Tool Performance Test #1 11/03

14.4-volt, 3/8-inch POWER DRILL/DRIVERS

We chose to do our initial review on power drill/drivers because they are universally used, by both contractors and homeowners. The 14.4-volt model is middle-of-the-road pricewise, and consumers can get more power for their dollar than with lower voltage models. As well, a 14.4-volt drill/driver can do most of the tasks of an 18- or 24-volt driver, but tends to be lighter in weight and easier to handle. All of the drill/drivers we evaluated had similar features—adjustable clutch and dual-speed action as well as comparable heft and balance. One caveat is that we tested only new tools, and don't have frequency of repair or breakdown data.

These tests were performed with the understanding that drill/drivers are designed to meet the needs of two very different groups. Prices vary widely—the professional-oriented models cost quite a bit more because of stringent standards of quality, resilence and longevity. The higher price assures you longer lifetime and a tool that will not quit easily. For a lot less, consumer-oriented models such as the Black & Decker FSD142 Firestorm are available, containing added features but are likely to sacrifice durability.

We found that, for pros, the Bosch 32614 and RIDGID R83001 were hands-down our top choice; for the average do-it-yourselfer's needs, the Ryobi SA14402 and Craftsman 11453 are all-around good buys. And for non-demanding household use, there are the quick-switch functions and snappy features of the Black & Decker FSD142 Firestorm.

We performed these comparison tests in order to present our readers with the best review of the top models in the field. The test parameters are as follows:

* 2-1/2-inch deck screws driven through doubled 2x4 stock
* All screws driven on high speed; torque clutch set accordingly
* Battery was run down completely and fully charged before conducting first test

—Gabriel Vandervort

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If price were not an issue, we would choose the Bosch 32614, for outstanding performance, durability, longevity and overall comfort in use. Functionally, it stands up to the rigors of the jobsite—it brings to the table all of the features required by the most demanding contractors, and fits into a compact package ideal for everyday household use.

When price is considered, we would have to pick the Ryobi SA14402. It packs a serious punch, driving more screws than any other drill we tested on a single battery charge. Although a little bulkier than the Bosch, for under $90, you get a lot of bang for your buck with this drill.