The Bosch PSR 18 LI-2 is the strongest machine in the test and coped with all of the strength tests, regardless of whether they involved hard, thick pieces of wood or long, thick screws to screw in. It was only when we reduced the power and pushed it to its limits that it had a problem with too much resistance. Normally, screwdrivers lock up and sound angry, but the PSR 18 LI-2 simply stops. This feels odd to start with and initially gives a negative impression, but over time you get used to it. Another thing that stands out with the PSR 18 LI-2 is that it's rather slow to start up. From pressing the button until it reaches maximum speed there is a delay that we haven’t experienced previously, but it also means that the screwing process is gentler and that it’s easier to adjust the speed.
The PSR 18 LI2 also stands out from the crowd because of its design. Instead of having the classic appearance with the torque setting as a ring on the front, it instead has a control on the top with a button that you move sideways. The positions are marked with clear graphics that make it easy to understand you increase the screwdriver’s strength the more you move the control to the right. For a professional, it’s more difficult to remember your settings and the design is somewhat limited. But given that DIYers are the target group the PSR 18 LI-2 is aimed at, this is more user-friendly.
Levels of both comfort and ergonomics are high. The screwdriver feels stable and well-balanced in your hands. It’s also quite compact and the build quality feels good except for the fact that the chuck wobbles – only slightly – on our test example. This doesn’t prevent use of the tool. However, it does make us wonder a little about the build quality, but we didn’t encounter any sluggish buttons, loose parts or strange noises. The battery keeps its charge well between uses and a 2.5 Ah battery charges completely in exactly 60 minutes, which is very good. The only disadvantage is that it’s a little fiddly to get the battery out of the machine. Our conclusion is that the PSR 18 LI-2 is a powerful and user-friendly screwdriver with good comfort levels that’s ideal for the average DIY user. It’s also very good value for money.
The Dewalt DCD791 is a competent and impressive screwdriver that gives you a lot of power for your money in a compact and handy format which feels well-balanced in your hands. It has no problem screwing through double studs with thick, long screws or penetrating hard wood such as oak. As long as you have the wrist strength and good drill bits, the screwdriver can cope with the work. In dusty environments it has a disadvantage that it stirs up the dust and blows it towards your face, but you have to be standing in a very enclosed environment or very close to the screwdriver for this to be a major problem. The battery included with the machine has a high charge capacity and means that you can work for a long time without having to charge it, but the major benefit is the charger, which is able to recharge the battery while you eat lunch or use the second included battery. The charger is silent, compact and clear in terms of graphics.
The gear button on the top of the DCD791 is sluggish, but all the other functions work smoothly. The integrated holder means that you can easily suspend the screwdriver from your tool belt when you need both hands free and don’t have any surface nearby to put it on. The lamp that illuminates the screw head in dark environments can be set to three different strengths, the strongest of which is extremely powerful. Unfortunately it can’t be completely switched off. On the side of the screwdriver there is a magnet to hold screws and bits, which can’t hold much but is an excellent complement, for example when you have two different screw sizes and quickly need to change between different bits. Overall this is a very powerful but compact screwdriver, with few downsides.
The Einhell TE-CD 18/2 Li Kit is a battery driven drill/driver that suits a wide range of tasks despite the fact that it belongs to the upper end of the budget class. The battery time is among the best in our test, and it can cope with screwing hefty screws into soft fir wood without complaining. It’s only when we push it in terms of power on a thick oak edging strip that we can see it’s not an elite machine. However it doesn’t completely fail at any of the test tasks. One thing we did note which can be slightly irritating is that it’s quite slow in reverse. This means that it takes longer than you’d want to unscrew a screw. The quick chuck makes it easy to change between drill and bit holders. The battery also holds its charge well between uses and charging takes a mere 40 minutes for the 1.5 Ah battery included in our test kit, which is extremely good.
The TE-CD 18/2 is relatively light and compact, which makes it easy to gain access even in restricted spaces. The rubberised grip makes it feel stable in your hands, and the balance of the screwdriver is good, contributing to the positive impression. However, the button to change between first and second gear is extremely sluggish, and it’s also tough to get the last step of torque. The intelligent belt clip on the side saves time because you can easily hang the screwdriver from your belt while you carry out other tasks. This came in handy several times when we were standing on a ladder and had to put the screwdriver down to measure something. Another practical function is the LED lighting, which makes it easy to see the screw head even in dark conditions. However, you can’t turn off the light. Something the screwdriver lacks, but which would have been useful, is integrated space for screwdriver and drill bits on the body of the machine. But overall, this is a really good and versatile screwdriver for its price class.
The Ryobi RCD1802M is a screwdriver with many aces up its sleeve, such as a magnetic plate on the foot where you can place screws, together with a bit holder. There is also a built-in spirit level on the top of the screwdriver. These functions are very welcome, particularly for this price class. In terms of design, it’s otherwise a rather large and bulky screwdriver. It has a thick neck and quite a tall battery, which makes it feel substantial. At the same time, it’s a little unbalanced in your hands and this makes it feel heavier than it actually is. On the whole it gives a good impression, which is increased still further by the extra functions we named previously.
This screwdriver has two Achilles heels: its strength and charging time. In terms of power it coped with more than what we expected, given the price. At the same time when we pushed it, it didn’t really reach the level that a DIYer might require. For example, it has to work at relatively high strength to get a substantial screw into a thick stud. On the other hand, the RCD1802M delivers as long as we set it on maximum level and this means that it’s still fine for the intermittent DIYer who doesn’t want to spend more than necessary on tools. However, the charging time for the 2.5 mAh battery being more than 1.5 hours is a tad long and we hope this will improve in the future. But just the fact that such a large battery is included for this price makes us happy.
The Black & Decker BL186KB is a really strong screwdriver that coped with all of the tough tasks we gave it, despite only being in the upper end of the budget class. It was only when we pushed it to its utmost at lower strengths that we could see where it starts to struggle – and even then it did pretty well. Screwing into thick oak edging strips or substantial studs is no problem for this machine. The battery is economical and the BL186KB works for a long time on one charge. However, a major disadvantage is that the battery doesn't have an indicator. Charging also takes a long time with the small, extremely simple charger. A 1.5 Ah battery takes over 1.5 hours to fully charge.
The biggest weakness of the BL186KB is its design. It’s unbalanced at the front, which you really notice when you use it for longer periods. It’s also rather bulky and a bit clumsy. But there are some nice features. For example it has a bit holder and LED lighting on the foot. Unfortunately you can’t turn the lighting on and off as you want, but it's still a welcome addition. The torque setting works well and it's easy to remove the battery. The BL186KB’s noise level is average, but the noise profile is extremely unpleasant, with a strident sound. But if you can live with that and the fact that it's rather clumsy, it's a powerful screwdriver for the money.
The AEG BS 18CBL LI-202C drill/driver responds immediately when you press the button, and makes it easy to regulate the speed while screwing. But otherwise it’s a bit of a compromise. It’s strong and has the functions you’d want, but doesn’t provide top performance in any category – despite being quite expensive. It passed the strength trial with no problems and can cope with screwing both chunkier screws into more robust studs and harder wood types, although some of its competitors perform better for a lower price. The torque control is very straightforward, the buttons are easy to set in the right positions and the build quality generally feels OK till we start to screw. Because what we don’t like about this screwdriver is the noise profile. The measured noise level isn’t particularly high but the noise is an unpleasant one that cuts into your ears when using the screwdriver – and particularly just when you stop using it. We had to use hearing protectors to make the working environment more comfortable.
Another disadvantage of the 18 CBL is that it feels unbalanced and heavy in your hands. Given the price, these are disadvantages we hadn’t counted on. The battery lasts well between charges and can be charged to a high level relatively quickly. Despite the fact that it’s a 2.0 Ah battery, it can be completely charged in just over 60 minutes. Overall, the AEG BS 18 CBL LI-202C is a useful but rather noisy piece of kit – but one that we had higher expectations of given its price class.
The big screwdriver guide
What do you need to think about when you’re buying a screwdriver? If you have a good understanding of how they work, what distinguishes the models and what functions and accessories are available, it’s easier to make a well-informed and efficient choice.
There are a variety of different types of screwdriver. For example, some are only intended for screwing with, while others are also intended for drilling.
Different types of screwdriver are described below:
A small screwdriver. Often quite weak, but handy for the odd simple task. For example, if you want to hang up a few pictures or renovate a couple of items of furniture.
A machine intended for screwing in or removing screws.
The advantage of a simple screwdriver is that they are often good at tightening screws in tough timber, unlike many combination machines.
A screwdriver with a drill bit that strikes in the direction of rotation. It strikes the screw by having high torque. The function is similar to that in an impact wrench.
The advantage of an impact screwdriver is that it can cope with tougher resistance. When a screwdriver can't cope with a screw, that’s when you need an impact screwdriver. The process will also be quicker and more ergonomic as you don’t have to push against it when screwing. But they aren’t intended for drilling in concrete, even though the name may make you think that. They have a drill bit but are only intended for screwing with.
A screwdriver that you can also drill with. This combination machine is equipped with a chuck so that you can choose between a drill or bit holder, and often also have a number of gears and torque settings.
There are also drill/drivers with an impact function. The idea with many of these is for them to also be able to cope with drilling in concrete. But not all of them are good in terms of performance on this last point. Make sure you do thorough research before buying.
Right angle impact driver
The shape makes it suitable for narrow spaces where normal screwdrivers won’t fit.
A special screwdriver equipped with a depth stop. This is intended for sheet material. When you use it, it drives in the screw extremely quickly but stops at exactly the right depth.
Strength & torque
The strength of the screwdriver is what primarily determines its torque. Torque is stated in Newton metres (Nm), and the size of the torque determines how hard the screw is screwed in. The screwdriver’s maximum torque is determined by the motor power and efficiency. And the power is in turn dependent on the voltage it is supplied with. To simplify slightly, the higher the voltage, the more powerful machine and the more it can cope with tough timber, substantial screws etc. The maximum torque can also be called the torque limit. As a rule, the torque limit can be adjusted and reduced several steps from maximum. This can be selected on the basis of how hard you want to screw in the screw.
For easier screwing work, such as assembling flat pack furniture (IKEA and similar), a torque of 3-5 Nm is often sufficient. For more difficult tasks, such as hex bolts, a torque of 40 Nm or more is recommended. In the case of extremely high torque there are models that jerk so much they can injure the user’s wrists if not used carefully. A screwdriver with extremely high torque must therefore be well designed to avoid negative consequences. Today, 18 V is the most common voltage for battery-operated screwdrivers. One major advantage with this voltage is that you can often use batteries from the same brand on different types of machine. This where you can buy “bare” machines and save money by sharing the batteries between them.
However, 18 V is quite powerful, and for some consumers unnecessarily so. Weaker screwdrivers tend to be cheaper and weigh less.
For this reason there are also screwdrivers with lower voltages – everything from a couple of volts less to mini-screwdrivers of just 3-4 V. Screwdrivers with a voltage of around 10-12 V are generally more compact and weigh less than 18 V models.
Battery or mains power
The most common types available are battery-operated screwdrivers, because batteries have improved so much today in terms of the power you need for screwing. But there are also mains powered screwdrivers. The advantage of these is that you don’t have to change the battery. The disadvantage is that you are limited to the cable length and any extension cable.
The most common type of screwdriver comes with a battery. Here there are three crucial points. Battery quality, battery life and how quickly you can recharge the screwdriver after use. Battery capacity is stated in ampere hours (Ah) and together with the power (W) this determines the battery life. For example, a battery with a capacity of 4 Ah should be able to deliver a 4 ampere current for 1 hour, or alternatively 1 ampere for 4 hours. As a concrete example, a battery of 4 Ah should be able to screw in around 1800 screws.
The advantage of batteries with a higher capacity (more ampere hours) is that they can screw more screws before they have to be recharged. The disadvantage is that they are heavier and larger, which can be tiring on the arm muscles over time. Important aspects when buying a screwdriver are the tasks you will be using it for, the number of batteries included and access to the nearest power outlet. For the DIYer there are usually plenty of nearby outlets. Then it can be worth investing in a screwdriver with two batteries of around 1.5-2 Ah and changing between them.
There’s not much difference in terms of weight between a screwdriver with a 3 Ah battery and one with a 1.5 Ah battery, but it’s still a couple of hundred grams. Over time that can be quite a difference if you’re going to do a lot of screwing. Particularly if you're using the screwdriver overhead when installing a ceiling, for example. But if you want to recharge less often, a bigger battery is preferable. The actual charging time varies too. Partly as a result of battery capacity, and partly how good the charger is. A charging time of 2.5 hours isn’t unusual for the budget and medium price segments, while an hour or less is common for the professional segment.
Other than the ampere hours (Ah), the battery voltage (V) also plays a role. The higher the voltage the battery can supply to the motor, the greater the power it will have. But the higher the voltage the battery supplies, the more quickly it uses up its energy. It’s the screwdriver voltage that determines the voltage of the battery that goes with it. Today the most common voltage for battery-operated screwdrivers is 18 V. These batteries can often be used for several types of machines from the same manufacturer, such as tiger saws or strimmers. As more manufacturers now sell battery-operated machines without batteries for a lower price, you can save money by having a number of machines that share the same battery. In some cases you can even use a battery with a significantly higher voltage (e.g. 48 V) with a lower voltage appliance. This means that you can share batteries between your screwdriver and more powerful machines such as strimmers and motor saws.
The screwdriver can also be equipped with gears. Lower gears give more power, and higher gears give more speed. The gear you should use is determined by the task. Easier screwing can be carried out in higher gear and vice versa.
There are screwdrivers without chucks, which just have a bit holder. But there are also screwdrivers with chucks, and these are the most common type today because many people use screwdrivers to drill with. The size of the chuck is important as it determines how large a drill bit you can use, and thus how big a hole you can drill.
Many screwdrivers have built-in LED lighting. This is a very useful function which makes it easier to see the screw head even in dark environments.
The average screwdriver isn’t a cheap product. Good guarantees and good access to spare parts, such as new batteries, are therefore important aspects when it comes to choosing make and model.
Bit holder: Bit holders are available in a range of variants. One of the more useful is the magnetic type that holds the bits in place using magnetism.
Bits: High quality bits are essential for straightforward, no fuss work. They also last longer and damage fewer screw heads.
Extra batteries: When buying a battery-operated screwdriver, it's usually sensible to buy an extra battery. Then you can carry on working while the discharged battery is recharging.
Chuck: Sometimes chucks wear out. If tightening the screw holding it in place doesn’t suffice, on the majority of models you can undo it and replace it with a new chuck. Remember that chucks are threaded anti-clockwise.