DeWALT 20V MAX Lithium-Ion 4-Tool Combo Kit

Good value in a four tool set - hammerdrill, circ saw, recip saw, and flashlight - plus two stellar batteries

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DeWALT 20V MAX Lithium-Ion 4-Tool Combo Kit



DeWALT's 20V MAX line consists of eleven different power tools available in eight different combination kits, with more tools expected to be available soon. All the tools use the same 20-volt power platform. You can preview the entire line on the 20V MAX web site.


 
The DeWALT 20V MAX Lithium-Ion 4-Tool Combo Kit (DCK491L2) comes with a hammerdrill, circular saw, reciprocating saw, and flashlight. It also includes two of the 20V MAX batteries, a fast charger, circular saw blade, side handle for the hammerdrill, and a canvas bag. According to DeWALT, all 20V tools feature new electronics built into the power switches that "provide maximum life for the tools and batteries by helping to protect them from overheating, overloading and deep discharge during use."


 
The kit comes with a canvas carry bag. It has six exterior and four interior pockets, which provide ample storage for a range of accessories. It's large enough to easily accommodate all four tools along with the charger and batteries, plus a few other items. There is a shoulder strap, which makes the bag easier to carry when full.
 

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DCB200 20V MAX 3 Ah battery
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DCB201 20V MAX 1.5 Ah battery 
The DCK491L2 comes with two DCB200 extended runtime slide-style batteries - listed as 20-volt. Under load the nominal voltage for these batteries is 18. The battery has two strings of five 3.6V cells in the battery, with each string delivering 1.5 Ah of storage. Apparently, the reason for this labeling is to distinguish the new slide-style 3 Ah batteries from the older pod style batteries (which DeWALT intends to continue manufacturing).


 
The batteries are rated at 3 Ah (amp-hours). As you likely know, amp-hours are a rating of the amount of energy that a battery can store - the higher the Ah rating, the longer the battery will last between charges. 


 
The DCB200 is a bit on the heavy side, weighing in at 1.42 pounds. If you're willing to sacrifice the longer run time for lighter weight and quicker re-charge time, then you can purchase the optional compact DCB201 - a 1.5 Ah battery that weighs in at .77 lbs. Price is around $40.
 

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DCB101 Fast Charger
 
Neither of these batteries includes a power level meter, which I find very useful, especially when I'm using both batteries fairly constantly. It enables me to quickly ascertain approximately how much battery life remains before I need to recharge.


 
The DCB101 fast charger recharges a DCB200 battery in 60 minutes or less - 30 minutes for the DCB201 battery. I like the fact that it's compatible with the 12V MAX batteries as well. As you'll find with most chargers today, the DCB101 is a diagnostic charger that uses integrated electronic circuitry to deliver full charging with minimal heat generation.
 
DeWALT has an optional vehicle battery charger (DCB119, $109) that enables you to recharge batteries from your vehicle's power outlet while driving to work or on a jobsite.


 
I find the 3 Ah battery is by far the better choice for job site work, because of it's greater storage capacity. In general I find it enables me to operate my tools until lunch, when I can swap it for a fresh battery. For shop work I prefer the 1.5 Ah battery, as I'm willing to sacrifice the longer runt time for lighter weight.


 
According to DeWALT, all 20V tools feature new electronics built into the power switches that "provide maximum life for the tools and batteries by helping to protect them from overheating, overloading and deep discharge during use."
 

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DCD985L2 Hammerdrill
 
The DCD985L2 is DeWALT's most powerful hammerdrill, delivering 535 UWO (unit watts out). Unfortunately, you really can't compare UWO to inch-pounds of torque. UWO is a different way of measuring the maximum power output of the drill at the chuck. It takes into account the efficiency of the entire drill system - transmission, clutch, and chuck. DeWALT appears to be the only company that uses UWO. If interested, you can read more about UWO.


 
What really matters however, is how the drill performs on the job, and the DCD985L2 is a stellar performer - you'll almost think you're using a corded drill.


 
A hammerdrill is a good choice for contractors, renovators or avid DIYers who regularly drill into masonry - concrete, brick, stucco, cast stone, or natural stone. When working on softwood and hardwoods you switch the DCD985L2 to one of the two rotary modes - drilling or driving - while for masonry work you switch it to hammer mode.
 

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The 1/2" ratcheting chuck on the DCD985L2 is all-metal rather than high impact ABS, which you would expect on a premium drill. The inserts or lugs in the chuck are made of carbide to provide better gripping pressure and prevent bits from slipping, particularly when the drill is used in hammer mode. 


 
Likewise, the transmission and gear case are all-metal, which helps to reduce heat build-up and prolong motor life.


 
Switching between drill, drive and hammer modes is quick - just turn the mode selector ring - icons confirm which mode you are in. In hammer more you can select from three gear settings - 0-9,775, 0-22,950 or 0-34,000 blows per minute (BPM). The clutch is inoperative in hammer mode - it can be left at any setting.
 
Remember that when using hammer mode you'll want to use bits specifically designed for hammerdrills or impact drivers. Refer to our review of the DeWALT impact driver accessory set.
 

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(A) Clutch; (B) Mode selector - hammer, drilling, driving modes; (C) Gear (speed) selector - 1 (low) to 3 (high)
 
In drilling or driving modes you can select from one of three speeds - 0-575 RPM (the highest torque setting, best for large diameter bits and hole saws), 0-1,350 RPM (for most drilling and driving tasks), or 0-2,000 RPM (the lowest torque setting when drilling with small bits or in soft metals.) In driving mode the clutch is activated - there are 22 positions to select from. The clutch is invaluable for preventing screw heads from stripping or driving screws too deep. Knowing which clutch setting to use comes with practice. Start at a low clutch setting and keep adjusting it upwards until the screw is snugly set at the right depth.


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large trigger and forward/reverse button
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LED work light
The trigger and forward/reverse button are large enough that you can easily depress them when wearing gloves. Once the trigger is pressed the LED work light comes on, and automatically turns off 20 seconds after you release the trigger. The light is reasonably bright, but, because of its location right under the clutch, it casts a shadow onto your work area, particularly when using large diameter bits or hole saws. Placing the light further down, on top of the battery casing, might offer better illumination.
 

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Doesn't come with a belt clip, but one can be mounted where shown
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Auxiliary handle is quick to mount and can be rotated a full 360°
The DCD985L2 doesn't come with a belt clip, which seems a bit odd to me, particularly as this tool is a 'premium' tool. Likewise, there is no depth rod, a useful accessory when drilling masonry that lets you know when you've reached the right depth. However, it does come with a quick attach handle that can be rotated a full 360° - you'll be glad of the handle when using the DCD985L2 in hammer mode.

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With the 3 Ah battery installed the DCD985L2 weighs in at just over 7 pounds - not overweight for a tool that will be used primarily on a job site. The 'T' shaped handle design distributes the weight almost equally at the front and rear of the tool. This makes the DCD985L2 seem lighter, and contributes to its superior balance. Even with a hole saw arbor and 3" hole saw mounted in the chuck there was no tendency for the drill to tip forward.


 
The drill measures about 9-1/2" from the jaws to the back of the handle; small enough to get into tight, confined spots. Still, it's not the tool of choice for everyday drilling and driving in the shop - for that you'll want to look at a 12V tool.


 
On a work site however, you'll love the DCD985L2. Coupled with the 20V (18V under load) 3 Ah battery you get ample power for just about any drilling task you're likely to encounter, along with the longest run time you can expect for this class of battery. Drilling 3/4" holes through 6" deck posts, 2" holes through joists, or sinking #14-4" screws barely warms up the DCD985L2.


 
Exceptional battery power and run time, superior balance, indestructible chuck, three-speed range, and prodigious hammering power make the DCD985L2 hammerdrill a premium grade tool.


 
If you like this hammerdrill but don't need the other tools in the kit - no problem, you can purchase the DCD985L2 separately.
 

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DCS393L2 Circular Saw
 
Nothing beats a cordless circular when you need to make cuts while working on scaffolding, balancing on a ladder, or climbing around in a confined space. You can move around so much easier without having a power cord trailing along.


 
With battery installed the DCS393L2 weighs 5.8 lbs, making it one of the lighter cordless saws in its class. The saw is very well balanced with a comfortable, adequately padded grip, and large and easy to manipulate trigger and trigger lock-off button. When holding the saw aloft there is no tendency for it to tilt forward or backward. Onboard storage of the blade removal wrench - an Allen key - is a handy feature.


 
The motor housing is made of a high impact plastic, the upper blade guard of die-cast aluminum, the baseplate of stamped steel, and the lower guard of high impact plastic. You'll find this same configuration on quite a few, if not most, cordless saws. The plastic guard is a bit of a disappointment. The lower guard takes a lot of abuse, particularly on a job site - a magnesium alloy guard would be much more durable, without adding too much extra weight to the saw. Perhaps the reasoning is that plastic is less expensive, and the guard can be easily replaced if damaged. A magnesium alloy baseplate would have also been a nicer touch than stamped steel. However, I did find that the steel baseplate is very stiff without any flexing.


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Good sized levers and adjustment knobs
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On board storage for blade removal wrench 
Depth and bevel adjustment are quick and painless on this saw - both handles are large and easy to loosen and tighten even with gloves on. You get 2-3/16" depth of cut at 90° - enough to cut through two-by dimensional lumber at a single go, and 4" posts with two passes. 


 
Depth of cut at 45° is a healthy 1-3/4". You can bevel up to 50°, which I appreciate. However, there are no detents on the scale at the two most common bevel angles, 22.5° and 45°. An oversight that DeWALT needs to correct in its next version of this saw.
 

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Height adjustment scale is readble, but indicator line is barely visible
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Bevel scale is difficult to read in bright light
Both the height and bevel scales are really only easily readable in the best lighting conditions. If there is any glare or bright sunlight the scales are almost indecipherable. In particular, the alignment indicator that you use to set the height scale is useless. This isn't much of a problem when you're making rough cuts, but if you want any degree of precision you need to double check all your adjustments. The design technicians at DeWALT have done a pretty good job on most aspects of the DCS393L2 - they just need to focus a bit more attention on some of the finer details.
 

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Calibration screw to adjust baseplate square to blade
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Kerf cut indicator for square and bevel cuts
As you'll find on most saws, there is a calibration screw under the bevel scale that enables you to tweak the saw so that the baseplate is square to the blade. Access to the screw is from underneath the baseplate.


 
At the front of the saw are two kerf indicators that make it easy to follow a cut line. You'll find it easier to use the notch cut into the baseplate to track the cut line.


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Easily reachable spring loaded blade lock button
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6 1/2" 16-tooth crabide tipped blade
Changing blades takes no more than 60 seconds - thanks to an easily reachable spring loaded blade lock button, and a wrench (actually an Allen key) that is conveniently stored on the saw. A 6-1/2" 16-tooth thin kerf carbide tipped blade comes with this saw. It's a general purpose blade good for both rip and cross cutting.


 
You won't find a laser on this saw, which doesn't bother me - I find they're difficult to see in bright light. For quick, rough cuts I can live with a bit of wiggle in the cut line; when I need very accurate cuts I use a straight edge. As well, there is no rafter hook, which I miss - I like being able to quickly hook the saw safely out of the way when not needed, rather than have it laying underfoot.


 
A motor brake shuts the saw down within a few seconds of releasing the trigger so that you can safely set the tool down quickly.


 
Notwithstanding it's few minor impediments, with a 20V MAX battery installed, the DCS393L2 is one capable saw, delivering ample power and runtime for just about any task that doesn't require a lot of repetitive cutting, or where having a power cord would pose a problem. Plus, it's light and more convenient than a corded saw. However, for production work I would still recommend a corded saw. Where this saw will really shine is for cutting trim and 4/4 stock. In my view, the not quite a premium quality saw, but one that will more than satisfy renovators, woodworkers and avid DIYers.


 
A non-kit version of this saw that comes with a cast magnesium baseplate is available (DCS391).
 

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DCS381L2 Reciprocating Saw

At 6.2 pounds with battery installed, and approximately 16" long (shoe to end of handle), the DCS381L2 is neither heavy nor bulky. It's nicely balanced, with a rubber overmold grip on both the front and rear handles.


 
Recip saws are primarily about speed - cutting dimensional lumber, sheet stock, and PVC/ABS piping as quickly and efficiently as possible. Three things have a direct bearing on how fast a recip saw cuts - cutting speed (measured in strokes per minute), stroke length, and the type and quality of blade being used.


 
The DCS381L2 operates at 3,000 SPM, which is slightly faster than most other 18V cordless saws (and some 12V corded saws) that I've used. However it does have a short, 1" stroke, though to be fair, most other 18V recip saws have no more than a 1-1/8" stroke. Still, the longer the stroke, the more material removed with each stroke.
 

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Large, responsive trigger
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Tool-free blade change
Having a large trigger is probably more important on a recip saw than other tools, as most users wear gloves when using the tool. On the DCS381L2 the trigger is large enough to be easily manipulated with gloves on. The lock-off button is miniscule, but surprisingly easy to press on and off.


 
As well as being large, it's important that the trigger be very responsive to finger pressure, as the variable speed trigger is the only way to control cutting speed on this saw - there is no speed control dial on this saw. Fortunately, trigger sensitivity is very good.
 

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Large stamped steel shoe with a wide mouth
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Reciprocating shaft holds blade vertically
At 1-3/4" x 3-1/2", the stamped steel shoe is a good size. The wide mouth in the shoe makes it easy to follow a cut line and to keep track of the blade when cutting in tight spots. The shoe pivots forward and backwards - somewhat too freely for my liking. The shoe isn't adjustable - which would enable you to control the depth of cut, as well as use more of the blade.


 
As with most recip saws, the DCS381L2 features tool-free blade change, by means of an external cam lever that dis-engages the blade. Blades can only be inserter vertically, with the cutting edge facing upwards or downwards. When dis-engaged the blade falls out freely. This is a nice feature you'll appreciate when the blade becomes hot during extreme use. 


 
The saw doesn't come with a rafter hook or with orbital cutting action, which might make the saw less attractive to carpenters.


 
Most of the cordless recip saws I've tried vibrate in use - some considerably more than others. When using the DCS381L2, there is a moderate amount of vibration, which is more noticeable at top speed. If using the saw intermittently, I don't think this would be much of an issue. 


 
In general, the relatively light weight, coupled with excellent balance, a sensitive variable speed trigger, and of course, the 3 Ah battery, make this a user-friendly, solid performing recip saw. Renovators and avid DIYers will find it a solid performer.


 
There is a non-kit version of this saw, the DCS380L1 that has an adjustable shoe, a 1-1/8" stroke length, a 4-directional blade clamp, and comes with a single battery and a hard shell storage case.
 

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DCL040 Flashlight
 
At first glance the DCL040 seems to be 'just another flashlight'. While true in a general sense, it has a couple of features that are worth noting. 


 
To me, the most important feature is the LED bulb. Unlike the more common incandescent bulb an LED  will last thousands of hours, and it consumes less energy, so you get a longer run-time - up to 11 hours on a fully charged battery. LED bulbs also produce bright light - 110 lumens in this case. Good thing the bulb lasts for so long, it's not replaceable - at least by the user.


 
The second feature I like is the integral hook that enables you to hang the light from a tool belt, nail, or on the ladder or scaffolding.


 
The head on the DCL040 rotates up and downward 120° so that you can position the light right where its needed. At 10' from a wall the beam spread is about 10' diameter. The light intensity is spread fairly evenly across the 10' diameter, with the brightest light intensity centered on a small 8" diameter cone at the center. The beam distance isn't specified, but I found it gave a lot of light across a 52 foot room. You can also purchase this flashlight separately.
 
Conclusion


 
The core for all the tools in this kit is the 3 Ah battery, which offers a close to perfect blend of power and run time. For the 18V platform, this is likely as good as it gets. With two batteries and a 60 minute charger you shouldn't have any down time. My only beef is the lack of a power level meter on the batteries. I find power meters super convenient.


 
In terms of the individual tools combined in this kit, the standout tool is the hammerdrill, which I would have no hesitation in recommending to carpenters, renovators, or avid DIYers. It offers superior balance, an indestructible chuck, three-speed ranges, and prodigious hammering power.


 
After using the hammerdrill, the circular was somewhat of a disappointment. While it's  very well balanced and features quick height and bevel adjustments and easy blade change, it has several deficiencies - that plastic lower blade guard, no bevel detents, and height and bevel scales that are hard to read. While it might not be the best choice as a primary saw for  carpenters, it certainly offers good value to renovators and avid DIYers.


 
As with the circ saw, the recip saw is well balanced. It has a high stroke rate that helps you get work done quicker, and a very responsive variable speed trigger that makes it easy to control cuts. Vibration, while not severe, is noticeable. Coupled with a short stroke, and the lack of an adjustable shoe and a rafter hook, this saw is likely to appeal primarily to renovators looking for a recip saw for intermittent cutting, and to avid DIYers.


 
The flashlight is a nice unit. It has a long life LED bulb that gives a lot of light, a very good beam spread, and a tilting head. 


 
At just under $500, this is a good deal for three tools and two stellar batteries (the flashlight is pretty much a throw in). The great thing of course, is that if you don't like the grouping of tools in this kit, DeWALT has seven other kits to choose from, one of which is bound to be right on the mark for you.
 
KEY FEATURES:
 
DCK491 Kit
  • 3 Ah 20V (no-load) battery power source
  • 3 year warranty
  • Includes:  Canvas carry case, 360° side handle for DCD985, carbide tipped blade for DCS393, DCB101 fast charger, (2) DCB200 20V MAX lithium-ion batteries, instruction sheet 
DCD985L2 Hammerdrill
  • 535 UWO (unit watts out)
  • Three speed all-metal transmission
  • 1/2" all-metal ratcheting chuck with carbide inserts
  • Max RPM: 0-575, 0-1,350 and 0-2,000
  • Max BPM (blows per minute): 0-9,775, 0-22,950 and 0-34,000
  • 22 position clutch
  • LED light with 20-second delay
  • Variable speed trigger
  • Rubberized grip
  • Auxiliary handle
  • 7.2 lb weight (with battery)
DCS393L2 Circular Saw
  • 4,200 no-load RPM
  • 1-5/8" depth of cut at 90°
  • 1-1/4" depth of cut at 45°
  • 6-1/2" diameter, 16-tooth carbide tipped blade
  • Vari-Torque clutch
  • Motor brake
  • Lock-off switch
  • 0 - 50° bevel
  • Rubberized grip
  • 5.8 lb weight (with battery)
DCS381 Reciprocating Saw
  • 0-3,000 SPM
  • 1" stroke
  • Variable speed trigger
  • Pivoting metal foot plate
  • Tool-less blade change
  • Lock-off switch
  • Rubberized grips
  • 6.2 lb weight (with battery)
DCL040 Flashlight
  • Pivoting head
  • 1-11/16" diameter lens
  • LED bulb
  • 11 hour run-time
  • 110 lumens light output
  • 1 lb 15 oz weight (with battery)
  
MANUFACTURER:DeWalt
AVAILABLE AT:Tool and equipment suppliers nationwide
RETAIL PRICE:$499.00
MADE IN:Mexico, except Flashlight Made in China, Battery Charger made in Thailand, Batteries Made in Japan
Carl Duguay, January 2012
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