DeWalt DCD797 20V Max Compact Hammer Drill 01 Buying Guides

Best DeWalt Drill for 2020


After recently testing over 50 drills and hammer drills to find the best cordless drill among dozens of brands, DeWalt stood out in the pack. In fact, we found the best DeWalt drill for nearly every application. If you’re here, you obviously like the Yellow and Black brand—so we’ll break down our favorite models for any application.

Keep in mind—these careful picks come after hours and hours of torque testing, runtime testing, and practical real-world use. We know the best DeWalt drill may not be the same for everyone. Rather than recommend a single tool for everyone, we recommend several different models that provide the perfect blend of performance, features, ergonomics, and value for different types for users.

From DIYer to Pro, this list should help you decide and choose the right cordless DeWalt drill.

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Best DeWalt Cordless Drill

Having tested dozens of DeWalt drills, the absolute best DeWalt drill has to be the DeWalt DCD997 20V brushless hammer drill. If you don’t need the Tool Connect function, we can also recommend the excellent DCD996 which has the exact same torque and power.

Editor’s Note on “20V Max”: 18V is just the nominal voltage for 20V Max, so comparing 20V Max vs 18V tools means nothing. The voltage is exactly the same—only the marketing differs. Same cells. Same voltage.

When talking about raw power, the DeWalt DCD997 produced more torque than any other drill except the four-speed Hilti SF 10W A-22. Another thing that makes this the best DeWalt drill is Tool Connect which lets you customize the drill settings and also locate the tool using an iOS or Android app.

best cordless 20V drill

Also the Best DeWalt Hammer Drill

Since it includes the impact mechanism, the DCD997 also makes for the best DeWalt hammer drill we’ve tested to-date. DeWalt sank our 1/4″ Bosch Daredevil Multi-Purpose bit 3-inches deep in an average of just 4.55 seconds. It wasn’t the fastest drill among all brands for that test, but it comes close enough—and certainly tops the lineup for best DeWalt hammer drill.

The key feature for drilling speed has to do with the DeWalt DCD997 and its three-mode transmission. Using that, you can prioritize speed, power, or a solid mix of both. Combine that with Tool-Connect, and you get one of the most customizable 20V cordless hammer drills we’ve ever seen.

DeWalt also managed to make this the lightest drill in our lineup of Super-Duty drills. In fact, it either won or held its own in nearly every category we tested. From the Pro who wants the most power to the DeWalt fan who needs a rugged serious DIY tool, the DCD997 should fit the bill.

If you like to stay on top of technology, be sure to check out the DeWalt DCD998 with Power Detect technology. It works with the newest DeWalt batteries and increases the power output to achieve even more torque and speed while drilling.

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Best DeWalt 12V Lithium-ion Drill

In the past, even the best DeWalt 12V lithium-ion drill the company had to offer left us feeling “meh”. Other manufacturers seemed to dramatically outpace their 12V line of cordless drills. Many of those newer models used brushless motors. Now, however, the newest DeWalt 12V lithium-ion brushless drills feature revamped brushless motors and put the company back in the game.

The DeWalt DCC701 12V drill measures a more compact 6″—far less than former brushed models. It even weighs less—just 2.4 pounds with the 12V 2.0 Ah battery installed. That drops 5 ounces off the former brushed model.

Best Lightweight Drill for a Woman - DeWalt 12V Brushless Drill 1-3/8" Spade Bit

Most importantly, however, the new DeWalt DCC701 12V drill gets through wood and steel faster than any previous DeWalt 12V lithium-ion drill. It specs out with a 32% increase in power and torque. In a head to head against the Milwaukee M12 fuel drill, the DeWalt drilled a bit more quickly and got through untreated 2x pine with a 1-3/8″ Bosch Daredevil spade bit.

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It also doesn’t hurt that you can pick up this drill plus its matching 12V impact driver for $199 or less with a pair of 2.0 Ah batteries, charger, and tool bag.

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Best DeWalt Drill for Home Use

The best DeWalt drill for home use has to be their DCD797 hammer drill. This drill finished second place in our Compact Drill category. Overall, it had enough power, functionality, ergonomics, features, and value to put all but one competitor in the rearview mirror.

The DCD797 quickly asserted itself as the fastest drilling tool in the Compact class. Next, it had the highest efficiency where it maintained a high drilling speed even when under significant load. It also demonstrated the 2nd highest torque of the Compact drills we ran through our multi-phase tests.
Finally, the DCD797 includes Tool Connect for customizing the controls, running diagnostics, and tracking the drill when your neighbor borrows it!

best DeWalt drill for home use DCD797

With a 3/4″ auger bit, the DCD797 demonstrated a speedy 1,948 RPM. Incredibly, this number represents 98% of its no-load speed!

In Low, with a 1-1/4″ self-feed bit, we measured 512 RPM—97% of its no-load speed. No other drill touches DeWalt’s speed and efficiency while drilling and driving.

Drilling 3″ deep into concrete with a 1/4″ Bosch Multipurpose bit, the DeWalt DCD797 smoked every other hammer drill in the 18V Compact division. Averaging just 5.92 seconds, this hammer drill beat the next fastest drill by over a second per hole!

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Best DeWalt Drill Bits

You can’t use a drill without drill bits. Making a recommendation on the best DeWalt drill bits depends a lot on your desired application. For example, do you want general-purpose bits or cobalt bits designed for use on hard metals? Because this guide assumes a general application across many areas of expertise we’ll cover a few of our favorites.

For the absolute best DeWalt drill bits, we recommend their Cobalt Drill Bit Set with Pilot Point. You can find these in a number of kits online. DeWalt Cobalt bits are designed for maximum speed and life. You want to keep these bits a good long time and even possibly sharpen them when they eventually get dull. They use a Pilot point and split tip design so they don’t “walk” or drift when you start drilling. Pull these bits out when you want to drill into hard metals.

best DeWalt drill bits - Cobalt
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Our next recommendation comes to the general user—be it the Pro or serious DIYer. We recommend the DeWalt Titanium drill bit set as a great all-around drill bit set. You can pick up a 21-piece kit for less than $30. It comes in a nice case and we found it easy to remove and replace the bits. These bits also use a hex shank, so in a pinch, you can chuck them into your impact driver.

best DeWalt drill bits titanium kit
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Best DeWalt Rotary Hammer Reviewed

Making a recommendation on a related tool, the rotary hammer comes with more difficulty. A rotary hammer uses a different mechanism from a hammer drill to more quickly drill holes in concrete. DeWalt makes many different rotary hammers—across a wide range of sizes. We can only really suggest the best DeWalt rotary hammer reviewed by our team.

That would have to be the DeWalt 20V SDS Plus Rotary Hammer with Dust Extractor. For starters, this tool uses 20V Max batteries, so it works with all your other DeWalt tools. Secondly, it makes you OSHA Table 1 compliant with a replaceable HEPA filter.

best DeWalt Rotary Hammer reviewed with Dust Extraction

The DeWalt DCH263R2DH has plenty of power with 3 joules of impact energy. We love the dust collector and how it fits right on the tool and provides an easy way to empty the contents. The integrated SHOCKS Active Vibration Control reduces the fatigue inherent in using a rotary hammer for longer periods of time.

Finally, this tool weighs less than 6 pounds without the battery. DeWalt makes other tools, but we feel this is the best DeWalt rotary hammer reviewed by us to-date for general users. At $599 for the kit, you really can’t go wrong.

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Best Priced DeWalt Drill

Without a doubt, we’d call the DCD708C2 the best priced DeWalt drill. We’ve seen it as low as $99 for the kit with two batteries, charger, and tool bag. This compact cordless drill definitely rules the roost when it comes to value.

A top performer in the compact cordless drill class, the DeWalt Atomic 20V drill replaces the need for a 12V tool. In fact, the DCD708 drill fits the same compact profile. You get a smaller footprint with less weight while getting better performance than you find in DeWalt’s 12V drill.

We’re seeing other companies (like Makita) also release sub-compact tools and it makes a lot of sense. We think the Atomic DCD708B makes the best priced DeWalt drill for its perfect blend of power and size. It really hits the sweet spot.

Also, if you need to drill in concrete, DeWalt has a hammer drill version in the DCD709. Expect to pay a bit more for that function.

best price DeWalt Drill
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How We Tested

Speed Testing Under Load

To see how fast each drill could work, we put them through a series of increasing loads. We measured the RPM at a specific point in each test to see how fast it could drill under each full load and see how much of its no-load speed it maintained.

The higher the RPMs a drill maintains, the faster the bit moves through the material. On the other hand, the closer a drill is to its no-load speed, the more efficiently it’s working and the lower the strain on the motor. A balance of both gives you optimal performance and motor life, and we use both to calculate our scores.

We use glued up multiple layers of OSB subfloor (oriented strand board) for testing. OSB provides greater consistency than 2X dimensional lumber. Each final rating is based on an average of at least 3 samples. Outliers are dismissed and replaced with additional samples.

For concrete testing, we used 4000 PSI concrete mix that has been fully cured for several months. Since drilling in concrete is a function of both RPM and hammering, we take the average time it takes to drill a 1/4″ concrete bit 3″ deep rather than just measuring RPMs.

Matching the Accessory to the Power Tool

Each class has a different amount of muscle. You shouldn’t expect a compact drill to do what a heavy-duty one can. Our 18V Heavy-Duty and Medium-Duty drills run a 1/2″ Milwaukee Shockwave Titanium twist bit, 1″ Bosch Daredevil high-speed auger bit, and a 2-9/16″ Milwaukee SwitchBlade self-feed bit.

With 18V Compact drills and DIY Prosumer drills, we drop to a 3/4″ Bosch Daredevil high-speed auger bit and a 1-1/2″ Milwaukee SwitchBlade self-feed bit.

All 12V drills test like the Compact drills above but without the self-feed bits.

Finally, DIY Homeowner drills tested with just a 1/2″ Milwaukee Shockwave Titanium twist bit to keep things simple.

For all hammer drills, we also added a timed test using a 1/4” Bosch Daredevil Multi-Purpose bit. That was the only test with the hammering mode engaged.

Measuring and Understanding Different Bits

One thing we realized quickly is that there is very little difference between the twist bit speeds and auger bits speeds for most of these classes—sometimes just a few RPM. For the 18V classes, we only used the auger bit speeds in our internal scoring.

Each bit is different, so the point that we take the measurement varies. Here’s how that breaks down:

  • Twist bits: RPM when the final 1/2″ of fluted bit enters the wood
  • Auger bits: RPM when the final 1/2″ of fluted bit enters the wood
  • Self-feed bits: RPM when the top of the cup is flush with the wood surface
  • Concrete bits: Total time it takes to drill 3″ deep in cured concrete

Special Thanks

Many thanks go out to Bosch and Milwaukee for providing the accessories used in this comprehensive review. There’s a reason we selected the accessories we did. We recommend you give them a shot on your next job.

Milwaukee Shockwave Titanium Twist Drill Bits

Milwaukee’s Shockwave Titanium drill bits last up to 3 times longer than comparable black oxide bits. Their 135º tips resist walking when you start to drill. The variable flute width ejects metal and wood shavings better. They even come with a 1/4″ hex shank so you can use them in your favorite Milwaukee drill or impact driver.

Bosch Daredevil High-Speed Auger Bits

Bosch Daredevil High-Speed Auger Bits are ridiculously efficient and drill super-fast. In fact, they’re specifically engineered to use in high-speed with your cordless drill. The magic is in the decreased pitch of the tips. They don’t bind up in the middle of drilling. Also, when you hit a nail, the reinforced tip lasts twice as long as other auger bits. The bottom line is that you get faster drilling and more holes per charge on your cordless drill.

Milwaukee SwitchBlade Self-Feed Bits

Milwaukee SwitchBlade Self-Feed Bits drill up to 10x faster than standard hole saws. The self-feeding tip means you just need to control the drill instead of worrying about how much force to put on it. Best of all, you can replace the cutting edges when they dull instead of replacing the entire bit. That helps reduce your cost over the long haul.

Bosch Daredevil MultiPurpose Drill Bits

Bosch Daredevil MultiPurpose Bits use a tungsten carbide tip. This lets them drill through anything—wood, metal, PVC, concrete, stone, masonry, and more! Many multi-use bits seem to compromise. These bits, however, feel incredibly fast while drilling—especially in concrete. With 9x longer life in multi-material uses over other bits, you’ll want to keep a set in your toolbox to cover anything the job throws at you.

Torque Testing

We test soft torque by chucking each drill up to a rig that uses the front spring from a Ford Ranger to provide resistance. We let it drive as far as it will go on one trigger pull. Once the drill stops, we attach a Gearwrench 85079 digital torque wrench. We then back the socket off by 90º.

Next, we measure how much torque it takes to get the socket back to the position the drill stopped. By attaching a magnetic torpedo level to the torque wrench, we ensure that we move the socket exactly 90º backward and forward.

We attempted multiple ways of testing hard torque. Because of the nature of how cordless drills operate we could not achieve consistent and repeatable results on the torque testing rig we use for impact driver testing.

Weight

Using a digital scale, we weigh each drill as a bare tool and with the most appropriate battery that comes available in a kit. Heavy-Duty and Medium-Duty 18V drills (including hammer drills) use an advanced high-capacity battery for their full weight. Compact 18V, 12V, and DIY are weighed with a compact battery.

Footprint

Using a digital caliper, we measure the head length and tool height without a battery installed.

Grip

The comfort of each drill’s grip is subjective based on size and does not affect the score. We hold and use the tool with a bare hand to see if there are any uncomfortable seams or other oddities that might affect every user regardless of preferences.

Feature Set

In general, here are the features we look for on each drill:

  • Brushless or brushed motor
  • Number of standard modes
  • Smart controls
  • Smart tracking/inventory
  • Clutch design
  • Drill/driver/hammer drill selection design
  • LED light design
  • Chuck size/type
  • Belt hook
  • Unique features

Value

Value is more than just the price of the tool. We consider the whole picture of what you get for the price you pay. That includes the performance, feature set, ergonomics, warranty, bare tool price, and kit price.

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Jimmy Riddle

DeWalt rules

Mick

Isn’t there a PowerDetect Version now with XX% more torque than the 997?

Big Richard

“the absolute best DeWalt drill has to be the DeWalt DCD997 20V brushless hammer drill. If you don’t need the hammer drill function, we can also recommend the excellent DCD996 which has the exact same torque and power.”

Edit for you: The DCD997 is the Bluetooth Tool Connect version of the DCD996, BOTH are hammer drills. The non hammer drill model is the DCD991.