While Bosch's 18V cordless tools have been around for some time now, their steep price tag for their cordless rotary hammer offerings, the GBH 18 V-EC Professional and GBH 18V-26 Professional (aka the 'Bulldog'), has mostly placed it out of reach for the masses.

For comparison sake, the Bosch GBH 18V-26 Professional Solo (2.6J max impact energy) sells for RM1,149. Even with 20% off PWP for a starter kit (consisting of two 4.0Ah battery packs and a charger), you're still looking at RM1,797 while a Bosch GBH 2-24 DRE Professional (corded), easily outputs 2.7J and sells for almost a quarter of the price of the GBH 18V-26 at only RM569.00.

New landscape.
With the recent introduction of the GBH 180-LI Professional kit (complete with two 3.0Ah battery and a AL 1820 CV charger) as part of their Contractor Choice (CoC) series for RM999 and with the Bosch GBH 18V-26 'Bulldog' displacing the GBH 18 V-EC under the Heavy Duty series, Robert Bosch Malaysia has changed the cordless rotary hammer landscape overnight. Great news if you've been looking for a cordless rotary hammer on a budget, but how does the GBH 180-LI stacks up?

Faster and just as powerful.
The GBH 180-LI's claim to fame is the fact that it can match the same impact energy and drilling capacity, with the same speed as Bosch's 600-watts corded GBH 2-20 Professional. While both tools are rated at an impact energy of 1.7 Joule, the GBH 180-LI is actually 400rpm faster with a maximum rotation of 1,800rpm and punches out another 150bpm more over its corded brethren at a maximum 4,550bpm. Coincidentally, the GBH 180-LI also matches the weight and max impact energy of the displaced GBH 18 V-EC's 1.7J output.

Rated for drilling diameter of up to 20mm in concrete, the GBH 180-LI should feel very familiar to Bosch's SDS-plus rotary hammer offerings with a solid feel and equally solid gearbox with a four mode selector switch - Drilling, Hammer Drilling, Vario-Lock and Chiselling.

The Vario-Lock selector is non-locking and contrary to its name, basically allow you to slip the gearbox into neutral thus allowing you to adjust the chisel bit to a suitable angle without having to fight the gearbox. The GBH 180-LI also comes with a landyard loop hole at the base of the handle.

Quick on the trigger?
The downside with the higher top speed is that the GBH 180-LI seems to start out at a relatively high speed even while feathering the trigger. This can be somewhat problematic if you don't use a centre punch or if you just prefer to go slow for a pilot hole when drilling on hard surfaces such as ceramic tiles. Higher drill speeds coupled with blunt drill bits have more tendency to 'walk' when drilling.

How heavy is it?
Weight-wise, the GBH 180-LI with a 3.0Ah pack weighs in at 3.16kg and 2.55kg Solo (that's Bosch-speak for tool-only). Compared to the GBH 2-20, that's 860g difference. While 860g may not seem like a lot if you're only using it for brief moments such as installing some fixtures in a newly re-tiled bathroom or adding new kitchen cabinets, it can however start to weigh you down if your job requires you to use a hammer drill throughout the day.

Minor niggles; the handle will get in the way if it's in the 6 o'clock position whenever you're swapping batteries.

Longer battery service life through smarter charging.
Speaking of lighter, the included Bosch AL 1820 CV charger does away with any form of active-cooling (typically in the form of a fan drawing cool air through the battery pack) during charging. Bosch instead employs its CoolPack technology which uses what appears to be red thermoplastic cooling fins at the bottom of each lithium-ion pack to passively dissipate heat from the individual 18650 cells to the surrounding air.

The AL 1820 CV will automatically vary the charging current based on the battery temperature and voltage. By doing so, Bosch claims that the AL 1820 CV is able to prolong the service life of the lithium-ion battery pack. The kit comes complete with 2x 3.0Ah battery with a Bosch AL 1820 CV Professional charger that takes about an hour to charge up the 3.0Ah battery to about 80% charge and slightly over 1.5 hours to 100% charge.

While we're on the topic, the Bosch 18V 3.0Ah lithium-ion pack is also one of the lightest we've seen among 18V batteries, weighing in at a scant 610g. Unlike its competitors, Bosch places the bulk of the battery's electronics, such as the battery management system, inside the charger. This not only has the benefit of making the pack lighter and more reliable, but also cheaper to manufacture.

Optional extras:

Alongside the GBH 180-LI, Bosch also introduced an optional Dust Collecting Tube that mounts to the depth gauge rod holder. The Dust Collecting Tube allows for debris-free vertical drilling in ceilings while the GBH 180-LI is also compatible with the Bosch SDS-plus Dust Extractor. Interestingly, the depth gauge rod that comes with the GBH 180-LI is made of metal instead of plastic like those found on their corded rotary hammer ranges.

The GBH 180-LI, like most SDS-plus rotary hammer, isn't just limited to a SDS-plus bits, Bosch also makes optional 13mm keyed (part no. 1 608 571 062 and 1 617 000 132) and keyless three-jaw chuck with SDS-plus shank (part no. 2 608 572 227) that will enable you to use conventional and hex-type drill bits.

UPDATE: The Bosch GBH 180-LI might bog down under heavy load if it's used with a Bosch 18V lithium battery pack lower than 3.0Ah. This is primarily due to the heavier current draw from the GBH 180-LI's brushed motor which is some 30% less efficient than their brushless (EC motor) cousins.