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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.

First up, the specs: The DCF885 delivers a no-load speed of 0-2,800 RPM and 0-3,200 IPM (impacts per minute), resulting in up to 1,400 in/lbs. of torque — more than enough to drive big-ass screws or assemble large hardware. Weighing in at 2.8 lbs. (with the included 1.5 Ah battery), this driver is also quite compact, featuring a 5.55″ length from chuck to motor. In short: These specs are respectable, and it’s a capable, compact 18V-class impact driver.

But hey — when’s the last time you found yourself thinking “Wow, if only this 1/4″ impact driver made 50 in/lbs. more torque! Or spun 100 RPM faster!” In our opinion, it’s not the core specs (assuming they’re reasonable), but the little design details that differentiate the various competitors in this market segment. And this is where DeWalt’s 20V MAX update seems to have paid off.

Like the other 12V and 20V MAX tools, the DCF885’s over-molded grip is quite comfortable. As you can see in the photos, it falls easily to hand, and the slight pliability of the grip helps cushion the grip a little when you’re hammering away at a tough fastener. It’s also tacky enough to make the driver easy to hold firmly. The case design seems pretty well thought-out, too; we noticed a number of little details, like the bumpers added to the motor housing. While they may look pointless in beauty shots, lay the driver over on the work bench and all becomes clear — the bumpers support the motor housing, a) keeping the tool stuck to the bench (it doesn’t slide around), b) protecting the motor and housing from shock when you knock it over (you know you will), and c) protecting whatever surface the knocked-over driver lands on from getting gouged up. All good stuff. It’s also worth noting that, because of the new 12V/20V slide-on battery design, the DCF885 stands up on the battery quite stably.

Three bright LEDs arranged around the chuck in an annular fashion light up your workpiece, and these lights are seriously damn bright. Really bright. They also stay on for 20 seconds after you release the trigger, making the driver a decent flashlight in a pinch. (Again, you know you do it.)

The trigger is smoothly rounded and fairly large, so it’s easy to operate, both in gloves and bare hands.

The DCF885’s chuck is DeWalt’s standard “one-handed” model, which includes a spring-loaded mechanism that accepts locking hex bits without you having to pull the collar back. Just stick the bit in, and it snaps in place. Pull the collar and the spring forcefully ejects the bit. (Remember to put your hand in front of it.)

As you’d expect, the belt hook is removable, and the tool includes receivers for it on both sides.

We haven’t had a chance to put the DCF885 through long cycles yet, but using it around the shop for the last few days has proved easy and uneventful. I’d love to regale you with tales of derring-do, but suffice it to say that it does the job. We did notice, though, that we found ourselves picking it up first over other similar models we have in the shop, and after some discussion we uncovered a couple of reasons for this. First, the batteries charge quickly and don’t seem to go into overheat mode easily — at least in our brief experience. I think when we test the drill/driver, we’ll likely push this limit a bit more to see how they perform under stupidly-high stress. Second, the DCF885 feels really good in the hand. It’s hard to describe exactly why (see above for our thoughts), but it feels solid and comfortable.


As early thoughts go, we’re impressed. This looks like a well-thought-out tool, and having heard DeWalt’s engineers talk through the 20V design goals last summer, we’re not surprised. A lot of those ideas are expressed well in the DCF885, resulting in something that doesn’t make for good press, but does make for a good purchase: a quietly competent tool.

The kit we looked at is the DCF885C2, which includes the tool, a 30-minute quick charger, and two 1.5 Ah batteries. We haven’t had a chance to ask DeWalt yet, but we suspect the inclusion of the 1.5Ah batteries targets this at the HVAC and electrician crowd. (I know for a fact that my A/C guy carries an 18V impact driver, and this would be a perfect match for him.)

Note, too, that as this model is soon to be upgraded with brushless tech in the form of the DF895C2, it’s on pretty heavy sale right now. As of today, Amazon carries it for $170 [What’s This?], and it’s available lots of other places in the $225 range. That’s a hell of a deal. Look for a review of the brushless tech soon, as we can’t help but notice DeWalt’s claims of significantly increased runtime due to the brushless motor efficiency. Still, I can report that this one runs quite a long time.

DCCF885C2 1/4″ Impact Driver [DeWalt]
Street Pricing [Google]
Via Amazon [What’s This?]


14 Responses to First Look: DeWalt’s 20V Max 1/4″ Impact Driver

  1. Rick says:

    Just an FYI.

    This is still an 18v Li-ion powered tool. It has 5×3.6v cells for 18v.

    DeWalt called it the 20v-Max to distinguish it from their 18v Ni-cad tools that they are will continue to sell. They didn’t want anyone buying 18v NiCad tools and thinking their new Li-ion batteries would work with them.

    I don’t really like them being called 20v, but I can understand the reasoning behind it. It is still a very good tool.

    • jesse says:

      I don’t like that 20v max advertising bs either. It reminds me of the days when a legitimate 10W audio amplifier was claimed to be a 200W amplifier, using some ridiculous ‘instantaneous peak to peak voltage’ measurements that had no real basis in reality. The FTC put a stop to that as I recall.

  2. Chuck Cage says:

    Thanks for the reminder, Rick. You’re correct. We address this (with some additional detail) in the first 20V article, linked at the beginning of this one. FWIW, I feel pretty much the same way you do about it. 🙂

  3. Noah says:

    And it still comes in a hard case! Milwaukee take note!

  4. Mark says:

    I was going to mention the DCF895C2. Why not “brushless”? DeWalt claims 57% more run-time. That seems quite signifigant, if not totally attainable. Festool offers a “brushless” model. They also claim signifigant run-time improvement. The Festool unit is only offered in the 14v model.

  5. Jeff Tieman says:

    I have this model that I got with the 3.0ah hammer drill/impact kit (batteries had the battery meters on them. Its great but my only complaint is that it stinks to high heaven when running! Did you guys notice that? I was told that there is a coating on the field of the motor that needs to burn off during break in but it has been months and it wreaks especially when working in cabinets. I am almost tempted to open it up and give it an alcohol bath.

  6. Harvey Elmore says:

    I have the new 20v Brushless and love it. I am building a 12 x 12 shed and shot hundreds of screws and have only needed three charged batteries so far. Has a lot of power also. Never been a Dewalt fan but this tool kicks butt. No complaints so far

    • Dennis says:

      I have the brushless model as well. Used it to build a pergola, including using it as a hammer drill to pre-drill anchor holes in patio concrete and the torque was amazing. Love this thing so much right now.

  7. Neil Bruce says:

    The Dewalt impact drivers stand out in the marketplace, but take a look at the brushless model with 57% more runtime (apparently), we loved it, with the shorter head due to the smaller motor and recessed chuck and also the 3-speed power/torque adjustment which is fantastic too. We have a video review on the Toolstop website. Keep up the good work guys, Neil @ Toolstop

  8. grady perry says:

    i have the drill and after 30years of dewalt drills i love it.

  9. Robert Steeg says:

    stinks when running!

  10. peter says:

    can the DWF885-EX cordless impact driver be used for removing wheel nuts on a car?

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