When I first got my hands on the new Porter-Cable PCCK640LB 20V Max Impact Driver Kit, it was clear the company had taken a departure from the grey and black cordless tools to which I’ve grown accustomed. The new color scheme and surface treatment takes me back to what seems like a millennium ago, to a certain space ship toy I played with as a child.
Under its bumpy surfaces, the Porter-Cable impact driver shares some technology with a sibling company. The 20V Max slide pack batteries and the overall compact tool size bear a striking resemblance to some yellow and black tools I’ve tested. This is actually pretty cool, since you have a great opportunity to pick up a quality tool at a value price.
A New and Improved Model?
Porter-Cable initially told us that it wasn’t necessarily replacing the well-received PCL180ID impact driver with this model. As a matter of observation, the 20V Max seems to have all but eclipsed the 18V driver in retail stores. This makes sense since consumers can choose the new Porter-Cable as a value leading product and step up to the brushless DeWalt DCF895 if they want a truly premium option. The specs for Porter-Cable’s new impact driver are on par with other pro-grade products on the market. With an impressive 1,450 in-lbs of torque and 3,100 bpm (blows per minute), fasteners should realize that resistance is futile. The drill is fast as well, spinning at 2,900 rpm which is identical to Porter-Cable’s 18V PCL180ID and the second fastest of all the 18V models we’ve tested to-date (See our March issue for our comparison of 11 different impact drivers.). For some, the new battery nomenclature might bear some explanation. “20V Max” is more marketing than anything, and it refers to the initial no-load start up voltage. So if you’re a “bigger is better” kind of guy, realize that these batteries are really just nominal 18V lithium-ion models at heart. They also aren’t compatible with the previous generation of Porter-Cable 18V cordless tools. I’d be remiss, however, if I didn’t also point out that this pack is a new design with improved performance.
The Porter-Cable PCCK640LB 20V Max Impact Driver Kit comes with a charger, two 1.5 Ah batteries, belt clip, #2 Philips head driving bit and a nice molded plastic storage case. 20V Max brings with it (Finally!) a built-in battery status gauge at the base of the tool handle, and there’s a wonderful spring eject on the battery that will place it in your hand when you press the button (a feature carried over from the 18V model). All batteries should eject so effortlessly. The spring tension also means that when you install the battery pack you get a positive lock with absolutely no play in the connection.
Ergonomics are also excellent on this impact driver. It passed around the job site one day, and all the feedback indicated it was a good, comfortable fit for a variety of hand sizes. Rubber bumpers and overmold abound on the main tool body on everything except the battery. Because of the unique design, it could easily leave nicks and marks on sensitives surfaces, when it wasn’t set down gently. The single integrated LED work light was pretty efficient at illuminating the area directly in front of the fastener.
Projects and Feedback
I used the Porter-Cable PCCK640LB 20V Max Impact Driver Kit on a couple different projects. One was for a little porch building job. And by “little”, I mean two craftsman-style houses with completely rebuilt front and back porches. All the pressure treated railing pickets were installed using GRK “Uber-grade” small head trim screws with Torx drive bits. Of course, these fine screws weren’t even a challenge. To step up the trials, I moved on to the 2×6 top rails, securing them with 3-1/2” DeckMate Torx drive screws. Again, these fasteners were sent home repeatedly without even the slightest hesitation. I suppose it was just the perfect tool for the job. In any case, battery life was more than adequate. And should you encounter a time when you need more run-time, you’ve got the second battery, which you can keep in the case or right on the charger until you need it.
Another project I used this driver on was building a couple of raised garden beds as part of a “honey do” list. I actually used plans for a raised garden bed that I found on the Lowe’s website and assembled each bed for less than $160 each. These are 4 foot x 4 foot beds that stand 24″ tall and are made entirely from dimensional pressure-treated lumber. There are only 4 cuts of wood, so you can completely fabricate two of them in an afternoon. The Porter-Cable drove nearly two pounds worth of 2-1/2 inch deck screws through the pressure-treated lumber without breaking a sweat—and managed to finish off both beds on a single slim pack battery.
Closing the Deal
I like what I’m seeing with the “Next Generation” impact driver from Porter-Cable. I hope to see more tools and battery sizes in the future, though the jury is still out on whether enlisting Kenner to design the outer casing is an improvement over the original tool body. If you’re looking for a bargain, but still need the performance, this new driver from Porter-Cable fits the bill.
Special thanks to Lowe’s Home Improvement for providing fasteners and building materials for the tool testing used in this article.