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TOP 500 REVIEWERon February 10, 2010
Makita BTD144 18-Volt LXT Lithium-Ion Cordless Impact Driver

Perhaps this direct comparison of the specifications and features of these tools will be helpful to you. Even if you don't agree with my conclusions or importance of certain tool features, this side-by-side comparisons should at least provide you with food for thought.

If you're looking for an impact driver performance comparison, this isn't it. (But, I own and use a Makita BTD144 & my comments on that tool ARE based on actual use.) The purpose of this comparison is to save you the work of collecting, collating, and documenting the specifications of each tool, so you can do your own [specification & feature] comparison. Manufacturer's specifications were taken at face value, since, for example, I have no way to verify torque or RPM data. To the extent that part of your buying decision is based on manufacturer's specifications & features, this should be of some help. To the extent that your decision is based on actual tool performance, you'll need to read other tool reviews.

I initially did this because of disappointment in the impact driver review in Fine Woodworking's 2010 Tool Guide. They didn't test this Makita driver, or the DeWalt, Milwaukee, Bosch, or Hilti models listed below.

My goal was to select the "best overall" professional caliber cordless impact driver with high capacity (e.g., 3.0 amp hour) lithium ion batteries. That ruled out brands such as Ryobi, Black & Decker, Sears, and Rockwell. Also, I had no interest in hybrid impact driver/drills such as the Makita BTP140 or Bosch 26618-01 since I already own other cordless drill/drivers and hammer/drivers.

The Ridgid R8823 flunked early-on because there were numerous negative reviews; from Fine Woodworking and others. Our local Home Depot sells the tool only (no batteries or charger) for fifty bucks, which could imply they are phasing this model out.

The initial culling resulted in the latest & greatest models from seven manufacturers. Keep in mind that when newer models are introduced, much of this information could change. (I use tools from all of these brands and have no favorites. No one company makes the best tool of every type.) Here are the seven models:

DeWalt...... DC827KL 18V Cordless XRP Li-Ion Impact Driver
Hitachi...... WH18DL 18-volt 3.0 Ah Cordless Impact Driver
Makita....... BTD144 18-Volt 3.0 Ah LXT Cordless Impact Driver
Panasonic.. EY7540LN2S 14.4-Volt 3.0 Ah Impact Driver
Milwaukee.. 2650-22 18-Volt Extra-Compact Impact Driver
Bosch........ 25618-01 18V Cordless Impact Driver
Hilti........... SID 144-A 14.4-volt 2.6 Ah Cordless Impact Driver

Next, I did a "comparison" of these models, with my "most desirable" listed first for each category:

Warranty Summary (see manufacturer's web site for details):
1. Milwaukee..: 5 years tool, 5 years batteries (2 year free replacement, 3 more years pro-rated).
2. DeWalt......: 3-years tool/charger/batteries, 1-year tool service contract; 90-day money-back.
3. Hitachi......: 10 years tool, 2 years batteries
4. Bosch........: 1 year tool replacement, 2 more years tool repair, 2 years on the batteries
5. Hilti...........: 2 years tool, charger, & batteries; lifetime for manufacturer defects
6. Makita.......: 3-year tool and 1-year on batteries and charger.
7. Panasonic...: 1 year tool & batteries

Maximum torque:
1. Bosch.......: 1500 inch pounds (125 foot pounds)
2. Makita......: 1420 inch pounds (118 foot pounds)
3. Milwaukee.: 1400 inch pounds (117 foot pounds)
4. Hitachi, DeWalt, Panasonic: 1330 inch pounds (111 foot pounds)
5. Hilti..........: 1239 inch pounds (103 foot pounds)

Tool length (for fitting into small places):
1. Makita...........: 5 1/2"
2. Milwaukee, Dewalt, Bosch: 5 3/4"
3. Hilti & Hitachi..: 6 3/8"
4. Panasonic......: 6 1/2"

Carrying case:
1. Milwaukee, Panasonic, Bosch, Makita, Hilti: yes
2. Hitachi, Dewalt no

Number of speeds/torque settings.
1. Panasonic..: 3 (0-1000 RPM, 0-1400 RPM, 0-2300 RPM)
....Makita......: 3 (0-1,300; 0-2,000; 0-2,600 RPM)
2. Hitachi......: 2 (0-2,000 RPM & 0-2,600 RPM)
....Hilti..........: 2 (0-2100 RPM & 0-2700 RPM)
3. DeWalt......: 1 (0-2,400 RPM)
4. Milwaukee..: 1 (0-2200 RPM)
5. Bosch........: 1 (0-2800)

LED lamp:
1. Hilti.. 3 lamps 120 degrees apart, around the bit holder, runs off tool battery
2. Makita: stays on 10 seconds after tool is off; has switch to use it as a mini-flashlight
3. Bosch, Milwaukee, Panasonic, DeWalt: yes, runs off tool battery
4. Hitachi: yes, in the belt hook, requires 2 AAAA batteries & it must be aimed.

Tool weight with battery:
1. Panasonic....: 3.1 lbs.
2. Milwaukee....: 3.2 lbs.
3. Makita.........: 3.3 lbs
4. Hitachi.........: 3.5 lbs.
....Hilti.............: 3.5 lbs.
5...DeWalt........: 3.7 lbs.
6...Bosch..........: 3.8 lbs.

Battery charge time:
1. DeWalt, Makita, Hitachi, Bosch: 30 minutes
2. Panasonic....: 50 minutes
3. Milwaukee....: 60 minutes
4. Hilti.............: unknown (Hilti specs don't say and they wouldn't answer this question)

Internet/Amazon cost (as of this writing, highly subject to change & price shopping):
1. Hitachi........: 240
2. Milwaukee....: 297
3. Panasonic....: 299
4. Bosch..........: 317
5. DeWalt........: 329
6. Makita.........: 330
7. Hilti.............: 359

Conclusion:

All seven models deliver [approximately] triple the 450 in./lb. torque of a typical 18v cordless drill/driver, with no counter-torque to your wrist. All models are ambidextrous; i.e., they work the same in either hand. All models feature a 1/4" hex socket with a snap-chuck to securely hold drill or driver bits. Impact drivers can be quite noisy when "impacting" and all are reversible with variable speed triggers. The four multi-speed models use electronics versus a gear box, which is a good thing. (I.e., drills that change their speed range via a sliding switch connected to the gearbox can strip gears if said switch is moved while the tool is running.)

Depending on which factors are most important to you, your [specification & feature] rating won't necessarily agree with this conclusion. That is, having multiple speed/torque choices was paramount to me; 2 speeds are better than 1, and 3 speeds are better than 2. Having a short tool so it would fit in tight quarters was also important, as was being light-weight. Maximum torque wasn't particularly important to me, since these models are pretty close in that department, and all are quite powerful.

Also, recognize that no model is the best in every area, be it warranty, charge time, tool length, or whatever. Price had little sway in these rankings, other than designating the Hitachi "best value" because of its lower cost.

My ratings from 7 to 1, with number 1 being best overall:

7. Bosch: Having only a single speed/power choice is a serious deficiency, in my opinion. One speed is probably fine for carpentry, but one speed/power setting severely limits tool flexibility. E.g., it's too easy to snap or "over" drive a smaller screw when 1,400 in. lbs. of torque is your only choice and the sole method of controlling all that power is feathering the trigger. To be competitive, Bosch's next generation impact driver needs multiple speeds. Bosch's three-year tool warranty (1st year free replacement, 2 more years free repair), and their 2 year battery warranty is fourth best. This is the heaviest of the seven models. If these batteries fit other Bosch tools you own, that would be a good reason to buy this model.

6. Milwaukee: Their lithium batteries have a level-of-charge indicator; press a button and 1 to 4 led's show power remaining. This is very useful job-site feature, since otherwise, there's no way to tell how close a battery is to needing a recharge, before climbing the ladder, etc. Has one speed only; a serious deficiency. Milwaukee doesn't divulge battery amp hours. Batteries have the longest charge time (60 minutes, versus 30 minutes for most of the others). However, Milwaukee has the best tool & battery warranty of these manufacturers. My several Milwaukee power tools are all first-rate.

5. DeWalt: This single speed tool gets excellent customer reviews, but so does the Hitachi, which costs less and has two speed/power selections (0-2,000 RPM & 0-2,600 RPM). No tool case is included. Impressive "NANO" battery technology with a claimed 2,000 recharges. (An important tool selection factor if you will be recharging batteries daily.) Second best warranty: 3-years tool/charger/batteries, 1-year tool service contract; 90-day money-back. DeWalt doesn't divulge battery amp hours. Second heaviest of the seven models at 3.6 lbs. Would be much more versatile if it had 3 speeds, like the Makita & Panasonic.

4. Hilti: Fifth best warranty (see their web site for details); 2 speed/power choices; case is included; most expensive and one of the longest models @ 6 3/8". The only suppliers I could find were Home Depot and Hilti's web site. Only model with a wrist strap to reduce chances of dropping the tool; e.g., you're on a ladder. One of two models (along with Milwaukee) with a battery level-of-charge indicator; very useful feature before climbing that ladder. Hilti's specs don't say how long it takes for a battery charge, and Hilti never responded when I asked that question of their corporate sales unit. The battery has less amp hours (2.6 Ah) than the other models, but the tool has excellent ergonomics and is very well balanced. The Hilti has similar specs to the Hitachi, and I would have ranked them the same, but the Hitachi has a better tool warranty and costs much less.

3. Hitachi: Best value. Has an excellent tool & battery warranty and two good speed/power choices. The belt hook is easier than most to latch onto your belt without looking. It's been on the market for over two years, so a newer model may be coming soon; customer reviews are consistently positive on this model. If the tool is used after the battery becomes noticeably weaker, the battery may become damaged or its life may be shortened (according to the Hitachi WH18DL user manual). No tool case is included.

2. Panasonic: Based on other reviews I found, this driver has one serious flaw in that the handle breaks too easily if the tool is dropped. To exacerbate that issue, there doesn't seem to be any web site, including Panasonic's, that sells replacement handle parts for this tool; so an expensive service center would be your only choice. Perhaps those handle breaks were flukes, but those anecdotal reports made me nervous, even though it's clearly 2nd overall best otherwise, and I have other [terrific] Panasonic cordless tools. (I have been known to drop a tool from a ladder - last time it was my Milwaukee V28 hammer drill -- 8' onto concrete and nothing broke.) Panasonic has the worst warranty of the seven manufacturers; is the longest model at 6 ½", and has a long (50 minutes) recharge. On the plus side, it has three excellent speed/power choices making it extremely versatile, a belt hook that's easy to latch onto your belt without looking, and comes with a case; Fine Woodworking's 2010 Tool Guide rated this model Editor's Choice Best Overall, of the models tested. However, FW doesn't do drop tests, and the Makita (model BTD144) wasn't tested by them, perhaps because it had just come to market.

1. Makita. Best overall. The variable three-speed/power selection switch offers soft, medium and hard settings* for a wide range of fastening tasks. Having a brush-less motor is one reason this is the shortest impact driver (to fit in small spaces), since motors with brushes are longer. Brush-less motors also reduce [mechanical] complexity and maintenance, since..., there are no brushes. Makita makes 34 other cordless tools that use the same batteries as this one. The easy-to-grab bit-holder protrudes 5/8" from the tool to simplify bit changes. Bits slide in and out of the bit holder by just over 1/16". The black material surrounding the tool handle is rubber, for tool protection and comfort. My XXL glove-size hand fits the handle just fine, and nothing pinches the fingers. This is the latest generation Makita impact driver, introduced summer 2009 and has their most advanced battery technology, an electric brake, and a phosphorescent bumper ring for finding the tool in dark spaces. There's also a battery warning light and bright built-in LED; both flash when it's time to recharge the battery. It has the right speed/torque setting for anything from heavy construction, to finish carpentry, to cabinet-making. Two "improvements" would be for Makita to lengthen the battery warranty to two or more years, and to include a battery level-of-charge indicator as found on the Milwaukee and Hilti models.

I was tempted to buy the less costly Hitachi, but selected the better, and more expensive, Makita BTD144 - and have no regrets. This is a terrific tool, which I now use instead of my two Panasonic 15.6 drill/drivers for driving screws, and even for some drilling.

* soft: 220 inch pounds of torque -- medium:490 in. lb. - hard: 1420 in. lb.
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1313 comments100 of 101 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on December 18, 2010
I've used pneumatic impact wrenches and cordless drills plenty of times. But I had never used a cordless impact driver. I saw the Holmes on Homes crew using some when they were framing, so I went shopping for one in anticipation of a major framing project in my basement.

Shop around online and you'll realize soon that the BTD144 is a class of one. No other cordless impact driver combines the power, control, and endurance in a package as compact and lightweight.

The balance of this tool is the first thing you notice-- it's an ergonomic dream, feeling literally like a part of your body. The grip couldn't be better for my medium sized hands. The reverse/forward switch is right near the trigger, making for quick, one-handed reversals.

The power is stunning. I've used it for automotive work (with socket adapter) on bolts 1/2" and smaller with excellent results. It drives normal-sized screws (#12 or smaller) into wood as fast as you can handle it. It's excellent at what it's designed for (driving screws) and merely really good at other tasks.

As power is nothing without control, the ability to select three power ranges is paramount. On the lowest setting, you could use it change the batteries on kids toys and it will behave like a mild-mannered cordless screwdriver. On the medium setting, it's excellent for driving screws into wood (framing) and doing MOST of the things you'll need it to do. On the hardest setting, it's simply brutal. The first time I put a hard load to this tool with a #3 Phillips bit into a large #12 screw, it shattered the bit! Not some weenie little #1 Phillips, but a large #3! (FYI, I no longer buy Irwin bits, lol). With TORX screws, the highest setting becomes useful, but you don't need it for driving regular screws-- it's just less control. I recommend saving the highest setting for lag screws. That's the only time you'd really *need* it for screwdriving (but for drilling, I use the highest setting always).

ASIDE ON FASTENERS: I *highly* recommend TORX (aka "star") drives for this type of tool-- GRK fasteners are the best available, but the newer SPAX (some Home Depots will carry) are also good TORX drive screws. Square drives are second best, with Phillips being not recommended. Knowledgeable types gave up on Phillips awhile ago. Phillips drive was invented for assembly line use, to limit transfer torque and prevent bit breakage in the days before tool automation would limit torque accurately. This saved manufacturers money (on bit replacement). Unfortunately, it means the bits cam out on purpose. Phillips is old technology, and though it remains very popular, it's obsolete because much better technology exists (torx) for most of the uses we home users have (after all, we're not manufacturing companies!). (END SLIGHTLY INTERESTING ASIDE)

As a drill, it's excellent with smaller bits-- those whose driving torque is low enough that the impact mechanism will not engage. With larger boring bits, the impact mechanism will engage and the RPM will slow down and it will make a lot of noise. It's not the *optimal* tool for this kind of work, but it does work pretty well. It's hard to argue against the amazing power in such a small package-- you'll end up using this thing as a drill more often than you'd think. I don't use my regular drill nearly as often anymore- only for large boring bits and hole saws.

The LED light helps visibility a lot, and I love that it stays on for 10 seconds or so after the trigger is released.

The BTD144 is the only Impact Driver on the market with a brushless motor. So much for the selling point of "brushes easily replaced". How about "never needs brushes and is 20% more efficient?" That's what the BTD144 gives you.

Before I bought this tool, I had in my collection a small Bosch cordless screwdriver (10.8V) and a larger Milwaukee 1/2" Magnum drill. This Makita is simply a revelation-- and a revolution. In a tool that's almost as manageable as a small cordless screwdriver, you get unrivaled capability.

The charger is pretty generic, but it's fast and Energy Star certified [Popular Mechanics called it "over-engineered]. I doubt that Energy Star on a battery charger matters to anyone, but the charger does a great job at charging quickly and is smart enough to treat the batteries how they want to be treated for a long a happy life. Best of all, you simply can't use the battery juice up as fast as the replacement battery charges. You will never run out of battery with the BTD144. You might be able to do it with other tools in Makita's 18V line (say, a circular saw), but not with this impact driver-- you simply can't work that fast.

If someone made a corded version of a tool of this kind, I would have chosen that. Cordless tools are convenient, but most homeowners have a ready source of power available and corded tools are the way to go for most applications-- lower cost, more power, etc. Not so the contractor, who often works on job sites lacking electricity.

If you will be driving a lot of screws (say, framing with screws), then there is no other tool that is as effective or convenient as a 1/4" Hex Drive Impact Driver, and the Makita BTD144 is the best there is-- period.
0Comment16 of 16 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
VINE VOICEon August 11, 2009
I dearly loved my old Makita impact driver and never thought I'd have any reason to replace it before it died, but when I found out the latest and greatest model let you downshift into less power, I had no choice but to trade up.

The first thing I did with it out of the box was sink a 3.5" deck screw into the end of a fir 2 x 4 (pre-drilled for about 2" with a tapered countersink bit) on the highest setting. This was not a task my old driver ever balked at, but with the 144 the screw was sunk almost instantaneously. If you blinked, you would have missed it. I tried another one on the medium setting, and that was more along the lines of what I was accustomed to--a truly respectable amount of power, but it took a couple seconds and a decent bit of pressure. Shift down to the lowest power setting, and the screw is tapped in pretty delicately, making it safe to use around much smaller screws and finer woods. I'm not sure if it's safe enough for drywall as I don't have any scraps handy, but I'd be more comfortable using the 144 on low than I would tapping the trigger on my old driver repeatedly and hoping I managed to stop it before it crushed something.

But there are a couple of nit-picky things I don't care for. One is the amount of play in the chuck; the bits slide back and forth a great deal more than they did in my old driver. This doesn't really affect the tool's performance in any way, but there are times when you're up on a ladder, trying to gauge the amount of weight you can shift forward without falling off, and having the bit slip backwards a few millimeters can throw off your calculations. A minor fault to be sure, but it's one that doesn't need to be there. The other issue I had was the lack of bit storage accessories. My old one came with a little plastic snap case thing that screwed into the handle and held bits. Where'd that go, Makita?

These minor gripes aside, I can't imagine anyone being dissatisfied with this driver's performance in any way. It's my new favorite toy.
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on August 17, 2010
This tool is top notch in all ways except, as some have mentioned, the forward/reverse switch is indeed placed where I commonly knock it out of its set position. It's a small irritation, but noteworthy and I wish Makita would take heed and make what seems like a simple change. Also, the chuck on my particular copy does not easily allow me to insert a bit without moving the collar out - I have to slam it in there. Another minor annoyance. The final annoyance is that the charger has a noisy fan so when I'm working in my shop it's pretty noisy. On the plus side, I use the 3-speed setting more than I thought I would - for instance using 1 5/8 stainless trim head screws to install siding - I've got it on speed 1 to avoid over-driving the screw through the soft cedar.

A fabulous, fabulous tool for sure, highly recommended, but can't quite give it 5 stars.
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on October 28, 2009
I have yet to find any problems. Its loaded with power. Its extremely light weight and really packs a punch. only thing that i would add is a battery life meter on the battery, other than that its perfect. power managment is better than the btd141. If you get low on juice the driver will automatically shut down, as to not run the batteries all the way down. the previous driver did not. belt clip is well balanced and comfortable, the light stays on for a while when not in use which is nice. Did i mention how strong it us??? 3/8 lag screws into solid wood like a knife through butter.
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on February 1, 2010
This is a great little impact driver. I had never owned one before and have always owned Milwaukee. The Milwaukee 14.4 drives the screws a little faster than the impact driver...but what sold me on the Makita 144 was its 3 speeds. Having an impact driver helps a great deal in keeping the bit in contact with the screw head. To prove this,I used a #1 square drive bit and 2 inch sq drive deck screws. I had to re-level my workbench top and used #1 - 2 inch deck screws to fasten it down. Normally I strip a few heads when taking these screws out wherever I have used them. I even left sawdust/dirt in some of heads of the sq drive screws...and to my amazement...not a one stripped out when removing them or when re-installing them. I also think the 3 speeds give the impact driver more versatility/controll over a wide range of screw sizes. I like the little light...great for seeing into tight places. The battery's have a lot of run time as well. I had originally ordered the 142hw...it had great reviews...I don't think I would have been as happy... not as much run time, not as powerful, not as fast... the 144 is a little more useful/powerful...a little higher in price too...but my philosphy... you buy a good tool once ...and you cry once...because in the end, price is justified. So if you're in the market for an impact driver...this is the one to buy!
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on November 9, 2010
The only drawback is that even the lightest setting is quite powerful, but then I guess that is why you don't use this for everything. The only thing you have to do is make sure you have good quality bits.
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on March 17, 2010
after owning a makita 12v impact driver for about ten years, the cost of replacement batteries became ridiculous. when my fifth battery starting acting up, i decided it was time for a change. the btd144 i purchased has proven to be even better than my previous model. the tool weight, battery run time and charge cycle are far superior and the cost for a 18v lithium ion is $50 cheaper than a 12v.
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on July 25, 2010
I,m the Husband of Tina. I work as a gutter contractor in Portland, Oregon as [...]. I have been working with the predecessor of this tool for several years now hanging gutter with stainless steel screws, but this model 144 was a noticeably good improvement over the 140 or the 141. It has a button to turn off the light when you have no need for it, different power settings to not over torc screws, and best of all a quick change tip that is even easier to use, where you can just shove the tip in without needing to pull the collar out. I would say the brushless motor has a noticeably stronger force, so I can see where it would have a more efficient power consumption they claim; by driving in screws a little faster. I've managed to break off a few more screws getting use to the added torc. If you have not use an impact driver for screws you have been screwing yourself over for not getting one. They are very noisy, but are amazing for their ability to drive in screws without chewing up the screw head. Standard drills with allow the tip to slowly back out of the slot as you're driving the screw in, but these reseat the tip in the screw slot with each click of the impact drive force and maintain a much better tip to screw head contact. I also really love the way Makita seems to have the only one on the market that has the light stay on for a few seconds after releasing the trigger, which has been a great benefit. They are a light weight compact work horse. I have 4 of Makita's impact drivers we use daily between the 2 of us and I highly recommend them as the most useful tools I own.
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on November 29, 2010
Awesome power from a nice and light compact but well-balanced form factor. The speed settings are fantastic, but as noted, even the lowest setting is quite powerful.

The "light button" does not work as you would expect. It simply turns the light on/off during the time when the trigger is pressed. And also for the few seconds the LED stays on after pressing the trigger. But it won't turn the LED light on when the trigger isn't pressed, so you can't use it as a handy backup flashlight without having to constantly pull on the trigger. I'm not so sure what the point of the light switch is as it is currently implemented, since the light will turn off by itself after releasing the trigger for a few seconds.

Two minor niggles: 1. I wished they would have put the two-LED lighting design from the Hammerdrill (BHP454). As nice as this one is, the one on the BHP454 is better. 2. Makita does NOT include the $2 bit holder with this kit. It's annoying--you can only buy the bit-holder (Part#: 419276-2) separately from a parts and service vendor. Plus you have to order the screw (Part#: 251314-2) as a separate part as well since it's not included with the bit-holder. The shipping ends up costing more than the parts. It should have been included as standard in the kit.

As noted by others, the charger has a fairly audible fan when charging. And if you've never used an impact driver before, these things are really loud--especially driving long lag screws.
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