October 28, 2009

DeWalt DW030P Distance Measurer - Review

dw030p.jpgLaser beams. First they came for our levels and now it's our tape measures. Like some invasion of little red dots, lasers are being incorporated more and more into today's job sites. And with anything that is 'being incorporated more and more into today's job sites," it's not surprising that DeWalt is right there. The big yellow company has just released a new laser measuring tool, the DW030P and they were nice enough to let us test one out.

The DW030P is about the size of a point and click camera and the most basic function of it is to measure distance. To do this, just point the laser at an object and press the distance button and you get a static reading of how far that object is from the back edge of the tool. There is also a 'unit' button so you can choose how you would like the measurement to be displayed (meters, feet and inches, or just inches). If you hold down the distance button for three seconds, the DW030P goes into tracking mode and now displays the laser measurement as it moves. If that alone were the capabilities of the DW030P it would be pretty interesting, but there's actually quite a bit more.

dw030P_on.jpgThe DW030P also has an area button and a volume button. To use these, just click the appropriate button and start recording distances. After two distances with the area button, you get the total area in whatever unit you have it set on, and likewise with the volume button after three measurements.

On top of all this, the DW030P can add and subtract distances from one another. Just click a distance, then hit the '+' or '-' button and click another distance. You can do this as much as you like and the DW030P keeps a running tally.

dw030p_front.jpgSo that's what it does, but the question is, "is what it does actually useful?" Well, yes and no, but mostly yes. At first, the DW030P frustrated us because we were trying to use it like a tape measure, which is really impractical. You're not going to use this tool casing out a window or laying out 16"oc studs on a plate. First, it's not really designed for that, and secondly, even though it measures to the accuracy of 1/16th of an inch, any good carpenter keeps a little over/under going in his head with each cut. The DW030P can't indicate if a perfect cut is actually 3'-2 3/8" shy, it'll just tell you, 3'-2 3/8". It does help with inside corners though, giving accurate measurements without trying to read a bent tape measure.

But, the daily grind of carpentry aside, this tool did turn out to be an incredible time saver in a number of other departments. Doing a quick take off on materials, for example. The area button gave us an exact measurement of a number of walls, allowing us to figure exactly how much blueboard was needed to cover them. It was also a dream for doing a quick as-built of some soon-to-be-buried conduit. What is normally a two man job with the 200' tape measure, turned into a five minute click, click, click. And really with any measurement that involved a length more than that of our standard 25' tape measure, we called on the DW030P (it has a range of about 100')

dw030_case.jpgThere were a few things about the tool that we didn't like. First, the distance is measured from the back of the tool, right? So we're not sure why the back end of the tool isn't at right angles to the sides, or why there isn't a mark showing the exact point of the center line (where the laser projects from) on the rear edge. For a tool that can measure to the 1/16th of an inch.....We would have liked to have been able to put the tool on its side and be confident that the laser line is parallel to the surface the tool is on.

Also, DeWalt gives a nice instruction manual with the Distance Measurer, but for some reason, they've made it the size of their other manuals, which is about five times the size of the carrying case for the tool. This kind of items deserves a quick reference guide. There's plenty of room in the case and we wished they would have enclosed one.

But these complaints aren't that big of a deal and so they shouldn't get in your way of considering this tool. Like we said, there were a number of job site situations where the DW030P was a real time saver. We also just bought a house and found it to be helpful in that process as well. Would the table fit in this room? click...click...nope. Is the real estate agent lying about the square footage of the finished basement? click...click...yup. Also this tool would be very useful to a niche market like realtors or interior designers. No more slinging a tape measure over someone's furniture in order to get the dimensions of a room.

So all in all, we grew to appreciate the DW030 and what it did for us. We just first had to get over the fact that it isn't trying to replace the tape measure.

$130 at ToolUp and FAO

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Posted by Doug Mahoney at October 28, 2009 5:35 AM

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