In this guide we’ll take a look at the best SDS drill for the money.
I’ve compared power, performance, build quality and cost
to give you my top recommendations.
What Is The Best SDS Drill?
More Detailed SDS Drill Reviews
In our opinion the Bosch Professional GBH 2-20 SDS+ is one of the best all round SDS Plus Hammer Drills on the market. It comes from Bosch’s Professional range, a sure sign that this is a high quality drill and built to last, evidenced by the extended 3 year guarantee.
For an SDS drill it is very compact and weighs just 2.3 kg which means it is really easy to handle and great for overhead use.
It has 3 functions for drilling only, combined drilling and hammering, and hammering (chiselling) only, with forward and reverse rotation to help you out if the drill bit gets stuck.
With an impact rate of over 4,000 beats per minute it can hammer down into concrete to a depth of 20mm and it has a variable speed trigger to give you maximum control when drilling.
Safety features include an overload clutch which causes the drill to temporarily cut out if the workload becomes excessive. For the functionality, versatility and price this is an SDS plus drill that hard to ignore!
The Makita HR2630X7 SDS+ runs a close second in our SDS Plus Rotary Hammer drill reviews. The Makita brand is well-known for its well-designed, durable, high quality products, and its drills always come with a 3 year guarantee.
This drill is robust and solid, double insulated, well balanced, comfortable to hold with a rubberized soft grip to minimize any vibration, a long power cord, and it weighs a very respectable 2.8 kilos.
In terms of hammering capacity it is more powerful than the Bosch GBH 2-20 above, generating 2.4 joules of impact energy (compared to 1.7) and with its variable speed trigger delivering up to 4,600 beats per minute instead of 4,200.
It can also drill a little deeper into concrete, 26mm instead of 20mm. It too has 3 modes of operation (Rotation only / Rotation with hammering / Hammering only), a change lever to swap modes without rotating the chuck, torque control to prevent over tightening and damaging screws and the ability to set the bit at up to 40 different angles.
This is a great all-round quality SDS plus hammer drill.
The Dewalt D25033K is another high quality SDS Plus rotary hammer drill. In terms of its hammering / chiselling ability it is the most powerful of the SDS Plus drills we review.
Using its rotation-stop (chiselling) mode it can penetrate concrete to 22mm at the incredible rate of 5,680 beats / impacts per minute, and has the highest maximum drilling speed of 1,550 RPM.
Despite such high performance vibration levels are low and the drill feels comfortable to hold and control with its ergonomic design, light weight (2.5 kilos) and variable speed trigger.
Like all good drills it has a built-in mechanism to release the clutch if the bit jams.
The Hitachi DH26PX SDS Plus Rotary Hammer Drill comes next in our list and has been recently upgraded to significantly improve the power and durability that characterised earlier models.
It features all 3 SDS-Plus drilling modes (drilling only (impact-stop, combined drilling and hammering, and chiselling (rotation-stop). In fact the chiselling action delivers the highest impact energy of all our reviewed SDS Plus drills (3.2 joules) and can chisel down to 26mm in concrete.
This is a well-built yet relatively lightweight drill that at 2.8 kg is both comfortable to hold and easy to support thanks to its moulded side handle. The drill also comes with a 3 year guarantee.
Last but by no means least of our reviews is the VonHaus 1500W SDS Rotary Impact drill. This drill has a larger motor than those previously mentioned and subsequently its technical specification is greater – it can drill 42mm into wood, 13mm into metal and 32mm into concrete.
It also has a larger chunky profile compared to the other longer-nosed varieties and comes with a large D-shaped handle designed to offer more protection to your trigger hand. This more ‘stocky’ profile lends itself to greater control and balance when drilling, especially overhead, because the motor sits underneath the drill rather than in line with it, so it is more bottom-heavy.
The drill is however significantly heavier than the others, weighing around 9 kilos, so if you do envisage prolonged working above shoulder height you do need to make an allowance for this.
There is however one overriding factor you might also want to consider and that is price! For all the above features this drill is not far off half the price of the others listed here, plus it comes with a 2 year guarantee!
SDS Drill Buying Guide
You should consider an SDS (Rotary Hammer) Drill if your projects involve the drilling or chiselling of hard materials such as masonry, concrete or stone. This robust but versatile drill is specifically designed to handle long periods of heavy duty work.
Effectively the SDS Drill is an upgrade from the Hammer Drill / Hammer Drill Driver. It is bigger and heavier but has compensating design features, both mechanically and ergonomically, that actually make it easier to use. We will read about these later on.
One of the reasons this drill is best suited for such heavy duty work relates to the way the drill bits are attached to the drill, which is where the term “SDS” comes in.
There is some conjecture over the meaning of this term, and definitions include ‘Self Direct System’, ‘Special Direct System’, ‘Splined Drive System’, ‘Slotted Drive System’ and even the German ‘steck’, ‘dreh’, ‘sitzt’, meaning ‘insert, twist, fits’!
But they are all referring to the same thing – the design of the chuck / bit mechanism.
Round-shanked bits in traditional 3 jawed chucks often slip and become loose when subject to continuous percussive action.
To prevent this rotational slippage SDS chucks were developed to accept slotted bits that slid into 2 grooves inside the chuck, with the bits held in place by spring loaded ball bearings sat at the bottom of each groove.
The springs also absorb impact from the heavy duty drilling activity. Unlike the fixed way the bit is secured in a 3 jawed chuck, the SDS slots allow the bit to move up and down within the chuck in conjunction with the drill’s hammer action, and rotational slippage is therefore prevented.
There are 2 sizes of SDS drills, SDS+ and SDS Max.
For DIY tasks and for most contractors too, SDS+ drills are fine. SDS Max drills are for the biggest jobs.
What Are SDS Drill Modes?
SDS drills typically come with 3 drill modes.
Mode 2 is used for pounding and hammering. Here a piston drives the bit forward to deliver its impact in combination with rotational speed. This is what this drill was really designed for.
Mode 3 is used for breaking and chiselling. This mode is also called ‘rotation stop’ because rotation is turned off and only the impact action is engaged. You don’t get this with Hammer Drills / Hammer Drill Drivers.
Mode 1 is used for drilling softer materials, not unlike a traditional Rotary Drill or Drill Driver. This is also known as ‘impact stop’ because you are inhibiting the hammer (impact) action. But you will need an SDS chuck adaptor or interchangeable chuck to accommodate standard drill bits to use this mode.
More and more SDS Drills come with 3 modes these days. There are still versions with 2 modes however, i.e. with no Mode 1, but with these you can’t turn the hammer function off.
In summary this drill gives you the ability to upgrade from a Hammer Drill / Hammer Drill Driver without having to compromise basic drilling functions. You also get chiselling capability. So all in all it is a very versatile piece of equipment.
What Does An SDS Drill Look Like?
SDS Drills come in different sizes and shapes. In terms of size, they are bigger than Hammer Drills and Hammer Drill Drivers, and they can weigh anything from 5 lbs to over 20 lbs! (as in the case on an SDS Max drill). A household SDS+ drill typically weighs 6 to 8 lbs.
There are 2 or 3 different shapes too.
There are those that look like an enlarged pistol-grip drill. They are more elongated and their motor is aligned parallel to the drill axis.
Then there are those that come with a D-shaped handle. These are popular because they provide extra protection to your trigger hand and also let that hand apply pressure more directly and evenly than if you were using a pistol grip model. The D-handle also makes it easier to stabilise the drill when using it above the shoulders.
There are 2 versions of the D-handle Rotary Hammer drill. One version has the motor aligned parallel to the drill axis and the other at 90 degrees to it (the latter is sometimes described as ‘compact’). There are also corded and cordless versions of the compact variety.
What Is An SDS Drill Used For?
The 3 modes of the SDS drill mean it can be used for pretty much anything! But the downside is its bulk and weight.
The reality is that it should be chosen primarily for its heavy drilling capability and if you do happen to need it for anything lighter because you don’t have that particular tool then it so happens it can do that job too!
So use its mode 2 for drilling masonry, concrete and stone, or fixing batons, setting ground rods or anchors to concrete, pretty much all day if you need.
Traditional Hammer Drills are simply not built to do this and will take their toll on you, both physically and mentally!
The way SDS Drills do this is described later. But for drilling into his is the way to go!
Then you can use its mode 3 for chiselling projects. Creating trunking channels for cable runs or socket cut-ins in masonry or concrete are great examples, as is light demolition work, including brick or tile removal.
How Does An SDS Drill Work?
The impact energy of an SDS Drill, used when operating its hammer action (i.e. in modes 2 and 3), is provided by air pressure created by a piston in a cylinder being driven back and forth by a crankshaft. This is a far more efficient mechanism than the hammer / anvil type used in traditional Hammer Drills / Hammer Drill Drivers.
A lot more impact energy is therefore created, meaning amongst other things that the user no longer needs to apply as much extra weight/ force to the drilling action as with the Hammer Drill / Hammer Drill Driver.
Don’t forget that in mode 2 the rotational element of the drill is still present, controlled by the trigger, so this, combined with the impact energy described above, gives the drill its full power capability. But the extra impact energy created by this drill means that a lot less rpm is required than with a traditional Hammer Drill.
Finally the compressed air acts to cushion some of the vibration and noise, thus creating a more comfortable drilling experience for the user.
What SDS Drill Main Features and Specifications Should I Be Looking For?
The decision process you need to go through when thinking about a serious tool like an SDS Drill is different to when you are buying say a Drill Driver. You are dealing with a heavy tool that you may well have in your hand for hours on end, not one that you are going to use for 10 minutes and return to its case.
So think carefully about how much weight you can comfortably manage. More weight generally equates to more power so you may have to compromise on that power. Clearly it is no use going all out on power if you can only lift the tool for a few minutes! But a tool weighing 6 to 8 lbs should cover most household, if not professional uses and there are many examples of these about.
And in terms of general handling recall the point made earlier about how helpful D-handles are.
There is not much to choose between corded and cordless versions in terms of technical specification or functionality. Most are 3 mode. As a rule of thumb for both corded and cordless you should be looking to drill down at least 1″ into concrete, 1.5″ into wood and ½” into steel, and to do this a speed of around 1,100 rpm and impact rate of 4,000 -5,000 bpm is preferable.
In terms of safety make sure the SDS drill has a clutch that you can engage to kill the rotation of the drill if the bit unexpectedly gets bound in the hole.
Finally remember for cordless versions you have to manage battery use and for longer jobs ensure you have a spare one to hand. This is discussed in the corded versus cordless debate.
What Accessories Can I Use With My SDS Drill?
The accessories you choose are dependent on the drill mode you are using.
For classic mode 2 usage, i.e. Hammer drill with Rotary action, start with a set of slotted SDS+ bits. (For comparison SDS Max bits can have diameters as large as 2″). Of course longer lengths are also available for drilling through brick walls for example.
For mode 3 use there are more specialised bits designed for chiselling type activities. Examples include chisels for trunking channels and scutch combs for rendering. You can even drill square holes using a box cutter attachment for installing electrical boxes into brickwork!
And of course for mode 1 usage and having used a chuck adaptor or convertible chuck you can use any round-shanked accessory. But remember to turn off the hammer action first!
What SDS Drill “Nice To Have” Features Should I Look For?
Anti-vibration design or technology on SDS Drills is certainly something to look out for and most manufacturers make mention of this somewhere in their specifications.
If you’ve decided on cordless then a brushless motor and 2 speed gearbox (on compact models) are always desirable options if you can afford them.
Some Bosch and DeWalt models feature a handy spring-loaded depth gauge which prevents it from slipping.
SDS Drill Variations
The SDS+ Rotary Hammer Drill is the more common variety, but the SDS Max is also available for the most heavy duty applications. It is much larger and heavier than the SDS+ drill, designed differently with a different drive and therefore fittings incompatible with SDS+ drills.
How Much Does an SDS Drill Cost?
Most SDS Drills are significantly more expensive than other drills on the market. This is perfectly reasonable bearing in mind their ability to both perform heavy duty tasks and still be versatile enough for coping with day to day activities (assuming they incorporate the mode 1 feature). You should look upwards of £100.