What we bought: How DeWalt's 20V Max cordless drill became my most versatile home-reno tool

It’s a great handiwork-level power tool with a flexible, and expandable, battery system.

Andrew Tarantola / Engadget

I live in a creaky old house that’s in constant need of repair. The electric drill that came with the place, ah, looks like it was used to build the place. It has a power cord that’s just barely holding together through a combination of duct tape and anxiety. Two electrical shocks, a blown fuse and several delightful new curse words into my first home improvement project, I was convinced to get with the 21st century and purchase a cordless drill. Way too many YouTube tool-review rabbit holes, three trips to my local Ace Hardware and one exhaustive excel spreadsheet after that, I’d found the drill I would buy.

Now, DIYers have more choice than ever when it comes to battery-powered electric tools. Makita, Ryobi, Bosch, Black and Decker, Milwaukee, Kobalt, and Rigid all make solid products but I opted for the DeWalt 20V 1/2-inch cordless drill. Let me tell you why.

First off, the price was right. The DCD771C2 comes bundled with a pair of 1.3Ah 20V batteries, charging base and storage case for $160 MSRP, though since April when I first started looking, I have yet to not see it on sale for under $100. I bought mine during Home Depot’s Memorial Day sale along with a 16-piece screwdriver bit set for $120 out the door. You can also find them at Lowes, Ace stores and on Amazon.

Second, it offered the features I needed with a 20V power level I could handle. Sure I could have opted for the heavy-duty DCD991P2 — probably even eventually convinced myself I had need for a commercial-duty DCH614X2. But in reality, I’m mostly installing banisters, building trellises and doing light handiwork, not installing siding or anchoring things into concrete, so a 60V rotary hammer would be overkill.

My DCC771C2 weighs a little under four pounds, with most of the mass at the bottom of the unit where the battery sits. It outputs 300W (530 in-lbs torque), the two-speed transmission switches between 0 - 450 and 1,500 RPM while the 16-stop clutch lets me fine tune the amount of torque the drill exerts. With it, I can just as easily screw a fire alarm bracket into drywall as I can bore holes through a pressure-treated 4x4.

Third, I really like DeWalt’s 20/60 FlexVolt battery system and it’s a big part of why I went with that brand. DeWalt makes a variety of power tools that largely work off 20V for light duty stuff like string trimmers, drills, circular saws and routers, and 60V for medium-duty gear like chainsaws, lawnmowers, grinders and impact drivers. If I own a 20V drill and buy a 60V lawn mower, I’d normally be stuck buying separate 20V and 60V batteries, separate 20V and 60V chargers — basically doubling up because the two systems have incompatible power units. With FlexVolt, all of the batteries are 60V max but their output can be stepped down to accommodate a 20V system. This way, I just need one set of batteries and a single charger. And even if I stick with just 20V tools, the FlexVolt batteries can reportedly deliver longer runtimes in 20V than the regular 20V Max batteries can.

Of course, a pair of DeWalt’s non-FlexVolt 1.3Ah “20V Max” batteries came with my drill, and I can go buy larger capacity batteries (up to 12Ah) if I need them — but they won’t work on a 60V tool, just as a 60V battery won’t work in my 20V drill. All of which means I’ll have to eventually spring for a FlexVolt charger once I expand my power tool menagerie.

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