Working our way through all 12V drivers in the market, we arrived at the Makita DT01 cordless driver. A very good looking tool, the DT01 wants to be a general purpose driver. Never taking numbers at face value we put the DT01 through its paces. Let's take a look at how the Makita DT01 performed in the our in-depth review.
The Makita DT01 Driver
The DT01 is a small 12V cordless driver from Makita. It is intended to be a general purpose medium duty driver. Its small size makes it the ideal tool for installers, cabinet builders, and professionals who work in tight spaces. Heavy duty users will find the power and speed of the DT01 severely lacking.
Fit and finish is universally good. The white, hard plastic shell of the tool is cover by black rubber patches in strategic places to provide a no-slip grip surface, and to protect the tool from damage. Due to the small battery, the DT01 is noticeably top heavy. On a full size driver this would be a problem. On a small driver like this, it is an asset to have a good amount of weight inline with the direction the fasteners are being driven. Add in the small size of the DT01 and you have a very agile, little driver. The DT01 excels at getting into tight spaces and getting ready for work faster than larger drivers.
The oversize grip is one of the best features of the DT01. Its flowing contours appear to be the perfect match for average size hands. The DT01's ergonomics are those of an industrial tool.
The trigger is responsive and accurate. Small changes in the pressure on the trigger result in meaningful changes in motor rpm. The minimum speed of about 200 rpm is higher than that of the competition. The top speed of 2,400 rpm is a respectable number, but the driver will rarely reach it under load. The motor is simply too weak to allow the driver to operate without the hammer gear.
The direction selector switch is too small to be called comfortable. It has a tendency to bind every now an then making the driver unnecessarily complicated to operate. These issues aside, the switch is well made and will outlast the motor in most cases.
The chuck of the DT01 is shorter than average to shrink the length of the driver as much as possible. Opening the chuck with a gloved hand can be difficult, but the all-metal design will stand up to job site use.
Bits sit very deep in the chuck. Only the threads of a standard hex bit are exposed when it is seated properly. The chuck does not eject bits when it is opened. They must either be pulled out or left to fall out with the help of gravity.
The Work Light
The work light installed on the DT01 follows the standard above-the-trigger design without any attempt at innovation. The very poor light output of the LED only manages to illuminate the immediate area below the impact point to an acceptable level. The barrel cast a shadow that covers the impact point and the area above the tool. The light comes on when the trigger is pulled and turns off 15 seconds after the trigger is released.
The work light is only usable in the crudest sense. Having the light is certainly a good thing, but you'll have to do extra work to use it. The leading designs provide light where you need it without you having to think about it. These work lights simply work, which is not something that can be said about the DT01's design.
Unfortunately it takes very little time to figure out that the DT01 is a poor performer. It takes the driver over 10 seconds to sink a 3 inch screw into construction grade lumber. The hammer gear engages after only a few threads disappear in the lumber. The driver produces a racket that necessitates hearing protection even when driving only a few short fasteners. As the screw nears its final position the DT01 seem to be nearing its point of failure, but manages to seat the screw.
Endurance is limited when driving long fasteners. The driver simply uses too much energy to drive a single fastener to make the battery last a respectable amount of time. In our torture tests the barrel of the driver heated up to unacceptable levels. The DT01 is clearly not a heavy-duty tool.
The picture only changes marginally when driving smaller fasteners. The hammer gear still engages when driving 1-1/2 inch screws. Driving speed improves to an acceptable level, but still lags behind the competition. Endurance improves to a level that matches the usage scenario of this driver. A couple of batteries will get you through a kitchen install.
Overall the DT01 performs very poorly. With one eye closed you could recommend the DT01 as a good light duty driver. The problem with that statement is that there are other drivers that cost about the same and perform significantly better. Does it really matter that the DT01 can be a good driver when there are other tools out there that are better in every respect?
Makita 12V System
The DT01 shares a battery with only a handful of tools. Makita's 12V system is not very fleshed out at the moment. The most compelling argument for buying into the system are the large combo kits, which represent a good value.
The batteries and charger included in the system are well made. The charger restores a dead battery to a full charge in about 20 minutes. Under normal circumstances this is fast enough to get the battery ready to go when the one installed in the tool fails. A large two-color status light indicates what the charger is doing at any given time. A bright green light indicates the battery is ready to go.
The Makita DT01 is in very bad position. It is a well made, professional quality power tool that performs adequately as a light-duty general purpose impact driver. If you only have a few short fasteners to drive, the DT01's slow speed and low power won't be very noticeable. When you move even a little beyond that job description the DT01 will slow down significantly and make its displeasure know with ear splitting hammer gear noise.
Competing models outperform the DT01 in every respect; including price. The DT01 may be a good buy, if you already have Makita 12V batteries, but for the informed buyer it is a poor choice. If you catch the DT01 on sale at a price you cannot resist, go for it. The DT01 is still a good power tool. At full price the competition offers far superior performance and value.
- small, agile, and well balanced
- great grip
- good endurance when driving small fasteners
- solid build quality
- low power for its size
- hammer gears are always on
- very slow
- loud even when doing light-duty work
- cannot be used continuously
- poor work light