Pros: Power, ergonomics, best chuck ever, all metal transmission
Cons: battery retention system, heavy weight, price
When I purchased my home a few months ago, I started toiling away with improvements from first day I moved in. From the get go I knew I would need power tools to fasten screws into doors and walls, metal studs, and cabinetry. Because my dwelling has concrete ceilings and floors, I wanted a hammerdrill to tackle the masonry projects I had planned.
When first looking for drills, I was overwhelmed by the number of manufactures with cordless drills. There were a slew of choices from Makita, Milwaukee, Porter Cable, and DeWalt. I quickly decided on 18V power versus 14.4V or 12 V because the 18V batteries were compatible with other cordless tools in each company line, such as the cordless radial and reciprocating saws. By defining the need for a hammerdrill (for drilling in concrete) further cut the list to three drills: an 18V from Milwaukee, a 19.2V from Porter Cable, and an 18V from DeWalt. Both Milwaukee and Porter Cable made the short list because both had a solid track record as consistently having the industries most rugged and reliable drills and power tools. DeWalt on the other hand had a tarnished reputation because of reports that worn out battery clips that allowed the battery packs to fall out, potentially crushing toes; and cheap plastic transmission parts wore out in its drills under typical industrial use. A lot of professionals felt that DeWalt, now a division of Black and Decker, had sold out its quality. For these reasons DeWalt was initially cut from consideration. But XRP line introduced in 2001 was intended to bring DeWalt back into league with Porter Cable, Milwaukee and Makita. When weighing the XRP features, the DeWalt was put back on the list.
After mulling it over and looking at features, battery compatibility charts and prices, I settled on the DeWalt Heavy-Duty XRP 18V 1/2" (13mm) Adjustable Clutch Hammerdrill/Drill/Driver Kit. Why? It simply had the best features.
The DeWalt XRP drill was the only drill of the three brands that featured a three-speed all metal transmission: 0-450, 0-1450, and 0-2000. The slowest speed was capable of achieving the highest available torque reaching a maximum of 450 inch pounds. That power could easily strip the heads off of most household screws.
Power, however, is meaningless unless a chuck can bite and lock onto a bit. DeWalt's 1/2" ratcheting keyless chuck has the best design I have ever used - bar none. It has carbide teeth that are indestructibly strong and once screwed down and the chuck is ratcheted (you can actually hear it clicking) onto a bit, it is darn near impossible for the bit to slip its way loose. In addition, a freely rotating "bezel" on the front of the chuck prevents the formation of circular scratches on the chuck should it come into contact while drilling though metal or concrete. Very nice.
Tip: Keep the outside bare metal at the mouth of the chuck lightly oiled to inhibit rusting.
The DeWalt also comes with a rotating 360 degree side handle that clamps down on the metal ring behind the chuck for straighter drilling. While it is very light in weight, I do not really use it.
Beyond these key features, the rest were on par with other drill makers. They include an adjustable clutch to keep me from stripping screws, a reversible switch located above the trigger, progressive speed based on trigger pull, keyless chuck, and rugged construction. And the drills in this class are all heavy. This DeWalt weighs in at 6 pounds.
The DeWalt was also a bit more dimensionally compact compared to the Porter Cable or the Milwaukee. And DeWalt had the best grip and trigger feel.
The DeWalt also came with a charger and two DW9096 XR+ nickel cadmium batteries that fully recharge in under an hour. I have read other writers complain about the short life they have experienced with these batteries. I am not quite sure how they rate short. I have had a single battery last for hours doing basic jobs like putting in and removing screws, and drilling into wood or metal studs. Only when I have drilled into concrete has the battery life 'seemed' short. On one particular project, I spent what seemed to be 45 minutes straight drilling somewhere between 15 to 20 holes, ~3.5-4" deep into solid cast concrete using in 5/8" Bosch hammerdrill bit. Not surprisingly, the battery did drain by the time the work was nearly done. However, I was more amazed that I did not kill the bearings or completely overheat the drill. Having the second battery in the charging stand never left me waiting for power. I doubt if another cordless drill in this class could outperform this feat.
After the beating subjected to this drill, it still works flawlessly. I have no regrets buying it, although I will not recommend it for everyone. Unless you intend to buy another 18V DeWalt power tool to interchange batteries, I would not recommend this drill for general home use. Its power is overkill. In this instance, the DeWalt 14.4V XRP would likely be the better choice and is about $70-90 cheaper.
I almost forgot to mention the battery clips. Yes, the retention system seems a little weak. But they make an audible click when they latch in and have not failed yet. Famous last words, right?