Modern hammer drills today typically use the SDS system of drill bit attachment developed by Bosch and Hilti in 1975. Other hammer drill bit systems do exist but the SDS system seems to have taken hold amongst tradesmen and DIY-ers alike leading to it becoming the dominant type the world over. Today, three different SDS formats exist that are non-interchangeable, SDS Plus, SDS Max and SDS Top.
SDS Plus vs SDS Max vs SDS Top
SDS Plus accepts a 10mm diameter shank (the part of the drill bit that attaches to the chuck) and is the most common type of SDS used. Designed for hammer drills up to 4kg, it is capable of handling the majority of building work needs and so has become the most common type.
The SDS Max system uses an 18mm diameter shank and is designed for larger hammer drills (5kg and more) best used for more aggressive drilling.
The SDS Top specification whose characteristics partially overlap those of both SDS Plus and SDS Max drills is not very common and is slowly fading from use. In fact, you would be hard-pressed to find an SDS Top specification drill for sale in today’s market so we will ignore it in this review.
Furthermore, we are pretty much going to be focusing here on SDS Plus drills only since they are the dominant type of impact drills on the market today and, in reality, unless you need the extra high drilling power for a specific job that an SDS Max drill affords, you are typically going to be buying an SDS Plus hammer drill.
What to look for in an SDS Hammer Drill
Cheap Muscle vs Refined Quality
In the table below you will find some of the most popular corded SDS Plus hammer drills available in the UK at the present time. In general, SDS Plus hammer drills fall into two broad categories, the less well-known, less expensive, fewer ‘bells & whistles’, and heavier drills (the Wolf, Silverline, and the Terratek), and the brand-name, more expensive, more universal, better-made, and lighter hammer drills of Bosch, Makita and other well-known power tool manufacturers. So one of the first decisions that is best made when purchasing a new SDS hammer drill is to decide on which of the two categories is more important to your purchasing decision.
The maximum revolutions per minute or RPMs that a drill can accomplish will be mainly determined by what sort of work the drill was designed for. Lower speeds are used to penetrate harder materials such as masonry, while higher speeds are used for softer materials like timber. As a result, many of the drills designed exclusively for masonry work will have lower overall maximum speeds, while more multi-purpose hammer drills that can also be used to drill timber and metalwork will have higher overall speeds usually with some form of speed control integrated into the design.
Blows Per Minute (BPM) and Impact Energy
These are important parameters for hammer drills as they determine how easily masonry is drilled and chiseled. The higher the BPMs and the higher the impact energy of each blow, the easier it will be for the drill to make its way through the masonry. If the drill has an easier time going through the material, it means the drilling will be smoother and more accurate.
Weight of the drill is an important characteristic for hand drills. If you are going to be working with the SDS hammer drill (especially a corded one) above shoulder level or for extended periods of time, having a lighter drill is best while a very heavy drill will become inconvenient in a hurry. Even some of the lighter-weight hammer drills (2-3 kg) can become bothersome when used in an elevated position, so you can just imagine what working with a 6kg drill will feel like (that’s assuming that you are of sufficient physical stature to manipulate the drill in the first place!)
SDS hammer drills also tend to come with some common features too, such as multiple modes of operation. These days almost all hammer drills have the ability to switch off the rotary or the hammer action of the drill, typically providing the user with three modes of operation:
- Rotary action only (for drilling into wood, metal and plastics)
- Rotary hammer action (for hammer drilling into masonry, concrete and other hard materials)
- Hammer action only (for use as a power chisel)
Another common feature of hammer drills comes in the form of their safety characteristics. In the interests of user safety, and since today’s hammer drills generate such high levels of torque, corded SDS hammer drills almost always include a slip-clutch or torque limiter to prevent loss of control of the drill and potential user injury in the event of drill bit binding. The slip-clutch or torque limiter ‘detaches’ the rotary action of the drill bit from the drill motor if the drill bit jams in the substrate while drilling and thus prevents the whole drill rotating around the stuck drill bit potentially injuring the operator.
Popular Corded SDS Hammer Drills in the UK
|SDS Hammer Drill||Max Speed|
|Blows Per Minute (BPM)||Impact Energy (Joules)||Motor Power (W)||Weight (kg)|
|**information not public|
|Bosch PBH 2100 RE||2300 RPM||5800 BPM||1.7 J||550 W||2.2 kg|
|Bosch GBH 2-20 D||1300 RPM||4200 BPM||1.7 J||650 W||2.3 kg|
|Evolution SDS4-800||1100 RPM||5000 BPM||1.6 J||650 W||2.8 kg|
|Makita HR2610||1200 RPM||4600 BPM||2.4 J||800 W||2.8 kg|
|Makita HR2630||1200 RPM||4600 BPM||2.4 J||800 W||2.8 kg|
|Hitachi DH26PX||1100 RPM||4300 BPM||3.2 J||830 W||2.8 kg|
|Silverline 633821||800 RPM||3200 BPM||1.5 J||850 W||4.7 kg|
|Terratek 1500W||800 RPM||4000 BPM||5.5 J||1500 W||4 kg|
|Wolf 1500W||900 RPM||3900 BPM||**||1500 W||6 kg|
SDS Hammer Drill Reviews
Bosch PBH 2100 RE SDS+
The Bosch PBH 2100 RE has a less powerful motor than some of the other hammer drills discussed here. That’s because the drill tends to be more of a universal drill rather than just a hardcore hammer drill – it even has a setting for screwdriving! – but make no mistake, the Bosch PBH 2100 RE is still a very respectable SDS Plus hammer drill as well. The maximum hole diameter that it can produce in masonry is 20mm, a more modest value than for a specialised hammer drill but still more than what most builders and home users will ever need.
To get the Bosch PBH 2100 RE to use regular drill bits or to act as a screwdriver, chuck adaptors are available for purchase separately that take non-SDS and screwdriver bits, respectively (see images below). Both chuck adaptors work by simply slotting directly into the SDS Plus chuck with the drill having a selector for reversing spindle rotation, an important feature for getting drill bits out of jams in addition to changing screwdriving directions.
As with a standard rotary hammer drill, the Bosch PBH 2100 RE SDS drill can also switch off its rotary motion while preserving its hammering capabilities so it can also act as a light power chisel. Unlike some of the cheaper hammer drills available, the Bosch PBH 2100 RE has rotational speed control incorporated into the trigger, so that increasing the pressure on the trigger slowly increases the speed of the drill or screwdriver bit rotation. The drill is also relatively light in weight, which is not a bad thing if you need to work with it up a ladder or above shoulder height. In fact, some of the heavier hammer drills available are near impossible to use effectively for work higher up. Finally with the Bosch brand, you can rest assured that you are buying one of the best quality SDS hammer drills available, a tool that is very well made and built to last a very long time.
Bosch GBH 2-20 D SDS+
The Bosch corded SDS hammer drill GBH 2–20D is part of Bosch’s lineup of professional power drills targeted squarely at the tradesman or professional builder. This means that the drill is more highly priced than the equivalent machine in its DIYer’s drill lineup, but for that higher price, you get a better built machine with a significant increase in robustness and longevity.
Features on the GBH 2–20D are typical of most SDS drills in this power tool category. The SDS drill is rated for rotation up to 1300 RPM with a hammering action of up to 4200 BPM (blows per minute) and a maximum impact energy of 1.7 Joules, all of which is produced from a 650W electric motor. This translates into an ability to penetrate concrete with a diameter of up to 20mm when the hammering action is engaged, or up to a diameter of 30mm in wood and 13mm in metal with the drill in regular non-hammering mode. Although the rotational speed of the Bosch SDS drill cannot be set directly, variable pressure applied to the trigger of the machine allows for variable speed control, while the drilling function mode dial, which allows the drill to function in either non-hammering, hammering, or chisel modes, is smooth and easy to change.
The Bosch SDS hammer drill weighs approximately 2.3 kg, which is average for power drills in this category, and it is available in both 110V or 240V versions to accommodate for power systems found on either larger worksites (110V) or those in the home (240V).
As for the robustness and the build quality of the Bosch GBH 2-20D professional SDS hammer drill, as alluded to earlier, this is where the Bosch machine stands out. The Bosch drill has been built to operate under heavy use with minimal downtime typical of how it is often used on a worksite.
Safety-wise, like other high-quality rotary hammer drills, the Bosch power drill has been designed with an overload clutch which immediately disengages the rotary action of the drill spindle if the drill bit becomes jammed. This protects the user (as well as the drill itself) from a violent counter-motion of the drill body in the direction opposite to the rotation of the drill bit, which could otherwise have the potential to seriously injure the user and potentially cause damage to the drill itself.
As for accessories, the Bosch drill comes in a plastic carry case which makes keeping the power tool clean and organised a simple process. Even the design of the carry case is well-thought out, so for instance, even the mains power cord, which is very generous in length on the Bosch GBH 2–20D, can be easily packed into the carry case without any fuss (something that is not always true with carry cases from less reputable power tool vendors).
As for any dislikes with this Bosch professional drill, there is actually very little to say negatively about the power tool other than perhaps the lack of any drill bits included as part of the package when purchasing the drill. This is especially poignant if you are new to the SDS Plus drill ecosystem as it means you will have to invest separately in a set of SDS Plus drill bits which will just add to the overall cost of an already expensive Bosch drill.
Overall, the professional Bosch SDS drill is certainly worth its premium cost, especially if your trade requires a fair amount of drilling or you are using the drill excessively over a short period, and if you are upgrading from a regular percussion hammer drill, then you will certainly notice the improvement with the Bosch rotary hammer drill SDS Plus chuck-based hammering action.
For the price, the SDS4-800 has a remarkable level of functionality. It has the usual 3-mode function settings where it can be set to be used either as a regular drill for drilling materials like wood, a hammer drill for drilling up to 20mm diameter in masonry, or as a power chisel. However, unlike most other competitor SDS hammer drills, the chiselling function on the Evolution SDS4-800 also has the added option of being set to either a locked mode where the chisel head stays fixed in one orientation, useful for when the chiselling angle is important, or set to an unlocked mode which allows the chisel head to rotate freely as it encounters resistance (it should be noted that the chiselling action on the SDS4-800 tends to look quite weak when operated in free air, and only shows its true power when pressed against a workpiece).
The SDS4-800 also has variable speed control primarily operated through varying the trigger pressure but also facilitated by a dial on the trigger switch which allows one to set the maximum drill speed. Above the trigger switch is a reverse switch that can reverse the rotation of the drill bit to help one get out of drill bit jams. As with most SDS hammer drills these days, it comes with a safety clutch which disengages the drill bit rotation from the motor in the event that the drill bit binds while drilling, reducing the chances of injury to the operator. To top it all off, the drill also comes with an introductory set of SDS drill bits and chisels as well as a plastic carry case to hold it all together.
With all this capability, it is easy to forget that the drill is a budget tool designed for the DIYer or the professional whose masonry drilling and chiselling needs are on the lighter side. Consequently, it should be no surprise then that the Evolution SDS hammer drill tends to run hot when used for extended periods of time, especially when used in chiselling mode, and the operating manual recommends no more than 30 minutes continuous use before giving it at least as long to rest and fully cool down.
Overall, the Evolution SDS4-800 SDS hammer drill is excellent value and ideal for individuals that need to do some occasional masonry drilling or chiselling. However, if your masonry drilling/chiselling needs are more intensive, you are likely to be better off going for a more established (and more expensive!) manufacturer that targets its tools for use at the construction site.
Makita HR2610 & HR2630 SDS+
With the Makita HR2610 corded SDS hammer drill, you pay a higher price but you have the comfort of knowing you are getting a quality Japanese product. It has all the standard settings of a typical rotary hammer drill, allowing the user to also use it as a regular drill (rotary-only setting) as well as a power chisel (hammering-only setting). It can drill holes up to 26mm in masonry. For safety of the operator and the drill itself, it has a torque limiting clutch to prevent loss of control of the drill if the drill bit jams while drilling. In addition, the drill also has a reverse setting for drill bit-jamming situations. Quality on the Makita SDS drill is second to none and as expected this is reflected in the price compared to some of the cheaper hammer drills available in the UK that are less well-built. The trigger has variable speed control through the amount of pressure applied to it giving the drill more controllable and more accurate drilling capabilities. Makita power tools tend to be up there with the most expensive brands, but as the old adage goes: ‘you get what you pay for’ and this happens to be true with the Makita HR2610 hammer drill, which is one of the best corded SDS drills that we have reviewed so far. Makita power tools in general are precision tools that include all the latest technology and are built to last.
2018 update: Makita HR2610 vs HR2630
The HR2610 SDS hammer drill has been discontinued by Makita and has been replaced by the HR2630. Essentially the HR2630 is the same machine as the HR2610 but with one key enhancement: the operation of the mode-change switch. On the HR2610, when changing from the hammer-only action to the rotary-only mode (or vice-versa), the switch was liable to getting stuck due to the way the mode-change mechanics worked inside the drill. In order to deal with this issue, the Makita manual for the HR2610 included advice on how to change between the hammer and rotary action settings:
This meant that when changing between rotary- and hammer-only actions, one often had to change to the dual (rotary and hammer) mode first and rotate the chuck a little before changing to the single action mode required. On the HR2630, this slightly cumbersome protocol has been eliminated completely and the mode-change switch can now be rotated directly to any of the desired mode positions once the motor has stopped. This has made an already excellent SDS hammer drill even better!
Silverline 633821 SDS+
The Silverline 633821 corded hammer drill is another decent piece of kit in the Silverline power tools inventory but professionals beware as it is not really a tradesman’s tool and any excessive use in any one sitting, will overwork the drill and it won’t like it. But given its relatively small price, it is definitely worth the money for small DIY jobs. The Silverline SDS drill can drill up to 26mm diameter holes in masonry without any problem and as with other modern hammer drills, it can also be used as a rotary only drill or as a power chisel. Unlike the the similar-looking hammer drill made by Wolf, this Silverline one comes with a reverse drill setting that can be used to get the drill out of sticky (drill bit) situations. In addition, it also provides rudimentary drill speed selection making it an overall more universal drill for both lighter as well as heavier jobs.
Terratek 1500W SDS+
The Terratek 1500W is the main competitor to the powerful Wolf hammer drill. It has essentially the same high power of the Wolf but with only two thirds of its weight. It even incorporates a similar vibration dampener as the Wolf within its handle to reduce impact stress on the operator. Like other drills in this category the Terratek corded hammer drill uses SDS plus drill bits. Unlike other competitors, the Terratek also includes a keyed chuck adaptor that can be slotted into the standard SDS chuck and allows you to use your traditional hammer drill bits – useful if you have been a long-time user of hammer drills and have built up your inventory of standard masonry bits. As with other SDS hammer drills, the drill has a safety clutch to ensure that if the drill bit jams while being operated, the drill won’t rotate violently out of control injuring the user. The Terratek hammer drill also features a reverse setting to deal with bit jams and similar situations, and as with many other of today’s hammer drills, can also be used as an power chisel by disabling the rotary action while keeping the hammering function. Similarly, you also have the option of using the Terratek SDS drill as a regular drill by switching to the ‘rotary only’ setting but at an intrinsic weight of 4kg, it is best not to expect it to replace your ‘everyday’ drill.
Wolf 1500W SDS
The Wolf corded hammer drill is more about power than it is about refined drilling. Due to its heaviness and power, this is an SDS drill best used for heavier demolition work than it is for accurate masonry drilling. Like other powerful hammer drills, it has a slip clutch – an important safety feature for both the operator and the drill itself – to prevent the drill from spinning out of control if the drill bit jams. It also has a much needed rear dampener on the handle that reduces vibration stress on the user. In addition to its hammer drill action (drill bit rotation and hammering) the Wolf SDS drill can also be used as a regular drill if need be by selecting the rotary only function, and it can also act as a power chisel with hammer action only. However, as there is no drilling speed control, the machine can be a bit too powerful for some lighter drilling applications, and hole position accuracy can suffer.
Wolf-branded products are primarily sold by the UK Home Shopping network and tend to be good value products where you want a decent power tool that does the job but without the high price tag of brand-name tools. However, take note that this is a very heavy drill at 6kg and is tiresome to hold for any length of time. In fact, it is the weight and power of the 1500W motor, that allows this beast of a drill to drill through almost anything with ease. One thing that is missing from the drill is a reverse setting which can be used to get out of situations where drill bits become jammed, but for the price at which this drill is available, you really can’t expect it to do everything and then some!