Kobalt KDD 1424A-03 Review
Pros: Powerful, great battery life, fantastic integrated worklight
Cons: Expensive, only includes a single battery
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Our Analysis and Test Results
The Kobalt finished at the top of the group, narrowly outperforming the DEWALT DCD777C2. The Kobalt had a higher list price than the DCD777C2, but we have often found it on sale for less. Both of these drills perform almost identically in our drilling and driving tests and our about the same in terms of convenience features, but the Kobalt nabbed the top spot by having a significantly better performance in our battery tests.
In our quest to find out which tool topped them all, we bought all the most promising cordless drills on the market and tested them head-to-head, scoring their performance in a variety of different tests. We grouped these tests into four weighted rating metrics — drilling, driving, included battery, and convenience — with the Kobalt's performance outlined in the sections below.
Obviously, drilling performance is a critical aspect of the overall performance of a cordless drill, accounting for 35% of its total score. For this test, we based the scores on how easily each drill did with a 5" hole saw, a 1" paddle bit, and standard twist drills. The Kobalt did phenomenally well, earning a 9 out of 10 for its superb performance.
Almost all of the drills we tested do a decent job at drilling through wood with twist drills, so we upped the difficulty a bit and tasked each drill with drilling through a 16 ga. steel sheet with both a ¼" and ½" twist drill, noting the difficulty and time it took for each drill to make it through. The Kobalt didn't show the hint of a struggle with the ¼" drill, punching through the steel plate in about 1.5 seconds. It locked up for a brief moment with the ½" drill but still made it through in 3-4 seconds.
Next, we moved on to the 1" spade bit. For this assessment, we drilled dozens and dozens of holes in standard dimensional 2x12's. The Kobalt delivered an absolutely beastly performance, never once catching or stalling. All of the holes were drilled extremely quickly, even leaving the drill in its higher speed, lower torque gear for the entire test — many drills needed to be downshifted to their lower gear once they caught or stalled to finish drilling the hole.
For our last drilling test, we truly pushed these tools to their limits, tasking them with drilling a 5" hole saw through a solid core door.
The Kobalt again thoroughly impressed us, ripping through the door like it was butter and finishing the hole in around 17 seconds.
Matching our drilling metric in terms of overall significance, our driving metric encompasses the other most common task that most people will use these tool for: driving fasteners. To assess the driving force of each of these tools, we drove in hundreds of typical wood screws, as well as some absolutely massive lag bolts, awarding points based on how quickly and easily they dealt with these fasteners. The Kobalt again delivered an exceptional performance, earning a 9 out of 10.
The Kobalt did very well when it came to driving in wood screws, but it couldn't quite maintain the top position. It drives in screws quickly and powerfully, setting the countersunk head flush with ease — most of the time. While it did only happen a few times out of the enormous number of screws we drove in, the Kobalt did falter when it came to fully setting the head.
However, the Kobalt did redeem itself a bit when it came to driving in the monster 5" long, ½" lag bolt. We used a standard 2x4 and 4x4 for this test, drilled a pilot hole, then set the Kobalt to work on the lag screw. It had no trouble at all, driving it into its full depth.
Moving beyond the drilling and driving performance of this cordless drill, we moved on to rating and scoring the thing that makes the Kobalt cordless: its included batteries. For this metric, responsible for 20% of the final score, we looked at the battery life, the time to recharge, and the number of included batteries. The Kobalt again did very well, receiving an 8 out of 10.
To test out battery life, we used the Kobalt to drive in 16 normal screws and drill 3 holes with the 1" spade bit, repeating this cycle until the drill died. This tool died in the middle of the 11th cycle, solidly outpacing the next closest drill, which only made it through 7 before quitting.
However, this exceptional performance in the battery life test was tempered slightly by the Kobalt being a little slow to recharge and only including a single battery. The lack of an extra battery is a bit of a bummer, as that means your project is put on hold when the battery dies, compared to other models where you can swap to your reserve and keep going. You could always buy an extra battery separately, but they can be a bit pricey. The Kobalt isn't the slowest to recharge, but it still took over an hour — 75 minutes — to completely recharge a fully depleted battery.
Our last round of tests focused on the little things that make these tools easier and more enjoyable to use. Responsible for the last 10% of the total, this metric looked at the quality of the integrated work light, the weight, max chuck size, and different operating modes available, as well as the ease of swapping batteries, if there is a battery level indicator, and if the drill has a belt clip. The Kobalt KDD1424A-03 finished with a decent performance, earning a 6 out of 10.
The Kobalt has a solid integrated light, providing plenty of illumination for your work surface and stays on for about 10 seconds.
This drill has a belt clip, but it is a bit on the heavy side, weighing in at close to four pounds. It has a high and low gear, with a chuck that has a maximum opening of ½".
It fairly easy to swap the batteries and we found the built-in battery meter to be a very handy feature.
While the Kobalt is a fantastic drill, you are definitely paying for all that power and it isn't the best value option out there if you are shopping on a budget and don't need professional grade power.
Finishing at the top of the group overall and delivering an unchallenged performance in many of our tests, it is easy to see why the Kobalt claimed the Editors' Choice award. This drill packs a punch, handling our toughest drilling and driving tasks with ease, all while having an unparalleled performance in our battery life test. It might be a bit more tool than a casual DIYer or weekend warrior needs, but it is our top recommendation if you want the absolute best of the best when it comes to these products.
— David Wise and Austin Palmer