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Bosch HDS182 Cordless Hammer Drill Review

Innovation brings performance improvements, but old mistakes remain

by Lorenz Prem on July 20 2014 5:57 pm
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This week it is hammer drill review time. Bosch's new HDS182 cordless hammer drill comes with the promises of brushless technology. Having reviewed tools by the hundreds I know that there is more to a tool than a well-built motor. Let's take a look, if all the features of the HDS182 are as advanced as its motor, and how all that tech translates into making dust on the job site.

The Bosch HDS182 Cordless Hammer Drill

The HDS182 is a professional grade cordless hammer drill from Bosch. It takes the place of a do-it-all drill/driver in the arsenal of professional contractors and builders. It performs well at general drilling and driving tasks, but loses out to dedicated tools on the truly tough tasks. When within its performance envelope the HDS182 will save you time and effort.

Build quality is excellent in typical Bosch fashion with the exception of the gray decal on the back of the drill, which fell off during shipping and does not attach properly anymore. The hard plastic shell of the drill/driver is very sparsely covered in thin, black rubber. Ever which way you put the HDS182 down, some part of the plastic shell is going to make contact with the surface the drill rests on. The sleek lines of the grip are pleasant to hold, but what little rubber there is on the grip makes it feel noticeably harder than the grips of many competitors. Bosch clearly cut corners in this area.

The HDS182's performance leaves very little to be desired, but a few poorly implemented features keep it out of shortlist of the best drill/drivers on the market.

The trigger of the HDS182 works well after you get used to it, but it could use some improvements in the next version of this drill. The first and last quarter of its range are dead space, which could have been put to better use. The bit in the middle, however, works well. With practice selecting and holding a specific motor speed takes little effort. In very rare instances the trigger becomes unresponsive. Letting go of the trigger and engaging it again solves the issue, but it is hard to understand why a professional power tool has this issue in the first place. Eliminating the HDS182 from contention based on a rare annoyance seems to be a little harsh. When the HDS182 is in competition with similarly speced drills, its poor trigger can certainly be the difference.

The direction selector switch above the body is as generic as these switches come. It does what it needs to do, but none of it inspires a sense of quality. The way the switch latches into position feels weak. Finding the middle position takes far too much effort. When you use the drill, however, these gripes fade from your mind very quickly.

In contrast the gear selector switch is well made. It is easy to actuate, and latches into position with a satisfying click. It produces no sound of grinding gears and never takes an undue amount of force to move.

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The Chuck, Belt Hook, and Bit Holder

The HDS182 comes with a well made plastic chuck. Runout is negligible in a construction environment and the chuck's three prongs secure bits very well. Closing the chuck tightly around large diameter bits can be difficult due to the smaller than average surface area of the chuck cover. I would like to have seen Bosch equip the HDS182 with an all-metal chuck. The price of the tool certainly leaves room for it. Compared to the competition this chuck is merely average.

The deep belt hook is very well engineered. It mounts on both sides of the driver, and attaches to a belt with ease. The bit holder, on the other hand, is little more than a design afterthought. It has room for 4 bits, but fails to secure any of them properly. Getting bits in and out is cumbersome, and the bit holder gets in the way of doing work on occasion. Instead of bothering with the bit holder, it's best to think of this drill as not having any onboard bit storage at all.

The Clutch and Hammer Mode Selector

The 18+1 position clutch ring moves easily through the clutch settings, but binds somewhat while traversing the exceptionally long distance from setting #18 to the locked position. The clutch settings are spaced evenly and are arranged for general construction. Setting #8 is just strong enough to sink a 3" screw below the surface of construction grade lumber. As a whole the clutch is well-design for the work the HDS182 is likely to encounter in the field.

The hammer gear is engaged by turning the black ring just behind the clutch. Doing so takes very little force, and the ring snaps into position with a satisfying click on both ends. The absence of grinding gears is an indication of the high quality of the mechanism.

The Work light

The work light of the HDS182 is built into the bottom of the handle just above the battery. The light it produces is distortion free, but somewhat weak compared to the output of the best work lights. The barrel of the tool does casts its shadow over the area above the impact point, but it only does so when the chuck is closer than 1/2 inch to the work piece.

The work light comes on when the motor engages. It is impossible to turn the light on without spinning the bit. The light turns off 5 seconds after the trigger is released. If you take your time positioning the drill in a dark place, you'll have to pulse the trigger every 5 seconds to keep the light on. Every time you do this, the bit spins. Bosch dropped the ball with this design. They produced better work lights themselves on some of their own tools.

The Charger and Battery

The battery is one of the strong points of the HDS182. You have a choice of several fast charging batteries at different capacities. The drill balances well with the smallest battery installed. The larger batteries increasingly make the tool bottom heavy. The excellent charger restores a dead Slim Pack battery in under 20 minutes. The larger batteries take longer, but unless you are working like a fiend, the charger will do its work faster than you can drain the battery installed in the drill.

The battery gauge built into the battery offers very little utility. The three LEDs do little more than help distinguish a dead battery from a full one. The gauge spends most of its time stuck with two LEDs lit. A single LED makes an appearance for a short time before the battery dies. Having this battery gauge helps manage batteries at the charging station, but it won't tell you, if the battery has enough power left to get your work done.

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In Use

Performance working with wood is as good as it gets. Small holes get drilled as fast as you can position the drill. The HDS182 even has the power to drive 1-1/2 inch Forstner bits in top gear. If you want, you can drive even larger bits in low gear. Jerking is an issue when using these ridiculously large bits. When drilling holes of everyday diameter, however, there is nothing the HDS182 does wrong. The lower range changes the characteristics of the drill in a meaningful way. Power increases and stability improves.

Drilling holes in concrete using the hammer mode works well, but the HDS182 is still far from challenging corded hammer drills on a volume basis. It drills holes up to 1/4" with poise and at speed. Having the HDS182 around for these tasks saves a lot of time simply by eliminating a special purpose tool from your tool bag. Larger holes up to about 1/2" are within reach of the HDS182, but results will come painfully slow. If your workday only includes a couple of these holes, the HDS182 is worth considering. Anyone drilling holes by the dozens needs to bring a corded hammer drill. Low volume user will love the versatility and small size of the HDS182.

Fastener driving performance is good, but is ultimately limited by the motor's 37 ft/lbs of torque. The drill sinks a 3 inch screw into construction grade lumber without difficulty. Smaller fasteners get installed effortlessly. Like any drill, the HDS182 puts a strain on your wrist when the work gets tough. If your workday includes only a few fasteners, the HDS182 rises to the challenge. Anyone else is better served by an impact driver. The coarse clutch limits the HDS182's usefulness when doing fine work.

Endurance changes drastically depending on the size of battery installed in the drill. Even the smallest battery lets you drill dozens of large diameter holes in construction grade lumber. The largest will likely last longer than you do on any given job. Regardless of battery type, the charger will have a spare ready for you faster than you can drain the one installed in the tool.

Durability is excellent in all scenarios. The HDS182 shows very few signs of fatigue under heavy use. The gear housing heats up, but eventually stabilizes at a reasonable temperature. The HDS182 was clearly engineered to last for years in a daily-use environment.

As a whole the HDS182 performs very well in its intended role as a do-it-all drill/driver on the job site. Most of the time you can complete the task at hand with the HDS182 with less trouble and effort than it takes for you to set up a more powerful tool. This makes this driver a very good choice for trade professionals of all types. Construction workers and builders who perform operations in volume should opt for a corded drill.

The Bosch 18V Battery System

The Bosch 18V battery system is one of the largest on the market. You will find performance leaders and well-balanced budget tools in just about every product category.

Compared to the HDS181 Cordless Hammer Drill

The HDS182 is an evolution of the HDS181 cordless hammer drill. The two models are virtually identical with the exception of the motor. The HDS182 replaced the 4-pole brushed motor of the HDS181 with a new brushless motor. Bosch claims this move increases the durability of the tool by a factor of 2. Having to change the motor brushes is a thing of the past, but motor torque drops from 63 ft/lbs to 37 ft/lbs. This difference is very noticeable when driving fasteners.

The HDS182 is not clearly better than the HDS181. The additional power of the older version makes it perform better in demanding situations. Its lower durability can be an issue, but the HDS181's significantly lower price often makes it the better choice. The HDS182 only comes out ahead when purchased as part of a kit alongside the exceptional IDS182 impact driver.

L-Boxx, Battery Selection and Purchase Options

There are many ways to purchase the HDS182 drill. You can pick from a number of kits that include different combinations of battery types, choice of kit box, and selection of accompanying tools. Some of the best options are combo kits that include other tools in the Bosch 18V lineup.

The "L" kits come with a L-Boxx, a hard plastic storage box system designed to help professional contractors move a large amount of tools to the job site with as little effort as possible. You can read more about the strengths and weaknesses of the system in our in-depth L-Boxx Review.

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Summary

The HDS182 is a competent driver that stops just short of being exceptional. Holes drilled into wood of just about any diameter you'd likely want to drill with a handheld drill come easy and at speed. The hammer mode delivers good performance in concrete up to 1/4 inch in hole diameter. The drill has some headroom, but the work slows down significantly. The brushless motor brings in some new tech, but some features like the trigger, work light and plastic chuck barely rise above average when compared to the previous generation.

As a whole the HDS182 is a very good cordless drill. Its many flaws leave a lot of opportunities for the competition to do better. The HDS182 will perform well in just about any environment, but it certainly is not the best at what it does.

90

The Good

  • very small for a hammer drill
  • drills fast despite only slightly above average motor speed
  • powerful two speed motor
  • good torque for driving fasteners
  • exceptional hammer mode performance
  • great, fast charging battery
  • versatile battery selection up to 5 Ah capacity
  • Bosch 18V includes some of the best heavy-duty tools on the market
  • excellent belt hook

The Bad

  • plastic chuck housing
  • nearly useless bolt-on bit storage
  • sparse use of protective rubber on the grip and round the barrel of the tool
  • chuck gets in the way of the work light when the tip of the chuck is close to the work piece
  • battery gauge built into the battery is crude, but workable
  • some dead space in the temperamental trigger
  • it is impossible to turn the work light on without engaging the motor
  • lower torque than the previous version, the HDS181
  • cosmetic decal fell off the body of the tool during shipping
  • extremely poor bit holder which might as well not exist
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About the Author
"Lorenz is the founder of Hingmy. When he is not reviewing power tools or improving the site, he is building things in his workshop or playing hockey."
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