Drill/impact driver kits are a good value
So far tool engineers haven’t been able to put the incredible torque technology of an impact driver together with the high speed of a true drill/driver–in a single tool. But a few tool companies have cooked up the next best thing. Because their batteries are interchangeable on different tools, Porter-Cable and Hitachi soon will be offering a drill/driver and an impact driver that share two batteries and a charger–for much less than you’d pay for two full kits, each with their own batteries and chargers. I can’t imagine many woodworkers needing two batteries for each tool. I’ve heard that Makita is offering a similar kit, so I think a trend has formed.
Impact drivers, with their staccato of hammer blows, ratchet up the torque from a few hundred to over one thousand ft. lbs., yet the non-continuous force doesn’t strip out screws and or torque your wrists. Suddenly, even a 9- or 12V tool can power home a long screw or a thick lag bolt. Try one: The screws just melt into the wood.
The problem comes when you ask an impact driver to drill. They only take those 1/4 hex-shank-type bits, which are pricier. And they don’t spin very fast. They’ll do the job, but much slower than a two-speed drill-driver in high gear. That’s why you really want both tools–at least until engineers manage to fit the two technologies into one slim package.
Hitachi is offering its kit (two-tools-two batteries-one charger) in the 12V size (KC10DFL) with a list price of $170. I would think 12 volts are plenty for drilling in a woodshop, and with the impact driver, it is definitely enough power. Better yet, 12V lithium-ion batteries are surprisingly small and light, making these tools about half the weight of 18V tools, and easier to handle for fine woodworking tasks.
If you mix a lot of carpentry in with your cabinetry, you might want to step up the power to 18V and choose the Porter-Cable kit, the PCL318IDC-2. Again it combines a drill-driver and an impact driver, with two batteries and charger. It also throws in a flashlight, all for $230.
Hitachi is offering a 12V impact driver and a drill-driver as a kit with two batteries and a charger for around $170 at Lowe's and elsewhere.
Porter-Cable offers a similar kit, but at 18v it goes for $50 more. P-C throws in a powerful flashlight for good measure.