Combi Drill Reviews: Which is the Best Combi Drill in the UK?

Just about every homeowner at some point has had to drill holes or screw something or other around the house, so it is not surprising that some of the first power tools that most people invest in are the humble hand drill and power screwdriver. These days, however, power drills and electric screwdrivers have become quite complicated devices that come in a range of different categories and sizes, each designed for specific types of drilling and screw driving. This can make choosing the right drill, electric screwdriver, or hybrid of the two, the drill driver, quite a challenge.

In this review, we have focused on the combination (combi) drill or combi drill driver as it is usually one of the first drills that DIYers and homeowners get their hands on. We first look at the different types of drills and drill drivers available and how combi drills fit in alongside these other drill and electric screwdriver types. We then look at the features that generally come on a combi drill and the specifications to watch out for when purchasing this power tool type. Once we have a good idea of what characteristics are best for the ideal combi drill, we then examine the range of combi drills that are currently popular with UK DIYers and tradespersons towards the end of this page.

The Hand Drill, the Screwdriver, and the Drill Driver

Image of a combi drill sitting on a table with other tools

The hand drill and screwdriver has been around for centuries, first as manually-operated devices, and then as tools became electrified in the 1900’s, we got the beginnings of the modern power drill and power screwdriver. Today, many households in the UK own at least one drill, an electric screwdriver, or drill driver, while DIYers tend to have a range of different drilling and power screw driving tools to tackle an array of different of jobs that one encounters doing DIY work. Most drills, electric screwdrivers, and drill drivers can be split up into the following categories:

The Electric Screwdriver: As its name clearly indicates, the electric screwdriver is only designed for screwing and unscrewing fasteners. It often looks similar to a drill but usually does not possess the rotational force or torque necessary to act as a drill, nor does it have a chuck that is able to hold regular drill bits.

The Drill Driver: The drill driver is a multi-functional power tool which will usually be able to drill holes in a range of materials including wood, metal, plastic and others. It tends to be less heavy duty than the equivalent combi drill (see below) and when used with the right drill driver bits, it can also act as an electric screwdriver.

The Combination (Combi) Drill or Combi Drill Driver: The combi drill or combi drill driver is very much like the drill driver described above, able to drill holes in softer materials like wood as well as screw and unscrew fasteners. However, unlike the plain drill driver, the combi drill also has the ability to drill into harder masonry-type materials such as concrete or brick. This is accomplished by the switching on of an inline hammering mechanism on the tool. This generates a percussive forward force at the same time as the drill bit is being rotated, efficiently driving the drill bit through these harder materials. Combi drills are not always referred to as combi drills but sometimes simply described as ‘drills with hammer function’ or something similar.

The Hammer Drill: The hammer drill uses the same linear hammering mechanism as the combi drill in order to effectively cut into masonry but it tends to be a drill that is more specialised for hammer drilling than the combi drill and is not designed for screw driving.

The SDS Hammer Drill: The SDS hammer drill or rotary hammer is similar to the regular hammer drill but uses a special SDS chuck system to more effectively cut through masonry than standard hammer drills. It is usually not designed to accommodate other types of drill bits so is only used for hammer drilling. For more detailed information on this type of drill, see our review page on SDS hammer drills.

The Impact Driver: The impact driver is another type of drill driver that is able to bring to bear large amounts of torque which is particularly useful for unscrewing stubborn fasteners as well as driving home large screws into harder materials efficiently. It does this by using a rotational hammering mechanism distinct from the inline linear hammering mechanism found in combi drills and hammer drills. For more detailed information, see our review page on impact drivers.

What to look for in a Combi Drill

Power

The most popular combi drills tend to be battery-operated so the power rating for these machines is measured in volts. In general, the higher the voltage at which the combi drill operates, the higher the maximum torque it can exert and the tougher the drilling it can perform. However, at the same time, the higher the voltage of the combi drill, the heavier and more bulky it is likely to be. The majority of today’s battery-operated combi drills are designed to operate from an 18V battery which usually provides sufficient power for all the typical DIY jobs one encounters.

Maximum Torque

As alluded to above, the maximum torque that combi drills can generate is partially correlated with the power level of the tool. However, it is not all power level-dependent as different designs and component quality also determine the maximum torque a combi drill will ultimately be able to exert. In general, the higher the maximum torque the machine can generate, the larger the drill bits the combi drill can use and the larger the hole diameters it can produce. As a consequence, this is one metric to keep a close eye on when purchasing your next combi drill. Of course, the torque levels on a combi drill are usually nowhere as high as those found on impact drivers which are specifically designed to have very high torque levels in order to deal with stubborn fasteners.

Maximum Drilling Diameters

As mentioned above, the maximum torque levels a combi drill can produce determines the maximum size of the drill bit it can operate effectively and the maximum hole diameter size the drill can produce. Obviously one wants to go for the combi drill that can produce the largest range of hole diameters that one can afford so as to have the most versatile combi drill at one’s disposal.

Drill Speeds

The speed at which the spindle turns in a combi drill is sometimes referred to as its no-load speed and is given in revolutions-per-minute (rpm). When drilling different materials, there is usually an ideal speed range at which that material is most effectively drilled. For masonry drilling for example, slower rotational speeds produce better results and reduce the chance that the drill bit overheats, while when drilling into materials like wood, the higher rotational speeds usually produce better results. As a consequence, combi drills often have a way of regulating their maximum speeds, usually providing at least two speed levels at which they can be operated at.

Blows Per Minute

The blows per minute (bpm) metric on a combi drill refers to the speed at which the inline hammering mechanism of the drill operates. In theory, a higher bpm will apply the impact force of the drill more quickly and should result in faster drilling through masonry. In practice however, most combi drill hammering speeds are so high that any differences in the rates of masonry drilling between machines with different bpm specifications are likely to be mostly unnoticeable.

Weight

A combi drill tends to be one of the power tools that is most often used by both DIYers and tradespeople, so the weight of the tool is an important consideration when looking to purchase one as heavier machines will tire operators out more quickly than lighter ones. In addition, the heavier the combi drill, the more unwieldy the machine is. In battery-operated combi drills, weight is not solely determined by the drill body but also by the size of battery that is installed. Many combi drills these days are compatible with a range of different capacity batteries produced by the drill manufacturer, many of which are designed to be exchangeable between different power tools from the same range. As a consequence, the overall weight of the combi drills can vary depending on the capacity of the battery used.

Carry Case

Power tools almost always benefit from having their own carry case to protect them from accidental damage when not being used or when being transported. Therefore, getting a combi drill that comes with its own carry case or bag is highly recommended.

Noise

Combi drills are not quiet machines especially when operating in hammer mode during masonry drilling. However combi drills are not as noisy as impact drivers which tend to be one of the noisiest drill types available.

 

Popular Combi Drills in the UK

Combi Drill Power
(Volts)
Max. Drilling Diameters (mm)Max.
Torque (Nm)
No-Load Speed (rpm)Blows Per
Minute (bpm)
Carry
Case
Weight
(kg)
Sound
Power (dB)
Bosch GSB 120 Pro
12 V19 mm Wood
6 mm Steel
8 mm Masonry
28 Nm0 - 400
0 - 1300
19.5K1.185 dB
TACKLIFE PCD04B
18 V25 mm Wood
10 mm Steel
10 mm Masonry
35 Nm0 - 450
0 - 1600
------
Bosch PSB 1800 Li-2
18 V30 mm Wood
10 mm Steel
10 mm Masonry
38 Nm0 - 400
0 - 1350
20.3K1.387 dB
BLACK+DECKER BDCHD18
18 V25 mm Wood
10 mm Steel
10 mm Masonry
40 Nm0 - 360
0 - 1400
21K1.399.7 dB
Makita DHP453Z
18 V36 mm Wood
13 mm Steel
13 mm Masonry
--0 - 400
0 - 1300
6K
19.5K
1.794 dB
RYOBI R18PD31-213S
18 V38 mm Wood
13 mm Steel
13 mm Masonry
50 Nm0 - 500
0 - 1800
6.5K
23.4K
1.7-2.596.6 dB
Makita DHP458Z
18 V65 mm Wood
13 mm Steel
16 mm Masonry
91 Nm0 - 400
0 - 2000
6K
30K
2.395 dB
Makita DHP481Z
18 V76 mm Wood
13 mm Steel
16 mm Masonry
115 Nm0 - 550
0 - 2100
8.3K
31.5K
2.7--
Power
(Volts)
Max. Drilling Diameters (mm)Max.
Torque (Nm)
No-Load Speed (rpm)Blows Per
Minute (bpm)
Carry
Case
Weight
(kg)
Sound
Power (dB)

Combi Drill Reviews

Bosch PSB 1800 Li-2 Review

The Bosch PSB 1800 LI-2 combi drill

The PSB 1800 Li-2 from Bosch is a combi drill model that has been around for several years, testifying to its excellent overall design and build quality. Feature-wise, the Bosch PSB 1800 Li-2 incorporates a selectable torque setting that can be used to limit the amount of rotary force applied when screwdriving. This prevents over-tightening of screws and reduces the likelihood of screw ‘cam-out’, while still allowing the power tool to exert its maximum torque of 38 Nm when drilling. The Bosch PSB 1800 Li-2 combi drill has a dual-speed brushless motor with a lower maximum speed of up to 400 rpm and a higher level setting of up to 1350 rpm. On top of this, it makes use of a variable speed trigger mechanism to provide exquisitely fine control over the rotational speed of the drill. The drill bit or screwdriving bit can also be set to either rotate clockwise or anticlockwise as one would expect from a powered screwdriver. But a nice added touch on the Bosch PSB 1800 Li-2 is that it also displays whether the chuck rotation is set for driving into a workpiece or withdrawing from it, using illuminated indicators on the top face of the drill.

As expected from a combi drill, the Bosch PSB 1800 Li-2 can be set for either screwdriving, regular drilling or hammer drilling, giving the Bosch machine the ability to act as a powered screwdriver, a drill for wood and metal, or an impact drill for masonry. It has a keyless twist-lock chuck that can accommodate either round or hex-shaped screwdriver or drill bits with shanks up to 10 mm in diameter. With these specifications, the Bosch machine can drill into wood up to 30mm in diameter, as well as into steel and masonry of up to 10 mm across. On the other end, the chuck can also be fully closed allowing it to accept the smallest diameter needle drill bits.

The Bosch PSB 1800 Li-2 is powered from an 18V Lithium-ion battery, which is part of Bosch’s universal ‘POWER FOR ALL’ battery system, in which various cordless tools are all compatible with a set of different capacity batteries. This Bosch tool incorporates a Syneon electronic chip that maximises and stabilises the amount of power coming from the battery so that it is used most efficiently. This is unlike some non-Syneon chip-containing cordless drills where battery energy is used up more quickly. In the case of this Bosch cordless drill, it comes with two 1.5 Ah batteries that can keep the drill running for a long time without needing a recharge. Also, when one of the batteries does need charging, having a second one ready to go means no downtime at all. And when a battery does need re-energising, it only takes about an hour to complete, and the one being used in the tool should last much longer than an hour. Also usefully, the battery charge level is indicated on the base of the tool so that the user always knows his or her battery status.

Other features of the Bosch PSB 1800 Li-2 include a very handy LED flashlight located on the base of the combi drill that points forwards and upwards, coming on as soon as the trigger is squeezed, and lighting up the area where the drilling or screwdriving is taking place. The PSB 1800 Li-2 combi drill is relatively lightweight, coming in at only 1.3 kg, although if higher capacity batteries are used, the overall weight of the drill driver will increase.

In use, the Bosch PSB 1800 Li-2 is excellent for screw-driving and regular drilling into wood or metal, but for hammer drilling into masonry, the story is a little different. Although the Bosch drill can tackle softer masonry, such as regular brick and breeze block, it is weaker than a corded tool or a specialised hammer drill, so will struggle with denser masonry materials such as engineering brick and concrete, taking much longer to make its way through them than necessary. Indeed, it is especially important with this drill to use sharp, high-quality masonry drill bits when drilling into rock-like surfaces in order to make any reasonable headway. This ultimately means that the Bosch PSB 1800 Li-2 is best placed for the lighter DIY screw-driving, drilling into wood and metal, and into the occasional masonry surface around the home, but for any sturdier masonry-type materials or for heavy consistent use, a more specialised corded hammer drill should be considered instead.

As for accessories, the PSB 1800 Li-2 combi drill comes with an excellent hard plastic carry case, which has space for the drill itself, two batteries and the charger, as well as some redundant space for screwdriver/drill bits or similar. It should be noted, however, that the Bosch drill does not come with any screwdriver or drill bits of its own other than a single reversible screwdriving bit with a flat head at one end and a Phillips head at the other.

One other point to be aware of with the Bosch combi drill is tool longevity. Bosch is certainly well-renowned for producing quality tools and the PSB 1800 Li-2 is one such tool. Evidence in support of this comes from the 2-year warranty that comes with the Bosch PSB 1800 Li-2, which can be extended to 3 years if the power drill is registered online with the German company. However, it should be mentioned that there has been the occasional incident where the machine has burnt out just after the end of the warranty period and the owners found that it was not worth the price of repairing it compared to buying anew. Consequently, our recommendation is to try to buy the Bosch PSB 1800 Li-2 combi drill when it is at a discount on either the Black Friday sales or, if you are a prime member, on Amazon Prime Day when significant discounts for it are usually available.

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