Monday, May 18, 2009

Tool Review - Panasonic Cordless Drill/Driver

When Dana and I got married, our tool boxes got married as well. We suddenly had duplicates of several things I'd purchased for myself and then helped her pick out for her own house. So when the battery charger on one of our two Craftsman 18v drills burned out, it wasn't that big of a deal; we had another handy. And after two of the four batteries started holding a charge for less than a week and/or only 10 minutes worth of use, it was OK because we had two more to fall back on.

Late last fall, at just about the same time, the other two batteries started failing and the second charger died. It was time to re-assess our drill/driver situation.

Let's be honest - most of my drill/driver work involves hanging curtain rods, screwing in drywall, building jigs, and general home maintenance and repair. In retrospect, 18 volts is a whole lot of wasted power.It's also a whole lot of weight to lug around.

I did my research and read all of the reviews. I made an honest assessment of what we needed around the house and for use in a hobby woodworking shop. With everything taken into consideration, I finally decided upon the Panasonic 12-Volt NiMH 1/2" drill/driver.

I could not be happier with my choice!

When the drill arrived (from Amazon, for about $190 with free shipping), I immediately charged both batteries. I then put the charger and the spare battery back in the case and left the drill out on my workbench.

Over the next six months, I would pull it out for anything from hanging curtain rods to installing new hinges, from drilling 3/8" holes in wood to driving 100+ drywall screws. Just the other day, while working in the new workshop to tighten up the last of the drywall, I finally killed the first charge on my first battery. I wasn't so impressed with the amount of work the battery had performed as I was with the amount of time it held the charge! My last drill wouldn't hold a charge for five weeks, much less five months!

I pulled the dead battery out and popped the new one in and went right back to work with the second battery as fresh as the day it was charged.

I was also impressed with the weight of the drill. Most of the screws I was driving were in the ceiling, so I ended up holding it above my head for extended periods of time. That's when the 3.5 lb weight difference between the Panasonic and my old Craftsman really came into play. Even after an hour of work, I was far from fatigued.

If I had to do it all over again, I wouldn't change my decision to go with the 12-volt model (vs. the 15.6- or the 18-volt models), either. It is more than enough power for the likes of what I do and the lighter weight is a nice change.

So if you find yourself in the market for a new drill in the near future, the Panasonic 12-volt NiMH 1/2" drill/driver comes highly recommended from this amateur woodworker and average DIY-enthusiast.


The Village Carpenter said...

Nice tool review, Ethan. I have a cordless Bosch that I bought years ago and whose batteries died in like two years. I had trouble finding replacement batteries and I didn't like the wimpiness of the Bosch anyhow, so I wound up buying a corded Dewalt, which I love. Lots o'power.

Ethan said...

My little brother uses Dewalt cordless drills and his new drywall screw gun is Dewalt (but it is corded).

All of the maintenance guys here at my work use Dewalt cordless drills, as well.

The only person I've ever known to have a problem with his Dewalt cordless drill is my dad - and he has worse luck with power and hand tools than anyone I've ever known.

That probably would have been my second choice.

Rob Porcaro said...

Hey Ethan,

I have a Panasonic 15.6v and agree that the batteries are amazing, they seem to never die. Only minor complaint is I wish the chuck spinned freely to open and close like a Dewalt.
By the way, these are Ni-MH (nickel metal hydride) not Ni-Cad. The latter are on the pretty much on the dump heap of history. I guess sometime I'll look at the Li ion tools but these Panasonics show no sign of slowing down after 3+ years.

Ethan said...

Bah. You're right, Rob. It even says it on the battery in the picture of my own tool, doesn't it? I'll correct it in the blog... Thanks for the heads-up.

I do agree with the chuck adjustment. Now that I'm down to just one drill/driver, I'm constantly changing drill and driver bits out, so I guess I've gotten used to it.

Ethan said...

Which brings up a good point, now that I think about it...

If you go looking on Amazon for this drill, you're likely to find both the Ni-CAD and the Ni-MH models; the Ni-CAD model will be less expensive and I believe the battery construction on the Ni-MH is supposed to be superior (no charge memory, holds the charge longer, etc.).

So be mindful.