Months of drilling holes, driving screws, and rip-sawing lengths of pine beams confirm that even high-priced, heavy-duty cordless tools can be light on performance. We've also found that you don't have to pay extra for lithium-ion batteries, though their lighter weight and longer run time helps.
Lighter lithium-ion cells are helping cordless drills shed some bulk. Our top picks weigh as little as two pounds and start at under $100. One top-scoring drill includes an impact driver with added torque, or twisting force, for roughly half what you'd pay if you bought both tools separately.
Lithium-ion (Li-Ion) batteries power more and more drills and drivers. Added power and run time per pound over the familiar nickel-cadmium (NiCd) cells are the major talking points. Greener design is also a plus, since Li-Ion batteries don't contain toxic cadmium, which can leach into ground water if spent NiCd batteries are thrown into the trash instead of recycled. But Li-Ion cells could die an early death if you aren't careful. Several lithium batteries from multiple brands couldn't be recharged after we ran them down to full discharge. That makes using every last minute of run time a potentially expensive mistake, since replacement Li-Ion cells can cost $100 or more.
Although all the advantages and added cost of Li-Ion batteries also apply to nickel-metal-hydride (NiMH) batteries, Li-Ion cells are quickly becoming the hot items in the industry. But NiCd-powered tools still make up some of the market, thanks to their lower cost and decent performance for most needs.