Should You Make the Switch to Cordless

Is it time to make the switch to cordless?

We understand that many of you like cords. They keep you tethered to a constant power supply which, in turn, guarantees that your power tool will run at maximum power for as long as you need it to.

We get it.

We also understand that many of you are wary of cordless because you're not tethered to a power supply. And as a result, the perception is - often based on reality - that cordless power tools don't offer as much power output as their corded cousins.

But could it be that with the advent of 4Ah lithium-ion batteries we're starting to see the cordless world move closer to that offered by corded?

Metabo SB 18 LTX Cordless Power Extreme Impuls Combi Driver 4Ah

Over the past few months we've seen Metabo be among the first manufacturers to slap 4Ah batteries onto their professional cordless power tools.

And the data suggest this isn't just a hackneyed marketing ploy; put a different number on your products and the punters will think they're getting something new and different and better.

The science accompanies the 4Ah label, with Metabo offering the stat that these batteries will give you 33% more run time. DeWalt claims the same thing.

But what does 4Ah actually represent for you and your power tools?

Here's how to understand the numbers printed on the side of your lithium-ion battery. Think in terms of a car engine and petrol tank.

The voltage is the power capacity of the battery. So, if you've got a 2.0L car, you know the power capacity of your engine.

The greater the voltage number, ie. 18v, the greater the power output of the tool.

The Ah, or ampere-hour, is like the fuel tank in your car. The bigger the capacity of the fuel tank, the more fuel it'll hold, the longer you can drive your car for.

So, the greater the Ah, the greater charge capacity the battery has, and therefore, it'll run longer accordingly.

Now, if you drive your car at 100mph you'll burn through the petrol in your tank much quicker. Similarly, the harder you push your power tool the quicker you'll drain the charge in the battery.

That's why the manufacturers now include all sorts of technological checks and balances in the power tools so that the battery, the switch, the motor, etc are all managed electronically which prevents you damaging the tool or the battery by trying to get more power than either is built to provide.

When we put the DeWalt DCS331M2 18V XR li-ion jigsaw into the hands of a professional carpenter/joiner/bespoke kitchen fitter last month and asked him to put it through its paces, the first thing he told was that he typically wouldn't have a cordless jigsaw in his kit.
Dewalt DCS331M2 18V XR li-ion Jigsaw 4Ah

After all, he's using a jigsaw all day, every day, for all sorts of jobs from ripping through oak worktops to trimming cabinet carcasses.

He said he needs long run-time and power. Which makes complete sense; many of you will whole heartedly agree.

However, the reason he gave the DCS331M2 jigsaw the time of day for our test wasn't all the features the DeWalt marketing team fall over themselves to show us; quick release blade change, 4 stage pendulum action (read more about that), the non-scratch base plate etc etc (and if you want the full spec run down, just click here).

No, it was the battery that was slotted into the jigsaw that gave him pause.

Yes, it's available with 18v 4Ah lithium-ion batteries.

Check out Julian's views on the jigsaw on Toolstop TV.

So while battery technology has moved from heavy and unreliable NiHM with low ampage, right up to 18v lithium-ion with 3Ah, this recent evolution to 4Ah is giving professional power tool users pause. Watch our discussion of battery evolution on Toolstop TV.

Could these batteries finally build the bridge from our corded tools (and the inherent limitations they have) to being able to go fully cordless on the job site?

After all, more charge capacity technically means the batteries can provide juice to tools that require more power; the draw on the battery will be great, but the battery can cope due to the amount of charge it can hold.

Makita BKP180Z LXT 18V Li-Ion
Consider, after all, that Makita have slapped a lithium-ion battery into a planer (see it in action on Toolstop TV). And their new "star" batteries are more reliable than ever. And we're willing to put money on Bosch unveiling 4Ah batteries this October.

However, we've no word as yet as to when or if Makita will follow suit. And their apparent reluctance to enter the 4Ah fray points to something we should all be aware of.

Yes, 4Ah batteries promise 33% longer run time, just as DeWalt and Metabo claim. However, because a 4Ah battery has a larger capacity, it takeslonger to charge.

This has to be factored into the equation. Makita state their 18v 3Ah batteries only need 22 minutes to charge. A DeWalt 4Ah battery takes around 1 hour to charge.

Do the maths.

Yes, 4Ah gives you 33% more run time, but the batteries take 3 times longer to charge.

While you may be able to work longer per charge, when you do need to drop the battery onto the charger you'll have much longer to wait till it's ready to run again.

So, are we there yet? Are we ready to cut all cords and move over to the world of lithium-ion? We'd love to hear what you think:

  • if you've made the switch to cordless, tell us which tools you use and the sort of applications you tackle
  • if you're reluctant to make the switch, which tools do you need that are only available corded
  • if you're in the land between the two, how has cordless improved your day on the jobsite?

Tell us in the comments!

And if you know someone who would love to respond to this article, please Share it with them via the links below.


peter richards on Sun, 20 Oct 2013 13:56:50 +0100 (Likes: 0 / Dislikes: 0

Drill(s), jigsaw, stapler, angle grinder, nibbler, vacuum cleaner, planer, multi-oscillating thingy. Nearly always fitting furniture. I'll often use the planer to shave off a corner that won't go into a return. Most of the others are used rarely and briefly, but they're dead handy when you need them and that much easier to chuck in the van etc.

postable_mark on Wed, 28 Aug 2013 11:00:34 +0100 (Likes: 0 / Dislikes: 0

Cheers Markus, here's our article

Markus on Mon, 19 Aug 2013 17:09:37 +0100 (Likes: 1 / Dislikes: 0

um, Makita HAS launched 4 amp batteries? Source :

I'll do that on Tue, 18 Sep 2012 22:54:53 +0100 (Likes: 1 / Dislikes: 0

I'm torn between the two power sources, corded gives you the availability of power all the time and the customer foots the bill for the power, downside is, if your on a site where there is no power then your stumped.
Battery gives you mobility but you can't push the tool too hard for risk of running the battery down a lot quicker,however, you just pop another battery in (if you've got a spare) and charge the spare, assuming you're not on a site that has no power.............uh! :-/

Mike on Tue, 18 Sep 2012 15:58:22 +0100 (Likes: 1 / Dislikes: 0

I use a mix of cordless and mains power - the problem I have
with the former is the degradation over time of the battery powered units.
Battery tech has improved massively over the last few years but there's no
getting away from the fact even with lithium that each recharge cycle degrades
the unit to the point that eventually you need to replace the battery @ £££.
Meanwhile corded tools just keep going regardless.


To be honest I stick with mains for tools that need maximum
power & torque - SDS, circular saws etc. but I wouldn’t be without my
Makita cordless drills. They may crack it one day, but at the moment for me I
mix & match depending on the job.

Wayne on Fri, 14 Sep 2012 13:00:07 +0100 (Likes: 1 / Dislikes: 0

I have a lot of Metabo cordless tools,and am so impressed I no longer have a corded 41/2" grinder or ,jigsaw.
And with Metabo now making 3ah and 4ah batteries for the 10.8v range it makes even more sense to go cordless with as many tools as possible.
In the building trade though I can't see us being without a few quality 110v drills e.t.c, but for many many jobs I have said bye bye to lugging extension leads all over the job site. :)

Toolstop on Thu, 13 Sep 2012 10:04:28 +0100 (Likes: 1 / Dislikes: 0

Thanks for the comments Sparky, you're still in the corded camp for a lot of tools. Anyone else agree or disagree?

Sparky on Thu, 13 Sep 2012 08:54:52 +0100 (Likes: 0 / Dislikes: 0

I simply couldn't work without cordless tools.

I use them every day at work & at home, for drilling, hammering, sawing, illumination, mowing etc. etc.

Some tools, however, are hopeless.  Makita's cordless grinder, for example, gives up & stops as soon as ANY load is placed on the tool.

Cordless circular saws (by any manufacturer) are even worse!  Only the 36v machines from Bosch & Hilti even begin to have acceptable performance, and only then in softwood.  They have a negative tradeoff in weight and unwieldyness compared to their corded counterparts also.

Cordless SDS drills have very poor performance chiselling in anything harder than aerated concrete or the softest old brick:  36v is slow and tedious, and 18v is just a joke!

Battery tech has a long way to go yet to approach true corded performance.  Perhaps more advanced technologies, such as fuel cells, are needed to truly offer performance rivalling that of corded tools.

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