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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
|Max. Drilling Diameters (mm)||Max.|
|No-Load Speed (rpm)||Blows Per|
|Bosch GSB 120 Pro||12 V||19 mm Wood|
6 mm Steel
8 mm Masonry
|28 Nm||0 - 400|
0 - 1300
|Bosch PSB 1800 Li-2||18 V||30 mm Wood|
10 mm Steel
10 mm Masonry
|38 Nm||0 - 400|
0 - 1350
|Makita DHP453Z||18 V||36 mm Wood|
13 mm Steel
13 mm Masonry
|--||0 - 400|
0 - 1300
|RYOBI R18PD31-213S||18 V||38 mm Wood|
13 mm Steel
13 mm Masonry
|50 Nm||0 - 500|
0 - 1800
|DeWalt DCD796||18 V||40 mm Wood|
13 mm Steel
13 mm Masonry
|70 Nm||0 - 500|
0 - 2000
|Makita DHP481Z||18 V||76 mm Wood|
13 mm Steel
16 mm Masonry
|115 Nm||0 - 550|
0 - 2100
|Max. Drilling Diameters (mm)||Max.|
|No-Load Speed (rpm)||Blows Per|
Combi Drill Reviews
Bosch PSB 1800 Li-2 Review
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.
DeWalt DCD796 Review
The DCD796 cordless drill from DeWalt is another excellent option to consider if you are in the market for a battery-powered combi drill. This combi drill can generate a relatively high maximum torque of 70 Nm and has a 15 position adjustable setting for anything less taxing. As with other competitor combi drills, the DeWalt machine has a hammer drill function, a 2-speed setting (also with different BPM values), and a button to control the direction of chuck rotation. These specifications allow the DCD796 to drill up to a generous 40 mm in diameter in timber and 13 mm in steel or masonry. In masonry, the DeWalt combi drill particularly stands out in its ability to quickly go through almost any masonry type, with a performance on a par with mains-powered devices. While at the same time, the DCD796 also functions well in low torque-demanding jobs such as screwdriving.
Feature-wise, the chuck on the DCD796 is a keyless affair making the changing of drill and screwdriver bits on the DeWalt drill quick and easy. The chuck itself is high quality and, like most drill chucks, accepts bits with shank diameters from 1.5 mm up to a maximum of 13 mm.
The DeWalt combi drill also sports an integral work light that is primarily designed to illuminate the job at hand but which can also be increased in brightness to act almost as a workplace flashlight. Being able to adjust the work light on a power tool for different scenarios is quite a unique feature and although it may initially appear a bit gimmicky, it turns out to be quite useful in practice.
Other notable features on the DeWalt machine include a magnetic bit holder, as well as the standard belt hook found on most battery-powered drills of today. In addition, the inclusion of a high-quality case, as part of the drill’s accessories, in which to store and transport the machine, is also an excellent touch. Furthermore, the carry case itself conforms to DeWalt’s TSTAK tool-portability system which allows the drill's TSTAK case to neatly stack together with other TSTAK components for easy transportation of multiple tools at the same time.
The DeWalt combi drill gets its power from 18V batteries that belong to the DeWalt’s XR universal battery system, which consists of interchangeable batteries used across a variety of power tools. As with most DeWalt power tools, the machine is sold in a few different variations. The DCD796 usually comes with a single 5 Ah capacity battery (the P1 version, model number DCD796P1). In addition, another common variation encountered in the UK is the P2 version (model number DCD796P2), which simply includes an extra battery. Importantly, however, a single battery is more than sufficient to power the combi drill during any DIY or professional job, as it lasts a very long time even with heavy drill use.
In addition to its high power and functional diversity, the DeWalt DCD796 has also been designed and built to last. This is evident from its brushless motor which naturally has a longer service life than an equivalent brushed motor. In addition, an all-metal transmission in the DeWalt power tool makes its working parts more robust and longer-lasting.
Although DeWalt is an American company, much of the manufacturing of its power tools is carried out abroad. In the case of the DCD796, the combi drill is primarily made in China. This is likely to explain a manufacturing discrepancy encountered by some new owners of the power tool. One thing to check when purchasing such a device is the snugness of the battery fit to the combi drill. Several users have reported that the battery fitment can sometimes be quite loose leading to a small amount of play in the battery when installed on the combi drill. Although this does not affect the functioning of the combi drill, it can be annoying to use a drill that essentially rattles, and is below the standard one expects from a premium power tool.
Apart from the occasional manufacturing issue, the DeWalt DCD796 is otherwise an excellent combi drill. With its compactness and relative light weight, the DCD796 can also be used for a wide variety of construction and maintenance tasks, including those within restricted workspaces, and will complement any DIYer’s or professional’s toolbox.