Dewalt DCK280C2 Impact Drills / Drivers Reviews

Dewalt DCK280C2 Impact Drills / Drivers

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DeWalt's DCK280 kit impresses with usability.

Jan 3, 2013 (Updated Jun 3, 2013)
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:Lightweight, powerful, smooth power drill, light coverage on impact driver

Cons:Light on power drill (shadow), no battery gauge anywhere, expensive batteries

The Bottom Line: A great tool set with a price to match.

It wasn't that my trusty Bosch PS40A and Hitachi equipment broke or was inadequate, but the 20V Max series by DeWalt made me break with my previous opinion that DeWalt tools are simply too heavy to be useful. Along with the promotion of $199 for this set, I finally opted for a DeWalt cordless set to be the new tool in my "shed".

Kit: The kit consists of the cordless drill DCD780, the impact driver DCF885, two 1.5 Ah batteries DCB201, a 30-min. charger DCB101 and a hard case.

20V Max Batteries: [****-] Just like the similar 12V Max technology, the 'max' is really a disclaimer more than a performance statement. In essence, the battery provides initially 20V once charged which then drops relatively quickly to a lower value which it sustains for a longer time. While not disclosing what the steady state voltage is, DeWalt claims the 20V Max technology allows associated tools to be up to 57% faster and with up to 35% more stamina over "leading 18V Li-Ion tools". The claim 'faster' is difficult to verify as DeWalt uses their own (hard to corelate) unit to express work efficiency in Unit Watts Out taking torque and speed into consideration. While 57% sounds optimistic, the stamina claim certainly has more validity as the higher voltage at similar capacity (i.e 1.5 Ah) basically is a 10% increase in available electrical power alone. For more stamina check out the DCB200 (3.0 Ah with fuel gauge).

Power: [****-] Neither the DCD780 (drill) nor the DCF885 (impact) shine with the highest torque ratings in the industry. There are 18V impact drivers like the Bosch which are easily rated higher than the 1400 in-lbs of the DeWalt (albeit at slightly slower impact speeds). The drill itself even makes it harder to compare anyway since it uses a non-standard unit which no other vendor provides. What does 350 UWO mean for the shopper? All these are relatively theoretical values anyway, the truth is that both are plenty potent and the drill really impresses with the smooth power delivery. The impact driver, on the other hand, is really for demanding jobs only and both speed and torque are completely unsuitable for small applications (i.e. assembly furniture).

Speed: [*****] One of the main advantages of the DeWalt was the faster drill in the combo. Reaching up to 2000 rpm it declassified my 'old' Hitachi drill by a whopping 400 rpm while being significantly lighter. The 3,200 impacts per minute of the impact driver mean business, but also quickly show the limitations for applications that need more control which the DCF885 simply doesn't provide.

Unit Watts Out: [UWO] In recognition that torque isn't everything, DeWalt created a new measure to better reflect a drill's true performance on the job site. As honorable as this effort is, it also makes it very difficult to compare with tools of other manufacturers and to make things more confusing, only the DCD780 is rated in UWO and the DCF895 is still rated in in-lb. Aside from this hurdle to being useful, the power rating is measured by its Units Watts Out (UWO), the point where the drill’s speed and torque output are the highest. Not confused yet? Let's try DeWalt's different definitions ...
 - Torque ≠ time to complete applications
 - Power = Speed & Torque output under load
 - Max Watts Out (MWO) = Power of the motor
 - Unit Watts Out (UWO) = Power of the total drill

Light: [****-] Both tools come with a built-in work light, but the usefulness is vastly different between the drill and the impact driver. While the DCD780 is severely handicapped with the single LED in close proximity to the chuck resulting in a large shadow, the DCF885 provides flawless illumination of even the shortest work bits due to the three LEDs and the much smaller "chuck". Both tools sport a 20 second delay, which means that the light stays on for some time after the tool was used in order to help orientation (in the potentially dark).

Drill Chuck: [*****] While not new in concept, the 1/2" chuck and spindle lock enable to use only one hand to tighten and loosen the chuck (of course while holding the tool with the other). The lock is secure and the ratcheting provides feedback that the chuck is tight. So, while not novel, the implementation is very good. (Of course by now you've come to expect chucks that don't require a key anymore.)

Charger: [****-] The included charger is rated to refresh a 1.5 Ah battery in 30 minutes and it does so without problem. The charger base is relatively big and the light doesn't give much indication about the charge level, but otherwise there isn't much to complain about.

Weight: [*****] The DCD780 weighs only 3.5 lb and the DCF885 even only 2.0 lbs (without battery). This was the single biggest reason for me to choose this set aside from the 'snazzy' 20V badge. Overhead work makes every ounce count with time and this set to be this powerful and still light weigth is simply amazing.

Battery Gauge: [n/a] Unfortunately neither charger, nor the tools or the batteries themselves have a gauge to signal the charge level. Unless you ensure fresh batteries before each task, it's a bit of a gamble whether there will be enough 'juice' left to complete the job. Fortunately there are two batteries included while you're unlikely to need two tools at the same time and 30 minute charging gets out out of trouble quickly too. However, one might consider to upgrade batteries to the larger DCB200 as those are not only twice the capacity but also sport a fuel gauge. 

Cost: [****-] The kit is almost a steal at currently $199 and the only concern is that heavy users (i.e. full-time professionals) might want to upgrade to the larger 3.0 Ah batteries instead of the included 1.5 Ah models. Don't take that as a must though since the smaller batteries show quite some stamina for enthusiasts and are lighter. In any case, a set of two 3.0 Ah batteries costs roughly $150 and the smaller ones are not much cheaper. It shouldn't be necessary for a few years, but when replacement time arrives you're looking at the difficult choice to replace batteries or buy a whole new set anyway.

Overall: [*****] The DCK280 is an amazing kit that offers a lot of usability and power for a relatively low price. It may not be the best in any single parameter, but it's enticing with the overall package.

© 2013, theuerkorn

Recommend this product? Yes

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