This is just a first impression of the tools. I just picked them up today and haven't had a chance to really use them yet. I work at lowes and sell tools all day. I've heard a lot of feedback from customers about their tools, from manufacturers, and have spent a lot of time personally looking at tools. Also I use to work construction, and still do on the side, so I have used tools all day also, and have used pretty much every brand out there.
This is the second 3 piece combo kit I have bought. The previous was a Ridgid. I can't really say anything bad about the performance of my ridgid tools, they have been excellent. They have proven themselves over and over to perform and be very durable. The hitachis were bought as supplements, not replacements. I needed another drill and the combo was actually cheaper than the drill alone. The literature I've read from Hitachi while working at lowes explicitly states that they position themselves to target Ridgid as far as price, quality, etc. so I thought they would be a good comparison.
My first impression is that I will like the Hitachis better than my ridgids though. This is assuming that I will not be dissappointed with the performance (which I am extremely confident of as I sell a lot of Hitachis to contractors and professionals who are more than happy with their tools, never had any complaints from them). I think the Hitachis are a more thought out tool than the ridgids.
Starting with the drill: Vs. the ridgid, the drill is more compact. It is shorter, which will make it slightly easier to handle and it will fit in tighter places. I could also notice just from holding the two that the Hitachi is lighter, with and without the batteries in. I love the belt loop on the hitachi. Its an excellent feature, while I don't like to carry my drill on my belt, there are inevitably times when your on a ladder or something and need both hands and can't set the drill down (I actually rigged a hook on my ridgid for this purpose, but the hitachi hook is adjustable, and comes pre installed) And the hitachi has a light on there which only makes it better. Another thing is the Brushes are easily replaceable, while the ridgid would require disassembly (note: I have never had to replace the brushes on any of my drills, but I know it does happen). These small things carry a lot of weight in my book. Also it shows that Hitachi really considers the use of the tools when they are designing them.
The recip saw. Not much difference here at first look. One thing is the lock on the trigger. My ridgid (and many other brands) had a safety on it that required you to press the safety while pressing the trigger. I hated this and ended up dissabling it. This could be an issue if I ever have to send it back to ridgid as it could give them a reason to void the warranty. The hitachi has a trigger lock that is either switched on or off. This is nice, as I will always lock the trigger before I put it in my bag. I have put my ridgid in my bag before and had some other tool press the trigger and my saw is sitting there running in my bag, not good. This won't happen with the hitachi, very nice feature that I have never seen on any other recip. As with the drill, the recip is shorter than my ridgid, only by an inch or two, but none the less shorter is better. From holding the two I couldn't notice a difference in weight. One thing that I could see bothering me about the hitachi is the tab on the blade lock. It's a little small, and on our display in the store it fell off (or was stolen by a customer, which is probably more likely) leaving a small metal pin that isn't too friendly to bare hands. Hitachi says it is removable so that you can clean inside the blade lock, but I forsee it as only a matter of time before it pops off unnoticed and is lost. Also, as witht he drill the motor brushes are easily replaceable on the hitachi recip, not so with the ridgid.
The light. The ridgids came with a more typical flashlight. The hitachi has a lantern that you can set down or hang. I much prefer the lantern. I always had the problem of trying to position the flashlight so it would actually shine on the spot I am working on. With the lantern this shouldn't be a problem. You can hang the lantern by the handle also which is nice. In addition, the lantern has a fluorescent bulb and an LED. I really like this, they claim the lantern can run on the LED for 150 hours with one battery charge, or you can switch it to the fluorescent which is brighter.
warranty: The ridgid claims a lifetime free battery replacement. This is great, however when I tried to replace one of my batteries, it turned out to be a hassle. Hitachi has a 5 year warranty, which is the longest I have ever seen on a power tool. While this is good, I have never seen a manufacturer with a warranty that is easy to enforce (and, personnally I have never had an issue where I needed the warranty, but I have had customers who weren't so fortunate).
Overall: the hitachis design is more thought out. Great features that are actually practical. As I said, these small features carry a lot of weight in my book. It's these small things that can really make a job go smoother or easier from my experience. And again,these are just first impressions of the hitachis. I have never been dissappointed by the performance of my Ridgids and do not expect to be dissappointed by the hitachis from what I have heard from the professionals that I sell these tools to, but time will tell. If however, the hitachis don't perform, then none of the features can make up for a lack of performance. Similar note on durability. I have been extremely happy with the durability of my ridgids, they've been dropped off ladders more than once and nothing but battle scars have resulted, never have they broken. As with performcance, durability is simply essential, without it, the features don't mean anything (which I doubt will be an issue from what I have heard, but none the less we'll see).