; Rockwell

Test results: Sank 467 screws, drilled 34 holes, recharged in 27 minutes.

Torque test (driving a lag screw): 3 stars.

My two cents: "Better-than-average power, comfortable, and the charger has a USB port that charged my iPhone."

Tool stats: 2.2 pounds, 210 in.-lbs. of torque, 1,300 max rpm, two speeds, 16 clutch settings, LED task light, two batteries.

Warranty: 2 years on drill, lifetime on battery, free replacement.

Black & Decker LDX112C

Photo by Mark Weiss

Price: $70; Black & Decker

Test results: Sank 433 screws, drilled 29 holes, recharged in 3 hours.

Torque test (driving a lag screw): 2 stars.

My two cents: "Longest recharge time by far, only one battery, and the grip is uncomfortable for larger hands."

Tool stats: 2.2 pounds, 100 in.-lbs. of torque, 650 max rpm, 1 speed, 11 clutch settings, LED task light, one battery.

Warranty: 2 years on drill, 2 years on battery.