For reasons unknown to any rational person I know, Skil decided to send us a set of their latest 18v Lithium-Ion power tools for review. A risky move on their part primarily because I’m known in the industry for not pulling any punches and because cordless power tools, by nature, are so easy to be critical of. Sure they are portable and handy and all of that, but often they lack the power and the endurance to stand up to the rigors of a guy that REALLY uses them.
In any case, we recently moved into new offices here at The Garage Journal and the event was a perfect excuse to try out Skil’s new set. The set in question consists of your typical drill, a reciprocating saw, a circular saw, and a flashlight ($244 for the set). We put each through its paces as we demoed old walls, constructed new, and just generally tackled a fairly nice sized project. Here’s what we found:
In my opinion, the drill is the most important component of any set like this as it’s typically the tool that gets used most often. My current cordless is an 18v job that is part of a similar set of four tools offered by DeWalt. I paid around $100 more for the Dewalt set than you can currently get this Skil set for at retail, but felt like the comparison would be a good one.
As far as power goes, I have no scientific way of measuring the Skil against the DeWalt. All I can say is that they feel comparable and each is capable of doing a fine job at drilling holes in a number of different materials. Of course, these aren’t drivers (even if they come with bits) but they still manage to perform admirably at driving screws into a number of different materials as well.
For all intents and purposes, the Skil and the Dewalt are equals when considering performance. That said, these tools aren’t twins. For one, the Skil is considerably lighter. Typically, I would consider this a sign of lesser build quality… and maybe it is, but it’s one I can live with as I really began to enjoy the balance of the Skil over the DeWalt. Getting the Skil perpendicular over any given surface all day long seemed much easier to me than with the Dewalt. The Skil is not only lighter, it’s just balanced more evenly. Plus, it comes with a removable side handle that is especially handy when extra power or preciseness is needed.
Of course, an important consideration with any cordless tool is battery longevity. The Skil takes a slight knock here. The DeWalt battery is a tad bigger (and heavier… read above) and I’m guessing holds a bit more “juice” as it tended to last about ten more minutes than the Skil with each being used equally and performing the same task. Again, this wasn’t a scientific test – just a couple of guys working side by side with similar tools and comparing results.
All in all, I actually think I like the Skil drill over the Dewalt. Ergonomically, it’s just a better tool for me.
The Circular Saw
Frankly, I’m skeptical of any cordless circular saw. These are tools that draw a lot of amperage and depend a great deal on the power delivered. That said, there is some benefits to having a tool that doesn’t depend on an extension cord.
Again, I was able to compare the Skil offering to the Dewalt. My take? Dead heat. Each cut 2×4’s just fine and even handled ply wood without much drama. To me, the Skil felt a bit better in the hands than the DeWalt due to its rubberized grip but that’s merely opinion as my work partner disagreed.
As for battery longevity, each unit passed but I wouldn’t rely on either to cut more than 50 or so 2×4’s without needing a charge. This seems like a handicap and I guess it is, but again – at least you have portability.
The Reciprocating Saw
Unlike circular saws, I absolutely love cordless reciprocating saws. Forget all of those household projects – when chopping a top on an old car or just cutting away sheet metal in hard to get places, a cordless saw is just unbeatable. Getting rid of that pesky extension cord allows you to get comfortable for just about any cut and I love that.
I also love Skil’s offering for two reasons:
1. The rubberized grip and great balance makes this tool infinitely better than DeWalt’s. Put simply, I just like to hold this tool. Great weight. Great balance.
2. Both DeWalt and Skil offer a tool free blade change that takes about 10 seconds to perform. The great thing about the Skil is that the blade actually stays where it is supposed to. Frankly, it rules.
Both tools offer variable speed, but the Skil also offers a “turbo” mode. From a performance standpoint, I’d call it a marketing move. There is no measurable difference (to me) between the performance of the two. Battery life is also equal as far as I can tell.
Alright… I admit it. I don’t get the flashlights included in so many of these multi-tool kits. They do nothing for me. They are big, heavy and only marginally bright when compared to a real flashlight from someone like SureFire. The light included in the Skil set is a bit bigger than the light included with the DeWalt, but it’s also brighter. In the end, however, I’d still much prefer a real flashlight over these after-thoughts.
The Final View
All and all, I’m a bit surprised to admit that I like the Skil set quite a bit better than the DeWalt. Surprised, because the Dewalt set runs almost $100 more than the Skil and in pictures appears to be more “robust.” However, in the flesh the Skil tools feel better in the hand and perform at least equally with the DeWalts. It’s a personal thing, but the reciprocating saw alone gets the Skil set over the top.
You can read more about the Skil set here. As mentioned, the set retails for around $244 and is available at a number retailers on the net as well as Lowes (I believe).
Hope you enjoyed the review… And if you’re lucky, you just might end up with this set. Not compelled to be a guy that takes free shit, I’ve decided we are gonna give this set away to some lucky user. Details soon.