Drill Driver Review: Which is the Best Drill Driver in the UK?

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.

The DeWalt DCD708 Drill Driver

Electric Drill and Screwdrivers Types

The majority of electric screwdrivers and drills today fall into one of the following categories:

  • Electric screwdriver -  This power screwdriver often resembles an electric drill but lacks the torque necessary to act as one.
  • Drill driver - The drill driver is both an electric screwdriver and an an effective drill.
  • Combi drill (also sometimes referred to as a combi drill driver or simply drill driver with hammer function) - Similar to a drill driver, the combi drill can both drill holes and act as an electric screwdriver. However, unlike the plain drill driver, the combi drill can also switch on a linear hammering function that makes holes in masonry more efficiently
  • Hammer drill - This drill type, like the combi drill, uses a linear hammering mechanism for effective masonry drilling. However, unlike the combi drill, the hammer drill is not designed for screwdriving.
  • SDS hammer drill - This is a specialised type of hammer drill that makes use of an SDS chuck system to hold the drill bit. SDS hammer drills tend to be even more effective at drilling through masonry than standard hammer drills.
  • Impact driver - This is a type of electric screwdriver that is able to generate much higher levels of torque than regular electric screwdrivers or drill drivers. These high torque levels are generated by an angular hammering mechanism distinct from the linear percussive force of hammer drills. The primary role of the impact driver is to unscrew stuck or stubborn screws and fasteners. However, they can also be used to drive home larger screws into difficult materials more efficiently.

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

Power

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:

  • Brushless motors are more compact than equivalent brushed versions, allowing the production of more compact drill drivers.
  • Brushless motors have little or no power loss making them more efficient than brushed ones. Something that is especially important in battery-powered tools like the drill driver.
  • Brushless motors experience very little friction when they rotate compared to brushed motors. This means that brushless drill drivers generate less internal heat, making them especially useful when using them for longer duration applications.
  • The lower internal friction of brushless motors also makes brushless drill drivers quieter than brushed machines.
  • As brushless drill drivers don't have carbon brushes that periodically wear out and need to be replaced, they tend to require less maintenance than their brushed brethren.
  • Brushless motors are able to go at higher speeds and generate higher torques than equivalent brushed devices, making more powerful drill drivers without affecting their size.

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.

Maximum Torque

Adjustable torque settings on a drill driver

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 Speeds

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.

Weight

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

Drill Driver
Power
(Volts)
Brushless
Max.
Torque (Nm)
Max. Drilling
Diameters (mm)
No-Load
Speed (rpm)
Chuck
Capacity (mm)
Weight (kg) **
Makita DDF487
18V
40 Nm
36 mm Wood
13 mm Steel
0-500
0-1700
1.5 - 13 mm
1.3 - 1.6 kg
Makita DDF453
18V
42 Nm
36 mm Wood
13 mm Steel
0-400
0-1300
1.5 - 13 mm
1.7 - 2.0 kg
Ryobi R18DDP2
18V
45 Nm
32 mm Wood
13 mm Steel
0-440
0-1600
2 - 13 mm
1.8 - 2.6 kg
Ryobi R18DD5
18V
50 Nm
32 mm Wood
13 mm Steel
0-400
0-1400
2 - 13 mm
1.4 - 2.2 kg
Makita DDF485
18V
50 Nm
38 mm Wood
13 mm Steel
0-500
0-1900
1.5 - 13 mm
1.4 - 1.7 kg
Ryobi R18DD3
18V
50 Nm
38 mm Wood
13 mm Steel
0-500
0-1800
2 - 13 mm
1.6 - 2.4 kg
Bosch
GSR 18V-55

18V
55 Nm
35 mm Wood
13 mm Steel
0-460
0-1800
1.5 - 13 mm
1.4 - 2.4 kg
Bosch
GSR 18V-21
18V
55 Nm
35 mm Wood
10 mm Steel
0-480
0-1800
1.5 - 13 mm
1.5 - 2.6 kg
Bosch
GSR 18V-60 C
18V
60 Nm
38 mm Wood
13 mm Steel
0-600
0-1900
1.5 - 13 mm
1.5 - 2.5 kg
Bosch
GSR 18V-60 FC
18V
60 Nm
38 mm Wood
13 mm Steel
0-600
0-1900
1.5 - 13 mm
1.3 - 2.3 kg
Bosch
GSR 18V-28
18V
63 Nm
38 mm Wood
13 mm Steel
0-500
0-1900
1.5 - 13 mm
1.5 - 2.6 kg
Bosch
GSR 18V-90 C
18V
64 Nm
68 mm Wood
13 mm Steel
0-630
0-2100
1.5 - 13 mm
1.5 - 2.5 kg
DeWalt DCD708
18V
65 Nm
30 mm Wood
13 mm Steel
0-450
0-1650
1.5 - 13 mm
1.4 - 2.6 kg
DeWalt DCD777
18V
65 Nm
30 mm Wood
13 mm Steel
0-500
0-1750
1.5 - 13 mm
1.5 - 2.6 kg
DeWalt DCD791

18V
70 Nm
40 mm Wood
13 mm Steel
0-550
0-2000
1.5 - 13 mm
1.5 - 2.4 kg
DeWalt DCD991
18V
95 Nm
55 mm Wood
15 mm Steel
0-450
0-1300
0-2000
1.5 - 13 mm
1.9 - 2.6 kg
Bosch
GSR 18V-110 C
18V
110 Nm
82 mm Wood
13 mm Steel
0-480
0-2100
1.5 - 13 mm
2.1 - 3.2 kg
Makita DDF486
18V
130 Nm
76 mm Wood
13 mm Steel
0-550
0-2100
1.5 - 13 mm
2.3 - 2.6 kg
Bosch
GSR 18V-150 C
18V
150 Nm
150 mm Wood
16 mm Steel
0-550
0-2200
1.5 - 13 mm
2.4 - 3.5 kg
Power
(Volts)
Brushless
Max.
Torque (Nm)
Max. Drilling
Diameters (mm)
No-Load
Speed (rpm)
Chuck
Capacity (mm)
Weight (kg) **
** weight depends on size of battery pack used

Power Tool Companies