If you plan on driving heavy-duty hardware and lag screws -- and occasionally drilling holes up to 3/4 of an inch in depth -- then you need a cordless screwdriver at least 10.8 volts or more. These drivers have sufficient power, with a body that is light enough for all-day use and compact enough to reach in tight spaces. David Getts of Tools of the Trade magazine tests a set of cordless screwdrivers at worksites. "The electricians used them to change devices in several rooms, and the HVAC guy used them for sheet-metal screws while installing a furnace and ducting," Getts says.
Reviewers say Milwaukee's 2401-22 (*Est. $100) is the best 12-volt cordless screwdriver available; in side-by-side tests, it ranks at the top in speed and battery life. "While this unit is a small package, it is no lightweight tool," says Chris Baylor, About.com's woodworking guide. "With thoughtful features like the LED work-surface light, a battery fuel gauge on the tool that tells the current charge of the battery and a motor that delivers up to 175 inch-pounds of torque, there is no doubt that this is a commercial-grade driver."
Consumers agree this is one tough driver. At Amazon.com, about 200 owners rate the 2401-22 an average of 4.5 stars out of 5, and it's one of the most popular drivers on the site. Both homeowners and contractors post comments, calling the driver powerful, durable and user-friendly. "It's way more convenient than the 18-volt big drill for light duty jobs," says one consumer at Amazon.com. The Milwaukee 2401-22 has the longest warranty in our report, covering the tool for five years and the batteries for two years.
Although comparable in price, the Bosch PS20-2A (*Est. $100) doesn't perform as consistently in tests and carries a one-year warranty. Noteworthy features include a built-in LED light, a magnet in the clutch and a lighter body than the 2401-22. Like the Milwaukee cordless screwdriver, the Bosch has a 12-volt motor and comes with two Li-ion batteries. However, in tests conducted by Wood magazine and by Tools of the Trade, the batteries do not run as long on a single charge as the Milwaukee's. Dave Northup of the Journal of Light Construction says the Bosch PS20-2A "felt noticeably less powerful than the other drill/drivers we tested."
The DeWalt DW920K-2 (*Est. $90) also earns several recommendations as a top cordless screwdriver. Its 7.2-volt motor can't keep up with 12-volt drivers, but experts say this DeWalt still packs plenty of torque. You can lock the handle straight or bend it 90 degrees, something testers say is a great option when working in cramped areas. The Ni-Cd batteries are heavier and don't last as long as Li-ion batteries, but most users say they still perform well.
The combination of power, durability, ease of use and high-end features make the Milwaukee 2401-22 a top choice for any job.
For light jobs – hanging pictures, installing window blinds, drilling small holes. -- reviewers say an inexpensive 3- to 6-volt cordless screwdriver is all you need. The best budget cordless screwdrivers are rechargeable, although most batteries are built-in and not swappable. Ni-Cd batteries are most common because they are less expensive, but they weigh more and have a shorter run time than Li-ion batteries.
We could only find a few professional comparisons of such low-priced models, but users say the best budget cordless screwdriver is the 3.6-volt Black & Decker LI4000 (*Est. $40) . With 70 inch-pounds of torque and a Li-ion battery, testers say it handles most household jobs well, but is limited to light-duty driving and drilling. Many consumers say the LI4000's features make it a great starter tool for homeowners. An illustrated guide helps you select the correct clutch setting, an indicator arrow clearly shows if you are in forward or reverse, and a retractable screw holder helps you line up your hardware. This is also the lightest driver in our report, weighing less than 1 pound.
With 6 volts and 80 inch-pounds of torque, the Black & Decker PD600 (*Est. $30) has a little more power but lacks the user-friendly features of the LI4000. One standout: Users say its two speed settings (one for drilling and one for driving) give them a better range than single-speed models. It has an articulating handle that can adjust to three positions: straight, 45 degrees and 90 degrees. Its Ni-Cd battery takes up to six hours to charge, but many owners at Amazon.com and HomeDepot.com say the battery holds its charge well.