My faithful impact driver recently bit the dust after several years of service. You can’t spend much time mourning old tools when there are jobs to do, so I immediately began a search for its replacement. I was impressed with the breadth of new choices and features. The market boasts more compact designs, longer battery life, and even fluid-driven function now. Standard impact driver design features two hammers or anvils to create the force used to sink fasteners. Only the Hitachi Triple Hammer Impact Driver features three.
Three has got to be better than two, right? Or is it a gimmick?
Hitachi (now Metabo HPT) has been doing a solid job lately (check out Daniel Elms’ review of the Metabo HPT DH52MEYM rotary hammer) so I decided to give the Metabo HPT/Hitachi Triple Hammer impact driver the nod.
RecommendationEven though Metabo HPT’s Triple Hammer Impact Driver doesn’t rank high in the torque category, it does very well maintaining its speed under load. The Triple Hammer impact mechanism is an even greater benefit when you’re working with deck, drywall, or other smaller diameter screws. While this is one of my favorite models to use on a day-to-day basis, its price is a bit tough on the wallet for its overall ranking. Just keep in mind Metabo HPT’s lifetime warranty when you’re considering it.
Hitachi Triple Hammer Impact Driver First Impressions
Three anvils allow the Hitachi Triple Hammer Impact Driver to produce up to 4,000 beats per minute and an impressive 1,832 inch-pounds of torque. Yet that’s just the beginning of the promising features of this ¼-inch keyless hex drive tool.
Editor’s Note: Check out our Best 18V Impact Driver reviews page for the most up to date results.
Its brushless motor is lighter, more compact, and promises longer life than its brushed brethren. And as mentioned here on Pro Tool Reviews in the past, the electronic requirements of brushless motors enable smart tool technology that opens the door to other advancements.
The tool is remarkably light and compact – so much so that you have to be a little skeptical of the proposed power capabilities. A 4-mode power selector allows the user to choose from 0-900/2,900 RPM ranges, which should cover just about anything I need to do.
As indicated on the side, the bare tool is IP 56 rated to resist water and dust. It’s got a bright work light, which is pretty standard nowadays. And as some icing on the cake, the hard plastic toolbox has a convenient compartment for fasteners and bits.
Maybe I’m not missing my old impact driver as much as I thought I would!
Triple Hammer Usability and Controls
Traditional impact drivers have a pair of rotating hammers on the inside of the mechanism that strike a pair of anvils around the outside to rotate the bit. Hitachi’s new mechanism adds one more hammer and one more anvil meaning that at the same rotational speed, you get more impacts.
The controls are conveniently located on the handle’s base. They include power settings (on the side), work light functions, and battery gauge by the pinky finger.
There are 4 settings to choose from that go beyond simple low to high. Soft mode (low) is for your small diameter screw and bolts, offering lower speed and 3 impacts per rotation. Normal kicks up the speed and power while maintaining the 3 impacts per rotation.
Power mode kicks the power up even more and drops to 1.5 impacts per rotation when under heavy load. That may sound counter-intuitive, but the interval between successive impacts is extended, delivering the power of each strike for a longer period. Sound familiar? That’s exactly what Ridgid’s powerful Stealth Force does with its lower impact rate!
The 4th mode is specifically for driving self-tapping screws and goes back to the 3 impacts per minute. In short, these four modes offer an incredible level of versatility for a wide range of driving applications.
Hitachi WH18DBDL2 Impact Driver Performance
The team and I find ourselves performing every phase of the carpentry process from new construction to finish work. Over the last decade, the impact driver has become indispensable for this kind of work. I use one every day. The power range of the Hitachi Triple Hammer impact driver only amplified its usefulness because it could handle big lag bolts down to thin trim fasteners.
This thing is powerful! Its compactness really belies the force it can generate. We typically use square-headed screws because they don’t strip out as easily as Phillips head and the impact driver was more than enough tool for everything I asked it to do. In fact, as I acclimated to it, I sheared a couple of screw heads off!
It’s very comfortable in the hand. Hitachi has historically done a great job with handle and balance ergonomics – a trend that is clearly continuing. The variable speed trigger gives you ample control over the drive. It does all this and is quieter than other impact drivers I’ve used, too, though not as quiet as the new oil pulse options.
An additional consequence of the triple hammer mechanism is that there’s less vibration reaching your hands. If you’ve used any of the oil pulse drivers out there, you know they give a harder push to go with their lower impact rate. Hitachi’s higher impact rate does the opposite as vibration begins to smooth out compared to other models.
Run-time and Battery
Hitachi includes a pair of their new compact 3.0 amp hour batteries in the kit. Hitachi veterans will immediately notice the size difference as the 3.0 was their full-size battery just last year. Users that want even more run time can get their hands on Hitachi’s new 6.0 amp hour battery to supplement what comes in the kit.
Hitachi is one of the few remaining manufacturers to keep the indicator on the tool. It works, but the slight downside means the battery must be inserted into the tool, of course. It’s not a deal-breaker by any means, but it is an extra step if you’d like to quickly see a battery’s discharge status.
The quick charger is remarkable – it charges the included batteries in 20 minutes! I can use the impact driver heavily for about 4 hours before draining it, so there’s ample time for the next battery to be ready to go or even for it to simply charge during lunch.
The Hitachi Triple Hammer Impact Driver body is well-covered with no-mar rubberized pads which protect the driver in the heavy construction phase and protects floors and countertops in the finish carpentry phase.
New work light modes are an emerging trend in the market and Hitachi is on board. Using the controls on the base of the handle, the work light can be constantly on as a flashlight, a work light that only illuminates when you’re pulling the trigger (traditional function), or totally off if you’re working in bright conditions and want to save some juice. I’ve pulled the trigger on other tools just to use the light to illuminate dark areas, so I like Hitachi’s attention to detail on this.
This impact driver is also light enough that using the belt hook doesn’t weigh you down too much. I’m not a big fan of the tether but not so much that I’ve cut it off yet – that’s about my only gripe! Hitachi may actually be ahead of the game though. There’s no telling when OSHA will drop the hammer on tethering requirements for all tools used at height.
The Bottom Line
Thinking that Hitachi brought a triple hammer impact mechanism to the market for the sake of increasing driving speed would sell this tool woefully short. The weight, balance, and other ergonomic considerations are outstanding. And I’d be remiss if I didn’t note that the new batteries have brought Hitachi back to a level playing field with the other big names.
Faster driving does indeed take place, but the innovative control system offers additional versatility that simply can’t be found in a driver that only boosts the power incrementally with each mode. There’s power to get the job done from small to large fasteners and though there are more impacts, the overall vibration transferred to your hand is reduced.
I love this comfortable, light, well-balanced, and powerful Hitachi Triple Hammer Impact Driver. I heartily recommend it to any Pro. It comes as a kit for $339, which is up there with the likes of Milwaukee and Makita. Its performance justifies it being the conversation with those brands as well. If this is an indicator of where Metabo HPT is headed, they’re going to be serious contenders.
Hitachi Triple Hammer Impact Driver Specifications
- Model: Hitachi WH18DBDL2
- Power Source: 18V battery
- Batteries Included in Kit: Two 3.0 Ah compact
- ¼-inch keyless hex drive
- Weight: 2.9 lbs
- Motor: Brushless
- Max Torque: 1,832 inch pounds
- Max No Load RPM: 0-2,900
- Impact Rate: 0-4,000 BPM
- On-board battery indicator
- On-board LED work light
- Warranty (Tool/Battery): Lifetime/2-Year
- Price: $339 (kit)