Hitachi 18V Brushless Reciprocating Saw Review CR18DBL
Hitachi's latest cordless reciprocating saw looks ready to contend with the top names, but the lack of orbital action may hold it back.
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The latest Hitachi 18V brushless reciprocating saw is making its way to a retailer near you. If you remember our cordless reciprocating saw shootout from last year, you’ll also recall that Hitachi’s model didn’t perform as well as we’d hoped.
Over the last year or so, we’ve seen remarkable improvement in Hitachi cordless line. There’s the introduction of their 18V brushless finish and framing nailers along with their Triple Hammer impact driver that’s one of the best available.
So where does the Hitachi CR18DBL reciprocating saw fit in and what did the product team do to improve it?
I’m glad you asked. Or that I asked on your behalf.
The first thing you’ll notice is the size of the case this Hitachi 18V brushless reciprocating saw comes in. I’ll admit that I was a little concerned about the size of the saw it contained when it arrived.
Fear not, the saw is actually one of the most compact full-size 18V reciprocating saws we’ve seen. It’s lightweight compared to the rest of its class as well – to the point that some Pros can use it with one hand.
It weighs in at a lean 6 pounds even and 7-1/2 pounds with a 6.0 aH battery pack. That’s more than 2 pounds lighter than Milwaukee’s M18 Fuel, Makita 18V X2, or DeWalt’s FlexVolt models. It shaves nearly ½ a pound off of Hitachi’s previous model.
The slim profile tapers down nicely to a comfortable front handle. It’s a thinner diameter than most full-size reciprocating saws and I like it.
The main handle doesn’t have the kind of contour you find on Hitachi’s drills and impact drivers, but it’s still comfortable. You can use one or two fingers on the trigger.
The trigger lock is just above the trigger and works with the simple press of your thumb or forefinger. An interesting design feature here is the extended overmold that protects the lock. Apparently, Hitachi sees a potential failure point on the jobsite that they’re proactively working against.
- Brushless motor: Keeps the runtime up and the temperature down for a longer workday and life.
- Rafter hook: It’s a must-have feature for reciprocating saws.
- Adjustable, pivoting shoe: Gets the most out of your blades and keep the shoe engaged while you cut.
- 4 mode selector: 3 speeds plus an auto mode.
- Low Vibration Handle: Creates a separation between the main housing and handle to reduce vibration.
- LED light: Comes on with a trigger pull and stays on for 10 seconds after you let go.
- Blade change lever: On the outside right of the tool so you don’t have to grab a twist lock on the shaft.
Additional Feature Notes
LVH – Low Vibration Handle – is added to the new model. It gives the handle vertical and horizontal movement to absorb vibration during use.
The mode selector is an interesting addition for the Hitachi 18V brushless reciprocating saw. It gives you 3 speeds to work with in addition to feathering with the variable speed trigger. However, it’s the auto mode that it most intriguing. This essentially runs the saw in mode 1 (low) and increases to mode 3 (high) as it feels the load increase.
Hitachi 18V Brushless Reciprocating Saw Modes
- Low: 0 – 1600 SPM
- Medium: 0 – 2300 SPM
- High: 0 – 2500 SPM
- Auto: 0 – 1600/2500 SPM
Hitachi nails just about everything you can want in a cordless reciprocating saw except one thing – orbital action. When it comes to cutting in wood, orbital action makes a big difference. Hitachi may have missed an opportunity by leaving it out.
My only other complaint is a minor one – the LED charge indicator only has two lights. It gives you a really rough estimate of how much power is remaining. Ideally, I’d like to see four bars on the battery itself. Still, it’s better than having no idea at all.
On paper, the new Hitachi 18V brushless reciprocating saw is a little low in the speed department (2500 SPM) but makes up for it in stroke length at 1-17/64” (just over 1-1/4″). This is identical to what Bosch did with their latest generation. When you do the math, it doesn’t necessarily look like it’s enough to move to the front of the pack. However, Bosch moved in behind 1st place Ridgid in wood cutting with their setup, so it’s more than just the numbers on paper.
Hitachi is claiming that you get class-leading cutting speed according to an April 2017 survey they conducted in-house. They’re also telling us that this model cuts much faster in both wood and metal than the previous model.
Does Hitachi Power Tools have enough performance in their new brushless reciprocating saw to turn Pro heads?We'll let you know what we discovered soon, but for now, here's a quick taste!
Posted by Pro Tool Reviews on Monday, February 5, 2018
Can we back those claims up?
We ran it through the same test we did in the shootout – 2 x 12 PT with five 16D nails to work through using Diablo’s Demo Demon wood blade.
Last year, Hitachi took an average of 55.10 seconds. The new model?
More than twice as fast at 22.8 seconds.
Geek Note: The lumber we are working with has a denser middle than most. It doubled Bosch’s speed compared to our initial testing material and has been evident in every cut we’ve made. That leads us to the supposition that Hitachi is capable of making that cut much faster, perhaps as quick as 11 – 12 seconds. Considering it doesn’t have orbital action, that’s ridiculously fast!
When it’s time to cut metal, the additional speeds come in handy. On thinner pipe like EMT, I really like the control and vibration reduction that comes with low speed. Because the metal is thin, the saw melts through easily. Medium and thick metals are good in medium speed and you’ll want to kick back into low for stainless steel cutting.
Vibration control is decent with the new Hitachi 18V reciprocating saw. The LVH handle reduces what reaches your arm to an extent. However, there’s less vibration in some of the other saws and Skilsaw is still way ahead of the curve with Buzzkill.
Hitachi’s latest cordless reciprocating saw isn’t cheap – $199 for the bare tool or $299 for a kit with one 6.0 Ah battery and charger. While that seems a little steep, some comparison shopping shows that it’s right in line with what you’ll pay for Milwaukee or Makita and cheaper than Bosch’s new model. Keep in mind that Hitachi warranties their lithium-ion tools for life.
The Bottom Line
The new Hitachi 18V brushless reciprocating saw is light years ahead of its predecessor. Cutting speed improves drastically and they managed to drop the weight and improve the ergonomics some. The only thing holding Hitachi back from being at the top of the cordless list is the lack of orbital action. If they can work that into the next model, it’s going to be in the conversation as the best cordless reciprocating saw available.