Disclosure: The Home Depot partnered with us to help promote their Ryobi power tool program for Father’s Day.
Building Moxie, on behalf of The Home Depot, recently asked me to review two Ryobi 18V cordless drills: Ryobi’s Nickel-Cadmium (NiCad) powered 1/2″ 18V Cordless Drill (P204 drill/P850 kit), and their newer, 18-Volt ONE+ LITHIUM Compact Cordless Drill (P208B drill/P818 kit).
Ryobi 1/2 18V (NiCad) Drill Kit
The Ryobi 18V Lithium Ion ONE+ Compact Cordless Drill Kit.
The drills are quite similar. Both feature a 1/2″ keyless, single-sleeve chuck, 2-speed gear box (440 maximum RPM/1600 maximum RPM), and a 24-position clutch. The NiCad powered 18V 1/2″ Cordless Drill weighs about 3.1 lbs. (without battery) while the 18V Lithium-Ion ONE+ Compact Cordless Drill is a tad lighter, at 2.7 lbs. And the Compact Drill is indeed noticeably more “compact”, with an obvious shorter overall length.
While these Ryobi drill kits are supplied with two different battery technologies, all Ryobi ONE+ branded 18V batteries and tools are readily interchangeable. (The only non-interchangeable situation I’ve encountered is that the NiCad charger will not accept a Lithium Ion battery. BUT the Lithium Ion “dual chemistry” charger will accept either type of battery.) Furthermore, nearly all ONE+ components can be purchased separately, which is great if you have an existing investment in either battery technology, because you can readily purchase a tool from either line without having to worry about buying additional batteries and chargers.
Sample Project: Installing Decking
I was asked to review both Ryobi cordless drills with the above points in mind, while also using them in a real project. My real project of choice would’ve involved laying the surface of a deck down, but since I had no actual deck construction project underway, I simulated one by building several assemblies consisting of decking boards on top of 2×4 joists. I deliberately designed the assembly to include far more screws than necessary, so as to put the drills through their paces by driving a whole lot of screws.
Below is a 3D rendering of one of the test assemblies (if you like messing about with SketchUp):
Setting Up Test Assemblies
Each test assembly is 8′ in length. Its substructure consists of three 2×4 joists, 8″ on-center, and resting on four 2×6 footings. The deck itself is 19″ wide, and consists of 5/4×6 deck boards, spaced 1/4″ apart. There are three fasteners per board/joist connection, as well as three per joist/footing connection. The fasteners consist of #9-3″ square drive, composite deck screws.
More Information: Learn more about decking & other types of screws in our Guide to Screws.
My strategy was to build two assemblies. The first using the Ryobi 18V 1/2″ Cordless Drill powered with a NiCad battery. The second using the Ryobi 18V Lithium Ion ONE+ Compact Cordless Drill. When finished, I’d subjectively compare the drills on ease of use and overall performance. I’d also measure how well each drill/battery performed, quite literally in terms of the total number of deck screws driven.
The first step, of course, was to fully charge both pairs of batteries. The batteries ship with a very low charge for safety reasons. So you need to charge them up before actually using them for the first time. While I didn’t specifically time the charging process, I noticed that the Lithium Ion batteries were fully charged after only about twenty minutes. The NiCad batteries took a bit more time, but were certainly fully charged in under an hour.
NiCad powered 18V 1/2″ Cordless Drill
Next, I cut all the components on my backyard deck, which makes for a great outdoor work area on good days. Then, I used the Ryobi 18V 1/2″ Cordless Drill to secure the first footing to one of the joists.
I placed a second footing at the other end, tapped the assembly a bit to get it square, and then fastened the second footing. Then, I added the middle joist, aligned it, and secured it to the end footings. Attaching the remaining two footings completed the infrastructure:
The next step was to flip the infrastructure over and fasten the deck boards. Here, I was a bit more fussy. I constructed a template defining the screw locations from a 1/2×6 scant. In drilling the holes, I was finally able to use the Ryobi 18V 1/2″ Cordless Drill as a drill, rather than simply a driver:
Next, I attached a 1/2″ fence to the edge of my template. Here, I found the built-in horizontal level of the Ryobi 18V 1/2″ Cordless Drill quite useful in leveling the drill before starting the screws:
Then, I used the template, along with a punch, to mark the screw locations on each of the deck boards:
That done, I began securing the deck boards to the joists, using a 1/4″ scant to ensure proper spacing. I used only two screws per board, in an alternating pattern, just to secure them to the outer joists. The idea here was that, with all the boards just minimally fastened, I’d next attempt to drive all the remaining deck screws (112 screws) in rapid succession, and thereby subject the NiCad battery to a reasonable stress test.
However, the NiCad battery began running low on power while I was still doing this minimal fastening, and it was sufficiently spent just before I reached the ninth board:
In other words, my fully charged NiCad battery appeared to be good for approximately 50 deck screws, fastened in this manner. However, I had previously used the Ryobi 18V 1/2″ Cordless Drill (with the same battery) to extract about 40 screws from existing lumber without any subsequent recharging. (I needed to free them up for use in the footings.) I’ll count that as 90 screws, altogether.
I removed the spent battery and inserted a second, fully charged 18V NiCad battery, which enabled me to complete the boards. Then, I plunged into “the sprint”, where I attempted to drive the remaining 112 screws in short order, and got as far as 93 screws before my second battery gave out:
So, a preliminary conclusion (and hardly a scientific one, at that) is that the Ryobi 18V 1/2″ Cordless Drill, powered by a single, fully charged 18V NiCad battery, can drive somewhere on the order of about ninety deck screws, when done with these particular materials, and in this particular manner, before requiring recharging.
Ryobi 18V Lithium Ion ONE+ Compact Cordless Drill
At that point, it began to rain, so I moved my operation from the backyard to the basement. Here, I built the second assembly, in a manner exactly identical to that of the first (minus the template making, which was a negligible effort, anyway), but this time using the Ryobi 18V Lithium Ion ONE+ Compact Cordless Drill, instead:
In this case, I was able to complete the minimal fastening phase without losing power; in other words, a total of 68 deck screws. Then, I attempted “the sprint”, but was only able to complete four boards, or 28 deck screws, for a grand total of 96 deck screws, before the drill turned itself off due to low battery power (a nice feature, by the way):
Results: Screw Counts
So, a reasonable (and equally unscientific) conclusion is that the Ryobi 18V Lithium Ion ONE+ Compact Cordless Drill, powered by a fully charged, 18V Lithium Ion ONE+ battery, can drive somewhere on the order of about 90-100 deck screws (all other conditions being equal, of course) before requiring recharging. This means, within the limits of this crude comparison, the 18V Lithium Ion battery appears to perform about the same amount of work as the 18V NiCad battery.
So, at least in terms of its performance-to-weight ratio, the Ryobi 18V Lithium Ion ONE+ battery is superior to its NiCad counterpart. It also takes far less time to charge the Lithium Ion battery (something I’ve observed directly). That the Lithium Ion battery holds a charge four times longer than the NiCad, or more uniformly overly the life of the battery itself, is something that’s likewise often claimed, but I’m not in a position to verify.
My Subjective Impressions / Takeaways
Well, they’re both fine tools, and I found them pleasing to work with. I actually preferred the slightly heavier weight of the Ryobi 18V 1/2″ Cordless Drill and its NiCad battery. The drill feels slightly more stable as a result. (I’m used to working with larger, 1/2″ corded drills, anyway.)
By contrast, the Ryobi 18V Lithium Ion ONE+ Compact Cordless Drill had more of a perceptible “crispness” (for want of a better word) to it. In this sense, and also in terms of its relatively compact size, it might be a better choice for the average user/consumer.
Otherwise, I consider both drills to be good products that are highly enjoyable to use. I also like the fact that there’s such a great diversity of Ryobi ONE+ tools out there, from home, to shop, to garden and yard, all of which are compatible with the same 18V battery technology. I think this is a key value-point that Ryobi has well in its favor, over other, competing brands of cordless power tools.
A Note on Lithium Ion and the Tools Featured
Lithium ion is a technology that was introduced with the most traditional of power tools. But it now crosses over to additional tool categories such as outdoor power, lighting, paint and flooring. The Ryobi 18-Volt ONE+ LITHIUM + Drill Kit P818 is available at The Home Depot or online at homedepot.com/ryobi.