Combi-drills are so-called because they combine the functions of a screwdriver, carpentry drill and masonry drill by providing power, speed and torque settings appropriate to each task. This versatility, which is part of their attraction, is achieved through variable gearboxes and, in superior tools, by a built-in hammer-action that delivers percussive pressure to push the drill bit through masonry.
As better batteries have evolved, cordless combi drills have supplanted traditional plug-in electric drills for both domestic and professional applications. There are a lot of choices on the market with a wide range of features and accessories so what should you be considering as you drill down to make your pick?
What to consider when buying a cordless drill
Firstly, define your need. Are you are a contractor or an occasional, homeowner-user? As a homeowner you may be able to settle for a less rugged machine, with lower specifications, fewer features – and possibly a cheaper price tag. A contractor will want a tool with enough battery life to endure a full working day, have enough power to tackle the toughest jobs and be rugged enough to take the drops and knocks on a busy site. For a professional user, price is unlikely to be a limiting factor.
All of our choices are equipped with rechargeable 18 volt, lithium-ion batteries, which are now more or less standard in combi-drills. 18 volt batteries offer the best compromise between capacity and weight and are used in a wide variety of hand-held tools. They have a greater power capacity than previous generations of rechargeable batteries, such as NiMH and NiCd, and a relatively low rate of degradation meaning they should have a long useful life. Different drills, though, have different power usage ratings, charge times, and operating times between charges and these factors are all worth considering before you make your choice.
Our picks also all come equipped with a keyless chuck, allowing easy changes of drill bits.
Many drills have multiple speed settings through which maximum torque, or rotational force, can be achieved. Reducing the drill’s RPM can give you more ‘twisting power’ to penetrate a tough board. Professional-grade units may be able to accommodate and drive larger diameter drills, some up to 7 or 8 centimetres. Choose a drill that can deliver enough torque for the jobs you envisage.
If you are able, get to a store and check out the drill’s ‘feel’. This is obviously subjective – and it’s easy to be swayed by jazzy body colors and lightning decals – but note the weight; its balance, and the way the handle feels in your grip. Is it comfortable? Will you be able to handle it in awkward spaces for long periods? Is the body mainly metal or plastic and will it be durable enough for your purposes?
We’ve done some of the legwork on your behalf and checked out a wide range of cordless combi drills, and are pleased to present our best choices for 2017:
The Best Cordless Combi Drills
Terratek Fast-Charge Power-Driver – Best Budget Choice
The Terratek drill is a competitively-priced, entry-level machine suitable for home-use. It comes with a 13-piece collection of drill bits and screwdriver blades, and a single battery and charger. The chuck has a maximum opening of 10 mm. It boasts variable speed settings and a forward/reverse switch. Tougher jobs are attacked via torque control which is achieved through a control-ring with 21-settings, mounted on the drill body, behind the chuck. The battery is rated to deliver current of 1,500 mAh and the manufacturer claims a one-hour recharge.
Bosch PSB 1800 Hammer Drill – Best Combi-Drill for Homeowners
The Bosch drill is delivered with a charger and two 1,500 mAh batteries that can also be used in a range of other Bosch power-tools that includes saws and hedge-trimmers. Bosch highlights their proprietary ‘Syntheon’ chip which regulates speed and power to deliver the best performance and battery life. The drill has three ‘function’ settings: screw-driving; drilling and hammer-drilling, and twenty pre-selectable torque settings. These settings are adjusted via two control rings at the rear of the chuck. The gearbox has two speed settings (for drilling or screwing) controlled via a slide-switch above the handle. The drill is on the light side at 1.3 kg but feels sturdy and well-designed, and capable of tackling all conceivable household drilling duties.
DeWalt 18v Combi-Drill – Best Professional Drill
DeWalt is a well-regarded brand of tools suitable for contractor-use. Their combi-drill has three settings: drill; hammer drill; and screw, plus a two-speed variable gearbox that delivers torque versatility. The motor is fan-cooled which is a particular advantage when the hammer-setting is used for prolonged periods. And, the drill is fitted with a 13 mm keyless chuck (versus the more usual 10 mm diameter). The drill is delivered with a carrying case and charger but only one 1,300 mAh battery, with a one hour charge-time. With battery attached, the drill weighs in at 1.34 kg, and a rubber-covered grip should make for comfortable use.
Ryobi ONE+ Combi-Drill – Best Combi-Drill in family of Power Tools
Apart from its excellent stand-alone virtues, we have highlighted the Ryobi Combi-Drill for its position in a huge range of power tools offered by its manufacturer, featuring over 35 home and garden tools that use the same interchangeable batteries. This means you can choose to buy further tools without batteries, saving money in the long run. The drill, itself, is delivered in a carrying case with two 1,300mAh batteries that are recharged in 45 minutes. Other highlights include a 13 mm chuck; a two-speed gearbox; electronic variable speed with reverse, and a hammer function, for drilling masonry. This is a solid, well-featured machine and, weighing 1.8 kg with the battery attached, the Ryobi feels built-to-last.