Aimed at: Small trades and those who need a compact and capable machine.
Pros: Very good, even in very hard materials, and the battery lasts well too.
Why Join the Cordless Party?
With so much competition in the cordless power tool market, it would seem that anyone wanting to join the party is either foolhardy or determined to prove that they can offer a really good alternative to other brands. Flex falls into the latter category, although the company has a long history of power tool manufacturing in Germany and, indeed, bringing many innovations to market. Its world-leading “Giraffe” wall sanders are a classic example.
Cordless tools also bring another big factor into play since the choice of battery platform is the biggest decider in what tools may be bought in the future. So, anyone wanting to join the cordless competition has to be sure that they have something different or extra to add to their tools in order to persuade buyers to make the initial purchase of a brand.
Flex has done a lot of homework and research, and in my view, has come up with a genuinely unique system for its cordless battery cells that will not only help the tools to perform better, but will add significantly to the range of cordless battery technologies out there.
The enemies of Li Ion
In an article I read recently, it was pointed out that the real enemies of cordless batteries are deep discharge and heat build up during operation. An overheated battery pack will deliver much less than its stated capacity and forced “overheating” breaks can cost tradespeople valuable time. The answer to these issues is to build in electronic controls to tools, battery packs and chargers so that they all work together to prevent them. How manufacturers program these into their tools will always vary and of course how end users treat the tools is always an unknowable…?
Flex has joined the cordless competition with solutions on all three fronts. Firstly, a patented system of “Keep Cool” technology that helps to keep batteries cooler in order to deliver maximum power for longer. Secondly, a unique diagnostic charging system uses an LED display to inform users exactly how long the battery charge will take amongst other things. Thirdly, the smallish, but growing, range of German-designed and developed cordless power tools have electronic controls built-in. These controls are unique to each type of tool to take account of the way in which each tool uses power. For example a cordless drill/driver does not have the same power usage profile as a reciprocating saw and therefore the electronic controls will respond to maximize power delivery and battery life.
The above may be a long introduction for a power tool review – but the question in my mind when I tested the 18V CHE SDS Hammer was whether the new Flex cordless technology would make a difference.
I will immediately confess that my answer is yes – this little Flex tool is a great tool to use and it seemed to have much longer legs than some other cordless SDS hammers that I have used – but that is just the bare bones of the story.
And Now to Work ..
First impressions of the 18EC SDS are very favourable. Mine came in a stackable custom-fitted Sortimo box with charger and battery pack. On first charge, the charger told me that I needed to top up the battery for 25 minutes, and so it proved. The LED display on the neatly designed charger tells you what you want to know without the usual confusion of a series of flashing lights. By pushing a small button on the front of the battery pack users can get an up to date display of the state of battery charge – four bars is full, one bar is 25% or less.
A bright LED light on the handle base aimed at the chuck end is also a very useful addition for me – I need light when I work nowadays!
Handling – It Feels Good
When I first lifted up the hammer I immediately felt at home with it because the balance is spot-on. The handle is well covered with grippy, vibration absorbing rubber overmould and it slims down towards the bottom for a real ergonomic feel. Forward/reverse is chosen by the trusted method of the push through switch.
Since this tool is going to be driven into hard concrete amongst other things, there is a substantial thumb and forefinger groove right behind the axis of the drill point in order to apply maximum control and performance. There is also a big removable auxiliary handle attached to the front collar. This is covered with grippy rubber too and can be moved to any suitable position by unscrewing the handle a bit. An adjustable bar-type depth control is also part of the handle.
A rotatable switch on the left side of the hammer is used to choose either drilling, hammer drilling, neutral or chiseling mode. This system is easy to use and very positive as each position has a click stop to show that it is engaged.
The battery pack is attached via a substantial slide and is easy to attach and detach. The whole tool can be stood on the battery base because it is flat and right in the middle so it provides a stable position.
Brushless is the Way to Go
Flex’s new range of tools all use brushless motors, and this machine uses all their advantages to do a great job. With a 10mm SDS bit and a hard concrete paving stone I drilled hole after hole without a lot of effort on my part. I would go so far as to say that I was quite astonished by how easy it was to use and how willing the tool felt as I used it – it really seemed to want to get on with the job. Other people I showed it to had a similar reaction – surprised that a drill so compact could feel so capable.
With a maximum capacity of 18mm diameter in concrete, this SDS drill will, I am sure find a number of happy users amongst building and plumbing trades etc. At the moment, it shares a battery platform with a few more commonly used Flex tools like drill drivers, impact driver and a recip saw, but Flex, as we speak, is developing and launching further tools into the range, some of which will be reviewed in these pages.
I am always happy when there is competition in a market, and in my view I think this SDS drill/hammer in particular, and the new Flex range of cordless tools in general, certainly add to the choices we can make. My experiences with Flex tools so far have been very positive and make them definitely worth a closer look.
To see further FLEX Reviews, click here.
For more information FLEX, please visit www.flex-tools.com