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.