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Remember when the selection of cordless drill/drivers consisted of just “big drills” and “cordless screwdrives?”  Those times are long gone.  Why am I telling you this?  Because it’s tricky to understand where this new drill fits into the market, and it’s not something I can describe in a few sentences.

Let’s start with the basics: B&D’s new SC1400 (which is easier to say than “Super Compact Drill w/Lithium Ion Technology) is an average-sized 14.4V unit delivering 210 in-lbs of torque.  It features an all-metal standard chuck and two speed settings: 0-350 RPM and 0-1400 RPM.  Its battery is built-in.  Read on past the jump for the low-down.

So where does this fit into the market?  Let’s review briefly what’s gone down in 2006:

While li-ion tools were really a big 2005 innovation, they hit their production stride last year.  Milwaukee expanded their 28V V28 line and introduced their 20V V18 line, bringing pro-level li-ion power to handymen and high-end DIYers.  Bosch expanded li-ion in both directions, fleshing out their powerful 36V line while also creating a “compact” pro-line with the PS10 and PS20.  Since then, many other manufacturers have begun producing li-ion lines, mainly in the “crossover” 18V category (commonly bought by contractors and DIYers alike).

Skil and Black & Decker have both added li-ion technology to their low-end cordless screwdrivers, elevating them greatly in terms of usefulness above their NiCd brethren.  Most recently, Skil introduced a mid-range driver offering some of the PS20’s features, buying a lower price — about 40% less — with the addition of a fixed battery.

With that in mind, consider this: The SC1400 offers a standard chuck and speeds comparable with full-size drills, and this is drill is “compact” in size comparison to an 18V, not all drills.  So, this is obviously intended as a full-use drill and not primarily a driver like the PS20.  Its 210 in-lbs of torque compares quite favorably to 14.4V and inexpensive 18V models, but not so much to pro-level 18V units.

The SC1400 seems to be a high-end DIYer drill primarily for use drilling in wood and driving — a plush homeowner’s drill.  Of course, the question is, will homeowners pay a street price of $135-$150 for a cordless drill?  And is it worth it?

We’ll let you know when we get a chance to test one soon.

Cordless Super Compact Drill w/Li-Ion Technology [Black & Decker]
Street Pricing [Froogle]


3 Responses to Finds: Black & Decker’s “Super Compact” Li-Ion Drill

  1. Trevor D. says:

    Gotta love the carbon-fiber-look finish… /rolls eyes

  2. Myself says:

    Well okay, the thing looks like the lovechild of a persimmon and an athletic shoe. But aesthetics aside, I think this is the space to watch for ergonomic reasons.

    The glorified-toy electric screwdrivers are just too slow for many uses. They can’t pull enough energy from their batteries to run a powerful motor, so they use a modest one and gear it way down for torque. Handy for sure when you can’t get a good angle on a regular screwdriver, these are no match for their larger brethren “on the open road”.

    The 18-volt monsters certainly pack a lot of torque and speed, and they work quite a while before you have to change packs, but only a masochist would want to work above chest height with one of these variable speed barbells.

    Lithium batteries offer superior energy density and very low weight, but they weren’t considered safe for high discharge rates until recently. Now that they can supply the oomph necessary for power tools, we’re seeing entries in the long-neglected middle ground: Light enough for overhead work or toolbag carry, powerful enough for serious jobs.

    B&D’s choice to skip removable batteries on this one is what I find most interesting. It excludes the serious worker who needs hours of continuous runtime, but the design flexibility of integrating the batteries could be ergonomically significant. I’d have to spend some hands-on time with it to be sure, but I wouldn’t be surprised if this turned out to be better balanced than most of its brethren. It’s also planned obsolescence, since batteries usually wear out long before motor bearings and other mechanical parts.

    Of course, skilled individuals with battery-tab welders will do their own pack replacement, but that’s hardly the audience this drill is aimed at. (Perhaps an opportunity for those individuals to pick up some free tools in a few years, though.)

  3. Jeff T says:

    I saw this drill at Wal-Mart, and it is really well-balanced. Metal chuck was decent too… Batteries really bother me though…

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