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One of the really cool upshots of the last few years’ more powerful and more compact drivers has been the renaissance of the impact driver. The small 10.8-12v models are incredibly powerful, able to drive screws bigger than the damn driver itself. And the 18v models, while still remarkably compact, can handle gargantuan driving tasks. I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve succumbed to grabbing a tiny impact driver (the PS40, actually) to drive fairly large screws while fixing a fence, chucking up some non-impact-ready driver bits in the process. While it drove a few screws without problems, I chewed up a bit before I was done, thrashing the head and stripping a screw in the process.

So it’s no surprise that 1/4″ quick-change impact-ready bits are starting to get some R&D focus — and some cool upgrades. Irwin’s new line includes fastener drive bits, nutsetters, bit holders, and socket adapters, all with new features. Read on for the details.

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We’ve seen every model of Dremel rotary tool and put most of them through the shop to test this or that feature, but we kept coming back to the old Dremel 100 that never failed us. The phaser-shaped Stylus was cool but underpowered; the Volt Max cordless was better but didn’t last long with the jobs we subjected it to. However, Dremel’s new 4200 melds the strengths of old 100 with new features we might actually give the old dog up for — like the ability to swap accessories just by pushing a lever.

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Rockwell is set to offer a 16V lithium-ion line, starting with a drill and an impact driver. Why should we care? Well, a few years back Bosch kickstarted the compact market with the PS20, reminding us that a) we don’t necessarily need to use the biggest possible drill for every job and b) small doesn’t have to mean crappy. Then both Bosch and DeWalt took a page from the less-is-more book in their 18V lines, cutting back on the extra bulk to produce svelte, light, yet still quite powerful general-use pro-line drills. DeWalt has even filled in the gap between Bosch’s compact PS series and the new compact 18V tools — the 12V MAX line features more standard form factors than the PS tools (along with larger size), and, in some cases, a little more power.

Rockwell argues that their new 16V series fits in the tiny gap between 12V models — they claim their 16V offers more power — and 18V class tools, which Rockwell suggests are bulkier than their product. How will it hold up? Read on after the jump to find out.

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Any power tool consists of a power system — a drive motor, essentially — and a series of mechanical devices that interconnect that drive to some kind of spinning or reciprocating tool: a drill, saw, or driver. So why not just make the motor and handle detachable from the rest of the mess (interconnect and tool) and sell the latter separately so you can just swap them onto the tool when you need them?

Well, we can think of three or four reasons why it might not work. But Black & Decker decided to give it a try. They’re calling it the “Matrix” system: a battery/motor/trigger in a drill/driver form factor along with a series of attachments, currently a drill/driver, oscillating tool impact driver, jigsaw, detail sander, trim saw, and router.

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The 20V MAX battery system is winding its way through the Stanley Black & Decker product chain, and what you see above represents the Porter Cable take on it, starting with the most common tools — a drill/driver and impact driver. Read on for details as well as some comparisons to the line-founding DeWalt models.

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Makita’s 18v Li-Ion Brushless 1″ Rotary Hammer is a mouthful to say and even more interesting to look at, especially the unique profile created by the vacuum slung under the bottom of the 10-lb. rotary hammer. The unit has two motors — one for the drill and the other for the vacuum — and is built to catch concrete dust on a jobsite.

What’s interesting about this setup is the vacuum is detachable so you still have a very capable rotary hammer on your hands if you should choose to do without. Plus the charge will last a little longer without spinning two motors. But for jobs where dust or particles are a concern, we can actually see this helping. The boot that shrouds the bit looks like it does a good job of catching most of the debris, and the vacuum only kicks on when the drill is in motion.

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Recently I wondered if anyone was actually still into the cheap, off-brand drills like the ones you might find at Costco and the like. The Kawasaki drill I found (above) was fully stocked and looked okay for a heavy NiCad affair. A little bit later I saw the recall for the trigger switch, which “can short and generate excessive heat, posing a burn hazard.” I wondered if this was the same drill.

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Pictured above is DeWalt’s DCF895B 1/4″ impact driver. What’s the difference, you ask, between it (the new hotness) and the almost-identical-looking DCF885 that Chuck ran down last week? Well, to start with, it features a brushless motor, which reportedly delivers significantly longer runtime. We don’t yet have one of these in hand, but considering the interest you expressed in the DCF885, we thought we should at least take a look at the technology. Read on to find out why DeWalt thinks brushless is important and how they’re implementing it in this tool.

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With this latest update, Bosch continues down the path set for cordless SDS gear over the past couple of years: lighter, more runtime, and improved ergonomics. As is often the case, the improvements are more evolutionary than revolutionary, but over time these changes add up to significant improvements. Let’s take a look under the hood.

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It’s common practice these days to carry a specialty bit for every combination of length and bit type needed to complete the job. So if, for example, you need two masonry bits and a hole bit, and you need lengths of 6″, 12″ and 18″, that means carrying nine bits — plus spares. Milwaukee has what they think is a better idea. They want you to think about SDS bits the same way you think about sockets. Carry the bits you need, then add an extension to give you length options. Today they announced the product that backs up that idea: their new Max-Lok carbide extension system.

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