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We’ll admit it: we’re always tempted to dismiss out-of-hand any drill that’s this pretty.  But when we tore into the new SC1400 lithium-ion drill from Black & Decker, we discovered it holds a few surprises for those willing to look more than skin deep.  For a drill that looks like it came from the shop where they built the cars for The Fast and the Furious, the SC1400 packs a wallop. 

Read on for our hands on experiences with this slick-looking drill.

Unboxing

You’re going to have to live without unboxing pictures because our unit shipped directly from Black & Decker and wasn’t encased in the normal plastic clamshell and paper mess you see in the stores. 

We can tell you that like most power tools from B&D, it doesn’t come with a hard or soft case.  Instead, the base station pulls double duty as a charger stand.  As it’s safe to leave the drill in the charger without fear of overcharging, though, we can’t really see any strong need for a case.  A small red light on the charging stand indicates charging activity.

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Note: Click on smaller images for larger ones. 

The SC1400 also ships with eight double-sided driver bits — four Phillips, two standard, and two square for sixteen bit ends total — and eight drill bits in commonly-used sizes.  The drill bits live right in the back of the charging stand while the driver bits fit into a more portable small rubber holder.

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At first glance we couldn’t help but notice the carbon-fiber-ish finish wrapped all around the casing.  While we suspect that it’s not real carbon fiber — or at least that it’s not structural carbon fiber — it does at least look pretty authentic; it’s not obviously a sticker or something.

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Once we got past the carbon fiber, we immediately noticed that the SC1400 is very light compared to other 14.4v drills we’ve owned.  It also feels quite solid, which is impressive considering its weight.  Its fit and finish reminded us more of tools aimed at pros than of consumer tools. 

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There’s a three-LED meter on the top rear of the drill that reports the charge condition of the its integrated (read: non-removable) lithium-ion battery with the press of a button.  Moving forward an inch or two you’ll find a speed switch labeled with a “1” and “2” for low and high speed selection.  It’s important to note that the SC1400 is not a variable-speed drill.  The trigger is an on/off switch which engages the drill at the selected speed, 350 RPM in “low/1” or 1400 RPM in “high/2.”

The direction switch is tucked up above the trigger and features arrows that clearly point which direction a fastener will go.

As “pro” as the fit and finish might feel, the SC1400’s chuck is definitely consumer-grade.  It’s a friction keyless type made of plastic which any B&D drill owner will find familiar.  Right behind it is the setting ring for a 5 position clutch (with full-on drill setting as well).

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Black & Decker heaped quite a few claims onto the little SC1400’s back: “33% smaller and 30% lighter than traditional 18V drills” appear in bold letters for example, and of course they claim it’s powerful.

After handling it a bit we found that it is indeed quite light and very small, even compared to our other 14.4V drills.  But powerful?  We needed to be sold.

So, for this test we choose 3/4” hardwood (oak) and decided to test it Toolmonger style, which is to say, drill ’till it runs out of gas or blows up — whichever comes first.  (Since B&D says this is a full fledged drill and not a driver, we decided to forego a screw-driving test and instead see how many holes the SC1400 could do on a single charge.)

We also decided to do the test with the biggest bit we could jam in the 3/8 chuck, which turned out to be a 13/32″.

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Read on to page two for our in-use testing.

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23 Responses to Hands-On: Black & Decker’s SC1400 14.4V Li-Ion Drill

  1. Pavel says:

    Well, I’m not quite sure how to say it without sounding offensive – you have a terrific blog, you know a lot and tell us about great tools, but… Well, have you ever read an article or two about various battery chemistries?

    There is a BIG problem with LiIon batteries – they die in a few years – basically becoming useless after about two or three years. And, before you ask, it doesn’t matter whether you use them or not, whether you keep them charged or not. They simply die of old age and that cannot be changed.

    You can take an old, unfashionable NiCd battery made 30 years ago and used normally from time to time – and it will still run OK. Sure, the energy density is not great (so the battery is heavier than comparable LiIon one), and its self-discharge rate is rather awful (so you have to top it up every couple of months), but it’s still a battery even now.

    I don’t have any problems with removable LiIon batteries for professional tools – they are much lighter, more powerful, and when they will die in a couple of years there would be no problem to replace them.

    On the other hand an average “consumer” will NOT be happy to throw away the whole tool after using it a couple of times (once a year, to fix something) – and that’s why the abominations like this one are born: to make the abovementioned hobbyist pay every couple of ears for the same tool again and again.

    Bosch IXO, this B&D drill and some others come to mind as an example of dishonest marketing – and I’ll be glad if even a single reader will save his or her hard-earned dollars for some other tool to use and to keep as long as needed.

    By the way, it would be great if you test the Metabo PowerMaxx LI – I have an older PowerMaxx with NiCd batteries (that will last about ten times as long as sc1400, btw), I really love it, and yet I may want to give it to a friend as a gift and buy myself a PowerMaxx LI if you like it during the review 😉

  2. Morgan says:

    Not to be a definition nazi, but the “square” bits are Robertsons.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robertson_screwdriver

    Very common in Canada – I would guess more popular that Phillips especially if you discount American made products. (I could be quite wrong about that.)

  3. Nate Bezanson says:

    I agree, lithium batteries should be removable for exactly the reason you stated. The Skil IXO is so cheap it’s essentially disposable, and the Bosch Litheon removable-pack tools are priced above the hobbyist market. Nobody’s doing it. That’s capitalism at work.

    On the other hand, those of us who aren’t afraid to crack the thing open will have an easy time putting new lithium cells into it after picking it up for $5 at a garage sale in 5 years, with only a few hours of use on the motor and transmission. 🙂

  4. Mark says:

    Is it that hard to add variable speed? How much more would it cost?

  5. l_bilyk says:

    Dumbest placement for the drill bits… you go to grab the drill handle and stab yourself in the wrist

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  8. Sara says:

    Lithium Ion batteries have been powering my laptop (as well as most/all laptops on the market) for 3 years with no problem. Today’s batteries are probably even better.

  9. Greg West says:

    I bought one of these little drills today. It charged in no time.
    Oh! Before I go on.. You said in your review that the SC1400 was not variable speed. Well, I am here to tell you that mine is. Mine was only cost 89 bux so when the L-ion eventually craps out, no big, I’ll just sling it and get another. I had 4 Porter-Cable 12V magna-quench drills all lay down on me in the same day, so I had sworn off buying cordless drills. I rethought my decision when I saw the Lithium-ion drill. The charge time and power to weight ratio got me hook line and sinker. I think I’ll run down and get another soon.

    I wish y’all would retract the Variable speed statement.

  10. Stuey says:

    I think that Greg is right.

    http://www.blackanddecker.com/productguide/product-details.aspx?productid=15522&toolview=4#details

    It says 0-350 and 0-1400, suggesting that there is variable speed control.

  11. Greg says:

    I bought one of these at home depot for 89.00. I was very surprized it the perfomance. The chuck is a litlle hoky.

    After 6 month it wont hold a charge I am taking the POS back TODAY!

    But I am gonna try another , cus I like the form factor.

  12. Tim says:

    I am currently experiencing the battery issue. I just found out that my PS180 B&D charger was blown because one of the three batteries I was charging was bad. I just purchased a new charger on line for $33.00 including shipping because the stores no longer carry them. How can I tell which battery is bad so I don’t blow the charger too? Thankfully I had an old corded drill to fall back on…! The battery powered is more convenient.

  13. Jack says:

    I need the charging station for a Black and Decker SC1400. Any ideas?

    Jack

  14. Don says:

    I too purchased the SC1400 a while ago. Tons of power and torque that last a long time, but…

    Gripes: The trigger (which is variable speed) doesn’t allow you to run slow enough RPM’s to carefully start screws. The variable torque setting has a huge difference between setting 3 and 4. 3 is not enough torque, and 4 is basically full-on drill setting.

    All in all the drill has terrific power, very light weight and comfortable. B & D should have made the variable speed run slow enough (0 – XXX RPM), and a more refined torque clutch.

  15. Jim says:

    It takes tamper resistant torx and hex bits to open the case. Tamper resistant means there is a post in the center of the screw head.

  16. Mark says:

    I got one of these last year at Menards on sale. No kidding on the “not a driver” thing, but unfortunately I didn’t catch that. I used it to drive some wood screws and it began slipping after a while. Now either the clutch or the gears are too worn to turn anything much more than could be done by hand.

    Doubtful most consumers will wear out the Li-ion age problem before otherwise rendering the drill unusable due to wear or misuse.

    Worked great as a drill – I put a lot of 3/4″ holes with a spade bit in floor joists for electrical work on a single charge. Plus it was nice not to have to leave it in the charger all the time so the batteries didn’t self-discharge like NiCd and NiMH do. Good ergonomics, nicely balanced, fairly light.

    My next drill will be a DeWalt, though, and one that is made for driving screws too.

  17. Ryan says:

    I have used the sc1400 for the last 2 years. I use it every day as a hotel maintenance tech and love it! Other 14v drills don’t have the power and stamina I need – and 18v drills are too bulky and heavy. I love that it stays charged for huge blocks of time between uses too. The charger just crapped out on me this week – I will either buy another charger or another whole drill.

  18. Dave Bennion says:

    Bought the SC1400 a year and a half ago, barely used it, thought it was great but now the charger doesn’t work and I have a useless drill. I see from earlier comments the charger was a problem for others as well. Living in the city without a car, it is not so easy to make it to the service center in S. Philly that is closed on weekends. This is the last Black and Decker drill I am ever buying.

  19. Jim says:

    I have had one of these for about 3 years now and have used it ruthlessly for drilling and driving screws. The battery seems to not last as long now as new. I can tell you that mine is also variable speed. I love this thing and it beats the crap out of all the NiCad drills I have had and that has been many. It is an excellent buy and works better than any I have had in the past.

  20. Bhip says:

    I was one of those average consumers who was duped by a review similar to Toolmonger’s. I purchased the SC1400 new at Lowe’s in 2009, using it intermittently, sometimes for heavy projects, sometimes just to remove a couple of screws. My son is home now and willing to help with some household fixes, but my battery is stone dead. Unlike the guy who said he’d just toss it and buy another, I hate both being made a victim to planned obsolescence and the companies who use it as a product strategy. No more Black & Decker for me.

  21. JT says:

    Not sure about the claims of the battery popping its clogs after a couple of years. I got one of these some time in 2007, as I got fed up with having to drag my step up around every time I needed to drill. Now after 18 months in storage it still had a little charge left, see how it runs shortly — but now I need a step down to run it (I was looking for 230V chargers when I found this).

  22. Layne says:

    It’s 2016 and my battery is going strong. I keep the drill off the charger and charge it up after every use. Even if I’m not using it, I put it on the charger every few months. Runs great! I’m happy!

  23. Gump says:

    2020 and Battery still going…

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