Best Compact Drill

Best Compact Drill

If your home improvement projects require you to drill holes or drive in fasteners in tight spots, or if you just want a power tool that’s easier on your arm, consider trading a little power and speed for a smaller size and less weight with a compact drill. These drills are smaller and lighter than a traditional cordless drill yet can still handle most household and carpentry projects. We’ve tested and reviewed the best compact drills so you can make the best decision to suit your workshop and budget.

Best compact drills

Ratings methodology
18 models tested

Dewalt 20V Atomic DCD799

Dewalt DCD799 Angle 5
TestRank
Drilling speed11
Driving speed10
TorqueNot ranked
RPM11
Bare weight8
Drilling Noise9
Brand Dewalt
Platform 20V Atomic
Motor Brushless
Speeds 2
Torque in-lbs Not advertised
BPM 28,050.0
Clutch settings 15
Chuck size 1/2"
Same as DCD799B

Rating

4.02 / 5 ⭐️’s

Recommended configuration

DCD799L1

Includes (2) Max 12V 3Ah battery

The Dewalt 20V Atomic DCD799 ranks as one of the most compact drills you can buy, which is impressive given that hammer drills are usually bulkier than standard drill drivers. It measures just 6.5 inches from tip to tail and weighs a scant 2.54 lbs., making it impressively light for a hammer drill.

No, it’s not as powerful as some bulkier drills, but it’s blazing fast for its small size. We experienced no bogging down during our drilling tests, and it performed admirably when testing its hammer drive functionality using drill bits. However, it did struggle when using spade and auger bits to bore larger holes.

As a driver, it boasts enough power to handle longer structural screws and lag bolts with ease. And while its performance fell short of the top-tier drills in its class, it was by no means slow.

We have a few other minor quibbles with the DCD799. It lacks the multifunctional work lights found on other Dewalt drills and has a plastic chuck sleeve instead of a more durable metal one.

But while the DCD799’s build quality and speed may not be up to snuff for the job site, it’s a great choice for the home workshop or professional woodworkers looking to upgrade from a 12-volt drill.

Milwaukee M18 2801-20

Milwaukee 2801-20 Angle 5
TestRank
Drilling speed12
Driving speed7
Torque8
RPM14
Bare weight6
Drilling Noise7
Brand Milwaukee
Platform M18
Motor Brushless
Speeds 2
Torque in-lbs 500.0
BPM N/A
Clutch settings 18
Chuck size 1/2"
Same as N/A

Rating

3.90 / 5 ⭐️’s

Recommended configuration

2801-21P

Includes (1) M18 Red Lithium CP 2Ah battery

The Milwaukee M18 2801 is a worthy choice for those looking to add a drill from the top name in cordless power tools at an affordable price. It’s one of Milwaukee’s more compact drills, with a chuck-to-back length of just 6.625 inches, making it better able to work in tighter confines than some of Milwaukee’s other cordless drill offerings. It also has a light bare tool weight of just 2.4 lbs. that, when coupled with its narrowed profile, gives it a nimble feel.

In terms of performance, the 2801 is a very capable drill. Though not blazing fast, it didn’t have a problem drilling 1/2-inch holes through a stack of 2x6s during our in-house testing. It especially excels as a driver, burying longer structural screws and lag bolts into wood with ease and without the need to drop to a lower speed setting to improve torque.

We should note that the 2801 has a lower-than-average maximum RPM, which can sometimes hinder performance.

Milwaukee is known for its build quality, and the 2801, with its all-metal chuck, is no exception. While speed issues may keep this drill off the pro worksite, it’s more than capable of handling the drilling and driving duties for a home workshop.

Milwaukee M12 Fuel 3404-20

Milwaukee 3404-20 Angle 5
TestRank
Drilling speed16
Driving speed12
Torque10
RPM17
Bare weight4
Drilling Noise12
Brand Milwaukee
Platform M12 Fuel
Motor Brushless
Speeds 2
Torque in-lbs 400.0
BPM 25,500.0
Clutch settings 13
Chuck size 1/2"
Same as M12 gen 3 hammer drill

Rating

4.45 / 5 ⭐️’s

Recommended configuration

3404-22

Includes (1) M12 Red Lithium XC 4Ah, (1) M12 Red Lithium CP 2Ah battery

Given its small size, it’s hard to believe that the Milwaukee M12 Fuel 3404 has hammer drill functionality. After all, it’s feather-light at just 2.15 lbs. as a bare tool, making it one of the best lightweight drills you’ll find.

Thanks to its compact 12-volt battery size, it’s also one of best small drills. The 3404 measures just 6 inches from tip to tail and has a streamlined profile made possible by a battery that fits neatly inside the handle. This is truly a hammer drill you’ll have no problem fitting into tight confines.

As a drill, the 3404 sits at the top of all 12-volt drills in speed, according to our in-house testing. We were particularly impressed with its ability to drill larger 1/2-inch-sized holes. The 3404 also posted best-in-class times for driving in fasteners, beating out its 12-volt competitors by a huge margin. While we liked the 3404’s hammer drill functionality, its impact on drilling speed was minimal.

As with other Milwaukee drills, the 3404’s build quality is top-notch, as is apparent in its all-metal chuck. While the 3404 won’t match the speed and power of an 18-volt drill, its compact size, durability, and excellent performance make it a great choice for DIYers who don’t want the bulk that comes with a higher-voltage drill and don’t mind the compromise in speed and power.

Ryobi 18V One+ PSBHM01

Ryobi PSBHM01 Angle 5
TestRank
Drilling speed17
Driving speed17
Torque10
RPM12
Bare weight5
Drilling Noise10
Brand Ryobi
Platform 18V One+
Motor Brushless
Speeds 2
Torque in-lbs 400.0
BPM 27,200.0
Clutch settings 22
Chuck size 1/2"
Same as N/A

Rating

3.55 / 5 ⭐️’s

Recommended configuration

PSBHM01K

Includes (1) One+ 18V 1.5Ah battery

Ryobi’s 18V One+ PSBHM01 may lack the muscle you’ll find with compact drills offered by some of the premium brands, but it’s capable of handling most jobs a DIYer can throw at it and at a price that’s far more affordable than those premium brands.

The PSBHM01 is among the most compact 18-volt models. Its chuck-to-back length is just 6.625 inches. It’s also shorter than most, with a small base and narrow profile. These qualities make the PSBHM01 capable of fitting into tight spots and an easier drill to wield.

As a drill and driver, the PSBHM01 doesn’t challenge the top contenders in the 18-volt drill class. With its lower rpm and torque output, it posted slower drilling and driving speeds during testing, struggled with drilling larger diameter holes, and struggled with bigger fasteners.

The PSBHM01 is also a step down in build quality, with a plastic chuck that lacks the sturdy feel of the higher-end drills we tested. That said, it does perform well enough to meet the demands of most homeowners and can perform heavier-duty jobs, such as driving in lag bolts, if needed in a pinch.

Comparing compact drill sizes

The four models we included on this list are among the most compact drills we’ve tested, with chuck-to-back lengths well below 7 inches and bare tool weights between 2 and 2.5 lbs.

ProductChuck to Back Length (in.)Weight Bare Tool (lbs.)
Dewalt DCD7996.5002.54
Milwaukee 28016.6252.40
Milwaukee 34046.0002.15
Ryobi PSBHM016.6252.21

Of these tools, the Milwaukee 3404 drill is the best 12-volt drill, largely because it uses a smaller battery and motor that cuts size and weight.

Of the three 18-volt drills we selected, Ryobi’s PSBHM01 represents the lightest of the pack, while the Dewalt DCD799 is the shortest from tip to tail.

Are compact drills powerful?

Power depends on the user and typical tasks completed. But consider that there is some loss in power with the best compact drills compared to their bulkier brethren.

For example, during our in-house testing, we found that Milwaukee’s 2801 drill takes nearly twice as long to drill holes as Milwaukee’s larger top-tier drill, its Milwaukee M18 Fuel 2903 model.

This difference is similar to other brands. It takes Dewalt’s DCD799 drill about twice as long to drive in fasteners as it does the bulkier but more powerful Dewalt 20V Max XR DCD800 drill. That’s not to say that compact drills aren’t powerful. Most can drill the same holes and drive in the same size fasteners as larger drills. It just takes them longer to do it.

What are compact drills good for?

There are several good reasons to choose a small drill, even if speed and power are compromised. With their lightweight and smaller profile, compact drills are simply more nimble and easier to wield.

Their smaller size helps with arm fatigue, particularly over longer efforts. And since compact drills are shorter from the tip of the collet to the back of the drill, you can fit them into tighter spots more easily than you can with larger, bulkier drills.

The knock on compact drills is that they lack the power and speed of larger models. While that may matter at the professional job site where time saved driving in fasteners or drilling holes can equate to dollars, those differences in speed and power are often inconsequential in the home workshop. It usually makes more financial sense for a DIYer to go with a compact drill rather than spring for a top-of-the-line model designed and priced for a pro.

FAQ

  • What are the differences between compact and regular drills?

    The main differences between compact and regular drills are size, weight, speed, and torque. Compact drills, by their nature, have a smaller profile. Most notably, they are shorter from the tip of the clutch to the back of the drill, allowing them to fit into tighter spaces than a full-size regular drill.

    Compact drills are also lighter, which makes them more agile to use and, hence, easier on your arm. This size and weight savings come at a cost in performance, as larger standard-sized drills offer greater speeds and higher torque. It is important to note that there is also a difference in price to consider. High-performance drills tend to be more expensive than lower-performing compact models.

Picture of Tony Carrick
Tony Carrick
Tony is a recognized expert in the home and DIY space, as well as outdoor recreation. His articles have appeared on websites such as Bob Vila, U.S. News and World Report, Angi, Popular Science, and Popular Mechanics. He can be emailed at awcarrick@gmail.com. His online portfolio is available at https://www.tonycarrick.com/.

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