Dewalt 12V Xtreme DCF801 Impact Driver Review

Dewalt DCF801 Angle 5
Table of Contents

Quick take

The Dewalt 12V Xtreme DCF801 is an outstanding, versatile impact driver with solid battery life. While it has enough torque and RPM to power through driving big screws and lag bolts, that’s not the intended use. The DCF801 is best suited for DIYers looking for a lightweight impact driver around the home. Woodworkers will also appreciate the sub-compact size and balanced power profile. The three drive modes offer great versatility and precision, including when driving screws into dimensional lumber, MDF, and drywall studs.

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Brand Dewalt
Platform 12V Xtreme
Motor Brushless
Tested torque in-lbs 441.0
IPM 3,600.0
Drive modes 3
Collet 1/4-inch hex
Same as DCF801B

Global rankings

21 models tested

TestResultRank
Driving speed (sec.)30.819
Torque (in-lbs)441.021
Battery run time (min.)44.09
RPM2,848.017
Bare weight (lbs)1.743
Impacting noise (dBA)95.66

Editorial opinion

Methodology used: Light duty

Editorial rating

4.23 / 5 ⭐️’s

Pros

  • Exceptionally lightweight
  • Solid battery run time
  • Brushless motor
  • Precise drive modes
  • Long tool and battery warranty
  • One-handed bit changes

Cons

  • Bogs down driving big structural screws and lag bolts
  • Long collet to back length

Buy

Kits and bare tool options

DCF801F2

Includes (2) Max 12V 2Ah battery

DCF801

Bare tool

Series lineup

Model #PlatformDrive ModesTorqueIPMReview
DCF80112V Xtreme3441.0 in-lbs3,600.0Full review

Alternatives

Milwaukee M12 Fuel 3453-20: The 3453-20 offers best-in-class speed under load and torque output, far outpacing the DCF801’s performance. The 3453-20 is also slightly more compact and fits easier into some tight areas. Compare side by side

Milwaukee M12 Fuel Surge 2551-20: The 2551-20 is a hydraulic impact driver, which is much quieter when impacting, though the battery run time is shorter. Compare side by side

Lab results

Design & ergonomics

Stands upright w/o battery: Yes
Stands upright w/ battery: Yes
Grip material: Rubber overgrip
Magnetic holder: No
Bit holder: No
Belt hook: Yes
Handle angle (deg.): 82.0
Head angle (deg.): 90.0

The DCF801’s design is well thought out with ergonomics that curve well to your hand, and the rubber overgrip provides good control and shock absorption. The forward-leaning handle offers extra reach for driving screws in awkward or obstructed situations.

Otherwise, the DCF801 includes a belt hook that is mountable on both sides of the base. A bit holder isn’t included in the box but can be mounted on either side. Several Ryobi impact drivers include bit holders and magnetic plates to hold fasteners.

Weight

Dewalt DCF801 On Scale

Bare weight (lbs): 1.74
Weight w/ 2Ah battery (lbs): 2.23
Weight w/ 2.5Ah battery (lbs):  Not tested
Weight w/ 4Ah battery (lbs):  Not tested
Weight w/ 5Ah battery (lbs):  Not tested

The DCF801 is exceptionally light as a bare tool and with a battery, reducing fatigue over long, repetitive driving sessions.You can cut weight further by moving to the Milwaukee M12 Fuel 3453-20 or the Makita 12V CXT DT04Z.

But remember that the DCF801’s working weight can differ significantly depending on the battery run in your setup. To keep it as lightweight as possible, we recommend combining the DCF801 with Dewalt’s 12V Max 2Ah battery for a good balance of performance and weight.

If weight is less of a concern, pair the DCF801 with Dewalt’s 12V Max 5Ah battery for a longer run time and improved driving performance. But consider that adding the 5Ah battery meaningfully increases the weight and footprint. Upgrading to Dewalt’s 20V impact driver lineup may be more suitable as the size increases, especially if you want a more powerful impact driver.

Compare weight test results

Footprint

Dewalt DCF801 Footprint1

Max height (bare tool, in.): 7.375
Max width (bare tool, in.): 2.500
Collet to back length (in.): 5.000
Base length (bare tool, in.): 2.625
Base width (bare tool, in.): 2.500
Trigger circumference (in.): 6.625
Handle circumference (in.): 5.000

The DCF801 has a svelte footprint in certain areas but is not as small as other 12V and 18V impact drivers. Nicely, the max width and base measurements are incredibly compact, excellent for squeezing through tight spaces.

Dewalt’s 12V Max batteries are also highly compact. But the max height and length from the collet back can be beaten by more compact models.

All said, the DCF801 is still nimbler than most impact drivers.

Compare footprint test results

Motor

Motor: Brushless
Impacts per minute: 3,600.0

Brushless motors offer significant performance improvements over brushed motors. The brushless motor in the DCF801 improves longevity, driving performance, and increases battery run time.

The DCF801 won’t win most contests for driving speed, partly due to its low advertised 3600.0 impacts per minute. However, the DCF801 is highly capable for most fastening needs around the home, and the advertised impacts per minute are enough to drive big screws or lag bolts in a pinch.

Drive modes

Dewalt DCF801 Drive Modes

Drive modes: 3
Drive mode 1:  High speed 
Drive mode 2:  Low speed 
Drive mode 3:  Precision 
Drive mode 4:  N/A 
Variable speed trigger: Yes

There are three drive modes on the DCF801, high and low speed impacting and precision mode. These drive modes work well, providing excellent versatility spanning light and heavy-duty tasks.

The high-speed mode capably enough drove big GRK screws in our driving speed tests. This mode is also most effective in driving screws into dimensional lumber.

The low-speed mode works exceptionally well, driving screws flush into less dense materials, such as MDF, plastics, and drywall studs. This speed mode also works incredibly well to accurately recess screws to a desired depth by feathering the variable-speed trigger.

The precision mode works similarly well driving screws, but we found ourselves favoring drive mode 2 for precision driving tasks due to the extra power offered. Precision mode is most useful for extra lightweight materials or using the DCF801 like a cordless drill. The driving force is light enough and the trigger is accurate enough to drive soft screws without cam-out or stripping threads, such as on electrical outlets, though overpowered for this task.

Driving speed

GRK total driving time forward (sec.): 30.8
GRK average driving time forward (sec.): 6.2
GRK total driving time reverse (sec.): 20.6
GRK average driving time reverse (sec.): 4.1

Most 12V impact drivers we’ve tested range from 25 seconds to 30 seconds in total drive time for the five GRK screws in our test, including the DCF801.

The DCF801 capably drove GRK screws in our driving speed tests, but no 12V impact driver is the weapon of choice for repeating these heavy-duty tasks. Sub-compacts don’t have sufficient torque to repeatedly and efficiently drive big screws and lag bolts, and their batteries drain quickly with the motors working overtime.

Compare driving speed test results

Torque

Dewalt DCF801 Torquemeter
Dewalt DCF801 Torque Charts

Max torque drive mode 1 (in-lbs): 441.0
Max torque drive mode 2 (in-lbs): 214.2
Max torque drive mode 3 (in-lbs): N/A
Max torque drive mode 4 (in-lbs): N/A

The DCF801 isn’t designed to have a robust torque profile like more powerful 18V impact drivers. This theme held in our torque tests with the DCF801 turning in results that were among the lowest in our test fleet, including underperforming most other competing 12V models. This performance further highlights its intended usage for light and medium-duty tasks.

The Milwaukee M12 Fuel 3453-20 has the highest torque in its class, nearly doubling the twisting force of the DCF801.

Compare torque test results

Battery run time

Power type: Cordless
Battery run time (min.): 44.0
Battery tested: 12V Max 2Ah (DCB122)
Voltage: 12

The DCF801 turned in a solid battery run-time performance in our testing, surpassing many competing 12V impact drivers.

We tested battery run time with the 2Ah battery version. We expect the battery run time to perform similarly well when running the DCF801 with a 12V Max 2Ah battery and comparing it with other brands running the same Ah setup.

Compare battery test results

Battery lineup

Dewalt 12V Battery Lineup

Dewalt offers 2Ah, 3Ah, and 5Ah batteries in its 12V Max lineup. Upgrading to the higher Ah options increases battery run time and improves driving performance, though we’ve not tested all of these batteries to understand the cost tradeoffs.

Having at least two batteries in your setup is best so you don’t miss a beat when draining one battery. We recommend buying two Dewalt 12V Max 2Ah batteries for most Dewalt 12V impact driver setups for a good balance of performance, price, and size.

Many Dewalt impact drivers come in kits with a hybrid 12V and 20V charger in one, which conveniently saves space in your shop if you have multiple tools in the ecosystem.

Charging time

Dewalt 12V Fuel Gauge

Charger tested: Dewalt 20V Max (DCB115)
Charging time 2Ah battery (min.): 39.0
Charging time 2.5Ah battery (min.): Not tested
Charging time 4Ah battery (min.): Not tested
Charging time 5Ah battery (min.): Not tested
Charging time per Ah (min.): 19.5
Fuel gauge: On battery

The Dewalt charger that comes with most kits (model DCB115) charges 12V batteries rapidly. In our tests, the charger topped off a 12V Max 2Ah battery in 39 minutes, or 19.5 minutes per Ah.

This charger also charges Dewalt’s 20V battery platform, helping to save space in your shop if you have several tools in the Dewalt ecosystem. But consider that the DCB115 doesn’t charge 20V Max batteries as rapidly.

Compare charging test results

RPM

DCF801 RPM Charts Update

Max RPM drive mode 1 (fwd.): 2,848.0
Max RPM drive mode 2 (fwd.): 1,958.0
Max RPM drive mode 3 (fwd.): 983.0
Max RPM drive mode 4 (fwd.): N/A
Max RPM drive mode 1 (rev.): 2,831.0
Max RPM drive mode 2 (rev.): 1,921.0
Max RPM drive mode 3 (rev.): 970.0
Max RPM drive mode 4 (rev.): N/A

Dewalt hit a good RPM balance all around with the DCF801. This impact driver is designed for versatility, so don’t expect it to top the charts with high RPMs across its driving modes.That result isn’t a downside in most scenarios. The low RPM does explain some of the bogging down when driving big bolts and screws.

However, the low RPM also explains why the DCF801 is exceptionally accurate, all the better since it’s powerful enough to drive big screws and bolts in a pinch, regardless.

Compare RPM test results

Driving clearance

Min. interior width clearance (in.): 7.500
Min. top edge clearance (in.): 1.250
Min. interior 45-deg. clearance (in.): 6.250

The DCF801 has solid clearances in our various tests but lags behind other 12V and other highly-compact 18V impact drivers in our 45-degree interior clearance test. This performance results from the extended length from the collet to back.

Check out the Milwaukee M12 Fuel 3453-20 or Makita 12V CXT DT04Z if you want to stick with a 12V driver that squeezes into tight spaces better.

Compare driving clearance test results

Noise

DCF801 Impact Driver Noise Chart

Max noise no load (dBA): 75.3
Max impacting noise (dBA): 95.6

The DCF801 is comparatively quiet when impacting, making it a good option if you don’t want to irk your neighbors. Of course, no impact driver is a wallflower, and any impact driver’s noise is harmful with prolonged exposure.

The Milwaukee M12 Fuel Surge 2551-20 and Milwaukee M18 Fuel Surge 2760-20 are quieter options to consider since both are hydraulic impact drivers with more subtle impacts.

Compare noise test results

Vibration

Max head vibration no load (m/s2): 44.6
Max grip vibration no load (m/s2): 1.6

Compare vibration test results

Light

Dewalt DCF801 Light
Dewalt DCF801 Light Closeup

Light: Yes
Light on/off: No
Number of lights: 3
Light time delay (sec.): 20.0

The DCF801’s LED light array illuminates a large surface area. One minor gripe is the light’s time delay, which doubles the time for most impact drivers, unnecessarily draining battery life.

There is no dedicated flashlight mode, such as included with some Makita impact drivers, where the trigger acts as an on/off button to turn on the light without moving the motor. You also can’t disable the light.

Collet

Dewalt DCF801 Collet Closeup

Collet size: 1/4-inch hex
Quick-change collet: Yes
Bit-eject collet: Yes
Easy-insert collet: Yes

The DCF801 is excellent for one-handed bit changes. The quick-change collet has an easy-insert feature that doesn’t require sliding the collet forward to accept a bit. A bit-eject feature also lightly ejects the bit when sliding the collet forward.

Dewalt impact drivers have a collet design that is executed better than other brands. The easy-insert mechanism is smooth for simple operation, and the bit-eject feature doesn’t jettison the bit too hard to potentially miss catching the bit.

App integration

App integration: None

There is no bluetooth app integration to review impact driver diagnostics or to customize driving profiles on your phone. Dewalt models like the high end Dewalt 20V Max XR DCF888 come in a ToolConnect version which includes an app integration to track impact driver usage, displays tool diagnostics, and allows you to set custom driving profiles, such as adjusting the RPM for each drive mode.

Warranty

Tool warranty (years): 3
Battery warranty (years): 3

Dewalt stands behind the durability of its impact drivers with exceptionally-long warranties. The DCF801 has a three-year warranty. Dewalt 12V batteries include a two-year warranty.

Dewalt also offers free maintenance and replacement of worn parts for one year for the DCF801 and two years for its 12V batteries.

What's new?

12/5/23: Updated alternatives section
7/27/23: Full review published
7/14/23: Preliminary review published

Nathan Hamilton
Nathan Hamilton
Nathan Hamilton is the founder of DIY Gear Reviews and a recognized expert in the home and DIY space. He has over 200 bylines covering topics such as power tools, hand tools, and woodworking. Nathan is the strategic director for DIY Gear Reviews, deciding everything from the content covered to designing the testing methodologies for lab-tested reviews. He can be emailed at nhamilton@diygearreviews.com.

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