An impact driver is the perfect complement to your cordless drill, and a lot of people like to use them as both a drilling and driving tool in one. We’ve been testing the grease out of our top professional brands, and now we’re ready to crown a king of the cordless impact driver world.
Let’s start with a look at which models we’re testing. Each one has already earned our recommendation for professional use and it’s just a matter of ranking them from here.
We tested Bosch’s GDX18V-1800CN Connect-Ready brushless Freak—an 18V 2-in-1 tool that has a ½-inch square drive for sockets and a ¼-inch hex drive to act as both an impact wrench and impact driver. With 3400 RPM, 4200 IPM, and 1800 in-lbs of torque, it was a nice upgrade from the original Freak. But even as we speak a newer version is on its way to retailers, so we already have a reason to come back around to our impact driver testing soon!
DeWalt’s tried and true 20V Max XR brushless DCF887 has been in our arsenal for years. Its 3250 RPM, 3600 IPM, and 1825 in-lbs of torque haven’t been so far behind the competition that there’s been a real need for a major upgrade other than adding Tool Connect to the DCF888. Even so, the recently-announced ridiculously compact Atomic 20V impact driver boasts the same specifications, and it will be fun to see how its performance compares when we get our hands on it. For now, there are a lot of DCF887’s in the hands of Pros, and it’s going to take some time before we see this new model saturate the market.
Flex is a newcomer to the professional ranks and impressed us with their performance in our cordless drill rankings. They have a couple of impact drivers to choose from, and the brushless FX1371A-2B is clearly their high-performance pick. It has 4000 RPM, 4450 IPM, and 2500 in-lbs of torque. In addition to its 6-cell 24V battery system, what sets this model apart is a quick eject function. Instead of pulling out the collet, you just press a button above the trigger to release your bit without ever taking your hand off the handle.
Hilti’s SID 4-A22 has been a workhorse the past several years, and it’s the only brushed model in our group. With 2700 RPM, 3500 IPM, and 1717 in-lbs of torque on the top end, there’s certainly an argument for Hilti to consider an upgrade. Still, it’s tough to argue with Hilti’s 20-year warranty and top-notch service.
Kobalt brought their XTR upgrade to Lowe’s with a lot of fanfare, and it’s picked up a loyal following. In fact, the KXID 1424A-03 XTR impact driver is one of the most requested reviews y’all asked us for. With 3400 RPM on the top end, 4,000 IPM, and 2400 in-lbs of torque, and a 24V battery system, it’s no wonder.
We haven’t retired our Makita XDT16 by a long shot, but for this review, we decided to see how the 40V XGT model stacks up to the competition. Its 3700 RPM, 4400 IPM, and 1950 in-lbs of torque push the performance specs higher than its 18V counterpart—but without increasing the size of the tool or battery. It takes driving options to another level with 4 standard speeds, two tightening modes, an assist mode, and three auto-stop modes for both forward and reverse.
If you didn’t know it, Metabo is celebrating 50 years of service in the North American market in 2021. The culmination of their cordless impact technology is definitely the SSD 18 LTX 200 BL. This 18V brushless impact is capable of hitting 2900 RPM, 4000 IPM, and 1800 in-lbs of torque. Featuring assist and power modes with 10 settings in between, it’s among the most compact designs in our test.
Metabo HPT introduced triple hammer technology several years ago and even developed a drink recipe to celebrate its release at STAFDA when it came out. Where most impacts use a two-hammer system, Metabo HPT’s design has a third to hit the anvil an extra time on each rotation. The 36V MultiVolt version boasts 2900 RPM, 4100 IPM, and 1859 in-lbs of torque.
Milwaukee is on their third generation M18 Fuel impact driver, and it’s available in a standard form or with ONE-KEY. This one’s been out long enough that it feels like we’re on the cusp of a gen-4 model, but there’s no arguing that the 2857 is still one of the best impact drivers available with 3600 RPM, 4300 IPM, and 2000 in-lbs of torque to work with.
Last alphabetically, but far from least, is Ridgid’s 18V brushless impact driver. Paired with a Max Output battery, you can expect speeds up to 2900 RPM with 4200 IPM, and 2300 in-lbs of torque. We love its smaller, lighter profile, but we do miss Octane’s tri-beam LED light design.
Let’s get back to our impact drivers. We’ve driven a lot of screws and drilled plenty of holes with these tools, and we’re going to hone in on three key tests.
Up first, we have our power test. We set Grade 8 hardened bolts to specific torques to see how much force each impact driver could break. We ended up using our Gearwrench 750 ft-lb electronic torque wrench to set them because some of these models are just so dang strong.
If you haven’t seen our video on impact driver torque, take a few minutes to watch it. What we’ve discovered over years of testing is that by the time you try to break more than 300 ft-lbs of torque, you start snapping socket adapters left and right. It’s impossible to get a good and consistent idea of real torque levels above that rating.
So 300 ft-lbs is our target. Hit it, and you’re in the high-torque category. It’s that simple. Sort of.
Only two of our models came up short. Bosch was able to break up to 225 ft-lbs and Metabo handled 250. Every other one consistently took off 300 ft-lbs… and we still broke most of our adapters along the way.
But even among the ones that made the cut, we could tell the difference between the strongest and the ones that barely made it. Flex, Kobalt, Milwaukee, and Ridgid, in particular, made much quicker work of removing the bolts than others, telling us that they’re hitting harder than the rest.
Next, we turned to GRK Fasteners RSS screws and a stack of OSB we clamped together. Of course we know that you won’t find this kind of application on the jobsite, but OSB is far more consistent than lumber and helps us get repeatable results. Using an 8-inch RSS screw, we timed a series of five tests to see which model has the best combination of speed and strength.
With all the tests complete, Milwaukee had the fastest average at 5.84 seconds. Flex wasn’t far behind at 6.13 seconds and Kobalt’s XTR wrapped it up with 6.83 seconds to make these three the only ones to break 7 seconds.
Last there’s the PTR Test Track where we combine driving drywall screws, self-tapping screws, drilling holes, and driving ledger screws all into one continuous test. Sure, there’s the possibility of some human error, but it really shows us who’s the best of the best when you’re doing a variety of jobs.
Topping the charts, the Flex 24V and Makita XGT impact drivers tied for first place at 1:57 with Ridgid’s 18V brushless just three seconds behind. Metabo HPT’s Triple Hammer wrapped up fourth place at 2:03 with Metabo and DeWalt right on its heels.
There are a lot of performance results to work with, and while we put the most weight behind them, it’s not all that goes into our final scoring calculation. Especially for impact drivers, size and weight are a big deal, and we constantly reach for the smaller, lighter tools that still do the job well, even if it’s not the fastest or strongest.
We consider special or unique features such as Makita’s electronic controls, Milwaukee’s One-Key, Flex’s Quick Eject collet, and Metabo HPT’s AC adapter compatibility.
Then there’s the value. What you get for the price you’re paying matters when the cost of your tools directly affects your bank account. Together with the warranty and the number of compatible tools on the same battery, value is much more than just the price of the tool alone.
Taking ALL of those things into consideration, here are our final rankings along with each impact driver’s overall rating.
Number 10: Bosch’s 18V Connected-Ready Brushless Freak with a score of 8.9
Number 9: Hilti’s SID 4-A22 earning a 9.2 rating
Number 8: Metabo’s SSD 18 LTX 200 BL, also with a 9.2 rating
Number 7: Kobalt’s XTR finishes with a 9.3
Number 6: DeWalt’s 20V Max XR Brushless still rates a solid 9.4
Number 5: Metabo HPT’s Triple Hammer MultiVolt matches DeWalt’s 9.4
Number 4: Ridgid’s 18V Brushless wraps up a very nice finish at 9.5
Number 3: Makita’s XGT 40V Max opens up its higher-performance line with a 9.6
By the time we’ve done this much testing, we usually have one tool that clearly rises above the rest, but that’s not the case this time. Flex and Milwaukee went toe-to-toe, tying in our nut-busting test with Milwaukee winning the RSS screw challenge and Flex taking the Test Track.
Looking more closely at the designs, Flex has an assist mode built in and that Quick-Eject collet, plus an advanced cooling design for their 24V max batteries and it’s an excellent value at $249 for the kit.
Milwaukee is a full pound lighter and more compact with an optional ONE-KEY upgrade and a much deeper line of compatible tools.
Both have a 5-year warranty with Flex offering a lifetime guarantee for products registered before December 31, 2021.
Even with the deeper dive, our team was still split on which one of these two we were going to call the winner.
Both Flex and Milwaukee earn a 9.7 rating for their flagship impact drivers, and we were determined to crown a winner. After a lot of debate, Milwaukee’s significantly lighter weight is what finally inched it into first place as our top impact driver of the year. But in reality, this is really a game of millimeters, not inches.
Look, we know there’s going to be a lot of debate with this one, but we still love you anyway. So let us have it… I mean let us know which one is your winner in the comments below while I grab some safety gear and as always, thanks for watching.
I been used both milwakee that belongs to my son and flex I like both but I prefer Flex is my opinion
The bulk of the flex is a total non starter for me. I’m not sure how much the extra power is worth the size and weight, that’s getting into impact wrench territory.