Review By Dean Bielanowski  I-Drill Website - http://www.idrill.com

I-drill Review introduction image
I-Drill 12v (2i-drill) and (1i-drill) Lithium Ion Cordless Drills

 Review

By Dean Bielanowski

Reviewed 12th July 2012

A good cordless drill is always an asset to any woodworker or tradesperson. Having a drill that is reliable, dependable and suited for the task is a definite necessity. Now, the drill in question here is not the world's most powerful, not the biggest, and it will likely not drill through solid concrete, however, the i-drill single and 2-gear 12v Li-Ion cordless drills are certainly useful for a number of varied construction and fitout tasks. Let's take a closer look...

There are two separate models which are slightly different. The 2i-drill model offers two gears while the 1i-drill offers a single gear motor. I will review both together for simplicity and highlight any differences that exist between the two models as we go. Before doing so however, I will cut and paste the information on the supplied batteries from a previous I-Drill oscillating tool reviewed as the charger and cells used are identical...

All tools in the I-Drill range use the same 12v 1.3Ah Lithium Ion stick batteries, so if you have multiple tools from the range, you can switch batteries between each tool as required. This means less hassle finding a battery and only one charger required for all the tools, keeping your storage requirements for battery chargers to a minimum - leaving more space for other cool tools! The batteries feature quality Sanyo Lithium Ion cells. Now, you might argue that all Lithium Ion cells are created equal, but sadly this certainly is not true. Just look at any budget line of cordless power tools. Chances are that if the tool is cordless, and it is ridiculously cheap, it is likely going to have poor quality batteries. If you are going to go cordless, quality batteries are a must, otherwise your tool wont deliver good performance, and the only "good" thing it will deliver is a "good" dose of frustration, something which should be avoided! Thankfully the Sanyo cells have proven to be of good quality in other applications in the past, and they should also prove of high quality in these I-Drill tools. Since I have used these batteries now for some time in my oscillating tool, I can confirm the cells at this stage are still running great and delivering good power and capacity, so its a thumbs up, unless something changes in the near future.

The batteries are not large in size or heavy in weight by any means, so you cant expect them to last forever under high load, but they do appear to be delivering a suitable amount of battery life per cycle all things considered. You can often tell almost right off the bat if you are using inferior batteries or cells. They don't deliver much power to begin with, and even after numerous charge/discharge cycles, they don't improve either.

 
Universal charger and I-Drill battery.

The batteries are charged using the supplied charger. Because it is a universal charger, just attach the clip on plug that suits the countries wall socket you are in before you start. Attach this to the charger plug before plugging the cord into the electrical outlet. Turn on the mains power. The charger will show a green light. Insert the battery into the charger (it can only go in one way). Once inserted, the green light goes out and the red light illuminates to indicate the charging cycle has started. Once fully charged (around 45-60 mins for a full charge from a low or flat state) the red light goes out and the green light illuminates for easy identification that charging is complete. If the lights flash, there may be a charger/battery problem or the battery pack may be too hot to charge. Check the manual for further instructions. So far the charge process has been flawless for me. No problems noted.

 
Battery during charge. Note the red charge light is illuminated.

Back to the drills. Each drill is mid-sized and relatively light and comfortable to grip and hold. Because there is no big chunky battery hanging off the bottom of the drill, the grip handle is cylindrical (although not completely round) in shape from top to bottom. The slimline handle makes it comfortable to hold and easy to maneuver, and it can be held at odd angles for lengths of time without causing strain because there is no heavy battery swinging around below your hand when holding the drill. The drill itself doesn't feel overly light for its size. It's thin profile and oversize might make you think it is a lightweight, but this is not the case. It has a "heavy" feel to it when you hold it, and although still comparatively light compared to other 12v drills on the market, it feels anything but flimsy.

Both drills feature a 10mm single handed tightening chuck. The chuck is quite easy to tighten and release and seems to hold hex driving bits well without slipping. The chuck jaws are triangular shaped so the actual edge that grips the bit only provides a very small gripping surface area. This can be problematic on round drill bits if you don't properly tighten them in the chuck, or try to force the bit to cut. A steady approach and use of sharp bits has resulted in zero slip so far in our testing cycle.

For drilling, the maximum recommended diameter for bits used in the i-drill is 20mm when drilling wood and 8mm for steel. A maximum torque of 25Nm is going to restrict this drill to lighter duty drilling and driving tasks, but it is not meant to be an impact driver or hammer drill, so as long as the purchaser or user is aware of this and uses the tools within its limitation, then it should get the job done with no major problems.

There are 17 torque settings for driving fasteners to prevent overdriving and each setting engages with a positive click stop. In addition, the drilling setting on the clutch ring disengages it so drilling can be undertaken without clutch slip. I liked the quality feel of the clutch setting ring. It is firm, but not overly tight so it restricts movement. The 2i-drill offers up a maximum of 25Nm max torque while the 1i-drill model serves up a lower 18Nm max torque.

Just behind the clutch setting ring is the speed control slide switch for the 2-speed gearbox on the 2i-drill model. The two settings are marked "LO" and "HI". To simplify things, you generally use the "LO" setting (max 350 RPM) when driving fasteners, because this setting not only reduces the rotational speed of the chuck, which can help prevent stripping of fastener heads, but it also affords more torque to drive those fasteners in with greater ease. The "HI" setting (max 1200 RPM) is used mostly for drilling as it offers less torque, but faster rotational speed, which is better suited to drilling operations. While you can readily drill using the LO setting, in most cases, the HI setting will produce a better drilling result. Remember that it is the sharpness and suitability of the drilling bit for the material being drilled that is the most critical factor to drilling success. There are only a few materials where a very slow drilling speed is required (some harder metals and some plastics that are prone to heat friction). But if you remember to use HI for drilling, and LO for driving, you will be certainly heading in the right direction. The 1i-drill model has a single speed only with a range of 0-500 RPM, and hence, no speed adjustment switch. The single speed on the black 1i-drill model also affords it a slightly shorter overall length, about 3/4" shorter than the 2-speed white 2i-drill model.

The trigger offers variable speed control, which is essential for drilling and driving tasks. If any drill you are looking at purchasing does not have this feature, then wipe it off the list ASAP. Also, ensure any drill you buy stops rotating immediately after you release the trigger. Some budget drills will spin down slowly instead of immediately, after releasing the trigger, and for driving tasks in particular, this will be a liability, not to mention a frustration-creating aspect of the tool. The i-drill stop immediately after trigger release, allowing precise control if both drilling and driving tasks. Of course, the drill also features a forward and reverse function for chuck rotation direction. It uses the standard three position slide switch just above the trigger and in line with the grip handle for easy thumb access and control. The middle position of this slide switch locks the trigger which is a handy safety feature, and each side of this allows the drill to operate in forward or reverse mode. Reverse mode is handy for removing debris from a drilled hole (if there is only one entry/exit point in the material) or for removing imbedded fasteners.

A couple of LED lights on the 2i-drill serve several purposes. On the front of the tool just above and forward of the trigger is a white LED light. This illuminates any time the trigger is depressed. This is a handy worklight which shines light directly in front of the drill to the point where you will be drilling or driving. It's a great feature that is becoming common on many quality cordless drills now and it is ideal when working in dark areas where no other light is available, or practical to set up. Its effectiveness is diminished however because the light only illuminates with a press of the trigger, and it shuts off thereafter immediately. This means it is more difficult to line up a drill bit in a dark area without actually drilling material, whereas on some other tools, like the Makita BDF452 18v drill/driver we have reviewed previously, and continues to be one our favorite tools, once you press and release the trigger, the worklight stays on for several seconds, allowing you to engage a drill bit on the exact spot you wish to drill and start drilling accurately with a further press of the trigger. The i-drill "missed the boat" it seems on the usability of the worklight on the tool in my opinion.

Just above the trigger on the left lateral side of the drill body on the 2i-drill model are three LED lights which indicate current battery charge level. These are not found on the 1i-drill black model. With three lights illuminated, the battery has a full, or near full charge. With two lights, the charge is roughly half its capacity, and with one light, the battery is low or becoming low on charge. These lights are just a guide however, but they do appear to be quite accurate, and act as a useful quick reference for determining battery charge level. With two batteries included in each drill kit, and a 45-minute charge time with the included charger, you should be able to manage never being without charge with your i-drill, except if you are using it continuously for heavy drilling/driving work (within the drill's capacity of course). However I would imagine this is a rare occurrence. I have not even come close to experiencing a situation with these drills where both batteries were depleted and I had to sit and wait for one of them to charge. 

Using the i-drill
The pistol grip on the i-drill is very comfortable to use and fits the hand well. The drill exhibits a very slight forward weight bias in its design and this is a beneficial and practical "feature" as it helps reduce wrist strain during prolonged use over the widest variety of use situations. The black 1i-drill has more of a forward bias than the 2i-drill model. What I like about this particular drill is relatively small size and low weight. Although there are smaller 12v cordless drills on the market, this is one of the most comfortable of those small 12v drills I have used. It is an idea drill/driver for anyone not comfortable using bigger or heavier 18v drills for light duty use. My wife finds the i-drill the perfect match for her strength and abilities and well-sized and of suitable power for light DIY tasks around the home.

The i-drill is not an 18v drill, is not a hammer drill, is not a core drill, or an industrial-strength drill/driver, so please don't think of buying it for those reasons. It is a decent 12v driver, and I think it works better as a driver than it does a drill. Its top speed is still a little too slow for my liking for drilling, but for driving it seems to offer a great balance of size, weight, power and available torque. It's a good match as a driver against the Makita 6270 12v drill, although the Makita has a bit more power, but is also a larger and heavier unit. The i-drill does offer all the benefits of lithium-ion batteries however where the Makita 6270 uses NiCads out of the box.

During our testing, we found the i-drill to be a suitable tool for all the following tasks:

  • Drilling and driving for door hinges
  • Driving woodscrews up to 10 gauge in softwoods and hardwoods (pre-drilled in hardwood) and even larger 12 guage screws in other materials when properly pre-drilled with the correct sized drill bit.
  • Assembling and disassembling PC cases and components
  • Assembly and Disassembly of Ikea and other flat-pack type products
  • General light duty cabinet fixing, assembly, as well as most other fine woodworking assembly and light carpentry
  • Speeding up of assembly of machinery and tools using machine screws or bolt/nut fixings.
  • Most all general home DIY tasks such as shelf fixing and assembly, curtain rails, bathroom fixing, blinds, door locks and fittings, TV wall brackets and speaker brackets, draw, door and cupboard fixings and handles etc.

The bottom line on this drill is that it seems to be a very good tool, provided you use it within its limitations and do not expect it to perform tasks it is not designed to do, or suitable for. We have had the products for around 6 months now and no problems have arisen with their use as yet. The fit and finish of the drills are excellent. They look the part and function as well as they look in my opinion. The handy tool stands included allow you to store your i-drill upright and right next to the charging station.


(image from i-drill)

 The i-drill's both carry a retail price tag of USD$149.95. This seems a little high for a cordless drill of this size and capacity, however, lithium ion tools do seem to carry a premium on their price, and rightly so. You do get a lot of benefit from the lithium ion batteries, namely more power in a much lighter battery pack, and faster and easier recharge. You do get 2 quality batteries and a fast charger in each kit, so the price seems quite fair all things considered. And not to mention the very generous 5-year warranty which certainly demonstrates the manufacturers belief in the durability of the tool. That warranty is built into the price, and something that cannot be ignored (normally you have to pay extra for extended warranties on other products). Expect street prices to be lower than RRP however.

Both drills offer predictable but reliable results. The white 2i-drill is naturally the model I would recommend between the two because, for the same price, you get the added flexibility of a dual speed gearbox which comes in handy and certainly improves versatility, plus it offers a better max torque for driving fasteners and offers the battery charge indicator lights. The other side of argument is that the black 1i-drill is certainly "sexier" in its color and overall look. Star Wars fans will appreciate it color naming being "Vader Black". I wonder if Darth Vader used one of these i-drills on the construction of the death star? I guess we will never know! Perhaps the black 1i-drill is better suited to new drill users or those just wanting a simple-to-use light duty drill/driver. Just pull the trigger and go. My recommendation is for the 2i-drill model however if both versions are priced the same on the street. I do note though that current street prices are as low as $99 at some retailers, and the 1i-drill white model is showing on the i-drill website itself as available for US$79.95 which is a great deal.

Overall, an interesting drill/driver. Probably not the best in the class or for the money, but indeed a solidly constructed drill which is designed for a particular market and with a fit, finish and feel to match the best. Great for the use around the home.

 

I-Drill 1i/2i-drill Photos
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Great drill for fitting door hinges


Perfect for any home DIY tasks
(image from i-drill)

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