Craftsman Nextec Driver (Initial thoughts)

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Forum topic by Tedstor posted 05-29-2013 03:37 PM 1132 views 0 times favorited 0 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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05-29-2013 03:37 PM

I haven’t had this long enough to make a proper assesment, but here are my initial thoughts after a pretty decent test drive:
My 3/8 Makita 9.6v impact wrench finally died. I used to use it in the auto shop I worked in, but for the past several years, its been outfitted with a 1/4” adapter and has served as a screw-driver. Worked OK, but given its intended purpose as an automotive tool, it was far from flawless when driving screws. Too much wobble.
Anyway, I am in the process of moving out of my current home, and had to dismantle a “fort” that I made for my kids a few years ago. It was constructed with a 2X4 frame and OSB siding. The siding was attached to the frame with 100ish 2 1/2” decking screws. No way in hell I was removing all those screws by hand. Given my tight timeframe, I needed to replace my Makita immediately (same day) and get the fort out of the way.

Although I generally find Craftsman tools to be plenty adequate, I’ve always been weary of Craftsman’s cordless tools after a bad experience with a cordless drill I purchased 7-8 years ago. However, given Sear’s nearby location and a few favorable reviews, I decided to give the Nextec driver a shot. The sale price in conjunction with a coupon code landed me the tool for $70- out the door.

Its advertised as 12v, but its probably more like 10.6v. But given that I used a 9.6v for years without isssue, 10.6v is plenty. The kit comes with the driver, soft-sided case, ONE battery, and a 30min rapid charger. I emphasized that the driver only includes one battery, bacause many competing drivers include two. So the lower price is somewhat offset by the fact that you’d need to pay $20 for a spare battery. You can also pay $30 for a spare battery that has an integrated flashlight. Kinda cool to keep on-hand for emergencies and such. That said, I’ll sink $90 into this kit when its all said and done.

Bosch, Milwaukee and other competitors sell a driver kit with two batteries for $110ish. I actually considered the Bosch. It had two speeds and an adjustable clutch. BUT, it was more expensive and the LED light only turned on once the driver was actuated. What good is the light once the bit is already in motion?? The craftsman does not have the clutch or the two-speed control. However, these are features that my makita also lacked, and I never wished I had. And since the craftsman has a variable speed control in the trigger and the LED turns on before the bit begins to spin, I didn’t find the Bosch to be overly superior. More importantly, I just spent a buttload of money on a new house, so I didn’t want to spend the extra cash on the Bosch if a cheaper alternative existed. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not bashing the Bosch. It seemed like a fine tool. It just didn’t appear THAT much better than the craftsman (for my needs).

So how does it work? Good…..very good in fact. The initial battery charge only took about 15-20 minutes. Of course, it should be noted that the battery is supposedly 50% charged upon delivery. The LED is plenty bright, and turns on once the trigger is slightly pulled (but well before any power is transferred to the chuck). I think the LED is pretty much standard among all modern drivers. And if it isn’t, it should be. I managed to remove every screw (100+) from the fort, and the tool showed no sign of giving up. Just for grins, I drove 25 screws back into a piece of lumber. It was effortless. I stopped at 25 because I got bored, but the battery showed no signs of depletion. I also used the driver to assemble and install two TV pedestals. The variable speed trigger worked well, enabling me to drive the (small) screws at a delicate, slow pace.

Here are some vital stats and my thoughts on each:
- 12 volts: Doubtful. Probably more like 10.6v like most drivers in this class.
- 830 in lbs of torque: I have no idea if it really delivers that much torque. Craftsman has a tendency to overstate power ratings. But if it can drive and remove 2 1/2” decking screws, then its powerful enough for my purposes.
- 1/4” quick-connect collet: Not much to say. It works fine and holds the bit securely. Several adapters and bits are available from various manufacturers, including Craftsman. I have yet to try any beside a garden-variety #2 screwdriver bit.
- Compact, ergonomic design: I agree. I actually liked the ergonomics of this driver over the Bosch and DeWalt. Just fit my hand better and had a more balanced feel. You’d have to be freakishly weak to experience any user fatigue under most circumstances.
- Integrated LED: Works well, as previously mentioned.
- 30-Minute Quick Charger: I’ve only had to charge it twice so far. Once after removing it from the box, and again after the fort/TV tasks. And in fairness, the battery still had plenty of juice even after the tasks. I just charged it for the hell of it. In any case, the battery never took more than 15-20 minutes to fully charge. And the charger has battery diagnostics built-in to the unit (see pics).

Bottom line is that I’m satisfied with the tool. Very satisfied. If time and money were no object I might have gone with the Bosch or Milwaukee based on what I knew at the time of purchase. But after using the Nextec, I’m not sure I’d have gained much with a more expensive product.

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