With the possibility of stating the obvious, I'd like to mention that the objective of a drill press is to drill consistently straight holes precisely into wood, metal or plastic. The objective of a drill press with a fence is to drill repetitive holes in a work piece at a uniform distance from the edge of a work piece. The purpose of a drill press with a fence and one (or two) stops is to drill holes at a uniform distance from one or both ends of a work piece or work pieces. The idea of a drill press with a tilting table is to drill precise and repeatable holes at a precise angle into the work piece. The purpose of an electric drill is to drill holes only where using a drill press would be not possible or impractical.
There are many things to look at when comparing drill presses such as motor size, table size and features, quill stroke, task lighting, laser availability, rotation speeds, ease of speed change, number of speeds, reversible feed handle (for lefties) and even the size of the base (for machine stability).
Regarding motor size, experience tells me that 3/4 horsepower is about the smallest size motor I'd like to see on a drill press. Some brands try to get away with a 1/2 horsepower motor. There are times, especially at higher belt speed ratios that a half horsepower motor will prove to be deficient.
I recently completed a side-by-side comparison review of 3 drill presses from three different manufacturers. The Powermatic 2800 PM was, by far, the most expensive I reviewed. The other 2 drill presses I compared are competitive with each other and list for about half the price of the Powermatic. I am discussing the 2800 PM as an example of what a drill press could be if money were no object. The other drill presses I looked at were both very adequate machines and would definitely do the job in an average woodworking shop.
The thing about the Powermatic is that it is just plain neat! It has all the bells and whistles a designer could dream up. The person who designed this thing clearly knows a lot about drill presses and woodworking from personal experience. If money were no object it would be the drill press I would pay money for. A guy can dream, can't he?
Like any Powermatic machine, this drill press has top quality, smooth operation and features to die for. It also is expensive when compared to other similar machines. That said, let's take a look at what you get for your money so you can decide if it's worth making the jump.
This drill press features twin LED lights, mounted in the head that do not cast shadows, head-mounted twin lasers that pinpoint the drill point, a 16' x 14' table with twin T-slots that expands to 16' x 26' when needed to support large work pieces. The table tilts left or right 90 degrees with a stop at zero degrees. A large handle makes raising or lowering the table easy. An additional, distinctive feature that is included in the price of this machine is an adjustable split fence with a dust collection port. A fence is crucial to production work so plan on buying or making one if you don't buy this machine.
Speeds are easily changed from 400 to 3000 RPM with a handle on the upper left side of the head, meaning that you do not need to bother with belt and pulley access. And, you can tell how fast the machine is running by looking at a digital speed indicator right on the front of the head. Also in the front of the head is a lighted on/off switch with a key.
Powermatic gives you a full horsepower of motor power which guarantees that this machine can handle everything that is presented to it. The motor is single-phase and can be run on either 115 or 230 volts AC. It is pre-wired for 115 volts.
The 5/8' chuck is keyless, the depth stop is quick-setting and the feed handles can be mounted on the left or the right for ease of operation no matter which handle you like to use. Spindle travel is 4 3/8' for deep drilling capacity. For drilling into assembled projects, the maximum chuck to table distance is 30' and the maximum chuck to floor distance is 46'. The column diameter is 3 1/8', the base measures 11 7/8' x 19 5/8'. The drill press weighs in at 287 lbs, and ships at 302 lbs.
As much as I like this machine, in this economy, I might be wise to settle for a good machine from, say, Delta or Jet. At least I know what the possibilities are before I wake up and stop dreaming!