Rockwell 12-Volt H3 Multi-Function Hammer Drill - Review
Well 12-volt mania is in full swing and if a 12-volt rotary hammer doesn't convince you of that fact, we don't know what will. There are tools that are no-brainers for the whole 12-volt thing, (flashlights, multi-meters, mini drill/drivers) and then there are tools that strike us as, well, totally incompatible with the little batteries. A rotary hammer...that one falls into the second category. We did quite a double take when we first heard that Rockwell was releasing just that tool and we were happy when they sent one our way so that we could take a look.
Actually, it first needs to be clarified that, regardless of what name they want to use, Rockwell's new H3 is not a hammer drill. It's a rotary hammer. There's a big difference and it's a little strange that Rockwell went with the misnomer. Inside the H3, the impact is created through the compression of a cylinder of air, not the metal on metal mechanism of a hammer drill. Hammer drills have a better name recognition, which must be what Rockwell is thinking, although we're of the opinion that they'd be better off calling it a rotary hammer and broadcasting the fact that they managed to down-size the rotary hammer to such an extent that the tools weighs about three pounds.
But there's more to the tool than just the rotary hammer. The H3, by virtue of two different chucks, (both of which click into the SDS chuck of the tool), can also function as a drill and a driver. The tool's chuck acts just like any other SDS with the pull-back sleeve, so changing between functions is very easy. When drilling or driving, a switch on the side of the tool, toggles the motor out of rotary hammer mode and leaves you with a standard 12-volt drill.
We did some extensive testing of the H3 (a good portion of it recounted in our Popular Mechanics article on the tool) and we were surprised at how powerful the tool was. Testing it against a standard 18-volt hammer drill (again, over at the PM article), the tool was very comfortable to use and showed that it could keep up with the larger 18-volt tool in the area of power. The one drawback of the tool is how quickly the battery gets drained when it's in rotary hammer mode. On one battery, we were able to drill 9 1/2" holes on concrete, and on another battery, we drove 11 1-3/4" tapcons. These are impressive numbers for such a small tool, but when compared to the larger tool (with the larger battery), they're lacking.
As a 12-volt driver, the H3 is pretty standard and doesn't have anywhere near the power of the uber-strong Bosch PS21. It's not weak, but it just sits among the pack and not in the lead. It's also a lot heavier and bulkier than the other drivers on the market, obviously because of the added mojo for the rotary hammer. The weight is mostly up in the front of the tool, making it a bit awkward when compared to the other 12-volt drills, but that's the price you pay for having the ability to blast a hole in concrete.
The H3 costs about $180, which is a fair price for all the action that you can get out of it. We're not sure when the H3 is being released, but it should be available soon. There's no info at the Rockwell website just yet.
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Posted by Doug Mahoney at April 21, 2010 5:20 AM