Green-beam construction lasers have been around since Topcon introduced the TP-L3G pipe laser in 1996. Green beams are up to four times easier to see than red ones. But until recently, the intricate diodes that projected them were too pricey and power-hungry to go mainstream. Thanks to a recent technical breakthrough, though, true green semiconductor diodes are now available that cost less and are more efficient than their predecessors. That’s why a bunch of new green-beam point, line, and rotary lasers have recently hit the market.

DeWalt, for instance, just added a new family of line lasers to its 12V MAX cordless platform, each of which comes in a red-beam and green-beam version. After test-driving the new cross-line red laser (DW088LR) and cross-line green laser (DW088LG) side by side over the past few weeks, I not only love the green beams, but I’m impressed by the practical design of these lasers.

LINE COVERAGE

The DW088LR and DW088LG project a horizontal and vertical line either independently or together so they intersect. According to DeWalt, the horizontal line fans out at least 100 degrees and the vertical line at least 130 degrees. These fan angles yield multiple layout options. For instance, if you back one of these lasers into the corner of an empty rectangular room, the horizontal line will wrap the entire room to within about a foot of the laser. If you set it on the floor and back it against a wall, the vertical line will also wrap the entire room to within a foot of the laser. Aim the laser at a wall from four feet away and four feet above the floor, and the vertical line will extend from the bottom to the top of the wall and out onto the ceiling, stopping slightly behind the laser.

Like most competing lasers, the DW088LR and DW088LG use an internal pendulum to self-level. The base of the laser must be within about 4 degrees of level for the pendulum to work. If the inclination is between 4 and 10 degrees, the beams flash once per second to indicate that you’re outside the self-leveling range. Exceed 10 degrees, and the lines quickly blink three times about every six seconds, projecting uninterrupted layout lines for five seconds between each series of blinks. According to DeWalt, the reduced blinking is designed to be less distracting if you tilt your laser to project sloped layout lines, such as for setting stair rails or angled tile.

To help prevent shock damage, the pendulum automatically locks when you switch off the tool.

GREEN VERSUS RED

Before using the two lasers, I checked their plumb and level lines for accuracy. Both lasers were good to go.

According to the specs, the red-beam DW088LR has a visual range of up to 50 feet, while the green-beam DW088LG ranges up to 100 feet. I tried both lasers in a variety of interior spaces, and the green beam was clearly brighter. The difference was especially pronounced in a kitchen and utility room that were brightly lit by overhead fluorescents.

Outdoors on a fairly bright but drizzly day, I was surprised that I could easily find the green beam on yellow metal siding with the laser placed 50 feet away. The red beam virtually disappeared at 25 feet. On a sunlit wall, I could barely even see the green beam with the laser placed just 5 feet away. The pulsed red and green beams, however, allow you to use a detector to locate the lines when they’re too faint to see. DeWalt’s DW0892 red-line and DW0892G green-line detectors extend the working range to 165 feet. I’ve seen both versions sell online for less than $100.

DeWalt also sells green and red laser-enhancement glasses to extend the visual range, but they have minimal impact in direct sunlight.

RUNTIME

The green-laser kit includes one 12V MAX 2-amp-hour battery, while the red one includes an “AA Laser Pack” with four AA batteries instead.
The green-laser kit includes one 12V MAX 2-amp-hour battery, while the red one includes an “AA Laser Pack” with four AA batteries instead.

Both lasers currently come in a kit only, but the two kits aren’t identical. Both include a drop-ceiling attachment and a blow-mold case, but the green laser comes with a 2-amp-hour battery and a charger, while the red one comes with an “AA Laser Pack” instead. The AA Laser Pack is a small plastic case with four AA batteries that fit inside, and it slides onto the back of the laser just like a 12V MAX battery. Although the red laser can also be powered by a 12V MAX battery, DeWalt says it chose this configuration to keep the price of the red laser below $200 (it’s currently $199). The four AA alkalines are supposed to deliver 12 hours of runtime when powering two laser lines and 27 hours when powering one. Substitute a 2-amp-hour 12V MAX battery, and you get 20 hours and 39 hours respectively.

Despite the breakthrough in green-diode technology, green lasers still draw a lot more power than red ones. The DW088LG would only deliver 4 1/2 to 6 1/2 hours of runtime on AA batteries. The 12V MAX battery, on the other hand, delivers 8 to 14 hours. This battery takes about 1 1/2 hours to fully recharge, but can power the laser all day on one charge, so that’s a small issue. Both lasers have an excellent four-bar battery gauge on board.

OTHER HIGHLIGHTS

A permanently attached magnetic bracket allows the lasers to swivel 360 degrees. It can thread to a camera tripod, a construction tripod, or a laser pole; hang from a nail or screw; or stick to ferrous metal.
A permanently attached magnetic bracket allows the lasers to swivel 360 degrees. It can thread to a camera tripod, a construction tripod, or a laser pole; hang from a nail or screw; or stick to ferrous metal.

Both lasers are permanently mounted to an L-shaped bracket that allows them to rotate 360 degrees on their vertical axis, which can be a blessing for aiming layout lines. The brackets have 1/4-20 and 5/8-11 sockets on the bottom for tripods and laser poles and two mighty rare-earth magnets on the back that stick to a metal strip on the drop-ceiling attachment and to other ferrous metal. The brackets can also hang from a nail or screw.

The lasers are built to be exceptionally rugged. DeWalt says it tested their shock-resistance by dropping them onto concrete from a height of 1 1/2 to 2 meters with the pendulum locked. They also have an Ingress Protection rating of IP65, which means they’re dust-proof and won’t be damaged by rain.

THE BOTTOM LINE

I wish DeWalt would provide a padded pouch for these lasers that could slip onto a toolbelt for added convenience and protection on site. But overall I’m really impressed. The economical lasers are easy to use and promise to be exceptionally rugged. And unlike competing lasers, they belong to a cordless platform. You can use them indoors for setting everything from windows, doors, and cabinets to tile, electrical boxes, and suspended ceilings. Add a detector, and you can easily use them outdoors for decks, fences, and more.

I’d be perfectly happy with the red-beam version, until the first time I struggled to see my layout lines. Then I’d regret not buying the brighter green version. The green one costs $150 more than the red one, but includes a 12V MAX battery and charger while the red laser doesn’t.

DW088LR Specs

  • Beam color: red
  • Functions: crossing horizontal and vertical lines
  • Range: 50 feet visual, 165 feet with DW0892 detector (not included)
  • Accuracy: ±1/8 inch @ 33 feet
  • Self-leveling range: ±4 degrees
  • Battery runtime: 12 to 27 hours with AA batteries, 20 to 39 hours with 2-Ah battery
  • Weight with AA Laser Pack: 1 pound, 13 ounces
  • Dust/water resistance: IP65
  • Price: $199
  • Includes: AA Laser Pack, drop-ceiling attachment, plastic case
  • Warranty: 3 years, 90-day money-back guarantee
  • DW088LG Specs

  • Beam color: green
  • Functions: crossing horizontal and vertical lines
  • Range: 100 feet visual, 165 feet with DW0892G detector (not included)
  • Accuracy: ±1/8 inch @ 33 feet
  • Self-leveling range: ±4 degrees
  • Battery runtime: 4.5 to 6.5 hours with AA batteries, 8 to 14 hours with 2-Ah battery
  • Weight with battery: 1 pound, 14 ounces
  • Dust/water resistance: IP65
  • Price: $349
  • Includes: one 2-Ah battery, charger, drop-ceiling attachment, plastic case
  • Warranty: 3 years, 90-day money-back guarantee

Bruce Greenlaw is a contributing editor to JLC and Tools of the Trade.