I recently traveled to DeWalt headquarters in Towson, Maryland, for the annual unveiling of new tools and accessories. As in years past, I came away with a lot to think about and a list of tools I can't wait to test.

The flagship introductions were 20V MAX brushless cordless tools, chief among them an impact driver, drill/driver, and hammer drill/driver. I'll cover those tools now and the others in coming weeks – including one tool that a non-disclosure agreement bars me from talking about until June.

Impact Driver
The DCF886 is DeWalt's second brushless impact driver; their first, the DCF895 was introduced last year (and can be seen in this Tool Test). The new tool delivers the same driving power as its predecessor but is intended to sell for less – about the price of a brushed model. Unlike the previous model, this one has one speed range instead of three, and a conventional chuck instead of a recessed chuck with a push-button release (which can be seen in this teardown)

I have used the earlier model and can say that for most tasks and users the single speed range and conventional chuck of this newer model will not be a step down. Multiple speed ranges are nice when you need them but the times when you need them are rare. And a recessed chuck offers little in the way of added utility.

To make the point that brushless impact drivers have more runtime than comparable brushed models DeWalt asked the editors in attendance to use their most recent brushed model (DCF885) and their new brushless (DCF886) impact drivers to drive 3/8 x 3 inch lags into pressure treated lumber until the batteries were depleted. Both tools were equipped with the manufacturer's new 4.0 Ah XR battery pack (more on batteries later). I didn't do the counting, but was told that the brushed model drove 99 lags and the brushless model 189.

The difference between the two was extreme, but more or less in line with what we know about brushless motors, that in addition to being more durable than brushed motors, they are more efficient and will yield greater runtime with any given battery.

The DCF886 will be available bare (DCF886B), in a kit with two 2.0 Ah XR batteries (DCF886D2 - $219-239), or in a kit with two 4.0 Ah XR batteries (DCF886M2 - $269-299).

Drill and Hammer Drill/Drivers
Like most other companies that produce brushless cordless tools, DeWalt started with impact drivers and is extending the technology to drill and hammer drill/drivers. They recently announced their first tools in this category, a compact drill/driver (DCD790) and a compact hammer drill/driver (DCD795). These tools have a number of features in common, including:

Two-speed gear box
LED light on a 20-second delay
Light located on base so chuck does not cast a shadow
All metal 1/2-inch ratcheting chuck

The all metal chuck is an improvement over the partially plastic chucks found on earlier DeWalt compact models. The kit version of these tools include a case, charger, and two 2.0 Ah compact battery packs.

As with impact drivers, the inclusion of a brushless motor significantly boosts runtime. The editors at the event drilled 3/8-inch diameter holes through 2-by material with compact tools – DeWalt's new DCD790 and their most recent brushed model, the DCD780 (which can be seen in this 2012 Tool Test)

The brushed model had the 1.5 Ah battery that normally comes with it; the brushless model had the new 2.0 Ah XR pack. I saw the test boards; the brushed tool made 183 holes per charge and the brushless 381 holes per charge. Had the tools been equipped with the same 2.0 Ah battery the brushed model would have likely drilled 243 holes (33% more), putting it closer to the brushless model but still well behind it in terms of runtime.

The brushless drill/driver can be purchased bare (DCD790B) or in a kit with 2.0 Ah batteries (DCD790D2 - $219-239). The brushless hammer drill/driver is currently offered in a kit with 2.0 Ah batteries (DCD795D2 - $239-259).

Until recently, 20V MAX batteries topped out at 1.5 Ah for Compact packs and 3.0 Ah for full-size Premium packs. Now there will be two more options, a 2.0 Ah compact pack (XR Compact) and a 4.0 Ah full size (XR Premium) pack. It's easy to tell the new XR batteries from the original 20V MAX packs: The older packs have yellow release buttons; XR packs have black release buttons and a lot of yellow on the housing.

The packs described above are available with LED fuel gauges, but the 1.5 Ah packs that come in kits do not have this feature. If I was in the market for a kit, that alone would be reason enough for me to spring for the version with 2.0 Ah packs – I much prefer to have a gauge. And the extra storage capacity is nice too.

Suggested retail for batteries is as follows:
1.5 Ah $79
2.0 Ah $89
3.0 Ah $99
4.0 Ah $119

Correction: May 13, 2013
An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that the 1.5 Ah batteries that come in some brushless compact kits do not have fuel gauges. The only kits that do not include fuel gauges are brushed compact kits (DCK280C2, DCK285C2, DCD780C2, DCF885C2).