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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.

The Light

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:

Milwaukee’s:

DeWalt’s:

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.)

Ergonomics

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.

Conclusions

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.

DCL510 12V MAX LED Worklight [DeWalt]
Street Pricing [Google]
Via Amazon [What’s This?]

 

13 Responses to DeWalt’s 12V MAX Flashlight: I’m A Fan

  1. Fong says:

    Nice design. I’m a fan. Seems much more useful and robust than the Stanley tripod work lights. Had one leg from 2 different lights pop off within the first month. Going to have to get myself one of these.

  2. Phil says:

    I got this as a freebie with a tool purchase and like it a lot. What might seem like an awkward design actually works quite well in many situations. It might not be a great camping/outdoors light, but for maintenance and building, its quirks become handy features. Best of all, it’s not about to roll away like so many round form factor flashlights.

  3. fred says:

    As you say – if you were investing in the Dewalt 12V Max line this would be a good purchase.

    We are heavy into the Milwaukee M12 line – and at first thought that an LED recahrgeable Flashlight was just a gimmick. Then we got 1 thrown in with some kit we bought – and next thing everyone wanted one – probably have 18-20 now.

  4. Eric says:

    The “white spot” is actually called the “hot spot.” For the close up work a light like this is normally used for it was a poor decision to have such a tight hot spot. It sounds more like an excuse for an obvious lack of engineering to me. I think a nice flat field (smooth light output with very little difference in brightness from one edge of the light to the other) would be much more effective in this application.

  5. Toolfreak says:

    Finally a useful design that makes sense. Magnet? Check. Hanging hook? Check.

    I was wondering when someone was going to get around to doing something like this. Making flashlights in the style of a cordless drill, having to hold the trigger as the on switch no less, was getting pretty old.

    I think they could offer a non-swivel version that was even more compact though, basically just a receptacle for the battery with a LED lamp on it and an on/off switch.

  6. SuperJdynamite says:

    Speaking of magnets, I recently bought a bunch of rare earth magnets and have been gluing them to random objects and tools. A cheapo flashlight becomes more useful when you can stick it to the side of the engine compartment or random steel bracket. I was able to recover a radiator cap that had fallen just out of reach by gripping a magnet in a pair of pliers.

    Also, pens and markers migrate less when they’re stuck onto the fridge or whiteboard.

  7. jeff_williams says:

    You’re in Texas, shouldn’t your garage door be insulated (or at least a radiant barrier and exterior weather strip) too? Must get toasty in there in the summer.

    • Chuck Cage says:

      Nice catch! And totally true. Nope, I don’t have one, and yep, it’s toasty as hell. Like surface of Venus hell. I also don’t have any kind of attic fan. I’ve been thinking for a while that I really just need to take on the project as a whole before NEXT summer rolls ’round.

    • Joe says:

      I noticed that as well, the weatherstripping is non-existent, look at all of the light bleeding through around the top edge, the corners of the garage are lit up by it.

  8. PutnamEco says:

    Can you all really work by a little light like that? I find that small flashlights type lights don,t really shed enough light to be really useful in my working environment, I much prefer a flood type area light.
    I use a Makita BML184 that works like an automotive drop light. I found that I was always repositioning the beam from the flashlight type of lights that are commonly included in cordless tool sets, and that gets old real fast.

  9. zorac says:

    I just bought a Black & Decker light that’s similar but a lot cheaper, a Black & Decker LED light. It has some of the same features – magnet, tilt/swivel head, and a focusable beam, plus a clamp and high/low light levels. It uses three AA batteries so I suppose the run time isn’t as long as the DeWalt. They also claim 130 lumens, which my eyeball meter says is a little high, but it’s still plenty bright. The beam is similar to the Milwaukee on wide focus, with even less of a hot spot, and like the DeWalt on narrow focus, except the hot spot is square of all things.

    I got three of them off Woot last month for $5 each so it was definitely worth it. I’ve also seen them at Walmart. Amazon has them also for about $14 right now:

    http://www.amazon.com/Black-Decker-BDC3AA-B-Clamp-Batteries/dp/B004DERCXW/

  10. Kirk says:

    I have this light. Turned it on in the backyard when I first got it and it lit up the whole backyard! I have had flashlights in the past 20 years for different cordless tools I have owned like milwaukee, older dewalt, ryobi etc and this is the best designed yet. I don’t think $50 is too high myself. A buddy of mine has a $100 re-chargeable flashlight that looks like a 3 c-cell flashlight that is nowhere near as handy as this and it will not power any other tools, only itself. I can buy 2 of these for what one of his cost. My makita 10.8v drill had a wobbly chuck not good for real tiny bits, it would break them. My 12v max turns much truer and handles them well and has more power, or so it feels. I hope dewalt comes out with more 12v tools like milwuakee has. A little sawzall, circle saw, radio, hammer drill and screwdriver with attachments like the festool has are on my wish list.

  11. don says:

    Nice! Very usefull light…does it include battery? Does it have a screw hole for camera tripod? Does Dewalt sell a hat with a place to clip this cool flashlight to? Stanley sells a handheld chargeable waterproof unit a Sams for $39 with the same bright white led but that is it.

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