When I first saw the flashlight component of DeWalt’s 12V MAX line, I thought, “Wow, that sure is odd-looking. It’s square. It’s gonna be uncomfortable to hold. And what’s with that gimmicky swivel head?” Then I picked it up. Surprise! It’s actually quite comfortable in your hand. It’s bright, too, and the swivel head makes it easy to direct light where you need it. In short: I’m a fan. It’s one of the most popular flashlights around the TM shop now, and at home as well. So read on for the details about an accessory that most reviewers will toss to the side to get at the drill driver — DeWalt’s new flashlight.
Like most modern flashlights, the DeWalt incorporates a bright-white LED which, combined with a small reflector, creates a wide dispersion pattern and a pretty intense white spot in the middle. A significant departure from Milwaukee’s carefully-engineered no-bright-spot design, this design decision was intentional: DeWalt says they want to provide you the ability to direct bright light on whatever you’re looking at, or to aim it off to the side to provide more of a dim wash. See the results for yourself:
As far as I’m concerned, both of these flashlights provide lots of light in a color that doesn’t distort the colors of wires or other items you’re looking at in the dark. I prefer the Milwaukee pattern slightly, but it’s entirely a matter of taste. DeWalt’s pattern does throw light farther, and will create a spot from a distance, even in a fairly well-lit room. (Check out the photo in the gallery below to see what I mean.)
DeWalt’s decision to go with a flat, slide-type battery for the 12V MAX line sets it apart from competitors’ lines. Without the small, rounded insert-type battery pioneered by Bosch with the PS20, DeWalt created a compact line that’s more like miniature versions of its larger tools. This makes a ton of sense when it comes to drill/drivers and other power tools.
But picture yourself as a DeWalt industrial designer tasked with creating a small, handheld flashlight based on the flat battery — especially if you’re one of the chosen few (like us) who believes that flashlights are serious hand tools, powerful in their simplicity like hammers or screwdrivers, not gadgety toys. That’s a hell of a challenge. Let’s take a closer look.
Despite its general squareness, the DeWalt light rounds off the battery’s shape and renders the light just the right shape and size to fit in your palm. The LED and its reflector are mounted on a two-axis swivel, so you can pretty much point them in any direction within a 180-degree half-sphere around the top of the light. Combine these two features and you’ve got a light that works equally well held in a vertical position with the reflector bent over 90 degrees or horizontally like an old-school flashlight. (It may not look much like your old three-D-cell tube light, but it sure can feel and function like one.)
The DeWalt also incorporates a little folding metal kickstand, which locks into storage out of the way but folds down to convert the rounded bottom of the light into a stable stand. This makes it perfect for lighting up hard-to-reach places like behind the TV stand or under a car. Fold down the stand, set it close by, and aim the light where you need it with the swivel.
One of my favorite parts of this light, though, is the magnet. On the back side of the light just above its belt clip, you’ll find a very, very powerful magnet. Actually, it’s a perfect balance of magnetic power, strong enough to hold the light firmly to just about any metal surface, but not so powerful that you risk pinching off a finger when you stick it to solid iron. My favorite test for magnetized tools is sticking them to my water heater. It generally provides a pretty weak grip, so many tools won’t stay stuck. The DeWalt grabbed on tight.
It’s surprisingly light, too, weighing in at just 375 grams, compared with the Milwaukee’s 436 grams.
This, folks, is a seriously cool flashlight. My only complaint–which is more of a personal taste thing than a real complaint–is that I’d really prefer a more even light pattern like the Milwaukee’s. Regardless, though, it’s the DeWalt’s ergonomics that keep it front and center in the house and shop. It’s just so easy to leave it stuck to something nearby where you’re working. The little features count, too, like the fact that, unlike the Milwaukee, the DeWalt’s switch is on the opposite side of its magnet so you can turn it on and off while it’s still attached.
Now for the bad news. DeWalt offers the light solely as a tool-only purchase, and a pricey one at around $45 street. You’ll need at least one battery and a charger, too, placing your flashlight-only well over $100–and firmly out of range of non-lottery-winners. But if you’re planning to wade into the 12V MAX line, owning one of these is pretty much a no-brainer: Buy a kit that includes one. Hell, I’d probably even spring for one if you already own a tool in the line with a battery and charger. You’ll thank me later.