Shop Testing

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Size matters. The winning Makita driver is about half the size and weight of the largest, the Milwaukee.

Credit: Photo: by dotfordot.com

In the field, we learned these tools can drive a lot of screws–between 400 and 500 2-1/2-inch flooring screws on a single charge. Not wanting to drive 6,000 screws for our battery duration test, we settled on something a little tougher: 1/4- by 3-inch Simpson SDS lags into fir 4-by-4s.

Even at that, it took nearly two days of driving to complete the head-to-head testing. Each battery was fully charged, and every tool was given 15 minutes to cool down, as they heated up midway through the testing. Because some lights were trigger activated, we turned on the manually activated lights just in case the battery drain from the LED influenced the results.

While testing how many lags each tool could drive on a charge, we also timed driving speed by averaging the stopwatch times for eight lags with each tool. See the spec boxes for the results.

The Winner

Because most of these impact drivers went through a truckload of screws on one battery–more than anyone would drive in one day–the choice of tools really came down to comfort and features.

The Makita BTD142HW compact driver is the clear winner. Every carpenter in the field chose it over all the others, with its light weight being a bigger factor than big muscle. And though the compact battery with half the capacity of the others did do well for its size in our demanding shop test, keep in mind that the primary job of these tools is driving medium-sized wood screws. For this and our common tasks of installing cabinet hardware, door hardware, setting hollow-metal doors, and installing cabinets, the 142 has all the guts you need, without carrying around any more than you have to. And with its 15-minute charge time, you couldn't outpace it if you tried.

Just outside the winner's circle is the Makita BTD141, which is nearly identical to its sibling except for a 4% higher torque rating and a full-sized battery for guys who don't want to change it every day. Both batteries and tool bodies are totally interchangeable, and their four-pole motors tested equally for performance.

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Headlights are on every tool. The Hitachi has a unique belt-hook light, and Panasonic and a few others have theirs on the battery housing. But most are placed above the trigger, like the Makita's, right.

Credit: Photo: by dotfordot.com

Second place goes to the Panasonic EY7540LN2L for its top speed and duration numbers and very comfortable design. It is just a little bigger than the winner and is the second lightest. All this performance comes out of a 14.4-volt tool. It must have something to do with its advanced, brushless motor technology that is unique to Panasonic in this test.

The third place tools are the DeWalt DC827KL, Hitachi WH18DL, and the Panasonic EY7542LN2L combination driver, all comfortable tools with strong performance. All the other tools occupy the next tier except for the last-place Ridgid, which just couldn't keep up despite its size and published specs.

Gary Katz is a finish carpentry specialist and writer in Reseda, Calif., and is a member of Hanley Wood's JLC Live construction demonstration team.