When we first speculated a while back about the kind of tools we might see as a result of the Stanley/B&D merger, we focused on cross-pollination of the brands — like DeWalt manufacturing hand tools (which happened) and Stanley getting some power tools (wait for it). What we didn’t consider was how changes in the new company’s management could lead to within-brand sharing, too — like, for example, Black & Decker installing DeWalt’s 20V MAX battery tech in its tools. What you see above represents what we imagine is just the first volley in this kind of thinking.
So let’s look past all the corporate structure stuff and look at the tools themselves. Black & Decker’s 20V MAX brands start with B&D’s stalwarts: handheld vacuum cleaners. (Really — you still call ’em Dustbusters, don’t you? Like people from Texas call all sodas Cokes?) These include the Flex, a Dustbuster-like model, and an accessory-laden model that looks great for automotive vacuuming. All three get the 20V MAX lithium-ion batteries, but like their NiCd predecessors, they’re permanently installed.
Black & Decker claims a 2X increase in runtime due to the new batteries, and we believe it. Lithium-ion packs a lot more juice into a smaller space, so it makes perfect sense to us that you’d see this kind of boost to performance. Better yet, we suspect consumers will enjoy the additional benefits of lithium-ion — specifically its ability to retain a charge for months and even years when left idle and li-ion’s full-power-till-it’s-dead discharge spec — even more. Despite the batteries’ permanent installation, you do get a charge indicator light.
We’re interested to see what these go for on the street, but if MSRP is any clue, they’ll be pricey. The 20V MAX Flex MSRPs at $150, for example, which is a whopping $90 more than the NiCd version sells for now. Similarly, the other two models MSRP for $100 and $90. Even more different from B&D SOP, all three products will be sold only through online retailer Amazon and through B&D’s own proprietary site. Look for these product on (virtual) shelves starting in early October.
From a performance standpoint, $90 extra seems like a lot of cash. Then again, there’s nothing worse than grabbing your portable vac to clean up a really annoying mess you made only to discover that it’s dead, or worse yet — it’s got just enough charge to run for about 20 seconds before slowing to a crawl. It might be worth the cash just for the convenience of long charge shelf life.
What do you think?
Platinum Series [B&D Site]