Carry Case

All of the drills have cases, though I rarely used them because most don't have space for the drill bits that need to be with the drill. The only hard case that provides a reasonably large space for storing bits is Metabo's. Don't assume that a larger case has more storage space: If the case is blow-molded, much of its space could be inaccessible. In fact, if I had to choose a hard case, I'd probably end up getting the smallest one possible because it would take up less room.

The only case I really like is the soft bag that comes with the Hilti. It's big enough to hold a drill, a charger, batteries, bits, and even some other tools.

Side Handle

If your line of work requires frequent use of big hole saws, augers, and spade bits, you'll need the power of a heavy-duty drill. Heavy-duty drills typically include side handles so you can better control the tool in high-torque applications. Every heavy-duty tool except the Festool ships with a side handle.

Of the compact models, only the Ridgid includes a handle, which is not absolutely necessary but sometimes comes in handy. If I knew I'd be drilling a lot of big holes, I would definitely want a side handle.

Chuck Options

Most drills have a single chuck that's permanently attached to the tool. The Festool's standard (three-jaw) chuck can be removed without tools and replaced with a right-angle chuck, an offset chuck, or a proprietary (Centrotec) bit holder. The chucks are included in the price of the drill and make it possible to drill and fasten in locations where standard drills simply won't fit.

The Bottom Line

I had a hard time choosing favorite models because every drill in this test is a capable tool. My favorite compact models are the DeWalt DCD780C2 and the Ridgid R86008K. The DeWalt has a comfortable grip, is very compact, and has a higher top speed than any other tool in its class. I like the Ridgid because it feels quite powerful, has a light that can be activated automatically or manually, andis the only compact model that comes with a side handle.

My favorite heavy-duty models are the DeWalt DCD980L2 and the Milwaukee 2610-24. The DeWalt has a powerful motor, excellent ergonomics, and a three-speed gear box that allows it to spin faster than other tools of its type. The Milwaukee feels very powerful and — in spite of its greater-than-average weight — very comfortable to use. And the included metal side handle is stiffer than the plastic handles that come with many other drills.

Greg DiBernardo owns Fine Home Improvements of Waldwick in Waldwick, N.J