5 Features at a Glance
- Brushless Motor
- 4-Speed, All Metal Gear Box
- Electronically Controlled Torque Settings
- Interchangeable Drill / Drive Heads
- 900 screw connections per battery
The Fein Cordless Drill Feels Like a Winner
The first thing I do when I see a new tool is pick it up and hold it in my hands. I like to see how it feels and think about the people who designed it, taking note of the decisions that went into each detail. I like to see how much it weighs, how it’s balanced, what it’s made of and if it speaks to me. Now, I bet half of you think I’ve been breathing too many paint fumes and the other half knows exactly what I mean. The people that created the tool you hold in your hands are builders just like you. They step back at the end of the day, look at what they’ve done and smile as they admire their new baby. So, when I pick up my new Fein cordless drill, I don’t think I’m too far off to imagine myself next to them and appreciate their creation as much as they do.
Taking on the Competition
FEIN, the high end German tool company predominantly known for the MultiMaster, AKA the best tool ever, announced earlier this year their new line of cordless drills & drivers. Appearance wise, they are consistent with the other tools in Fein’s lineup and carry the patented orange and black aesthetics with a simple yet professional design. Immediately, I noticed that Fein has been taking notes from their German competitor, Festool. There are a lot of similarities between the two companies cordless drills, but as you know Festool has been making them a lot longer. This is a Fein review, so I won’t be comparing the two, but I will be giving feedback based off of my experience with other drills–including Festool.
Decisions, Decisions . . .
As I was trying to choose which drill was right for me, I found the selection a Fein cordless drill options to be a bit overwhelming. Fein has released 16 new cordless drills and drivers, plus 2 kits that include a drill and impact gun or a drill and MultiMaster. After scratching my head for 15 minutes, I was able to narrow them into two main categories: 18V and 14V. From there, you can choose between 2 Ah or 4 Ah Lithium Ion batteries. After that, you select a 2-speed or 4-speed motor and whether you need a hammer function or not. Lastly, there are four models that have the ability to change from a drill chuck to a bit holder. I decided on the 18v (2 Ah) ASCM 18 QXC because I wanted a lot of power and a compact battery, I don’t need a hammer function and I loved the option to switch out the chuck for a bit holder.
Like a Glove
I already mentioned that Fein’s tools are very simple in their appearance, which I like because they put the thought more into its functionality. The bright orange and black make it easy to find on a shelf or your workbench as well as in low light situations. Most of my 18V tools feel like holding a cinder block, but I was very happy with how light the Fein was and how comfortably I was able to use it over an extended period of time. For the last few years, I haven’t been using my full size drill because they always feels a little too big. Admittedly, I tend to use an undersized driver just because it weighs less and is easier to hold. At 3.7 lbs, I feel like the Fein drill is the perfect medium size where you don’t feel like your using a sledgehammer to hang a picture frame or a chainsaw to sharpen a pencil (so to speak). The black rubber is in all the places you would want it for a good grip and it doesn’t cause any irritable rubbing between your thumb and index finger. I even love the way Fein’s plastic feels. You would think that anything made out of plastic would feel cheap, especially a power tool, but this feels very sturdy. If I had two of them, I would consider doing some drop tests to prove its strength, but I’m not at the point where I’m willing to drop this from any height–at least on purpose!
Batteries & Charger
This drill comes with two 18V Li-ion batteries and a rapid charger. I was very happy with the charger and agree that it is indeed rapid. I placed a nearly empty battery on and walked away about for about 20 minutes. When I came back to check, I couldn’t believe that it was already fully charged. If you are the type of person that runs your batteries until they are completely dead (guilty as charged–pun intended), then average charge times is 30 minutes. Fein claims you will be able to make 900 screw connections with one full charge. For a plumber like me, that’s not really what I use my drill for, but if you are a carpenter, then I’m sure you can appreciate this number. One feature I hate on almost all tool is how the battery is removed and inserted. It seems that over the years, as they get banged around, they get harder and harder to get off. I love that Fein uses one giant button in the center to remove their batteries rather than two buttons on each side. The 2 Ah battery that came with my drill is the perfect size in my opinion. I knew that the 4 Ah would last longer, but after using mine for a few weeks I’m glad that I opted for the smaller one. I haven’t had one time that I wished I got the 4 Ah, especially with how long they last and how fast they charge. As with all of Fein’s cordless tools, there is a 4-bar indicator light on the battery which comes in handy when you want to see how much battery life you have left. If you’ve ever burned up a battery from overload, don’t worry because these batteries feature Fein’s SafetyCell technology which has a separate communication line that will protect your battery from overloads. Thanks Fein!
Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde
The feature that I was most excited about when I got this tool was the ability to change out the head from a chuck to a driver bit. There are a few companies out there that have this ability, but I would say Festool is most notably known for this feature and have the best quality accessories available. This really comes in handy when you have a job that requires both drilling and fastening. Rather than having two separate drills or having to removed the drill bit and attach the driver, you can simply pop off one head with the drill bit still attached and pop on the driver with the bit already in place. It really helps your workflow and can save you some time and frustration. A great example of precision German engineering is when you detach the metal chuck from the drill, it creates a suction pop noise that shows just how dustproof and precise this drill is. With that said, I was a little disappointed with a few details on the driver head. First is that it’s little tricky to place the new head on because there seems to be a certain spot that allows it to attach. On both heads, you need to pull the collar toward you while simultaneously pushing it onto the drill. Then sometimes you need to spin the head around to find that spot that allows it to attach completely. It might not seems like much, but if you have a sharp bit on the end, it can be hard to pull, push and spin at the same time without hurting yourself. The other issue I had with the driver is that it holds standard bits (C 6.3, E 6.3), but it will not hold the longer, two sided bits because it’s not deep enough. I would like to see them include a deeper driver in the future because it would help workflow even more to use one bit that has a Phillips on one side and flathead on the other instead of needing two separate bits. The other issue is that once the bit is locked into place with the driver sleeve, it still has a good amount of wiggle. Because of this, it felt a little sloppy to me when using the driver head, especially compared to other drills I have that cost significantly less. This by no means is a deal breaker to me and most people may never notice it.
The ASCM 18 QXC comes with a 4-speed control on top of the drill that looks almost like a transmission stick shift. It definitely catches your attention when you pick up the tool and wonder what it is, but after using it for a few seconds, you’ll see that it’s very intuitive and fun to use. I like the ability to have 4 speeds and each of those speeds can be controlled even further using the trigger. The brushless PowerDrive motor puts out speeds ranging from 400 to 3,850 rpms when the trigger is fully engaged with no load. While I love the ability to fine tune the speed, in my line of work, I think I could get away with three speeds and still be happy.
Another small, but smart feature I found is on the torque settings. Typically the drill setting is all the way at the far right, but Fein added a second drill setting at the very beginning of the wheel as well. Yeah, you’re not going to save a ton of time by going left instead of right to get to the drill setting, but it still adds to the overall feeling of quality and a well thought out design. At the max setting, this drill is able to put out 752 in/lbs of torque, which is plenty for any job I could put it up against (hole saws, forstner bits and 1” drill bits). This drill features an electronic torque setting and instead of hearing the clutch engage with repeated chattering like you are used to, you will hear a singe beep tone. I was confused at first that maybe I was overloading something, then realized that’s how it tells you the clutch has engaged for whatever setting you have it on. One thing I did notice was the range of torque settings wasn’t very diverse. I was driving a 2” screw into a 2×4 and at 1, I was able to drive the screw entirely into the wood. At 2, I was able to sink it about 1/16” inch and at 3 I was able to sink it ¼”. After 3, I could not get the clutch to engage for any application which left me wanting a bit more range in the torque settings. I didn’t see this anywhere on the manufacturers website, but the drill motor has a slow start feature. Usually, as soon as you pull the trigger, you will feel the drill twist in your hand because of the torque. Personally, I really like the slow start because it helps me not strip a screw head from the initial burst of torque that happens when you first pull the trigger.
Packaging / Accessories
I’ve mentioned in my review of Fein’s MultiMaster that I like the case that comes with it. The ASCM 18V QXC comes with the same orange rectangular case. It’s very sturdy on the outside and has a great handle that folds away so it doesn’t get caught or broken. If you don’t like box cases for your drills, you might argue it’s a bit too sturdy and needlessly bulky, but it’s not nearly as bulky as the Festool Systainer system. I don’t think I’ll ever complain about a tool case being too big, but I definitely will if it’s too small. I hate when I have to cram everything in like an overpacked suitcase, cramming the cord back in while you’re trying to latch it shut. No thanks!
I’m sure Fein will learn a lot this year about their drills and make a few improvements here and there. I bet that they will also expand the line of accessories available for the interchangeable heads. I would personally like to see a 90 degree attachment like Festool has. I would also like to see an LED light that’s brighter. It gets the job done, but I feel like it should be brighter than it is. Also, there isn’t anywhere to store a bit on the drill, so that would also be a nice feature to include in the future.
I am very impressed with Fein’s new line of Drills/Drivers. I believe they are in line with the quality you would expect from Fein and reliability over time will prove it was worth the initial investment. I was being picky about some details on here that might make you think I wasn’t completely satisfied with my Fein 18 ASCM 18 QXC, but I believe every tool has room for improvement. When you are a high end tool company like Fein, Festool or Metabo, you have a lot of pressure to make sure everything you put your name on outperforms the products that cost a fraction of the price. People want to feel that they paid for quality and durability, not just a name. The Fein ASCM 18 QXC delivers the features, quality and durability that I hoped for. If you pick one up, make sure you take time to picture yourself standing next to the team that built it and admire their baby. (Just don’t start to hug it while your still in the store)
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Thanks so much for the review and your hints for improving the ASCM! We’ll pass them along to our product management! Keep up the awesome work. Greetings from all the FEIN team at HQ in Germany… :)