Cordless Screwgun Head to Head
Cordless Screw Guns – Big Changes For An Old Profession
Anyone working in the construction industry can attest to the fact that very little has changed in the drywall / plaster industry since the introduction of drywall screws. Drywall installers take over the job-site with a crazy twisted web of extension cords powering their high pitched screw guns as they install thousands of screws on a daily basis.
Between the dangerous noise levels and trip hazards associated with the spaghetti of cords the onslaught of drywall installation crews is always a good time to avoid the job-site! Well I’m happy to say those days are short lived as a new category of power tool is already making our job sites quieter and safer. Cordless screw guns are taking over job sites and clearly spelling the demise of the corded relics of the past.
Our latest head to head compared several leading cordless screw guns on the market today. Our team of professional contractors spent the day driving hundreds of fasteners using the top cordless screw guns from Bosch, DEWALT, HILTI, Makita, and SENCO. We tested these tools on a 1,000 square foot addition just prior to board and plaster.
Our team walked away with winners in several categories including; ergonomics, productivity, overhead use, value, and the coveted best in class overall. To find out who we named our winners read more on the next page(s).
Cordless Screw Guns We Tested
Before we get into the winners of each category, let’s check out the competition! In alphabetical order we’ll give you a quick run-down of each tool including the unique features and specifications that make them stand-out from the rest of the field.
Bosch SGH182 18V EC Brushless Screw Gun
- Bosch EC Brushless motor technology for long lifetime
- Compact design and light weight for fatigue-free work – 2.2 lb
- Long runtime for continuous work (up to 3,400 screws per battery charge with 4.0 Ah)
- Lock-on button for continuous and fatigue-free work
- Integrated LED light for illuminating the work area, even in dark places
- Belt clip for practical temporary storage
- Bosch Electronic Cell Protection (ECP) protects the battery against overload, overheating, and deep discharge
- Adjustable depth stop for precise screw depth setting
- Compatible with optional MA55 Screwgun auto-feed attachment for driving collated screw strips
- Direction control is designed to prevent unintended reversing of tool
- Electronic Motor Protection (EMP) protects the motor against overload and ensures a long lifetime
- Bosch FatPack Batteries feature the CoolPack™ Design with a special heat-conductive housing and ribbing that cools them by drawing out heat out, providing battery life of up to 100% over lithium-ion batteries without CoolPack design
- Battery Chemistry: Lithium Ion
- Battery Voltage: 18
- Case Type: Canvas Bag
- Charger: Fast Charger
- No Load RPM: 0-4,200
DEWALT DCF620M2 20-Volt Max XR Brushless Screw Gun
- Up to 4,400 rpm provides greater speed than DW272 corded screw gun
- DEWALT-built brushless motor delivers maximum runtime
- Balanced and ergonomic
- Nosecone locks on securely and is easily removed while maintaining consistent screw depth
- Optional collated magazine attachment (DCF6201)
- LED light
- Voltage: 20V
- No Load Speed: 0 – 4,400 rpm
- Drive: 1/4″ Hex
- Tool Length: 8.75″
- Tool Weight: 3.3 lbs
HILTI SD 4500-A18 Cordless Drywall Screwdriver
- 4500 rpm for the performance of a corded tool
- For use with the 18V/5.2 Ah Li-ion battery for the ultimate in running time
- Innovative directional venting helps prevent drywall dust blowing into the operator’s face
- No load speed – range: 0 – 4500 rpm
- Max. torque: 4.8 ft-lbs
- Dimensions (LxWxH): 11.4 x 2.7 x 10.7 in
- Weight: 5.3 lb.
- Screw drive/recess type: 1/4 in
- Battery type: Li-Ion
- Control switch lock: Yes
- Reversing switch: Yes
- Variable speed switch: Yes
- Chuck type: 1/4 in hexagon socket
Makita XSF03M LXT Brushless Cordless Screwdriver
- BL™ Motor delivers 0-4,000 RPM to handle a variety of drywall and framing applications
- Push Drive™ Technology – in lock-on mode the motor starts only when the fastener is engaged for a quieter work environment and to save battery power
- The BL™ Brushless Motor eliminates carbon brushes, enabling the BL™ Motor to run cooler and more efficiently for longer life
- Efficient BL™ Brushless motor is electronically controlled to optimize battery energy use for up to 50% longer run time per charge
- The electronically-controlled BL™ Brushless Motor efficiently uses energy to match torque and RPM to the changing demands of the application
- Ergonomically designed rubberized pistol grip with large 2-finger trigger for increased comfort
- Adjustable nose piece delivers consistent screw depth
- Lock-on button for continuous use
- Compact and ergonomic design at only 9-7/8″ long
- 3-stage L.E.D. gauge indicates battery charge level
- Weighs only 3.8 lbs. with battery for reduced operator fatigue
- Built-in L.E.D. light illuminates the work area
- All metal gears and gear housing for maximum job site durability
- Dual belt hook for user convenience and increased versatility
- Features Extreme Protection Technology (XPT™) which is engineered to provide increased dust and water resistance in harsh job site conditions
- 18V LXT® Lithium-Ion 4.0Ah battery BL1840 provides up to 35% more run time per charge*
- 18V LXT® Lithium-Ion 4.0Ah battery BL1840 reaches a full charge in 40 minutes or less
- Equipped with Star Protection Computer Controls™ to protect against overloading, over-discharging and over-heating
- Rapid Optimum Charger communicates with the battery’s built-in chip throughout the charging process to
- Hex Shank: 1/4″
- No Load Speed (2 spd): 0/4,000 RPM
- Battery: 18V LXT® Lithium-Ion 4.0 Ah
SENCO DS215 Cordless Autofeed Screwdriver
- 18v Li-ion technology (Includes 2 batteries) 5000 RPM high-speed motor
- Tool-free screw length adjustment and Precise depth-of-drive adjustment with depth lock
- Quick slide button bit change and Variable speed trigger with lock and reverse
- Patent pending corner-fit feed system and Belt hook -right or left handed adjustable
- Kit includes 2 drive bits, drywall/wood nosepiece, 2-18v Li-ion batteries, charger, and storage bag
- Tool Weight: 5.3 lbs (2.4 kgs)
- Height: 9 1/2″ (241 mm)
- Length: 15″ (381 mm)
- Width: 3 7/8″ (98.4 mm)
- Warranty: 1 year
- Battery: 18V Li-Ion
- Charger: 80% in 15 minutes, 100 in 45 minutes
- Fasteners Per Charge: 500 – 700
- Technology: Duraspin
- RPM: 5000
- Torque : 60 in-lb
- Screw Diameteres: #6 – #8
- Power Type: Cordless
- Range: 1″ – 2″
WINNER – Bosch SGH182
Whether you’re hanging board or laying decking these screw guns are commonly used for long duration tasks that often require repetitive movements, so the feel and comfort of the tool is a big deal. We considered the weight of the tool in combination with the comfort of the grip and handle. We ultimately selected a best in class model based on the overall comfort of the tool in both standard and overhead applications.
The feel and comfort of a tool in conjunction with the factors that contribute to fatigue made our team’s choice the Bosch SGH182 18V EC Brushless Screw gun. Not only does this model weigh in at 3.0 lbs, the lightest in our test, but also the small handle makes it easy to grip and reduced discomfort over long term use.
Weighing in at just 3.3 lbs and featuring DEWALT’s well designed, ergonomically friendly, handle the DEWALT DCF620D2 deserves some attention for it’s palm performance.
Finally, we have to mention HILTI for its surprising comfort and balance despite a heavy weight and dense feel. Weighing in a 4.0 lbs, a whole 25% heavier than the Bosch, the tool is so well balanced and comfortable the weight quickly becomes less of a factor. Even in overhead applications the tools excellent design makes the overhead lift feel better than some of the lighter models we tested.
EASE OF ADJUSTMENT
WINNER – TIE
These tools may have one very specific application, to drive fasteners, but the fine tuning to ensure flush or recessed screws has to be intuitive and fast in order to execute and keep productivity high. So the adjustments for these tools were very important to us, especially when considering the drywall application where depth of screw is important to a high quality finished product. Over-driving can jeopardize the hold of the fastener to the board, and under driving can result in an imperfection on the finish. Achieving the perfect dimple on the board requires skill, but also accurate adjustments to deal with different density of studs, strapping, or the occasional knot in the framing behind the board.
No standouts in this category, primarily because all our operators were able to achieve appropriate depth fairly quickly. Some depth of drive adjustments were more intuitive than others, and a few models had their kinks, but at the end of the day no clear discriminators in this category. As we described above depth of drive is an important aspect of the performance of these tools, so it’s clear each manufacturer did their due diligence to achieve appropriate results.
WINNERS – HILTI (Non-Collated), TIE – Bosch & DEWALT (Collated)
When considering the repetitive tasks these tools are commonly used for, productivity is a key requirement to save the user time and ultimately help contractors make money. We considered a handful of features that impact the bottom line of speed and quality, but without a doubt it was the collated attachment that was a game changer for the productivity these tools bring to the user.
Using collated screws is certainly a regional preference and also a potential cost issue for some users. Crews that do my drywall work are not interested in collated screws, however, there are areas where crews won’t work without them.
For users that don’t like the collated option we felt the speed of the drill was most telling on productivity. HILTI leads the pack with a no load speed of 4,5oo rpm and closely followed by DEWALT at 4,400 rpm. Over the course of a day that extra drive speed can surely add up to more productivity in the day.
We also compared all of these drills using collated screws (except Makita which doesn’t offer a collated attachment). Collated screws can speed up production considerably, especially when working overhead where an extra hand is sure helpful. We felt that both the Bosch and DEWALT performed very well and consistently drove screws without problem.
The Bosch and DEWALT auto-feed attachments are surprisingly similar. Which makes sense since both these models accept SENCO brand screw clips. Either way the performance of these two models were neck and neck. No jams, consistent depth of drive, and again since they use the same brand screw clips, there is no difference in fasteners per reload.
SENCO’s recognition in this category is a most likely a product of its sole collated design, unlike the rest of the competition, there is only collated operation. The super effective auto-feed and overall ease of use of the tool makes it really fast. The SENCO gains additional productivity points with its long length, easing the task of overhead and decking applications, getting you a little closer to the work. The tool may be too fast for it’s own good though, it experienced a few jams during our testing.
WINNER – DEWALT
The occupational risk accepted by the construction worker over the course of the year varies, but is almost always constant, especially when you consider the exposure to loud noise throughout the day. Noise is often overlooked as a hazard, but considering the lifetime of exposure that contractors will experience, limiting noise is important to ensuring the safety of our crews. With that said we’ve recorded the output of each tool in decibels for a baseline measurement and considered features that limit the duration of that output.
The reduction in noise level of cordless screw guns was significant. I recently brought several of these screw guns to a job site and the first response from the hanging crew was how quiet the tools were. The average corded screw gun is well over 100 db and even higher when the clutch engages. All of the screw guns that we tested are well beyond almost 10 db lower than standard corded versions. That may not sound like much, but decibels are measured on a logarithmic scale, and a reduction of 10 db is a perceived volume reduction of almost half! Each decibel difference is a huge difference in how much quieter these drills are.
The clear winner in this category was the DEWALT screw gun. While only a few decibels lower than the competition any amount is a good thing when it comes to protecting hearing. A strong case can be made for Makita being on top of this list as well due to Makita’s Push Drive ™ Technology ( in lock-on mode the motor starts only when the fastener is engaged). Designed to increase run-time this feature also limits exposure to noise for the installer by reducing duration to loud noise.
WINNER – Bosch
This category is focused on the drywall installation application, hanging a ceiling is a taxing task and any relief is much appreciated. While fastening boards to the ceiling, the tool must be used overhead of the installer, the feel and balance of the tool changes significantly, so a well-designed tool will excel in this category. We evaluated this category by evaluating the comfort of the tool and considering the overall weight of the screw gun.
As the lightest weight model in our Head to Head, the Bosch has a clear advantage for overhead use, but it’s rises above the rest of our screw guns in this test as the collated attachment adds some convenient length to the tool to reduce the reach for installers.
Both SENCO and HILTI earn honorable mentions for their comfortable use in overhead applications despite their heft. 4.9 and 4.0 lbs respectively each model brings something to the table to make up for their weight. The SENCO delivers a monster reach of 16” and the HILTI is so well balanced when fastening vertically the weight of the tool seems to melt away.
WINNER – DEWALT
As always we like to consider this category as an important part of your decision as a consumer and professional to decide what is the right price point for you or your business. Obviously the battery platform you may already have will impact the upfront cost, but assuming you aren’t considering the purchase of a bare tool, the value category is based on quality and features against cost. We use prices available on online retailers and MSRP to determine average cost of the tool.
Each of the prices below include the drill along with two batteries and a charger. Bosch, DEWALT and Makita included 4.0 Ah battery packs, while Hilti is a 2.6 Ah and Senco is a 1.5 Ah.
- Bosch SGH182-01: $349 + $125 for collated attachment
- DEWALT DCF620M2 : $269 + $83 for collated attachment
- HILTI SD 4500-A18: $539 (includes collated attachment)
- Makita XSF03M: $339 (no attachment available)
- SENCO DS215: $268 (no attachment needed)
DEWALT’s DCF620M2 is very aggressively priced similar to the SENCO. However, the DEWALT comes with two 4.0 Ah batteries whereas the SENCO offers two 1.5 Ah packs which in our opinion is a huge value difference. One might make the argument that the SENCO should win this category as it’s the cheapest option if you’re looking for a collated solution.
SENCO’s all in one cost, no need to shell out more cash for collated capabilities, makes it an attractive offer. The performance is a big piece also, but where it lacks in versatility makes this one task tool fall short of the versatility of the DEWALT.
BEST IN CLASS
The coveted best in class or overall winner of these head to heads are based on performance in all categories evaluated and general feedback from our crew. Best in class winners do not need to win all or most categories, but rather stand out from the rest of the field in key categories and are chosen for overall performance in our head to head and crew feedback.
WINNER – DEWALT DCF620M2
HONORABLE MENTION – Bosch SGH182-01
This was one of the closest head to head we’ve ever done. Both the DEWALT and Bosch were so close that I’m giving the edge to DEWALT based on the fact that they also offer a cordless cut-out tool which makes a great companion for installers so they can use the same battery platform. Both of these screw guns took top dibs in 3 categories each so making a choice was not easy.
It’s also worth noting that the HILTI is an exceptional screw gun. It’s weight and cost held it back from taking the top position, however the HILTI is no doubt a robust tool that would likely wipe out the competition on durability if we had a way of speeding up time and abuse testing.
Screw Gun Video Summary
The Cord Is Cut!
As I mentioned earlier in the article, I recently brought several of these tools to one of my job sites and let the drywall hangers use them for the entire project. Within hours of using cordless crew guns they were sold! The owner of the company said without doubt they will switch over entirely to cordless screw guns.
The big take away from that crew mimics the results above. They had a very hard time choosing between the Bosch and DEWALT for an overall winner. They were blown away at the reduction in noise and overall performance that matched their old corded screw guns.
Lastly, and most important in my opinion was the discussion about no longer dragging cords around the job. They told stories of wrapping cords around their necks to make dragging easier, about tripping in stairways over cords, near misses with shocks from broken cables. The bottom line is they were amazed at the results and were completely converted by the end of the job.
If you’re a drywall / plaster hanger there’s no reason to wait any longer to jump on the cordless train!
About the author
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