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Tool Review: DeWalt 20V Impact Driver

Tool Review: DeWalt 20V Impact Driver


My all-time favorite tool for home repair is the DeWalt 18V, half-inch, cordless drill. I like it because it drills and drives everything I need, and it’s utterly reliable and built like a tank. I’ve used it for years on a weekly basis, and it’s been loaned to friends and dragged everywhere with me. The batteries still hold their charges, and the plastic case, while battered from hundreds of uses, still hold up.

So, when I got a chance to play around with the DeWalt 20V Impact Driver (P/N DCF895C2) I was overjoyed. Would this be a worthy replacement for the trusty old drill?

Right off the bat there were some features I was dying to check out. First of all, the driver’s business end is surrounded by three white LEDs that illuminate your work. They turn on with a touch of the trigger and last 20 seconds after the trigger is released.

I was also curious about the fact that the driver has a brushless motor. How would it work differently? It turns out that the main difference for end users is that the motor uses electricity more efficiently and lasts longer before burning out. Usually a motor has metal brushes touching it, and those motors add heat and friction during use, draining the battery and reducing motor life — the driver has 150% more motor life than competing brushed drivers, according to DeWalt. Brushless motors also have more torque per weight and per watt than brushed.

However, the first thing I noticed about the driver was its power. When I unboxed the driver, I scraped up a Phillips bit (none come with the driver) and walked around the woodshop, unscrewing and rescrewing a bunch of 4″ screws that secure the workbenches. It was slick! The screws zipped out of and into the wood as quick as you’d like. There are three power settings for the motor. The first setting is 950 RPM and 500 inch-pounds of torque. The middle setting is 1,900 RPM & 900 inch-pounds of torque, and the third setting is 2,850 RPM and 1,500 inch-pounds! What can I say? The DeWalt works really great at screwing screws and driving bolts.

Another great feature of the driver is DeWalt’s new battery format. Firstly, it comes in two formats, the 3 Ah DCB200, and the 1.5 Ah DCB201. The driver comes with two of the smaller DCB201s, and I appreciate their slender form factor and light weight — less than a pound! The batteries also have a power indicator so you can see how much juice your battery has without having to plug it in. Slick!

Let me conclude with my sole disappointment with the driver, and that is, that it doesn’t drill holes. The driver’s chuck accommodates only hex bits, which means that you’d have to get a chuck attachment that fits into the driver. Unfortunately, getting one doesn’t end the problem. I learned, reading online message boards, that a driver makes a poor drill because it lacks a drill’s precision and stability. If you want to drill a dowel-hole, for instance, it’s recommended that you use an actual drill. If you’re not doing precision work and just need a drill for home, it may make sense to buy the attachment. However, if you’re doing any kind of skilled carpentry, it’s suggested that you have separate driver and drills.

I really like the DeWalt Impact Driver and have already used it a couple times with great success — I wish it drilled holes as well as my DeWalt drill, but I also wish my drill drove screws and bolts as well as the driver does! In the end, I guess you need both.

32 thoughts on “Tool Review: DeWalt 20V Impact Driver

  1. sean says:

    You mean inch pounds of torque, not foot pounds.

    From Dewalt’s website:
    Max Torque 1500 / 900 / 500in-lbs
    Max Torque 125 / 75 / 42ft-lbs

    1. John Baichtal says:

      Fixed, thanks!

  2. adcurtin says:

    impact drivers are _great_ at getting screws in and out. If you have a screw that’s stuck and wont’ come out with a drill, the impact driver can probably do it. Likewise, if you have a screw that’s not going in with a drill, the impact driver will drive that thing in no problem.

  3. andrew says:

    I have the 18V impact driver (so it can share the batteries with my 18V drill), and I don’t honestly use it much. It has two speed settings, and both seem way too fast. I don’t remember if there’s no variable trigger control or not, but I absolutely lose a feel for how tight anything. When putting down some OSB, even on low, the impact driver would shoot right through the surface. The drill has adjustable torque, and you can ease it down and feel how tight it’s getting and stop in plenty time.

    Now, if driving long screws into hard material, like mating 4x4s of pressure treated lumber, I’m sure the impact driver would be right at home. It would put in screws much faster with much less fatigue. Different tools for different jobs. I just find the vast majority of my jobs are better suited with the normal drill.

    1. Bob Villa says:

      I am a homebuilder, and I use the 18v impact daily. It works well on all types of applications, including delicate brass cab and door hardware, and with practice, it can easily set drywall screws without punching through the paper.
      The best thing about these impact drivers is the fact that you don’t need to put 200 lbs. of force on them to keep them from stripping the fastener and bits, like you do with a drill. If you drive screws with them once, you will never try to use a drill to fasten again.
      as a bonus, your screw heads won’t get all chewed up where they need to be seen, such as on decking, where there is a coating to protect the fasteners from corrosion.

      1. Darr247 says:

        I saw Tommy Mac using one to drive screws into a mahogany deck on his PBS show over the weekend and wondered why he kept blipping the trigger.. if they’re not fully variable, now that makes sense.

        1. Kat Helms says:

          The ones I’ve used have a good variable range, but it can be tricky to make them run really slow. Part of the problem is that the RPMs without impact are very very high – so even a light touch makes it go wicked fast. Once the impacting kicks in, it slows down quite a bit, though.

          Funny, I was playing with my DeWALT drill and impact kit yesterday though, and I did notice that the drill had much better control on the low end.

  4. philip xavier says:

    While certainly not ideal for drilling holes, an impact driver will do the job.

    There are hex-shank drill bits available that fit the impact driver’s chuck. I keep a few in the case with the bits, just in case, and they’ve come in handy more than a few times.

    1. Jaron Edwards says:

      Excellent point. I think it should be noted that standard hex-shank drill bits should not be used since they are not impact rated for the shock torque and shatter quite easily.

  5. PJ says:

    lamenting that an IMPACT DRIVER will not readily DRILL holes is as asinine as complaining that my ratchet set doesnt drill well-its not the purpose of the tool…

    1. sgr says:

      Exactly. Who is this fool? Does he even know the difference between a drill and an impact driver?

  6. Matt M says:

    I like the tool review and would love to see more… I was recently looking for a drill and found it very hard to find reliable reviews. Let’s see more!

  7. Kat Helms says:

    The DCF895 is sweet. Really nicely built and powerful.

    However, you should note that since it’s part of the “20v Max” line of DeWALT tools (which are really still 18v tools), the batteries are different than the standard 18v DeWALT line.

    If you have old drills or drivers, you can’t just buy the bare-tool and expect it to work. You need the whole kit – driver, batteries and charger.

    I suppose it’s obvious to most, but I’ve seen a couple forums where people were complaining about it. I guess it comes from DeWALT having such a large and long-lasting cordless tool line with it’s 18v stuff, people never expect them to change or something!

  8. Darr247 says:

    These really shine at driving lag bolts, e.g. for securely hanging ledger boards for decks, etc.

    It should have a male 1/2” square drive lug on it (3/8” is a little light for 100 lbs-ft), not a hex socket… making safety glasses with sideshields (or goggles) a MUST for anyone working nearby these, since users will invariable be forced to employ non impact-rated attachments, which will tend to shatter (as noted by Jaron, above).

    1. Kat Helms says:

      That’s an interesting point on the 1/2″ square anvil. I hadn’t really thought about it before.

      My hunch is if they did that, they’d confuse (or make more confusing) their separate markets/product lines for cordless impact drivers and cordless impact wrenches.

      The DEWALT DC823B, for example, is an impact _wrench_ with 1,500 in-lbs of torque, so they are starting to get into some overlap areas.

      And of course they sell an impact-rated 1/2″ adapter as well.

      The comment about wearing full-coverage safety glasses is spot-on.

  9. DeWalt Impact Review | Climbing Business Journal says:

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My interests include writing, electronics, RPGs, scifi, hackers & hackerspaces, 3D printing, building sets & toys. @johnbaichtal

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