Electric breakers have become more sophisticated as electronic motor controls and counterbalance and vibration-isolation mechanisms have been added. There are now slow-start and variable speed features for accuracy, anti-vibration devices for operator safety and comfort, and better balanced tools that are easier to use for a longer time.
A slow-start feature is very convenient for placement accuracy, particularly on vertical surfaces. It also adds a measure of safety to a breaker's use. The four light tools, the midweight Bosch, and the heavy DeWalt have this feature.
Variable speed is handy not only for maintaining accuracy, but also in situations where you might want lower vibration. It is found only on the light Milwaukee and Wacker models.
The small Wacker has a flexible grip design with a front handle that pivots forward and back and rotates around the housing, as well as a screw-on handle that can be used on the front or rear of the tool.
Credit: Photo: by dotfordot.com
This lightest and shortest-of-the-test Wacker breaker was a standout as the most accurate of all, because of these advanced features and its great balance. This tool also sports a brushless, three-phase motor with a built-in inverter to run on 120 volts.
Handles. For the light breakers, the location of the handles significantly affects ease of use, especially for wall work. All of them have a handle at the rear of the tool and another somewhere toward the tip, but the quality and comfort vary. There's a great feel to Wacker's front L-handle, and Hilti's rear D-handle is good for wall work because you can push it easily with your body. Some front handles, like on the DeWalt, are slightly flexible and provide some additional vibration protection.
T-handles are standard on the heavy breakers, but the Wacker has an extra handle on the front that makes positioning it easier. On the Hitachi, the handle and bulky trigger are too big around and make the tool awkward to use and hard to hold onto securely.
Switches. Among the light and midweight tools, DeWalt and Hilti have simple rocker switches, which we prefer. The others have triggers with various locking mechanisms that are too easy to accidentally click off. An easy-to-reach trigger is nice for wall work though.
The heavy breakers have trigger-type switches; none lock on for obvious safety reasons. And every tool's hammering mechanism disengages when it's not pressed against the work, protecting the breaker and its operator.
The medium and large breakers take 1-1/8-inch shank tools and have a retaining bail that flips down to hold collared tools, and flips up, moving a cam to hold slotted tools. All except the Wacker, which requires collared tools.
Credit: Photo: by dotfordot.com
Chisel Rotation. The DeWalt and Milwaukee units both have a switch that allows quick positioning of a mounted chisel. The other tools require the chisel be removed, rotated, and reinserted.
Bit Holders. Among the midweight models, the Bosch and Makita retainers were easy to use, while the Hitachi took pounding to close. For the heavy class, the Makita, DeWalt, and Wacker were easy, but the Bosch and the Hitachi made us bring out the hammer again.
Vibration Control. Every manufacturer claims some vibration control, but by our hands-on evaluation of the light and midweight breakers, only the DeWalt and Hilti have effective overall designs. The rest seem to rely on soft grips and handle flexibility to reduce vibration.
For the heavy models, the internal vibration control systems of the Makita and Wacker truly felt effective, with almost no felt vibration during use. Makita relies on a counterweight system, and the Wacker has a free-floating head design that rides on a leaf spring. Despite any internal design, the Bosch, DeWalt, and Hitachi–with their awkward pivoting-handle dampening systems– left us feeling pretty beat up after a short time breaking a slab.
Balance. For the light breakers, balance is important, especially when used on walls. The diminutive Wacker has the best balance, and the DeWalt and Hilti also work well in this position. The Milwaukee was not as comfortable.
Power. We found that listed impact energy didn't accurately reflect how well a model breaks concrete. And among tools in a weight class, we found surprising differences in power.
For the light breakers, the Milwaukee and the Wacker were decent performers, and the Hilti had less power. Because the small DeWalt proved much faster at breaking than all the midweight units, we found no advantage to their class other than being slightly taller for slab use.
The larger breakers were close in power, so user comfort made more of a difference.