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TOP 500 REVIEWERon November 16, 2011
I've been searching for the perfect drill to suit my budget and basic needs for almost an entire year now. The Bosch DDS181-02 drill fits the bill! I am not a professional, so my review is from a DIY around the house handyman.

First impressions out of the box. This box is HUGE! It doesn't include many extras and the box itself has inefficient use of space. However, that is of minor concern considering this will be used for small jobs around the house and in the garage. The drill itself is impressive.

By far the most refined drill I've held in the price range. The balance is perfect, the size is compact, and everything is where it should be. The led light is bright and my hands don't get in the way. The forward/reverse selector is appropriately placed and is easy to switch. The batteries slide in and out very smoothly and include a neat feature to quickly check battery level (has 3 increments). The chuck spins well and clamps without issue. The included belt hook can be placed on either side.

Now on to the areas of improvement. There is no drill bit holder on the drill itself or any sort of level. Cheaper drills often include these features and it would have been a big bonus in my opinion. This particular model comes with 2 1.5 Ah lithium ion batteries that charge in 30 minutes. This is right in the middle of its competitors. Other drills in the same category and price range charge from as fast as 15 minutes to 40+ minutes.

Bosch has multiple variations of this drill with very little differences. I believe this is the best out of the bunch, since the similarly priced Bosch DDS180-02 comes with standard 1.3 Ah batteries that don't include the charge indicator on the battery. I bought the Hitachi DS18DSAL which is very similar to this drill, but ended up returning it to keep the Bosch. Key differences - Bosch was lighter and more powerful

Bosch DDS181-02
3.4 lbs, 0-1700 rpm, 600lbs torque, 1.5 Ah battery

Hitachi DS18DSAL
3.5 lbs, 0-1500 rpm, 460lbs torque, 1.5 Ah battery
comes with stand alone light and longer warranty 10 year tool 2 year battery

+Includes 2 high capacity (1.5 Ah) Lithium ion batteries
+Battery gauge
+Balanced weight
+Rubber grip and rubber bumpers all around
+Compact size

-Large storage case with inefficient use of space
-Longer charge time than competition
-No bit holder on drill
-No level

Highly recommended!

Update 11/21/2011: Had another weekend session using the drill to mount items on the wall and for assembling some furniture. While these tasks were not very demanding, the battery is still ticking. Not a bar dropped from use. Another great feature I forgot to point out was how much better the chuck is on the Bosch drill. The description mentions it but it does not do it justice. The "Auto-chuck" is advertised as a one handed chuck when changing bits and works really well. I'm sure other high quality drills have a similar feature, but this is new for me. I just slip a bit into the chuck and start twisting. Once the chuck clamps down just enough, there is an audible change and it starts tightening until it's locked! Drop a comment if you want a video of this and I'll see what I can do!
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Style Name: Tool|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Summary: Price, Power, Weight. Pick any two - the Bosch is the no-compromise cordless drill to get if price is not an issue. Lighter weight ideal for extended use, smaller size ideal for smaller hands. Battery packs that you can actually fit in a pocket or tool belt is a big advantage!

Whether you are repairing trim, hanging curtains, fixing the deck or assembling a book shelf, a cordless drill is perhaps THE most useful tool for the average homeowner. I started out ~15 years ago with a 12V Dewalt DW972. I eventually upgraded to a professional grade 12V Dewalt DW980XRP - I stayed with the 12V drill because the 14.4 higher voltage tools were just too heavy to work with for extended times on a ladder. When those batteries eventually started showing their age I bought some consumer grade Black and Decker 18V cordless drills - lighter because of all the plastic in them, but still sturdy enough to stand up to DIY use. In other words, weight can be a big deal.

I gave the DW972 to my sister but still had the other three kicking around (see picture You can see that the Bosch is the smallest of the three and also the lightest. Surprisingly, the B&S PS1800 was a close second in weight, despite the much larger battery. No doubt this is due to the extensive use of plastic in the body as well as the lack of a transmission - there is one medium speed and that's it. The B&D Firestorm FS1800 was the heaviest, but it comes with a removable chuck for when you want to use it strictly with quick release hex bits.

Bosch DDS181 3.4 lbs
Dewalt DW980 4.95 lbs
B&D PS1800 3.85 lbs
B&D FS1800D 5.41 lbs With chuck)
B&D FS1800D TBD lbs Without chuck)

It would have been completely unfair to compare the 12V Dewalt with the higher powered 18V drills, so I drilled a number of 3/8" holes in a 2x4 to compare power and speed. The B&D PS1800 was clearly outclassed here due to the single, slower speed. The DDS181 and FS1800 were very close in performance (both set to the higher speed) though I would say the Bosch edged out the Firestorm.

A few days after receiving this drill I checked out the drills at Home Depot. They carry Bosch tools, but no cordless drills. The sale price here on Amazon compares favorably to the almost two hundred price of the comparable Dewalt, even though it is on sale, but I would note that the retail price of all the lithium drills are around the same price point with the retail price of this Bosch about fifty more. One nice thing about the Dewalt is that after you release the trigger, the light stays on for an extra second or two. With the Bosch, as soon as you release the trigger, the light goes out.

Ok, so why would you want to pay so much more for the Bosch over the B&D Firestorm? When you're up on a stepstool trying to mount blinds, that extra 1.5 lbs starts to get pretty heavy. Also, don't forget that this has 1/2" chuck (Althouth the Dewalt 18V are 1/2", the B&D are 3/8). The smaller size (due to their four pole motor) also makes it easier to get into tight corners. Finally, NiCads and NiMh have self discharge which means if you don't use it for a month you will have to charge them just before use. Lithium-Ion doesn't have this problem, which means you're likely to get better overall battery life compared to the Nicad batteries.

It looks like Bosch also offers this without the high capacity slim batteries (DDS180-02 comes with 1.3 AH batteries) and without the four pole motor (36618-02 You can save some dough by opting for a few less bells and whistles, but if you are looking to spoil yourself, this is the way to go!

+ Battery packs fit in pocket
+ LED light
+ "Fuel Gauge" on batteries
+ Belt hook
+ ½" Chuck!!!

- Gear selector is stiff (May loosen up with use)
- Pricey
- No bit holder - very convenient to have a spare bit always on hand

Practical tip - Epoxy a few rare earth magnets to the drill and you have an automatic screw holder!

Disclaimer: I received this item through Amazon Vine. If you have comments or questions or found this review helpful, please let me know!
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on December 5, 2012
I ordered the Bosch DDS181-02 despite reading the negative review about chuck wobble. I thought maybe it was a random flaw and I'd get a good one, or a design flaw that has been corrected. Wrong! I love the weight and balance, but I didn't bother drilling even one hole. I put a 3/8" transfer punch in the chuck and gave it a spin. The tip of the punch described a circle that had to be at least 3/16" in diameter. No way could you drill an accurate hole with this chuck.

I gave it 2 stars instead of 1 because it might be usable for things like rough construction (holes in 2x4s for wire routing, maybe). It is not usable for any fabrication work that requires precision.

It's on its way back to Amazon for replacement. Amazon has an amazingly good return arrangement - thank you! Now I'm hoping Amazon will let me exchange it for another model if my second DDS181-02 has chuck wobble.

UPDATE! Amazon sent the replacement lightning fast, and it's acceptable. This one has chuck wobble, but it's not bad enough to get in the way of the type of work I do. I bumped the drill from 2 to 3 stars because it is usable. I made a video that demonstrates the chuck wobble so you can decide for yourself if it's too much.
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Style Name: Tool|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
THIS is the drill for women who do their own repairs. The handle diameter is smaller and it is MUCH lighter than my old Black and Decker 18V drill. The Lithium Ion battery makes a huge difference. Not only is it lighter, but the balance is much better. When you hold it in your hand it is not pulling on your arm from the weight of the battery. It weighs 55.3 ounces 3.4 pounds, about 1.6 kilos). For comparison a gallon of milk weighs about 8.5 pounds, a typical thing us moms are hauling around. My old drill was nearly 80 ounces and when you are holding it up above your head, or using it over and over the lighter weight really makes a difference.

On the battery itself is a button, that when depressed, tells you if you have full power, 2/3rds or 1/3rd left. Lithium Ion batteries don't suffer from "memory" problems like Ni-Cad (from a partial charge) and they charge faster and hold their charge longer during storage. They also have more power by weight (which is why they can be lighter). With two batteries and a 30 minute charge rate you should be able to continuously work, unless you are trying to drill through very dense material (like concrete) or large holes in less dense material.

A light at the base easily illuminates whatever you are drilling/screwing.

I am not sure why Bosch does not provide the following information on Amazon so I will list it here:

Battery/Charger: Fast Charger
Chuck Capacity: 1/2" keyless chuck
Chuck Size: 1/2"
Clutch Settings: 18+1
No Load RPM: 0-500 / 0-1,700
Torque (in. lbs.): 600
It is also compatible with every 18V Bosch Li-ion battery (according to Bosch).
Variable Speed Trigger- Provides maximum control

After drilling four holes with a 1 inch spade bit into a plastic drum, driving about twenty five 3 inch deck screws into pressure treated lumber (and tightening up another two dozen) and drilling 12 quarter inch wide and 3 inch deep holes into stucco the battery was still at 2/3 charge. The variable speed makes a difference here, you are not stripping out the heads of the screws as you try to get them flush.

This is the kind of tool that once you start using it, you are looking all over for more things to do so you can use it again. Hence, all those sticking up deck screws and spots that needed more screws are finally fixed around here. My husband likes it too, because the manageability means I can handle tasks that he would have to do otherwise.
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on April 3, 2012
For me, the Bosch DDS181 is a flawed best option in a range of poor quality compact drill drivers. Since my 10+ year old 14.4 V Makita needs new batteries, a new drill is financially an option. I do more precision work, so the smaller and lighter size of the newer Lithium compacts, coupled with their greater runtimes, would seem to be a good fit.

After reading specs and reviews I chose not to consider the Makita compact. I'm concerned about the high charge rate Makita uses to charge their batteries so fast. This will almost certainly mean shorter pack life, and replacement batteries are expensive. Also, too many reviews of chuck wobble.

I did buy the DeWalt DCD780C2. I liked this drill a lot. Light, powerful, good ergonomics. But chuck wobble was severe. I tried a second unit thinking it was a fluke. The second one was just as bad. If not for the runout at the chuck, I would have kept this drill.

I then tried the Hitachi DS18DSAL. Lighter than the DeWalt and almost as nice in the hand, but I never got one to work. Both units I tried and returned had dead and unchargeable battery packs (0.5 V when a minimum reading a max discharge should be 10 V or higher). In fact, I learned that the whole batch of these drills at my local big box store had this problem. Further, the local Denver Hitachi service center had no batteries, with none expected for "a few weeks". This situation says nothing good about Hitachi's quality control nor their integrity in dealing with problems. I think I'll be staying away from Hitachi power tools for the time being.

My final attempt was the Bosch DDS181, with 2 1.5 Ah batteries. Thankfully, the drill runs true with no wobble. The plastic chuck housing wobbles a bit, but this has no bearing on installed bits. The unit is slightly heavier than the other two, but also seems sturdier. The motor control is amazing -- it's easy to spin the drill very slow, and to make small adjustments in RPM up or down at any point in the RPM range. I'm more comfortable screwing into sensitive material with this driver than any other I've used. Power and max rpm might be slightly lower than the DeWalt, but I never really challenged either unit. Battery capacity seems OK, but not great. The charger seems of good quality, and I expect even under heavier use one 1.5 Ah battery would last long enough to get the second one recharged. Someone using this drill for heavier use would probably want to get the 3.0 Ah batteries instead.

I'm experiencing one concerning issue with this drill -- the gear selector is tricky to use. Going from 1 to 2 (low to high) requires special handling. Pull the gear selector toggle from 1 to 2 and hold it. As the toggle moves, you'll hear a click as the gears move, but you'll still feel a subtle back-pressure from the toggle. Continue to hold the toggle for up to a second. Generally within that time you'll hear a second click and the back-pressure is released. Only then are the gears properly engaged. Sometimes the 2 clicks happen one right after another, which I suspect is how the unit should behave. If the second click doesn't happen within a second or so, toggle back to 1, then repeat the process. This is definitely undesirable, but once the high gear is properly engaged, the drill performs flawlessly. Not sure if this problem will get better or worse over time as the unit is broken in. I've decided that this is not a show-stopper for me, largely because my other compact cordless driver options appear to be worse in comparison.

Another interesting bit -- that batteries lock tightly and securely into the drill handle, but one must make sure that the batteries are pressed in with enough force to allow the red release button to fully pop out flush with the battery housing. The first time I popped in a battery it felt like it engaged, but it wasn't fully and later worked loose. Not a big deal now that I know how to properly ensure the battery is fully inserted, and I appreciate the tight and secure fit.

This was the worst experience I've ever had purchasing a power tool. I don't make a living with power tools, but I want quality and reliability so the tool is there for me when I need it. I found it frustratingly difficult to find a compact drill with a reasonable level of apparent quality. The Bosch would be a great product with a better behaving gear selector. Even so, it is for my needs the best of a flawed bunch.
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on April 2, 2012
I just got this drill/driver and tested it immediately. It operates so effortlessly. The drill weighs 3 lbs 7.1 ounces with battery. I drilled some holes in a 2x4 and in both speeds it handles the wood with ease. I had a Dewalt 12V Max that weighed about a pound less but didn't have half the drilling power of this lightweight, compact 'machine'. It may seem unfair to compare a 12V to this 18V drill, but the hyperbole on Dewalt's 12V Max I found to be just that, an exaggeration on the 12V Max's capability and capacity for work--it may be best suited for very lite DIY work like installing curtain rods and the like,and I'm being facetious when I say this--but it's simply not suited to be used as an all-round DIY drill. It lacked real drill-through power in anything beyond one-by lumber; and was not at all efficient at driving screws beyond two lengths of one-by lumber. A 2x4 would bog down the 12V Max. My old Ridgid Nicad 12V at 4.5 lbs did a much better job at getting through wood than the 12V Max Li-Ion drill.

Unfortunately, the chuck in this great drill has a wobble in it. My Ryobi Green Line 18V has less a wobble than the Bosch. As much as I love the feel of this drill, its 'wobbly' chuck makes it an unacceptable product. I tried to measure the degree of wobble and the closest I can figure is about 1mm off bring true. This is a major disappointment. Looks like the next test for me will be Dewalt's 20V Max system. I really like the way this drill feels, its weight, the useful light placement, the overall feel. Sorry, Bosch: great design, excellent ergonomics, but the chuck? 'Fraid not, boys.

Three stars for this drills great design and overall execution, but if the chuck isn't 'true', it's really not worth one star for true value as a craftsman's drill/driver.
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on April 12, 2012
I'm a professional carpenter and I build a lot of decks. My drills get used hard, I own this drill and few other cordless drills and this is my favortite of the bunch.

The 1.5 amp hour batteries with charge indicator are great, the best balance of weight vs charge for my application. With one on the charger and one in the drill, a guy can work them hard all day long with no down time. It seems like the batteries will give you about 45minutes of hard use before needing a charge.

This drill has nearly as much torque as the bosch cordless impactor coupled with high speed drilling capacity. I've driven 6"GRKs without any trouble.

Update; It's been more than a year and this is still my favorite drill. It irritates me that it doesn't have an onboard bit holder but everything else about the drill is top notch. The 1.5 amp batteries are outstanding. When I need a drill, I grab this bad boy.
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on October 9, 2012
I am very picky about tools and cordless drills in particular. I have been buying cordless drills since what I think are the first ones came out (Makita). Prior to this Bosch unit I have strongly favored Panasonic drills, because they have excellent balance and are really durable.

In February 2012 I decided to try this drill as my first Lithium ion powered cordless tool. In general this tools is excellent.

- It's very compact, light, and has great balance
- The grip is the right size for my hands
- There is rubber in all the rigth spots
- Removing the battery is easy (it can be hard to remove the battery from the NiMh Panasonic drills)
- Battery life is reasonable, though slightly less than I anticipated it would be
- The RPM of the drill can be controlled with precision and ramps up smoothly
- It's not decorated like a dragster as some of the other drills are

The major design fault is that the nose of the chuck is plastic. I only recently started using this drill for a substantial project, and the nose of the chuck is damaged already. Basically, if you are drilling in an area where you might contact the work surface at any time, the plastic chuck will melt away. I just could not believe my eyes when it happened. After drilling a hole at an odd angle, were I could not see the work surface very well, the chuck came into contact with wood near the work surface. The nose of the chuck melted back about 1/4"-1/2"! I'm not sure if this will cause long term issues with the drill or not, but it is a major flaw in the design of the drill.

I've been using cordless drills for decades, and this is the first time anything even remotely like this has happened. This drill is near perfect, but unless Bosch puts a proper metal chuck nose area on the drill, I don't think I would buy another. I still give it 4 stars because otherwise it's so good.

Bosch...what on earth were you thinking by putting plastic on that part of the drill? What a shame to introduce a weakness like this in an otherwise great product.
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Style Name: Tool|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Well, I have to admit that I'm very hard on cordless drills, although I'm not really sure why since I'm just a DIY'er and I take very good care of my tools. I used to treat cordless drills as an almost disposable item - I would just use it for 6 months to a year and then buy a replacement when it broke.

After a few years, I decided to move up from Ryobi and Black & Decker to a better quality brand in hopes that it would last a bit longer. I tried Ridgid, with not much better results than the previous brands, and also burned out a DeWalt cordless drill in less than a year...

I finally discovered the Milwaukee M18 Tools, which has given me a solid set of cordless tools that I just can't seem to break. I've had them for nearly 3 years of fairly heavy use. The reason for that brief history is to show that I tend to judge these tools mostly based on long-term reliability; and, also to show that my benchmark for reliability is currently the Milwaukee M18 tools.

At this point, I've been using this Bosch drill for almost 2 months. I've used it to finish up my new workshop as well as several other small home projects - it's been a busy couple of months. :)

Now that I've had a couple of months, here are the things I like about the Bosch drill:

1) The ergonomics of this drill are absolutely amazing! The grips are comfortable and the drill angle is perfect for reaching weird angles (a definite improvement over the Milwaukee for me). It is also a bit more compact than the Milwaukee tools I'm used to.

2) I was initially skeptical that the 1.5 amp batteries would hold up to heavy use - but they've done incredibly well. I'm not sure why, but the battery life from these 1.5 amp batteries is fairly similar to what I'm getting from the much bulkier 3 amp Milwaukee batteries. I guess it's possible that the older batteries just aren't what they used to be and that I just hadn't noticed the gradual performance decrease...

3) The power of these tools has easily lived up to anything I've needed.

4) The charger is excellent and fully charges the batteries in a very reasonable time.

5) Although it seems to be more of a standard feature than it used to be, I will mention that I like the power level gauge on the batteries.

6) I love that it came with 2 batteries - so there is always a charged battery ready to go!

Although this drill has definitely earned a place in my new workshop, there are some small issues:

1) The light placement on the drill is in the base instead of out in front. I use the drill lights all the time since I'm typically holding a drill when it starts to get dark and I don't feel like looking for a flashlight - but this one just isn't as handy as the light on the Milwaukee drill.

2) The clutch on the drill feels cheap. Honestly, I get the feeling that it isn't made to be adjusted a lot...

3) There isn't a bit holder on the drill. I'm constantly switching between drill bits and it would have been nice to have that spare Phillips #2 available all the time.

4) I don't expect top quality bits and accessories with new tools - but the bits that came with this set have set new lows.

Anyway, as I said before, overall I really like the feel and utility of this drill. Ergonomically speaking, it is excellent! If I could pick just one thing from my list of issues to have fixed - it would definitely be the cheap feeling clutch.

I can't make a reliability judgment yet since I haven't had it long enough; but, I'll post updates to this review if I run into issues.
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on January 10, 2013
the design and feel of this drill is wonderful. the compact size and durable plastic with rubber coating is sure to last a long time.and save many a cracked casing when dropped. The speed control is precise and the light weight of the unit will make working easy not to mention the 600 inch pounds of torque. However, the two units i received had gear selector problems that would not allow the drill to change speeds from low to high. I tried two of them,one wouldn't go to high and the other wouldn't go to low speed.
This lot or model needs a recall to correct this manufacturing error.Until this happens I will be switching to another brand.
Too bad because I believe this to be one of the best drills out there in its class.
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