When we published the results of our framing nailer shootout, we got some feedback echoing our same thoughts – why didn’t Hitachi (now Metabo HPT) do better? The NR83A5 is one of the best-built framing nailers available, but after our battery of tests, it came in 10th place overall. Still, we want to know how the Metabo HPT NR90AE(S1) framing nailer will fare in the same battery of tests. It’s less expensive, lighter, and a 3-1/2″ nailer instead of 3-1/4″, so it should have more power.
Metabo HPT NR90AE Framing Nailer Key Features
Metal Back Cap
We love to see a metal back cap on framing nailers. It helps with durability as these tools get banged around. I know none of you tap studs into place with it, right? After all, that would be dangerous.
Hitachi’s magazine gives you the capacity to store two sticks of nails like all the pneumatic nailers we tested. With rear nail insertion and metal construction, the overall slide action of the magazine is outstanding.
Single Stage Mode Change
There’s easy mode changes and really easy – the Hitachi NR90AE(S1) framing nailer is really easy. There’s a simple single-stage flipper switch above the trigger. You don’t have to push it in from either side or even think about a trigger change.
The depth adjustment is below the driver assembly on the right side. It’s a little unusual placement but easy to get to and reasonably easy to adjust.
- Dry Fire Lockout
- Hang Hook
- Adjustable Exhaust
The lack of dry fire lockout and a hang hook are particularly disappointing. It’s the only nailer out of the 14 in our shootout that doesn’t have a hang hook. It’s not alone in its lack of dry fire lockout, though.
Metabo HPT NR90AE Framing Nailer Ergonomics
At 7.28 pounds, the Metabo HPT NR90AE(S1) framing nailer is the lightest nailer in our test. That’s a big deal for Pros that spend all day framing. There aren’t any complaints in the ergonomics depart with excellent balance and a comfortable handle design.
If there’s any complaint, it’s with the head width. The length and height are good, but that wide head sometimes gets in the way if you’re trying to nail in a corner area.
3-1/2″ nailers should be stronger than 3-1/4″ models, so it’s no surprise that the Hitachi NR90AE(S1) outperforms the NR83A5 here. With glued and stacked OSB as our medium, the NR90 is able to bump fire consistently into the material with some room in the depth adjustment to go deeper. If you’re looking for a nailer strong enough to tackle more dense materials, this is one you can rely on.
Despite the strength, Hitachi managed the recoil of this framing nailer well. There’s some you’ll have to deal with, but you can hand the NR90 to an apprentice without worrying about him spending half the day pounding in proud nails due to control issues.
The tip on this Hitachi framing nailer appears like it has a design issue at first glance. The side barbs are recessed so far into the top and bottom barbs that they look ineffective. The reality is that they stick out to the side slightly. You have to grab a steeper angle than with some nailers, but they grab very well and arguably give you more consistent toenailing. When you’re having to turn the nailer and use the top barbs, they also grab hold of studs very well.
The bottom line here is that you can toenail without the tip slipping on your and the recoil is low enough that you don’t need to worry about popping your stud out of place with the first nail.
While that tip design makes for a little adjustment with toenailing, it’s fantastic in letting you see your nail placement. Once you see where the nail sinks in relation to the nose (it’s a little higher than the center), you’ll be able to accurately place nails with confidence.
It takes just 85 PSI for the NR90 to drive a 3-1/4″ nail flush in untreated pine. There are framers that are little more efficient that can get it done at 80 PSI and others that need a bit more. If you’re trying to work with a small compressor – perhaps smaller than you should – this nailer is moderately efficient and shouldn’t slow you down too much from what you’re already using.
Price and Value
You can pick up the Hitachi NR90AE(S1) for $159.00 which is a fantastic price. Only the $140 Estwing comes in cheaper from our shootout and it doesn’t have the reputation that Hitachi nailers do.
While the feature set is lacking a couple of key components, the performance of the nailer is more than enough to overcome their loss. Once we put it through our magical value number producer (we actually have a fairly complex equation to define it), this comes out as one of the best values with a score of 4.75 out of 5.
The Bottom Line
If you need a nailer that’s all about great ergonomics and driving power without a ton of bells and whistles or the price tag that comes with them, you’re not likely to find a better bet than the Hitachi NR90AE(S1).
Hitachi NR90AE(S1) 3-1/2″ Framing Nailer Features
- New head guard design allows for quicker disassembly during tool maintenance
- Lightweight at 7.5 lbs and well-balanced for ease of maneuverability and less user fatigue
- Selective actuation switch allows for quick transitions between sequential and contact nailing with the simple flip of a switch
- Accepts 2″ up to 3-1/2″ plastic collated framing nails
- Tool-less depth adjustment dial allows the user to countersink or flush drive nails into a variety of materials without having to adjust the pressure at the compressor
- Two-piece anodized aluminum magazine makes repairs or replacements easy and with minimal expense
- Two-step nail loading makes fastener replenishments quick and easy, reducing downtime
- Open nose design provides easy access to clear nail jams
- Rubber grip provides comfort and ensures a secure hold
Hitachi NR90AE(S1) 3-1/3″ Framing Nailer Specifications
- Model: Hitachi NR90AE(S1)
- Fastener Type: Plastic Collation
- Magazine Angle: 21°
- Fastener Length Capacity: 2″ – 3-1/2″
- Fastener Diameter Range: .113 – .148
- Magazine Capacity (.131): 64 Nails
- Magazine Loading: Rear
- Operating Pressure: 70-120 PSI
- Air Consumption @ 100 PSI: 0.09 scfm
- Depth Adjustment: Tool-less
- Actuation: Single Stage Selective
- Jam Clearing: Open Nose
- Dry-Fire Lockout: No
- Adjustable Exhaust: Port No
- Rubber Grip: Yes
- LxWxH: 20-3/4″ x 4-15/16″ x 12-11/16″
- Weight: 7.5 lbs
- Warranty: 5-Year
- Price: $159.00