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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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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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When we first speculated a while back about the kind of tools we might see as a result of the Stanley/B&D merger, we focused on cross-pollination of the brands — like DeWalt manufacturing hand tools (which happened) and Stanley getting some power tools (wait for it). What we didn’t consider was how changes in the new company’s management could lead to within-brand sharing, too — like, for example, Black & Decker installing DeWalt’s 20V MAX battery tech in its tools. What you see above represents what we imagine is just the first volley in this kind of thinking.

So let’s look past all the corporate structure stuff and look at the tools themselves. Black & Decker’s 20V MAX brands start with B&D’s stalwarts: handheld vacuum cleaners. (Really — you still call ‘em Dustbusters, don’t you? Like people from Texas call all sodas Cokes?) These include the Flex, a Dustbuster-like model, and an accessory-laden model that looks great for automotive vacuuming. All three get the 20V MAX lithium-ion batteries, but like their NiCd predecessors, they’re permanently installed.

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Though we suspect many pros already know about this, we wonder how many high-end DIY folks are aware that most of the major manufacturers offer automotive versions of their charging systems. Indeed, if you take the time to do a little Googling, you’ll discover lots of options regardless of the color of your power tools. Read on to take a closer look at four of them.

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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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Anyone who’s a fan of the yellow and black has probably noticed that since the Stanley/B&D merger, DeWalt’s lineup has moved into the fast lane in terms of forward-thinking design. Love ‘em or hate ‘em, these are no longer the same old tools with a slightly-upgraded battery or a vaguely different case. For more about this change (and the beginnings of the 20V MAX line) check out our preview post about the 20V MAX drill-drivers last summer. For now, let’s take a look at one of the tools — specifically the DCF885 1/4″ impact driver.

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It’s hard enough to tell how deep you’re drilling with rotary hammers when you’re drilling downward or sideways, but drilling overhead makes it even more difficult. Try “feeling” your way to a perfect depth while your arms burn like mad. DeWalt claims to feel your pain, which is why they just launched a depth control system — you know, to remove the guesswork. The cap you see in the picture above mounts to the bit and serves as a stop to keep you from over-drilling. You can adjust its size by twisting it then locking it in place. Seems pretty simple.

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If the latest gear and Li-ion isn’t a must, cashing in on an older frontrunner like the DeWalt 18v combo kit might prove pretty handy. Sure, it’s 4-year-old tech, but in the end, a $250 kit (marked down from $375) from Lowe’s gets you a lot of functionality.

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We read about DeWalt’s compound action pliers, but they were kind enough to send us over a pair so we could take a look in person. They’re pretty much like most standard pliers — complete with some nice rubber handles and a quality feel — but with a little twist: a second fulcrum translates additional motion in the handles into additional gripping force in the jaws. DeWalt claims a whopping 70% increase.

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It looks like the new DeWalt cordless drill design philosophy is making its way into the Porter-Cable line. Note in the picture above some key refinements, direct from the DeWalt drafting board: a thinner handle with TPR molded grip, a much more compact design, and a slide-type battery. Though each such design decision brings a bit of good and a bit of bad, we’re fans of all three.

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