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Battery Or Not To Battery: A Look at the Pros and Cons of Corded and Cordless Drills

Mar 8, 2008
The tendency these days is to regard anything that's cordless or portable as inherently superior. While in many cases this is true, the fact is that every advantage usually comes with a trade-off, and what is perfect for one scenario is impractical for another. This point is illustrated very well in the electric drill.

The cordless drill is what most people choose for their home use, and with good reason. They're convenient, i.e. portable and easy to use. But they also have two significant downsides: lack of power and the need for batteries.

Simply put, cordless drills are often less powerful than their cordless cousins, especially when the battery runs low. This is less true than it was in the past; technology is constantly improving. Nevertheless, big jobs, like heavy construction, remain largely in the purview of the corded models.

Batteries are the real fly-in-the-ointment when it comes to cordless drills. They're bloody heavy for a start, and since they almost always attach to the bottom of the drill's handle they can feel badly balanced and cumbersome. Even if the user has the arms of a blacksmith, 7 pounds of pistol grip drilling can be quite tiring after a while.

Cordless drill batteries can also be costly when bought individually. Most Drill sets come with one, but if the drill is to be used for extended amounts of time then it's wise to have two, one in use and one on charge. And they'll need to be replaced after a few years whether you use them or not.

"Okay", you may be saying to yourself, "you've convinced me, no more cordless drills for me!" But wait! That's not what I'm saying at all! Also, you should stop talking to yourself; that's weird. The point is cordless drills are actually quite good in spite of these flaws. Here's why.

Corded drills have their annoying qualities as well. Cords come to mind. Everyone hates them, and why shouldn't they? Besides functioning as a constant potential trip wire for everyone around them, they make storing the drill awkward no matter which method is used. Also they fray in time, and replacing them is both more necessary (safety 1st, always) and often more a pain than replacing a battery.

Remember that a tool is as effective as the use it's designed for. Using the drill in the back yard or on the roof would be awfully unpleasant if it was necessary to link 40 odd feet of extension cords from an outlet to your workspace (to say nothing of safety or maneuverability). And is it really worth the hassle of a cord if hanging shelves or blinds is the heaviest duty a drill is likely to encounter?

Corded Pros Corded Cons

More Powerful Limited Mobility
Cheaper Storage Difficulty
Longer Use Time Prone to Minor Hazards
(frayed cords, tripping, etc.)

Cordless Pros Cordless Cons

Portable Lack of Power
Easy to Use Relatively Heavy
Easy to Store Expensive Batteries

In the final analysis a cordless drill is a worthy purchase for most consumers. If one does a lot of drilling, chances are they're will be times when a ready power-source is unavailable. If the drill will be sitting in the closet 90% of the time then convenience outweighs other considerations. Either way, remember to keep that battery charged.
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