Doing odd DIY jobs around the home almost always involves a screwdriver or drill, and today, the the electric forms of these tools are usually the ones that are put to work. In recent times, the electric screwdriver and electric drill have been combined into a single machine known as the drill driver. This tool simplification should have made it easier to choose the right tool for the home toolbox. However, with the plethora of different electric screwdrivers and drilling machines on the market, buying the best drill driver for our particular circumstances can be quite confusing.
To help address this challenge, in this review, we first look at where the drill driver fits in alongside other electric screwdriver and drill types. We then investigate the features that make up the drill driver and the specifications to watch out for when looking to purchase one. Finally, we survey the range of drill drivers that are currently popular in the UK today.
Electric Drill and Screwdrivers Types
The majority of electric screwdrivers and drills today fall into one of the following categories:
Drill Driver vs Combi Drill
One area of particular confusion worth elaborating on is the difference between a combi drill and a drill driver. These two categories of device are very similar and power tool manufacturers often blur the lines between the two. Drill drivers and combi drills are both designed for screwdriving as well as drilling. The one clear difference between them is that the combi drill is also designed to drill masonry whereas the drill driver is not. To this end, combi drills will have a hammer function setting that activates an inline percussive hammering force at the same time as rotating the masonry drill bit. This dual-action mechanism is particularly effective when drilling through masonry.
What to look for in a Drill Driver
Drill drivers are battery-operated which means the power rating for these machines is measured in volts (V). Drill drivers usually operate from either a 12 V battery or an 18 V one. In general, higher voltage machines can generate higher torque levels and tackle tougher drilling and screwdriving jobs. On the other hand, lower voltage machines are usually lighter and less cumbersome to use.
Brushed or Brushless
Traditionally, electric motors found in power tools operate through the use of small carbon brushes that facilitate the electrical connections to the rotating motor axis. These brushes, however, have a number of drawbacks which become clear when compared to brushless motors (discussed below). Today, older generation drill drivers still make use of brushed motors whereas more recent models have converted to the brushless design.
Brushless drill drivers are superior to brushed ones in multiple ways:
Clearly, there is a lot to gain by going brushless! However, the one disadvantage of brushless drill drivers that should be mentioned is that they are usually more expensive than equivalent brushed devices. Therefore, when choosing a drill driver, one should try to aim for a brushless motor-driven device as much as possible, and only opt for a brushed design if affordability is an issue.
All drill drivers worth their salt will have adjustable torque settings. This allows the level of torque they can exert to be set for different screwdriving applications. As a result, screws can be inserted with just the right amount of force to ensure they are neither over-tightened nor damaged in the process.
At the top end of the range of torque settings will be the very maximum torque level that a drill driver can exert. This absolute maximum torque will determine how tough a job the drill driver can handle. A higher absolute maximum torque level will usually mean a greater ability for a drill driver to unscrew stubborn fasteners and drill larger holes. This makes the absolute maximum torque a device can exert another important specification to pay attention to when picking your next drill driver.
Maximum Drilling Diameters
As alluded to above, hand-in-hand with a drill driver's absolute maximum torque level is the maximum diameter of drill bit that it can operate successfully. In general, the higher the absolute maximum torque, the larger the drill bit it can use. However, torque levels are not everything, as drill driver design and components used in the device also play a role in its overall capability. Therefore, making sure that your next drill driver is capable of drilling the hole sizes that you anticipate using it for is yet another important consideration to assess when deciding on a new drill driver.
Drill drivers have to function both as electric screwdrivers and as drills. When it comes to screwdriving, slower rotational speeds are required in order to better control the screw insertion process.
Different materials also have an ideal speed at which they are most effectively drilled. Drilling through metal, for example, requires slower speeds to reduce the chance that the drill bit overheats. On the other hand, drilling into timber is best performed at higher speeds to get through the material quicker and to reduce the collateral damage to the surrounding area.
Finally, the drill bit diameter also plays a role in deciding which drill speed is best. In general, drilling larger diameter holes are best performed with slower speeds while smaller diameter bits are best used with higher drill speeds.
As a consequence of this need for different operational speeds, drill drivers will often have at least two different gears, giving them two or more maximum speed levels at which they can operate.
A drill driver will see a lot of use, probably more so than any other power tool. As a consequence, the weight of the drill driver becomes a more important factor when choosing one. Heavier machines will wear out the user quicker and be more cumbersome to use.
In battery-operated power tools, weight is also dependent on the battery capacity installed. Drill drivers, like other cordless power tools, will usually have a range of different battery sizes that one can choose from, making the final given weight of a drill driver a range rather than a single value.
Popular Drill Drivers in the UK
** weight depends on size of battery pack used