Rockwell is set to offer a 16V lithium-ion line, starting with a drill and an impact driver. Why should we care? Well, a few years back Bosch kickstarted the compact market with the PS20, reminding us that a) we don’t necessarily need to use the biggest possible drill for every job and b) small doesn’t have to mean crappy. Then both Bosch and DeWalt took a page from the less-is-more book in their 18V lines, cutting back on the extra bulk to produce svelte, light, yet still quite powerful general-use pro-line drills. DeWalt has even filled in the gap between Bosch’s compact PS series and the new compact 18V tools — the 12V MAX line features more standard form factors than the PS tools (along with larger size), and, in some cases, a little more power.
Rockwell argues that their new 16V series fits in the tiny gap between 12V models — they claim their 16V offers more power — and 18V class tools, which Rockwell suggests are bulkier than their product. How will it hold up? Read on after the jump to find out.
As you can see in the photos, the Rockwell’s battery attaches via a shoe connector, much like the DeWalt 12V MAX line. The battery protrudes forward slightly, which should help to balance it a bit, and though the Rockwell’s battery doesn’t include a charge gauge, the tool does flash the integrated LED work light to indicate that the battery is nearly dead. We see lots of the now-industry-standard rubber molding that makes the grip more comfortable, and we spy a pretty large (though not necessarily deep) trigger as well.
The Rockwell’s chuck is a keyless type with an auto spindle lock, which should make tightening a lot easier. (Seriously, every drill should have one of these now. I’m not sure I’d want to own one that doesn’t.) The information we received from Rockwell doesn’t specify the chuck material, but from the photos, it looks plastic to us. Note that this isn’t necessarily a bad thing; we see an all-metal chuck as more critical in high-torque/heavy-use drill/drivers, generally starting with 18V and up. Of course, as this driver is designed to straddle the line between 12V and 18V, the importance of chuck durability will vary based on whether you intend to use it as a light-duty 18V or a heavy-duty 12V.
Rockwell claims that the 16V drill/driver delivers 302 in-lbs. of torque. Though they don’t specify the RPM at which they captured this reading, we might be able to infer a bit from the other specs, specifically that the 16V features a two-speed transmission, delivering 0-400 and 0-1,500 RPM (no load). The Bosch PS31, for example, claims 265 in-lbs. of torque with 0-350 and 0-1,300 RPM ranges. Assuming that the readings are taken somewhere in the low gear, we can guess that the torque measurement of the Bosch is taken at a lower RPM than the Rockwell, magnifying the Rockwell’s 37 in-lb. advantage. So unless someone fudged their numbers, we suspect the Rockwell delivers more torque than the Bosch PS31.
The tough part is comparing the Rockwell to the DeWalt DCD710S2, since a while back DeWalt adopted the possibly-more-accurate-but-damn-near-impossible-to-compare unit watts out (UWO) power spec. Worse, this is probably the most apt comparison as the Rockwell and the DeWalt seem very similar in shape. (The Bosch follows the more compact PS form factor.) So we’ll have to wait until we can get one of these in hand to give you a practical comparison of power.
Bulk is even tougher to judge at this early stage since Rockwell didn’t provide size specs — and “bulk” doesn’t really correlate directly with size, anyway. At the simplest level, we figure “less bulky” should translate to a thinner, simpler tool — as well as one that weighs significantly less. Of course, the key factor in terms of size, shape, and weight will be what you’re going to do with it.
You might, for example, be way more concerned with the length of the drill’s barrel than its height if you were going to use it in certain tight spaces. A big concern here, too, will be how the Rockwell compares the the DeWalt 12V. The Rockwell appears questionably less bulky than DeWalt’s 18V offering, but not so much compared to the 12V.
Quality and Support
We know a lot of you have questions about the quality of Rockwell as the name has changed hands a number of times. We do, too. But we’re not prepared to jump on the “it changed hands so it has to be bad” boat. We want to see it, use it, and judge for ourselves. And we have high hopes. Rockwell currently belongs to Positec Group, which also produces Worx. Years back we came out as fans of , and we continued to use it (and abuse it, honestly) around the shop for six years before we ran into . If this drill holds up similarly, that’s fine in our book. It’s worth noting, too, that Rockwell offers a battery replacement program similar to Ridgid’s in which they’ll replace your batteries for the life of the tool. Rockwell claims that represents a 40% to 70% reduction in ownership cost, and if you’re using the tool regularly, we’d say that’s not unreasonable.
We’re interested to see these in person. If they significantly outperform the DeWalt 12V offering — and aren’t too heavy, clunky, or otherwise hobbled by issues — this might represent the filling of another gap in the use case/performance continuum.
MSRP for the drill (RK2600K2) is $140, as is the impact driver (RK2611K2). You should see them on shelves starting late this month, and Rockwell has already secured distribution through Menards as well as other unspecified “regional hardware and home centers nationwide.” We’re sure you’ll see them online as well.