April 9, 2012

Festool T18+3 Li-Ion Cordless Drill - Review

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Oh Festool, what are you going to do to us next?

Festool has a certain way of reimagining a tool and messing with our heads while they're at it. They've done it with circular saws and they've done it with sanders. Now, they're taking a stab at cordless drills. They sent us one of their new 18 volts to check out and it didn't take long for us to see that this time the Fes-mojo is centered around their FastFix chuck system. This feature basically makes the drill a PTO with a trigger. The removable chucks (of which there are four) click on and off a couple of ways and all of them are beyond useful (and all of them are quite durable). We have...

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1. Centrotec chuck - This is the basic driver head. It's the smallest attachment and the one we used the most. Centrotec bits click in to the chuck and you're good to go. Standard bits do not fit directly into the mechanism, so you need to be sure not to lose the extension piece or you're toast.

2. The Right-Angle attachment - This is a piece that clicks on and sets the chuck to a right angle to the body of the drill. The attachment sets in and can fully rotate to which ever spot you want before being tightened. It's solid metal and it actually works, as opposed to the stand alone kind that we buy at Home Depot. Because the piece completely attaches to the drill, the amount of control is very high.

3. 3-jawed chuck - Pretty self explanatory here. Can hold up to a 1/2" drill bit. Just click it in and you're all set.

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4. Eccentric Chuck - This one is a line drive out of the park. It's basically a little gear box that off-sets the bit to the edge of the attachment. Anyone who has ever installed a drawer slide or hung a cabinet can start to get an understanding of the value here. With this chuck, you can drive a screw right at an inside corner and not mar the surrounding surfaces. Very nice.

5. Bare Bones - The fifth chuck occurs when there is no chuck attached. Just pop a standard 1/4" bit into the PTO end. It also creates a seriously stubby drill, good for tight spots.

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Like implied earlier, having all of these options at our fingertips started to change our entire outlook on cordless drills. We used the Festool heavily on the site and while working on the house renovation in the evenings. One day, we'd forgotten the Festool at the house and had to use the compact Makita at the job. Don't get us wrong, we really like the Makita and would recommend it to anyone looking for a nice basic drill. But after using the Festool exclusively for weeks, we had an, "is this all you got?" attitude toward the Makita. The tool just no longer met our expectations of a drill. As we said, Festool gets inside the head.

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And we worked this thing over too. We weren't some dainty cabinet-maker tapping away in some nice, clean workshop. We treated this tool with some serious prejudice. A tool this pricey (more on that in a bit) had better stand up to everything we throw at it, no questions asked. So we drove Timberloks, mixed mortar, did delicate finish work, and 'accidentally' dropped it off a couple ladders. The thing held up like a champ. Probably has something to do with the brushless motor or maybe the electronic clutch (that beeps when it engages), we're not sure. But honestly, we'd be happier saying we defeated this tool and left it a smouldering mess in the jobsite dumpster, but we can't say that. It was up to every task we dumped on it and it really seemed unaffected by even the worst of them. There is a feel to this item, (like most Festool tools) that is a feel of quality, of durability, and of superior engineering. That "not made in China" feel, if you know what we mean. From the smooth way the motor kicks on to the noise the clutch makes, everything about this drill is elevated above the norm.

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The ergonomics on the T18 are unbelievable. It's not the lightest drill in the world and the battery resembles a boat anchor, but when in use, it's perfectly balanced and we're sure the handle was designed specifically for our hands (but we have a hunch that everyone will say that).

Is it absolutely, 100% perfect? Well of course not, nothing is. There are a few teeny, tiny hitches in our opinion. First, the LED light fades off very quickly, which is fine for drilling purposes, but if you're like us and have gotten into the habit of using your drill as sort of a quick and dirty flashlight, this one won't be your favorite. Second (and this one is really minor), the battery gauge consists of three lights and around the lights is a little sticker with a battery insignia on it. After about three weeks, the sticker has started peeling off....very un-Festool. Why even bother with the sticker?

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And as is always the case with Festool products, we need to address the price. You're looking at $625 for the whole package and $510 for the tool, batteries, a charger, case, and just the driver chuck. Yeah. Big numbers, for sure. But, as with all of these things, when you start looking at your daily needs and the the cost-save chart, the numbers start looking smaller and smaller. There are definitely people who will never shell out that kind of cash for a drill when a nice Bosch or DeWalt can be had for less than half that price. Some of the guys we work with were 'ooohing' and 'ahhing' over the drill and when they heard the price, they walked away from us waving their hands in the air. But they also hadn't been using the drill for a couple months. We had, and we're of the opinion (and the Yankee in us can't believe that we're about to say this), that it's worth the money. There, are you happy?

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And honestly, if you're going to go for it, we advise going all in. If you're already $500 in, drop the extra $100 for the total experience. Just the drill and driver bit will leave you wanting more.

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The T18 is over the top, yes. It's kind ridiculous, yes. But it's also the Porsche of the drill world. So what you really need to do is ask yourself if you're one of the people who is willing to shell out for a Porsche. If not, good luck with that whole, 'pretending not to be jealous' thing.

At Festool Products and Amazon

Read More in: All Reviews | Cordless | Lithium-Ion

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Posted by Doug Mahoney at April 9, 2012 5:10 AM

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Recent Comments

The LED fading off quickly is a bummer. Oh well - I hope we get more LED light options that can stay on longer. I too use my drill as a glorified flashlight.


Posted by: Mike Thompson at July 28, 2012 8:05 AM

Very happy to see a Festool dirtied from use and abuse.


Posted by: D4C at April 20, 2012 2:21 PM

That off center chuck is cool. Not $600 dollar cool, but cool.


Posted by: Noah at April 11, 2012 10:06 PM

Wait, what? Your T18 comes with integrated LED and battery indicator?

Guess they made a mk2 of the little thing. The one I bought a little over a year ago (in Norway) has a external LED that only works with the centrotec-chuck, and no indicator.


Posted by: CmdrKeen at April 9, 2012 6:10 PM
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