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.

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

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