NEXTEC 12V Lithium-ion tools are Craftsman’s answer to the subcompact tool category. Featuring a new color scheme that is a fresh departure from the old black and red colors, the new Craftsman 11812 NEXTEC drill/driver has some unique offerings like the Craftsman 11818 Nextec Hammerhead Auto Hammer. Since we are on a kick of doing compact drill drivers we figured the NEXTEC 12V 3/8″ drill/driver deserves a closer look also.
It is always interesting to see how our test tools arrive. Of course they all have colorful outer boxes, but this is one area that many companies must invest mucho dough because they are always unique. The packaging on the NEXTEC in particular is cool because it allows you to check out the tool through a plastic window when the box lid is lifted. This has to be a great way to discourage customers from opening the closed boxes just to “check out” what is inside. Once we got beyond the packaging, we found that the drill comes inside a zippered nylon storage case. The storage case has elastic and Velcro holders that keep all the parts and pieces in place and organized. In the lid, there is a zippered mesh cloth pocket to keep your manuals or other small items that you might want to keep with the drill. (We know how all of you like to hang on to all that information that is in 18 different languages just in case!) All joking aside, the manuals are good to keep around because, like many of the tools nowadays, the warranty and service center information is found in these manuals. The one gripe about the carry case is that the lid is removable and if you remove it, it is a little tricky to get the zipper started again so you can zip it closed. Take it from us, just don’t unzip it all the way and you will be fine.
Upon initial inspection, the NEXTEC 12V 3/8-Inch Drill/Driver felt pretty good in the hand but was a little front heavy. The main body is made of a grey colored plastic with soft grip black rubber over molds. The direction button, trigger and speed switch keep the traditional Craftsman Red color going. The silver metal torque ring has 18 different settings and on the top side of the drill there is a speed selector switch that will allow you to choose between LOW, which spins up to 400 RPM (revolutions per minute) and HIGH with 1300 RPM. The drill is a variable speed type which is easily controlled by the trigger. The chuck is a 3/8″ keyless type with a plastic outer grip shell with three jaws that will grip anything you put into it. To help illuminate dark places, there is an LED light built into the body of the drill that directs the light towards the working area.
The power for the drill comes from one of two included 12V “Die Hard” Lithium-ion batteries. The batteries are what have allowed manufacturers to make smaller and smaller tools without sacrificing power. The included charger will charge up the batteries in 30 minutes and it has LED indicator lights on the front of the charger to let you know the status of the charge cycle. One nifty feature of the charger is that instead of leaving it sitting on your bench and in the way, you can mount it on a wall vertically so that you keep your prime bench space open and ready for a project.
Testing and Use
To start off we made sure we had both batteries fully charged. Our first set of tests was to verify free spin RPMs at both Low and High speeds. Our maximum reading at Low speed was 392RPM which is within 8 RPM of the specified 400. The results for the High Speed were a little different, with a maximum reading of 1180 RPM which is about 10% lower than the specified 1300 RPM. Thinking it was maybe a weak battery; we swapped and still were only able to achieve similar numbers. For our electronic torque meter test the maximum reading was 182 In-lbs. This value is about 7% lower than the specified 195 In-lbs on the packaging. One area where this drill excelled was noise output. On low speed it only measured 68 dB SPL and on High it only put out 73 dB SPL.
One interesting thing we observed during our torque testing is that the drill has an electronic overload feature. What this is supposed to do is protect the battery from over heating and drawing to much current which could damage the battery permanently. Of course this is a safety feature that is supposed to help with long term durability but in some rare instances some users will find that when the drilling gets tough, the drill just stops. We figured we would try to find the threshold of where this happens so we first loaded in a 1/2″ wood boring chip bit and started to drill. It passed just fine. Next we tried a 3/4″ then a 7/8″ and that is where we started to see trouble. When the drill would bind up, it would cut off to protect the motor and battery. Of course we were pushing the limits of the drill with our antics but if we didn’t try it, we are sure some consumers will eventually.
As for everyday drilling and screw driving needs, the NEXTEC 12V 3/8-Inch Drill/Driver performs just fine. The many torque settings are very handy for driving different size screws into various materials. For smaller sized holes in wood and metal with regular drill bits, everything functioned properly. We did not notice any problems with the batteries and they seem to keep their charge for a reasonable amount of drilling time. Thanks to the quick 30 minute charger, a fresh battery was always ready to go.
Basically the NEXTEC 12V 3/8-Inch Drill/Driver is a decent tool overall but sometimes might be underpowered. However, in most instances it will serve the purposes of a Do-It-Yourself person just fine. Since it is so quiet and compact, my wife took notice of it and was asking when she might be expecting hers! For our Performance Rating, we gave it a value of 4/10 because we were a little disappointed with the actual performance verse the specified ratings. For our value rating, we gave it 7/10 because for many homeowners and project people, this is still a great drill for the money since it will most likely do exactly what you will be using it for and do it for almost half the price of what the competition has to offer.