2013 Pro Tool Innovation Awards – Cordless Tools

PTIA cordless tools

Cordless tools have taken on a very competitive nature in the past few years, with new models coming out every single year from various manufacturers across the industry. Each one seems to leap-frog the next in terms of run-time, power and features.

But just because a tool is new, doesn’t mean it’s worthy of a Pro Tool Innovation Award. Determining who had the most innovative tool in each category was a job we didn’t envy, but one we took on nonetheless.What made it even harder was the number of tools that had been out for a while now, but still exhibit the power, speed, capabilities and/or features to be worthy of the award.

Following is our list of the most innovative cordless tools you can buy in 2013. You might want to consider slipping this list to your significant other with some tools circled for Christmas. Hey, it’s worth a shot!

Winner: Batteries, 12V

M12 REDLITHIUM™ 2.0 Compact and XC 4.0 Extended Capacity Batteries

Milwaukee M12 RedLithium 4.0 XC battery pack

What they say: Milwaukee’s new REDLITHIUM™ 2.0 and XC4.0 batteries provide up to 2X more run-time, 20% more power and over 2X more recharges than standard lithium-ion batteries and deliver best-in-class performance in extreme job-site conditions, operating cooler and performing in climates below 0°F/-18°C with fade-free power. The new batteries are incremental purchase options and completely compatible with all M12™ and M18™ products on the market.

What we say: These batteries are complete game-changers, particularly when combined with Milwaukee’s first-to-market 12V brushless tools. Milwaukee has been on top of the Li-ion battery game for quite some time and their release  of these new battery packs is an indication that they will likely continue on that path for the foreseeable future.

Winner: Batteries, 18V

M18 REDLITHIUM™ 2.0 Compact and XC 4.0 Extended Capacity Batteries

Milwaukee M18 RedLithium 4.0 XC battery pack

What they say: Milwaukee’s new 6th generation REDLITHIUM™ 2.0 and XC4.0 batteries provide up to 2X more run-time, 20% more power and over 2X more recharges than standard Lithium-Ion batteries. With Milwaukee® durability built into each pack, REDLITHIUM™ 2.0 and XC4.0 also deliver best-in-class performance in extreme job-site conditions, operating cooler and performing in climates below 0°F/-18°C with fade free power.

What we say: That pretty much sums it up. While some companies are just starting to figure out Li-ion batteries and bring features such as fuel gauges to their packs, Milwaukee is on their 6th generation. If that’s not the definition of innovation, I don’t know what is.

Winner: Batteries, Charger

Makita DC18SF/18V Lithium-Ion Rapid Optimum 4-Port Charger

Makita DC18SF 4-port charger

What they say: Makita’s new DC18SF will accommodate up to four 18V LXT® Lithium-Ion batteries. Unlike existing 4-port chargers powered by a single controller, the DC18SF has two. The controller directs charging energy to the battery, and with two controllers the Makita 4-port charger is more efficient for faster charging. It can charge four Makita 18V LXT® batteries in 120 minutes or four Makita 18V Compact (1.5Ah) Lithium-Ion batteries in just 60 minutes.

What we say: Having multiple ports on a charger is great for those looking to recharge multiple tools at once, but Makita’s dual-controller setup means you can do it in half the time. That’s good news for those who want less down-time.

Winner: Combo Kits, Cordless 18V

Ryobi ONEPlus Cordless Tools

Ryobi OnePlus

What they say: The RYOBI 18V ONE+ system, includes more than 50 great tools that work with one 18V power source spanning from Hardware, Lawn & Garden, to Paint and Tile products. From the beginning of RYOBI’s existence, a key benefit of the ONE+ System is that it allows users to customize their tool collection without buying extra batteries and chargers. This gives users the freedom to customize their tools collections as project needs arise. The ONE+ system lineup of batteries include Ni-Cd, Lithium, and LITHIUM+ chemistries and are fully compatible with every RYOBI 18V tool ever made.

What we say: Professionals may not talk much about Ryobi tools, but nearly all of us use them. What caused us to give Ryobi this award was the sheer number of tools (and kits) that continue to work under the single Ryobi ONE+ platform. When you have tools that work on Ni-Cad, Li-ion as well as the newest 2.0Ah and 4.0Ah Li-ion+ batteries, you’ve done something worth an award. Ryobi has these cordless kits in so many configurations and genres it’s impossible not to appreciate the breadth of the platform.

Winner: Drills/Drivers—Cordless 12V

Milwaukee M12 Drill Driver 2403Milwaukee M12 FUEL™ 1/2” Drill Driver (2403)

What they say: The M12 FUEL™ 1/2″ Drill/Driver has a POWERSTATE™ Brushless Motor that provides up to 10X longer motor life, 2X more power and 4X more runtime than the leading competitors. REDLINK PLUS™ intelligence ensures optimized performance and protects your investment from overload, overheating and over-discharge. The M12 FUEL Drill/Driver’s onboard fuel gauge helps you monitor the charge precisely, so there’s less downtime on the job, and a built-in LED Light illuminates the work surface. An all-metal ratcheting locking chuck provides maximum grip, bit retention and durability.

What we say: If these new 12V tools from Milwaukee aren’t the only brushless 12V tools on the market, they’re certainly the first to get any widespread attention. In testing they really do run longer, drill harder and have the features and capabilities to make them go-to tools for professionals looking for a more portable solution for everyday driving and drilling needs.

Winner: Drills/Drivers—Cordless 12V Hammer

Milwaukee M12 Hammer Drill 2404Milwaukee M12 FUEL™ 1/2″ Hammer Drill/Driver (2404)

What they say: The M12 FUEL™ 1/2″ Hammer Drill/Driver provides up to 10X longer motor life, 2X more power and 4X more runtime. The POWERSTATE™ Brushless Motor outperforms all leading competitors with constant power output, yet runs cooler and quieter with no wearable components. REDLINK PLUS™ intelligence ensures optimized performance and protects your investment from overload, overheating and over-discharge.

What we say: Just the fact that there exists a 12V hammer drill category is a result of Milwaukee innovation, so it’s difficult to not award them the prize when they took the world’s first 12V hammer drill and gave it a brushless motor and combined it with their new 2.0 and 4.0 RedLithium batteries. The results are more than a little impressive.

Winner: Drills/Drivers—Cordless 18V Auto-feed

Senco Duraspin DS21218VSenco DuraSpin® Auto-Feed Screwdriver (DS212-18V)

What they say: The DuraSpin DS212-18V auto-feed screwdriver is a compact 18-volt Li-ion battery powered tool that can drive between 500 to 700 screws per charge. Enhancements to the product includes a higher torque motor, a variable speed trigger with lock and reverse options, and a patent-pending corner-fit feed system, for better access and screw placement in tight spaces. A locking depth of drive adjustment regulates the precise depth needed for flush drives or countersinking screws.

What we say: Of the cordless auto-feed screwdrivers on the market, Senco’s 18V DS212 really drives in screws quickly and consistently. We love the ergonomics of this tool and the tool-free screw length adjustment.

Winner: Drills/Drivers—Cordless 18V Heavy Duty

Milwaukee M18 Drill Driver 2603Milwaukee M18 FUEL™ 1/2″ Drill/Driver (2603)

What they say: The M18 FUEL™ Drill/Driver offers up to 10X longer motor life, 2X more runtime and 25% more power for maximum performance on the job site. The POWERSTATE™ Brushless Motor outperforms all leading competitors with constant power output, yet runs cooler with no wearable components. The REDLITHIUM™ Extended Capacity Battery Pack delivers more work per charge and more work over pack life than the competitors.

What we say: Of all the tools submitted, Milwaukee’s 2603 1/2″ Drill Driver was demonstrably the most heavy-duty. What makes it innovative is the combination of its brushless motor and new 4.0Ah batteries, which let it drill harder and longer than just about anything on the market. It even includes a multi-voltage charger so you can top off your 12V tool batteries as well.

Winner: Drills/Drivers—Cordless 18V Heavy Duty Hammer

Milwaukee M18 Hammer Drill 2604Milwaukee M18 FUEL™ 1/2″ Hammer Drill/Driver (2604)

What they say: The M18 FUEL™ Hammer Drill/Driver offers up to 10X longer motor life, 2X more runtime and 25% more power for maximum performance on the job site. The POWERSTATE™ Brushless Motor outperforms all leading competitors with constant power output, yet runs cooler with no wearable components. The REDLITHIUM™ Extended Capacity Battery Pack delivers more work per charge and more work over pack life than the competitors.

What we say: Just like the 2603 above, Milwaukee Tool’s 2604 M18 Hammer Drill/Driver is hard to pass by without acknowledging the incredible advances they’ve made in performance and run-time with the combination brushless motor and battery technology. This is one innovative tool that we think should be in everyone’s arsenal this year.

Winner: Drills/Drivers—Cordless 18V Right Angle

Bosch ADS181102 Right Angle Drill DriverBosch 18V 1/2-Inch Right Angle Drill (ADS181)

What they say: The Bosch ADS181 1/2-inch Right Angle Drill is designed especially for electricians, plumbers, installers, carpenters, remodelers and HVAC professionals who need a high-performing, high-capacity 18-volt right angle drill. The 1/2-inch ratcheting auto-lock chuck gives the tool the largest chuck capacity in its class.

What we say: The problem with cordless right angle drills is that they often lack power. The Bosch ADS181 removes that problem with a powerful motor and high capacity Li-ion batteries. As a result, the 1/2-inch chuck on this drill is for more than just show.

Winner: Grinders, Cordless 18V

Milwaukee M18 FUEL™ 4-1/2″ / 5″ Grinder, Paddle Switch No-Lock (2780)

Milwaukee M18 Grinder 2781-22

What they say: Milwaukee’s M18 FUEL™ cordless grinder delivers true corded performance without the cord. Delivering up to 10X longer motor life and 2X more run time, the 2780 is the only grinder on the market with the power to grind. In addition, the M18 FUEL™ Grinder is a 100% tool-free product. Whether the user is adjusting the guard or replacing accessories, all changes can easily be made without a wrench to avoid downtime.

What we say: Most grinders can’t stand up to the pressure of being used for, well, grinding. They can hand;e small cut-off applications, but bear down on them and they’ll stall out on you. Milwaukee’s new brushless FUEL Grinder doesn’t act like any of the cordless grinders we’ve previously encountered. It’s the real-deal.

Winner: Impact Drivers—Cordless 12V

Milwaukee M12 Impact Driver 2453-22Milwaukee M12 FUEL™ 1/4″ Hex Impact Driver (2453)

What they say: Milwaukee Tool’s new M12™ FUEL ¼” Hex Impact Driver (2453-20/22) features a POWERSTATE™ Brushless Motor, REDLITHIUM™ Battery Pack and REDLINK PLUS™ Electronic Intelligence. The new M12 FUEL™ Impact Driver delivers 18V performance in a compact, 12V size with longer motor life, more runtime, and a proprietary 2-Mode DRIVE CONTROL™ feature.

What we say: The power of these new impact drivers from Milwaukee are up to speed with what we would have expected from first-generation NiCad impact drivers back in the day. To think that 12V has come this far is to understand why exactly this tool won our award.

Winner: Impact Drivers—Cordless 18V

Milwaukee M18 Impact Driver 2653-22Milwaukee M18 FUEL™ 1/4″ Hex Impact Driver (2653)

What they say: The M18 FUEL™ 1/4″ Hex Impact Driver provides up to 3X longer motor life, 50% more runtime, and proprietary Milwaukee® 3-Mode DRIVE CONTROL™ for better control over the power and speed required for specific applications. The POWERSTATE™ Brushless Motor outperforms all leading competitors with constant power output, yet runs cooler with no wearable components.

What we say: We got to use this brushless tool earlier in the year and it was phenomenal in terms of both power and run-time. The three-mode operation means that it will function just as well on delicate tasks as it does driving home lag bolts on that big decking job you may have coming up.

Winner: Impact Wrenches, Cordless 18V

Milwaukee M18 Impact Wrench 2765-22Milwaukee M18 FUEL™ High Torque Impact Wrench (2765)

What they say: Available in 4 unique anvil/mechanism combinations, Milwaukee Tool introduced cordless high torque impact wrenches that deliver true pneumatic performance without the hassle of a compressor and hose. Delivering up to 750 ft-lbs of max fastening torque, the M18 FUEL™ High Torque Impact Wrenches feature three Milwaukee®-exclusive innovations: the POWERSTATE™ Brushless Motor, REDLITHIUM™ XC4.0 Battery Pack and REDLINK PLUS™ Intelligence Hardware and Software.

What we say: New to market, these four new impact wrenches from Milwaukee cover a variety of needs for the concrete worker, lineman, mechanic or just about anyone else who needs up to 750 ft-lbs of torque in a cordless form-factor. Their flexibility and performance/runtime are wat earned them the top-spot in this category.

Winner: Nailers—Brad, Cordless 18V

Ryobi P320 AirStrike Brad NailerRyobi ONE+ AirStrike 2″ Brad Nailer (P320)

What they say: The Ryobi AirStrike P320 18-Gauge 2 in. Brad Nailer Drives 18 gauge nails from 5/8 in. to 2 in. length. The tool has a selectable drive switch quickly shifts from single sequential actuation mode for precision placement to rapid contact actuation mode for production speed and up to 60 nails per minute. With the RYOBI ONE+ 18V High Capacity LITHIUM+ Battery (P108), the AirStrike can fire up to 700 nails in one charge.

What we say: This cordless brad nailer is one of the most fun. versatile and exciting tools released all year. It makes it a breeze to drive nails into crown. baseboard or other trim moulding as well as to put together projects or quickly pin up pieces you are gluing together. It’s a tad heavy if you’re used to a lighter pneumatic tool, but if you factor in hefting around a compressor, we’ll deal with the extra few pounds.

Winner: Nailers—Finish, Fuel

Paslode Cordless 16 Ga Angled Li-ion Finish Nailer (IM250ALi)

Paslode Angled Finish Nailer IM250ALi

What they say: The Paslode 16-Gauge Angled Li-ion Cordless Finish Nailer weighs just 4.5 pounds and easily reaches tough corners and tight spaces while minimizing fatigue. Designed with the innovative Fuel+Nail Combo Pack, the system features the perfect balance of tool, fuel and nails to complete each job efficiently and effectively. Each Fuel+Nail Combo Pack includes 1,000 nails and a quicklode™ fuel cartridge that delivers enough power to consistently and precisely drive them to ensure top-quality results. Featuring a 7.4-volt battery and a one-hour rapid charger, the system drives up to 6,000 nails per charge and can reach 80 percent charge in just 30 minutes.

What we say: Fast, convenient and powerful, the IM250ALi Finish Nailer can get to places easily and quickly without having to drag a hose or take much time to set up and get to work. It’s been out a bit, but we have yet to see a fuel nailer that can beat it’s performance or capabilities. For smaller jobs or even punch lists, this is a tool you really can’t do without.

Winner: Nailers—Framing, Fuel

Paslode Framing Nailer CF325LiPaslode Cordless Framing Nailer (CF325Li)

What they say: The CF325Li Li-ion Cordless Framing Nailer system from Paslode is equipped with a new Li-ion battery to provide 50 percent longer run time and drive up to 6,000 nails per charge. Each convenient Fuel+Nail Combo Pack comes with 1,000 nails and one quicklode™ fuel cell – perfectly matched so users never run out of fuel. With its compact, cordless design, the nailer not only allows for portable freedom but also easily fits between 16-inch o.c. studs, joists and roof trusses for precise, professional results.

What we say: One you use a cordless Fuel-powered nailer, you start to understand the attraction of a “grab-and-go” tool. While a fully battery-powered nailer still seems far away, the Fuel/battery combination of the CF325Li seems to fit the niche market perfectly for those doing smaller repairs or needing something to handle limited projects. Paslode wins this award because they keep improving their products, with better ergonomics, better battery technology, and convenient fuel+nail packs to make everything run smoothly.

Winner: Nailers—Roofing, Fuel

Paslode CR175C Cordless Roofing NailerPaslode Cordless Roofing Nailer (CR175C)

What they say: Paslode’s Cordless Roofing Nailer system is a must-have 6.8-pound cordless roofing nailer designed for maximum productivity. Each Paslode Fuel + Nail Combo Pack contains 720 premium galvanized roofing nails—enough to complete two squares—and a quicklode™ fuel cartridge that drives more than 900 nails per battery charge. Furthermore, the nails feature the PowerBoost™ Black Tip Coating for superior ease of drive and a unique “vertical groove” design for better holding power than standard roofing nails. 

What we say: This is a roofing repair dream come true. Suitable for any roof repair without the need for hoses and a compressor, the CR175C is innovation at its best. This newer iteration of Paslode’s FUEL roofing solution uses a Li-ion battery and won’t stop before you’re done.

Winner: OPE—Blowers, Cordless

Makita 18V X2 LXT® Lithium-ion 36V Cordless Blower (BUB360Z2C)

Makita BUB360Z2C Blower

What they say: The 18V X2 Cordless Blower from Makita has the power and performance of gas-powered models, but without the noise, emissions and maintenance associated with gas motors. The BUB360Z2C uses two 18V LXT batteries in tandem and has a variable 2-speed motor (0-10,000/17,000 RPM) with a maximum air velocity of 208 MPH and up to 30 minutes of continuous run time. Added benefits include lower noise at only 86 dB(A) and zero emissions.

What we say: This is the third product we’ve seen in Makita’s new X2 series of tools. Their OPE department seems to be the overriding beneficiary of the X2 platform and using two 18V batteries instead of a single 36V seems like a significant amount of innovation to us.

Winner: OPE—Chainsaws, Cordless

Makita 18V X2 LXT® Lithium-ion 36V Cordless Chainsaw (HCU02ZX2)

Makita HCU02ZX2 Chainsaw

What they say: The 18V X2 LXT® Lithium-ion (36V) 12″ Chain Saw is powered by two 18V LXT® Lithium-ion batteries for 36V power and run time. With a 12″ guide bar and chain speed of 1,650 feet per minute (FPM), the new HCU02ZX2 Chain Saw is engineered for demanding cutting applications, but without the noise, emissions, and maintenance of a gas-powered model.

What we say: It’s a cordless 36V chainsaw that runs on two 18V batteries—and works! If that isn’t innovative, I don’t know what is.

Winner: Oscillating Multi-tools, Cordless 18V

Bosch 18V Multi-X™ Oscillating Tool (MXH180)

Bosch MXH180 Multi-XWhat they say: The 18-volt Bosch MXH180 was indeed the first oscillating tool with an EC brushless motor design to hit the market. This alternative motor design allows the tool to deliver up to three times longer life, 30 percent more power, 65 percent longer run time, offering users corded power without the hassle of the cord. Weighing just 4.35 pounds (with an 18-volt 4.0 amp-hour Fat Pack battery) at a length of 12-5/8 inches, the tool delivers on its promise of high efficiency in a compact size.

What we say: Bosch’s 12V cordless Multi-X performed really well, but at the expense of battery life and, consequently, run-time. Their solution was to not only create an 18V platform for the tool, but completely re-engineer the motor to use an EC brushless model. Now you won’t  be seeing the tool shut down until the job is done.

Winner: Press Tools, Cordless 18V

RIDGID RP 340 Press Tool (44483)

Ridgid RP340 Press ToolWhat they say: The RIDGID® RP 340 Press Tool is a smaller, lighter pressing option for joining copper and stainless steel tubing ½” to 4” in diameter and PEX tubing and black iron pipe ½” to 2” in diameter. It’s also 30 percent smaller and 17 percent lighter than its predecessor (the RP 330) and boasts an industry-leading service-interval cycle (up to 42,000). The tool comes standard with new RIDGID 18V Advanced Lithium 2 batteries and is capable of more than 200 presses per charge. Larger capacity 18V Advanced Lithium 4 batteries bring that number to over 400 presses per charge. An optional AC power adapter provides users further flexibility with the ability to switch between battery and corded AC power.

What we say: Pressing tools have seen a lot of love in the cordless market, but the new RP 340 is a particularly flexible model that deserves some recognition for innovation. It will perform an astronomical amount of work on a single charge and allow you to get your work done more quickly and effortlessly than you thought possible.

Winner: Rotary Hammers, Cordless 12V

Milwaukee M12 FUEL™ 5/8” SDS Plus Rotary Hammer (2416)

Milwaukee 2416-22XC M12 Rotary HammerWhat they say: The new Milwaukee M12 FUEL™ 5/8” SDS Plus Rotary Hammer provides up to 2X more run-time, up to 75% more speed and the largest SDS Plus bit capacity in its class. The POWERSTATE™ brushless motor, REDLITHIUM™ battery pack, and REDLINK PLUS™ intelligence combine to deliver a 12V Rotary Hammer that rivals compact 18V tools on the market today. The Electro Pneumatic Design of the 2416 allows for drilling of up to 5/8” holes in concrete and masonry and the tool also features 2-Mode Operation, Rotary Hammer and Rotation-only.

What we say: A 12V rotary hammer is pretty innovative, but one that has the capacity to drill 5/8″ holes with precision and speed is something else. We love that Milwaukee isn’t resting on their laurels in this category and the 2416 is proof positive that simplifying the task of serial drilling in concrete is going to be a lot easier from here on out.

Winner: Rotary Hammers, Cordless 36V

Hilti 36V Cordless Combihammer (TE 30-A36)

Hilti TE 30-A36 Cordless CombihammerWhat they say: The Hilti TE 30-A36 is the world’s first cordless combihammer drill. With a drilling range of 1/4” -1” diameter with SDS+ (TE-C) drill bits, and up to 3-1/2” using percussion core bits, the TE 30-A36 drills and chips into concrete up to 40% faster than the largest SDS corded tools on the market. It uses a high efficiency brushless motor and higher mass hammering mechanism. A new 36 volt, 6.0 amp hour battery provides more than double the work per charge of other batteries. Hilti is providing a cordless solution that delivers a single impact energy of 2.7 ft-lbs and a full hammering frequency of 4,500 impacts per minute—rivaling its corded counterpart.

What we say: Hilti is one of the only companies we know of making cordless hammer tools that rival or exceed the capabilities of corded tools. It’s quite impressive and our testing reveals that it’s more than just words on paper—these tools are legit!

Winner: Saws—Circular Saws, Cordless 18V

Milwaukee M18 FUEL™ 6-1/2″ Circular Saw (2730)

Milwaukee M18 Circular Saw 2730-21What they say: Milwaukee’s M18 FUEL™ 6-1/2” Circular Saw is able to perform applications that were once only completed by its corded counterparts. The new brushless tool offers 30% faster cutting, 2X more run-time, and 3X more motor life than the competition. It features a cast magnesium shoe, as well as upper and lower guards to provide a durable and lightweight base. In addition, the new cordless tool features an integrated LED light, and a rafter hook for easy storage on the job.

What we say: We were fortunate enough to be able to try out this tool at a recent press event and the Milwaukee 2730 is indeed a powerhouse that offers a lot more performance that previously thought possible from a cordless tool. If innovation is power, then this tool has plenty to spare.

Winner: Saws—Jig Saws, Cordless 18V

Porter-Cable 20V MAX Jigsaw (PCC650B)

Porter-Cable Jigsaw PCC650BWhat they say: The 20V MAX* Jigsaw (PCC650B) offers three orbital settings, a variable speed trigger that goes from 0-2,500 strokes-per-minute (SPM), and a 3/4 inch stroke length for precise, clean, and accurate cuts. The Jigsaw features a dust blower that clears debris for visibility while cutting and a tool free blade release. The beveling shoe provides straight (0°) and up to 45° bevel cuts.

What we say: We always say that innovation has many forms. For Porter-Cable’s PCC650B 20V Jig Saw it’s price. At $60, this is one of the most flexible jig saws we’ve ever seen. If you are already stocked up with 20V Max batteries and Porter-Cable tools, then this tool will make for a great addition.

Winner: Saws—Reciprocating Saws, Cordless 18V

Milwaukee M18 FUEL™ SAWZALL® Reciprocating Saw (2720)

Milwaukee M18 SawZall 2720-21What they say: The Milwaukee 2720-22  is the first cordless reciprocating saw to deliver true corded performance without the cord. The M18 FUEL™ SAWZALL recip saw also features Milwaukee’s patented gear protecting clutch and mechanism design which is responsible for delivering the legendary performance and durability found only in the corded SAWZALL® until now. With the combination of this mechanism , the POWERSTATE brushless motor and REDLINK PLUS, the new tool provides up to 5X longer life than competitive units.

What we say: Milwaukee’s new Brushless SawZall is quick, having tested it on both wood and metal. The brushless motor delivers more power and run-time and the mechanism is smooth and made to compete with corded models. We love Milwaukee’s update to its M18 SawZall and this one deserves an innovation award for the power and speed gains it saw in this most recent model.

View all of the 2013 Pro Tool Innovation Award Winners

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