Best 12V Cordless Multi-Head Drill Driver

Best 12V Cordless Multi-Head Drill Driver Head-to-Head

This category has been around a long time, or at least there has been one multi-head compact cordless drill around for a long time and that’s the Festool CXS. As best we can tell the first version of it was released in Europe over 8 years ago (that’s a lifetime in cordless tools!). Other than some minor changes and improved battery technology not much has changed on the current version of the CXS. But it’s popularity here in the US has clearly pushed other manufacturers to take notice. In fact, the recent release of the Milwaukee 2505 looks like a close relative of the CXS.

Multi-head cordless drill drivers are becoming more popular these days. Mostly due to their lightweight, compact size, ability to provide access in uniquely challenging locations, and precision drilling and driving control. The electrical, plumbing and installation trades will benefit most from these tools as they provide the best access and feature-rich accessories in one tool. These are best thought of as “installation” drivers used in the finishing stages of construction and remodeling.

Multi-head drill drivers use interchangeable attachments to address different installation situations, such as:

  • ¼” Hex Quick Release Bit Holder
  • 3/8” Keyless Chuck
  • ¼” Hex Quick Release Offset Bit Holder
  • Right Angle Attachment

With these compact cordless tools combined with the accessories mentioned above, one kit can tackle a wide range of tasks on the job without requiring multiple cordless tools. The flexibility and portability capabilities that these multi-head drill drivers offer are quite impressive.

12V Cordless Multi-Head Drill Driver Evaluation Format

For this head-to-head evaluation, the following categories will be used to calculate the overall winner of the best 12v cordless multi-head drill driver.

  • Features – This category isn’t typically included in our rankings. However, with this type of tool that offers multiple heads, the feature set is an important consideration on which tool may be best for you.
  • Ergonomics – This category is a subjective comparison ranked by our group of testers. Each guy that worked on the performance tests ranks the ergonomics categories after using the tools.
  • Performance – For this category two tests were developed to help give a relative comparison of performance. One test included the speed of fastener installation and the other test was a power test comparing speed to drill larger diameter holes.
  • Price – For this category, the current (at time of publication) price is compared and ranked. We’ve recently decided to only count the ranking of price 50% towards the final rankings as we feel the pricing isn’t quite as important as the other categories.

12V Cordless Multi-Head Drill Driver Lineup

For this evaluation five compact 12-volt cordless multi-head drill drivers were selected including:

  • Bosch Flexiclick Drill/Driver System GSR12V-140FCB22
  • Festool 564535 CXS Li-Ion Cordless Drill Set w/ Right Angle Chuck
  • Metabo PowerMaxx BS 12 BL Q Cordless Drill / Screwdriver
  • Milwaukee M12 FUEL Drill/Driver Installation Kit 2505-22
  • Hilti SFE 2-A12 Subcompact Class 12V Drill Driver

Bosch Flexiclick® 5-In-1 Drill/Driver System GSR12V-140FCB22

  • RPM Low 0-400
  • RPM High 0-1300
  • Max Torque 265 In. lbs
  • Chuck 3/8”
  • Right Angle Yes
  • Offset Attachment Yes
  • ¼” Hex Attachment Yes
  • Head Indexing Positions 12
  • Weight (w/ battery) 1.8 lbs
  • Height 7-3/8”
  • Length 5-3/16”
  • Width 1”
  • Bosch Flexiclick

Festool 564535 CXS Li-Ion Cordless Drill Set w/ Right Angle Chuck

  • RPM Low 0-430
  • RPM High 0-1300
  • Max Torque 142 In. lbs
  • Chuck 3/8”
  • Right Angle Yes
  • Offset Attachment No
  • ¼” Hex Attachment Yes
  • Head Indexing Positions 16
  • Weight (w/ battery) 2.0 lbs
  • Height 6-7/8”
  • Length 6-1/2”
  • Width 2-1/2”
  • Festool 564535 CXS

Hilti SFE 2-A12 Subcompact Class 12V Drill Driver

  • RPM Low 0-400
  • RPM High 0-1600
  • Chuck 1/2”
  • Right Angle Yes
  • Offset Attachment Yes
  • ¼” Hex Attachment Yes
  • Clutch 12 settings
  • Weight (w/ battery) 2.2 lbs
  • Height 6.9”
  • Length 5.1”
  • Width 2.7”
  • Hilti SFE 2-A12
  • Editors Note: The US release of this tool has been delayed (no current time frame available due to the Covid 19 pandemic)

Metabo PowerMaxx BS 12 BL Q Cordless Drill / Screwdriver

  • RPM Low 0-500
  • RPM High 0-1650
  • Max Torque 398 In. lbs
  • Chuck 3/8”
  • Right Angle Yes
  • Offset Attachment Yes
  • ¼” Hex Attachment Yes
  • Head Indexing Positions 12
  • Weight (w/ battery) 1.9 lbs
  • Height 9”
  • Length 4-13/16”
  • Width 3” 
  • Metabo PowerMaxx BS 12 BL Q

Milwaukee M12 FUEL Drill/Driver Installation Kit 2505-22

  • RPM Low 0-400
  • RPM High 0-1600
  • Max Torque 300 In. lbs.
  • Chuck 3/8”
  • Right Angle Yes
  • Offset Attachment Yes
  • ¼” Hex Attachment Yes
  • Head Indexing Positions 16
  • Weight (w/ battery) 2.0 lbs
  • Height 7-3/8
  • Length 5-3/4”
  • Width 95”
  • Milwaukee M12 FUEL Drill

Comparison of Features

Winners – Tied Metabo and Milwaukee

By the very nature of a multi-head drill driver, these are full of features and it’s a great place to start our evaluation and comparison. While we didn’t rank all features (some are similar for all, like all offer a right angle attachment and they are all similar) we did rank ones that had variations that may be important to users when choosing a new tool. For this comparison the following items were ranked:

  • LED Light – This is a subjective comparison of how effective the LED light is. Considering these are “installation” drivers good lighting is crucial in tight spaces.
  • MAX Torque – This is from the published values. Small compact drill drivers can benefit greatly from higher torque values as it allows a wider range of fastener applications.
  • Offset Reach – This is a measure of how close each of the offset heads can install a fastener up against a side obstruction.
  • Storage – The team evaluated and compared the storage bags/boxes that ship with these drills. The team felt this was important for a tool that has multiple accessories that must be stored, and ideally not lost when moving from job to job.

LED Light

LED lighting on tools has come a long way. Years ago companies just put a light on to say they had one. Today, there’s a lot of focus on having an effective light that truly lights the work area. For this evaluation, we lined up the tools next to each other to subjectively rank the lighting. Our team ranked the LED lights as follows:

  1. Festool clearly had the best overall distribution of light. The light was diffused nicely with no hot spot and lit up a much larger area. One downside to the Festool was the light does NOT stay on after releasing the trigger.
  2. Hilti came in a close second with a similar light pattern to the Festool but not quite as bright.
  3. Milwaukee has a really bright light and does a good job lighting the work area, but it does have a rather large hot spot that is a bit too bright compared to the Festool and Hilti.
  4. The LED location on the Metabo created a clean diffused light that clearly defined the work area. The light just isn’t as bright as some of the others.
  5. Bosch is bright but spotty and yellow-colored and can be blocked by fingers, creating a shadow. Overall the Bosch diffusion was not great.

Maximum Torque

With smaller compact tools torque isn’t exactly at the top of the list of features we think about. However, with a tool that’s designed to perform a wide range of applications we feel having some extra torque certainly is a benefit. This is a comparison based purely on the published torque values.

Best 12V Cordless Multi-Head Drill Driver

Offset Reach

One of the really cool accessories that most (all but the Festool) of these drills offer is an offset head. Offset heads are invaluable to anyone doing installation work where tight spaces and fasteners located close to obstructions must be installed. So the real question is how close can you get? Each drill driver was placed up tight against a sidewall obstruction and a screw was installed. The distance from the sidewall and center of fastener was measured to create the ranking.

Storage

With a multi-head tool like these having a good storage solution is paramount to protect your investment and keep things organized. The rankings for storage are included below:

  1. Festool – Festool CXS comes packaged in a Festool Systainer storage box with a photo showing accessory placement. For a tool with lots of accessories, the Systainer is easily the nicest storage option of all these tools.
  2. Milwaukee – Milwaukee has a soft case that has individually defined accessory compartments (not specific) to the accessories.  The team liked that the compartments are not designed to any specific accessory, “just throw them in there and you’re done”.  The soft case has plenty of room for all the accessories and additional bits.
  3. Metabo – Metabo comes in a molded plastic case with plenty of room for accessories. However, there are no compartments for the various attachments for the tool.
  4. Hilti – Hilti comes with a soft bag with no specific compartments. While this bag doesn’t have compartments, it is much larger than the Bosch allowing for more accessories.
  5. Bosch – The Bosch comes with a soft canvas case. The Bosch soft bag uses elastic bands to secure accessories, with no indication of which accessory goes where. Also, the bag is quite small with little to no extra room for additional accessory storage.

Best 12V Cordless Multi-Head Drill Driver

Stand-Out Features

Several tools also had some unique or stand-out features worth mentioning that were not considered in the rankings.

  • Keyless Drill Chuck – All of the tools with the exception of the Hilti have a 3/8″ keyless chuck. The Hilti has a 1/2″ chuck which awesome!
  • Accessory Holders – Magnetic bit holder holds multiple bits on board to save time when switching accessories. Both the Festool and Milwaukee magnets worked well. The Bosch and Metabo both come with ¼” hex clip style accessory holders that worked fine for what they are but the team preferred the lower profile and ease of use of the magnetic bit holders as well as the flexibility to hold metallic fasteners.
  • Note on the Festool Centrotec Accessories – The Festool CXS can only accept their proprietary Centrotec accessories in its quick-release bit holder. The Centrotec line has a unique shaft that is a slightly different size and much longer than standard ¼” hex accessories. Unfortunately, this limits what accessories can be used with the tool and the only way around it is to chuck ¼” hex bits into the three-jaw drill chuck or with some third party adapters. Either of these options will add additional length and bulk to the tool.

Overall Features Results

For this category, there was a tie between Metabo and Milwaukee for the top spot. Both did very well in the torque and offset reach comparison. Following up in second was Festool followed by Hilti in third. The results are shown in the table below.

 LED LightMax TorqueOffset ReachStorageTOTALRANK
Metabo411391
Milwaukee322291
Festool1551122
Hilti2444143
Bosch5335164

Ergonomics Evaluation

Winner – Milwaukee

Ergonomics is the science of designing and producing tools that improve a worker’s efficiency while reducing discomfort, fatigue, and risk of injury. The key point to consider is whether or not the tool eases your work and prevents you from straining in ways that could lead to injury. Ergonomics is the most difficult evaluation in these head-to-head evaluations due to the subjective nature of ergonomics. Tools companies have all invested a lot of time, money and research into designing their tools to provide superior balance and ergonomics.

For each category, the team ranked them 1-5, (1 being the best). With everyone on the team using drills differently throughout our normal workday, this was a great way to develop a consensus on which tools we felt were the most comfortable for users. We held the 1 score for the tool that was truly outstanding in that category.

For the ergonomics section the team used the tools and evaluated the following:

  • Weight – Each tool was weighed with the battery installed.
  • Size (equivalent box volume – HxWxL) – While these tools are not “boxes” it’s a relative way to compare the “size” of the tools by multiplying the length, wide and height.
  • Grip – This is a subject evaluation where each team member ranked the grip and the tools were ranked by the cumulative score.
  • Balance – This is a subject evaluation where each team member ranked the balance and the tools were ranked by the cumulative score.
  • Switch Placement (Ease of Use) – This is a subject evaluation where each team member ranked the switch placement (how easy the switches are to operate) and the tools were ranked by the cumulative score.
  • Accessory Attachment – Head Change – In this category, each team member ranked the drills on how easy it was to change heads on the drills.
  • Accessory Adjustment – Head Adjust – In this category, each team member ranked the drills on how easy it was to adjust the accessory heads.

Weight

All five tools are compact and lightweight. For this category, each tool was weighed with the battery attached. Bosch was the lightest at 1.8 lbs and Hilti was the heaviest at 2.2 lbs. All of the weights are shown in the chart below.

Size

Trying to compare size is an interesting conversation with tools that are configured in so many different shapes. For this comparison, the “box” volume was calculated to give a relative comparison of overall size. The “box” volume was calculated by multiplying the length, width, and height. Bosch had the smallest size at 80.3 cubic inches with Metabo being the largest at 129.9 cubic inches. All of the volumes are shown in the chart below.

 

Grip

The grip rankings are a subjective evaluation by our team of testers. The final grip ranking is based on the cumulative ranking from all testers, with their eues closed. The final results can be seen in the table below.

Switch Placement

The switch placement rankings are a subjective evaluation by our team of testers. The final switch placement ranking is based on the cumulative ranking from all testers. The final results can be seen in the table below.

Accessory (Head) Attachment

The Milwaukee has the easiest accessory attaching and detaching feature (it has precise tolerances on the machining). The Bosch came in as a close second. One ding on the Bosch is that when wearing gloves, and adjusting the clutch – the accessory can become accidentally disengaged. This happened quite a bit during this testing. The Metabo attachments were the most difficult and awkward to attach and detach. The final rankings can be seen in the table below.

The Milwaukee attachments go on like butter ~ Jeff Deitz

Accessory (Head) Adjustments

Bosch has the BEST adjustment on the 90 degrees and offset attachments. This is due to its spring-loaded, pull forward feature that lets you quickly and easily rotate the two attachment heads. While changing accessories on the Metabo was more difficult than the other tools in the test, adjusting the 90-degree and offset attachments was quite easy. Just pull back on the red retention ring and rotate the attachment to the desired position.

The Milwaukee Attachments connect in 16 different positions for access at almost every angle and is easy to accomplish. The Milwaukee was easy to adjust as well but required partially removing the attachment and rotating it. The Festool also required partially removing the right-angle attachment to rotate it into the desired position.

The final rankings are shown in the table below.

 WeightSizeGripBalanceSwitchesHead ChangeHead AdjustTOTALRANK
Milwaukee3233112151
Bosch1154231172
Hilti4412223183
Festool3343125214
Metabo2521344214

Performance Evaluation

Winner – Metabo

For the performance evaluation, two different tests were designed to help highlight both speed and power. These two tests provide a great side-by-side comparison so readers can see how they perform in a couple of typical applications. With any evaluation, there are endless tests that could be developed, but these two felt very appropriate for this category.

Speed of Installation Test

For this test, dozens of fasteners were installed to determine the average time to install a 3” framing screw into a 6×6 PT seasoned post. All of the drivers except Festool were able to accomplish this task at their high-speed setting.

The Metabo averaged 1.32 seconds, followed closely by Hilti at 1.67 seconds and Milwaukee at 1.71 seconds. The Festool was the slowest driver and came in averaging 4.46 seconds. Admittedly this is an aggressive test for an installation driver, but not for the Metabo.  We felt that there may be times when you need to use these drivers for their ability to get into challenging locations and need to drive a larger screw. Bottom line – they all do it, some faster than others. 

Power Test

The power test cutting sled removes the human element and variability with a standard driving angle and consistent pressure.  The sled was used to compare drilling times using a 3/4″ Bosch Daredevil spade bit through 3″ of framing lumber. The sled was designed to roll along a linear path. The force used during cutting was applied with an 11 lb. weight, delivered by a series of pulleys, wheels, and cables.

Titan rubber straps and clamps were used to secure the drills in the jig and hold them securely in place. The drill attachment was used for each drill driver, a fully-charged battery was installed, and each drill driver was set on low speed, and a new a ¾” Bosch Daredevil spade bit for each tool was used.

As you can see in the chart below, Metabo led the way again with the fastest average time of 8.90 seconds. Following closely behind in second place was Hilti with a time of 9.60 seconds and Milwaukee in third place with a time of 12.30 seconds. It’s interesting to point out that the results from this test match the same as the 3″ screw test as well.

Price Evaluation

Winner – Milwaukee

These are sold as kits and we have priced them as such. The kits include the tool, a storage bag/box, 1 battery, and a charger. We’ve used the current prices at the time of this publication (pricing changes constantly, so you’ll have to look up current pricing if this is really important to you). Also, as we did in our last head-t0-head we are only counting the Price Evaluation at 50% in the final rankings. In large part, this is based on years of feedback on this topic and how price shouldn’t be a huge determining factor when tool longevity isn’t considered in these tests.

NOTE: The Hilti price is our best guess as it’s not available yet. However, back in December it was available online for a very short period and was listed at $209. A couple of different editors we spoke to have gotten a price range of $199 to $219, so we’re feeling comfortable that the $209 is pretty likely.

Best 12V Cordless Multi-Head Drill Driver

Winner – Milwaukee

The winner of the best 12V cordless multi-head drill driver in our Tool Box Buzz Head-to-Head is the Milwaukee M12 FUEL Drill/Driver Installation Kit 2505-22. It won the Features, Ergonomics and Price categories and finished third in the performance testing. With a compact size, great features and a great price this multi-head drill driver/installation driver is top-notch. Coming in a strong second place is the Metabo PowerMaxx BS 12 BL Q Cordless Drill / Screwdriver. The Metabo is exceptionally powerful and fast making it an exceptional choice where a powerful drill driver is needed. Coming in a close third place was the all-new Hilti SFE 2-A12 Subcompact Class 12V Drill Driver. The Hilti is also a powerful drill driver and came in a close second to Metabo in our performance testing.

 FeaturesErgonomicsPerformanceCost (50%)TOTALRank
Milwaukee11315.51
Metabo141482
Hilti33239.53
Bosch4242114
Festool245513.55

Final Thoughts – 12V Cordless Multi-Head Drill Drivers

This category has clearly been around for a long time with the Festool CXS which didn’t have any competition until recently. Now there are different Brands offering a cordless multi-head drill driver perfect for a wide range of applications. While this may not be your everyday go-to drill driver, it may well end up being one you rely on the most to get you out of a jamb with a bag full of attachments for every application.

If you spend time doing installation work (think building finishes, plumbing, electrical, and HVAC) then you may benefit from having one of these in your arsenal.

Best 12V Cordless Multi-Head Drill Driver Video

About the author

Todd Fratzel

Todd Fratzel is the Editor of Tool Box Buzz and the President of Front Steps Media, LLC, a web based media company focused on the Home Improvement and Construction Industry.He is also the Principal Engineer for United Construction Corp., located in Newport, NH. In his capacity at United he oversees the Residential and Commercial Building Division along with all Design-Build projects.He is also the editor of Home Construction & Improvement.

@tfratzelTodd Fratzel

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5 Comments

    1. Todd Fratzel

      James – When we do these tests we reach out to every Brand and tell them about the test and ask them to send us their most recent/best tool in the category. We started this project last Fall and it appears that this newer version has just come out. We rely on the manufacturer to get us the latest models, in this case they simply missed the boat so to speak.

  1. Dennis

    Wow, Milwaukee is the cheapest ? Back here in Germany the kit is even more expensive than the Festool one.

    Had the Bosch brushless before I sold it, due to it’s horrible ergonomics. By far the worst screwdriver I’ve ever had. It lacked power in almost every situation. Changing the chucks is a pain in the a** It is lots of fidgeting and probing and takes lots of time and just annoys.
    The bitholder from Bosch isn’t working at all. It fails to snap close most of the time and then gets stuck.. horrible.

    The gear-change is so badly constructed, you need 2 hands and lots of power to swap from 1st to 2nd gear.. quite the opposite to a fast and smooth working process.

    The forward-revers switch is like butter.. I have destroyed a workpiece by just breathing against it and turning the forstner reverse….

    I just switched to Metabo, because Milwaukee is way too expensive(full kit costs around 350 – 400$) here in Germany and it is clearly another lvl. Bosch is good if you have to tighten 1 screw in your house once per year. Other than that I am done with Bosch tools.

  2. Scott

    Hi. I am considering buying one of these multi head tools. From my research, the Milwaukee offset uses a magnet holder where other offsets use a locking mechanism. So if you drill using the Milwaukee offset, the drill bit may stay in the hole and I’ve read that the magnet has even broken and fallen out. Anyone know if Milwaukee plans on fixing this and changing to a locking mechanism in the offset head? Thank you for responses.

    1. Todd Fratzel

      We’re not aware of any issues or plans to change the design.

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Product reviews on this site contain our opinion of a product or service. We will always strive for objectivity and transparency in our reviews. Our goal is to provide readers with honest, objective information based on our own experiences. We never have and never will accept payment in exchange for a positive review. Many of the products that we review are provided to us for free by a manufacturer or retailer. In some cases, we also have advertising or affiliate relationships with manufacturers and retailers of products and services we review. For additional information please visit our additional disclosure policies.