Much of the benefit of battery-powered tools comes down to how much more portable and nimble they are than their corded brethren. But that can often come at the cost of power, so the power-to-weight (PTW) ratio is a handy gauge of how much oomph they pack into their smaller frames. Tools with a higher PTW are more productive, and—in the construction trades—that can translate to more income because you may get more done in a day’s work. A favorable PTW ratio is also a limb-saver if you’re holding a power tool over your head or working with it at the end of a fully extended arm for any period of time. A tool that’s less tiring to use is one that’s safer. But it’s also a big deal if you’re just a homeowner working on your own place. It can help you achieve more satisfaction from the job and stay safer, and it may even improve your workmanship.
But PTW will suffer if a cordless tool is made too big in an effort to compete with the power of a similar corded model. In so doing, brands can rob their tool of the nimble quality that was supposed to come without a cord attached to a 120-volt outlet. DeWalt has seemingly solved this with the introduction of its Powerstack battery system (which goes on sale next month). And after our testing, we can vouch for the platform. It’s expensive when compared to the company’s existing lithiom-ion batteries, but DeWalt managed to make it smaller and lighter while churning out power comparable to that of a corded tool.
The Powerstack actually produces more watts by more efficiently converting electrochemical energy to mechanical energy with less waste heat, according to DeWalt. The company did away with individual cylindrical cells; instead, they installed layered pouches that achieve weight, size, and performance benefits. The slimmest Powerstack is 15 percent lighter than DeWalt’s most comparable two-amp hour lithium battery while being 50 percent more powerful, per the company’s claim. It’s also important to note that the batteries can power any of the company’s existing 20-volt power tools and recharge via any of the company’s 20-volt chargers.
We were impressed when we used the battery in DeWalt’s new ultra-compact DCF850 impact driver. With the battery, the tool weighs only 2.6 pounds, but it drove No. 10 x three-inch structural screws with a vengeance.
However, impact drivers are short-burst power tools. We know from having conducted hundreds of hours of power-tool testing that if you want to really drain a battery, tax the tool itself and do some work with steady friction. This can be drilling holes through construction lumber with a spade bit or sawing with the blade completely submerged in lumber.
So that’s what we did. After running some test laps using the impact driver, we slid the Powerstack battery into the 6.5-inch cordless circular saw DCS565 (seven pounds with the battery). We lowered the blade to its maximum cutting depth of 2 3⁄8 inches, mounted a Douglas fir 2 x 12 on edge, and plowed straight down the edge of the board. You can make two cuts that way, slightly offsetting them, then flip the board edge for edge and perform it again.
We were amazed at how easily the saw, and therefore the Powerstack battery, handled this work. There was no tripping from thermal overload; we simply ran repeat test cuts until the battery’s full charge was spent. That last point is an important one. A battery that runs cooler is one that will last longer. DeWalt estimates that its Powerstacks will have twice the lifetime of its current batteries. While that’s good news to anybody who uses power tools, it’s particularly welcome to professionals who will likely put more wear and tear on the tool and battery in a week than a homeowner may in a year.
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