September 15, 2010

DeWalt 12-Volt Max Cordless Screwdriver - Review

dewalt_screwdriver.jpgA few months ago, we packed up and headed out to DeWalt HQ (they call it Black & Decker University), and got a first look at their new 12-volt line (our post on the subject is here). While there, we got to get a little time with the tools, but we were anxious to get them out in the real world.

So thankfully, DeWalt recently sent us a sample of their new 12-volt cordless screwdriver and we've had a chance to introduce it to some jobsite tasks (as well as some non-jobsite tasks that we designed only to push the tool to the edge), and here is how it fared...

So DeWalt's deal with their 12-volt line is that they're offering a few things that the competitors aren't and its all centered around the design of their battery. DeWalt opted to use a traditional looking battery, as opposed to the cylindrical kind used by Milwaukee, Bosch, Craftsman, et al. Hitachi's 12-volt line uses a similar style battery, but they left the vertical stem on, where DeWalt took it out so the battery slides on to the tool from the horizontal.

Anyway, this all passes two main benefits on to the user.

dewalt_screwdriver_inhand.jpg dewalt_screwdriver_inhand2.jpg

1. Ergonomics - the DeWalt gun is really head and shoulders above the others in this department. We never had any concerns about the way the Bosch or the Milwaukee fit in our hands, but now after using the DeWalt, we've tasted the good life, and we're scarred because of it. With the weight now balanced between the top and bottom of the tool, it feels almost weightless in the hands. Doing a side by side with the Bosch, we realize how top-heavy their design is when compared to the DeWalt. Also, because there is no battery (or battery stem) in the handle, they made it much thinner and contoured to the hand.

2. Look, it's standing up all by itself! The flat-bottomed, wide-body battery also allows the tool to stand on its own. This is a big deal if you're a contractor. We can recall having to do some interior window work (on a ladder) with one of the other brands and being terrified of placing the tool on the window sill. The DeWalt behaves just like all of your larger voltage drills and can be perched just about anywhere.

dewalt_screwdriver_chuck.jpg dewalt_screwdriver_nose.jpg

The tool has three LEDs that encircle the chuck, so the working area is entirely lit up with no shadows. There's also a great little belt hook (which is impossible with the other style of battery), but a fantastic feature. Finally, the chuck, which is spring-loaded and can be operated with one hand, accepts 1" driver bits. This last point is significant, as the other 12-volts on the market all require the longer bits that have the click-in groove at the base.

When compared directly to the Bosch, the DeWalt is taller and longer (but also thinner), so if getting into micro areas is important to you, there are better tools out there. We think the difference probably isn't worth getting all that concerned over though. As for a power comparison, the two tools seemed to be very similar.

dewalt_screwdriver_w_bosch.jpg dewalt_screwdriver_w_bosch2.jpg

The only thing that bummed us out about the DeWalt is the lack of battery gauge. The Bosch also has two speeds which is nice, but not essential.

While this is a great tool, we have an issue with the screwdriver class in general. Our bottom line recommendation is to skip this one and go right for their 3-jaw chuck drill/driver. The price difference is minimal and that tool has the functionality of this one, plus a clutch, plus the ability to use smooth shaft drill bits. It's a far more versatile tool. But that's just us, if you want a cordless screwdriver, then take a look at this one. It'll likely be all over Home Depot very soon.

Update: The screwdriver does have a clutch. We implied that it doesn't. Reader Mark pointed out our error and we thank him for it.

Read More in: All Reviews | Cordless | Lithium-Ion

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Posted by Doug Mahoney at September 15, 2010 11:30 AM
Recent Comments

The Dewalt Max and most others don't have the balance and ergonomics of the Makita 10.8 units. Of great concern is that Dewalt still places the forward/reverse switch too far forward on the tool, making it un-naturally awkward to use. Makita's switchgear is superior to Dewalt, Milwaukee, and consumer grade products such as Rigid, Craftsman and Ryobi. The Makita LED lighting stays on several seconds after the tool is operated, which is a useful "nice to have" feature. Points given to Dewalt and Milwaukee on their drill chucks which are ratcheting. As for the bottom-mount battery on the Dewalt Max,it's just a gimmick that Dewalt is trying to use to separate their product from the competition. The belt hook Dewalt copied from Makita and Milwaukee 18V units is meant to be used especially on a ladder, when you need to set your $150 tool down and don't want it to drop 50' to the ground and get damaged. Good effort Dewalt, earning a 7 out of 10 in my book, but Makita earns 9.5 out of 10.

Posted by: Blair at September 30, 2010 1:11 PM
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