Black & Decker 18V SmartSelect Drill Driver

A reasonably good quality drill/driver for general home use

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Black & Decker 18V SmartSelect Drill Driver



The SmartSelect family of cordless power tools is designed for the consumer market - home hobbyists and DIYers. People involved in arts and crafts, looking for low priced power tools that are relatively uncomplicated to use, may also be interested in the SmartSelect line.
 
The idea behind this concept seems to entail making it as easy and uncomplicated as possible to use the tool. As you may have already guessed, the unique feature is the 'SmartSelect' design -  essentially the use of icons that identify, to the user, the right setting to select for the specific application at hand. In the case of the SmartSelect SS18SB-2 Drill/Driver, there are eight icons that represent eight torque settings. The first six settings are illustrated by screw icons; they correlate to six different screw sizes, from 1/4" screws to 1" or longer screws. Two drill bit icons represent the two highest torque settings (a maximum of 175 in-lbs). On any of these first eight settings the maximum speed is 400 RPM.
 
There are also three icons that represent three different speed settings for drilling holes of up to 1/2" diameter, 3/8" diameter or larger, and 7/8" spade bits, or smaller bits. The maximum speed at any of these three settings is 1,200 RPM.
 
In theory, and somewhat in practice, this works reasonably well. The icons could not be less intuitive - choose a small screw icon for setting small screws; select a larger screw icon for larger screws. Likewise, select a corresponding drill bit icon that best resembles the bit you intend to drill with. It's hard to imagine anyone having difficulty with this 'dial and drill' design.
 
However, the concept doesn't work for every situation. If you don't pre-drill a screw hole, and want screws countersunk, you have to select the highest torque setting (represented by a drill bit, not a screw). When drilling a 3/4" diameter hole 2" deep in softwood with a Forstner bit I couldn't determine any difference between the three 'high speed' settings. When drilling the same sized hole in hardwood I got a much better result selecting the eighth torque setting (represented by a 1" spade bit).
 
The SmartSelect drill/driver uses an 18V, 1.2Ah NiCad battery, that delivers a maximum 175 in-lbs of torque. Not the kind of power you need for substantive home renovation work - building a deck, renovating a basement - but sufficient power for a range of general non-demanding drilling applications that a home hobbyist or DIYer will encounter. The choice of a NiCad battery probably contributes to the low price on this drill. However, it adds a lot of weight - close to half the overall weight of the drill.
 

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Smart Select collar
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Dual speeds
I like the battery charge indicator. I think these should be standard on all cordless tools - it's a very convenient way to ensure that you have ample power before starting a job (and to check that your spare battery is ready to go). The charger isn't inspiring - it doesn't tell you when the battery is fully charged, nor does it shut off automatically. And it takes anywhere from 6 to 12 hours to fully recharge the battery. Users can expect to get around 500 recharges on the battery.

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Battery charge indicator
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On-board bit storage
On-board bit storage is a nice feature. However, there is only storage for one bit, but certainly enough space to have put a second one on the other side of the drill base. The included bit was likely chosen for the US market. A bit with a Robertson head would have been the better choice.

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Metal chuck
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Padded handle extends up around back of drill
B&D use a metal keyless chuck, with a 3/8" capacity. The chuck is really quite small (the front part is about 1-1/8" long and 1-1/2" diameter) and requires two hands to tighten it. The handle is lightly padded, as are all power tool handles these days. The pad extends up along the back of the drill providing a bit of cushioning when you need to hold the back of the drill for extra stability or to exert a bit more pressure. There isn't an LED work light on this drill (which seems an oversight to me), nor is there a side handle (which a home hobbyist might not really have need for). The drill housing is made of ABS thermoplastic. Quite suitable for home use (until it's dropped on a concrete basement floor or driveway).
 

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The Black & Decker SS18SB-2 is a reasonably good quality drill/driver for general home use. I had no problem setting 3" screws in doubled up 2 by 4s, and drilling 1/2" holes through 2 x 4 studding. Even though it has some drawbacks (small chuck, no work light, heavy, plastic housing), the battery is a real workhorse - I was able to sink 216 1-1/2" screws on a single charge (and 149 3" screws on the second charge). At just under $100 this drill will get the job done, and will last a long time if not subject to much heavy or rough use. If you're an avid DIYer looking to take on a range of home projects - building a deck, renovating a basement - then I'd opt for a lighter drill with a higher torque rating, possibly with a lithium-ion battery, and a more robust housing.
 

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KEY FEATURES:
  • 18V, NiCad batteries with 1.2 Ah
  • 175 in-lbs torque
  • 2 speed: 0 - 400 RPM & 0 - 1,200 RPM
  • Forward/reverse/lock switch
  • Metal keyless chuck, 3/8" capacity
  • Battery charge indicator
  • On-board storage for 1 bit
  • Includes fabric case, 2 batteries, bit
  • Weighs 7.4 lbs
  • 2-year warranty

MANUFACTURER:Black and Decker
AVAILABLE FROM:Home Depot, Lowe's
RETAIL PRICE:$99.99
MODEL #:SS18SB-2
MADE IN:China
NOTE: This model is no longer available

Carl Duguay, August 2009
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