A surprising upgrade to the Black + Decker 20v Max lineup are new batteries that have features not seen with any other brands on the market today. These not only are “smart batteries” — they also double as a USB power source!
Normally known as an entry-level “homeowner” or DIYer brand, Black + Decker has leaped in front of the majority of the competition with this new battery technology that turns out to be extremely useful. The new SMARTECH batteries connect to your phone via BlueTooth & with a simple app, will allow you to control many aspects of them.
Unlike the Milwaukee ONE KEY tools, which also connect via BlueTooth (allowing you to manipulate the programmed settings of the tool) — or even like the DeWalt 20v Max Bluetooth batteries (which allow for similar controls/monitoring as the SMARTECH) — The B+D version also has a USB power port built-in which can be enabled/disabled via the battery or app!
The retail price on just the 1.5ah battery is $69…..the retail price on the kit is only $10 more, coming in at $79 — including the battery, charger, and 3/8″ 20v drill. It is really a no-brainer, even if you already have a drill, since the $10 bump in price is well worth having an extra tool & charger.
Downloading the app (iPhone 5S) took me 30 seconds & within a minute of it being installed, I already had it connected to the battery & was adjusting settings. You can see the current state of charge (%), lock the battery (enable/disable), find the battery (audible alert & LED flashing), control the USB port, and see a range of info about the battery itself.
Because the SMARTECH battery is part of the 20v MAX lineup — it is compatible with all the other tools in not only the power tool line, but also the outdoor lawn equipment line. This means that the same battery which you would use in your drill, will also power your hedge trimmer, weed eater, or circular saw. By keeping everything compatible, you wont have to waste money on multiple battery lines & chargers.
The battery had no problems being used with the 20v Circular Saw — we popped it in place, lined up our cut, and sliced right through a 2×4 with no hesitation. For an entry-level saw, especially running on a 1.5ah battery — it felt more powerful than expected.
The chuck on the drill is a 3/8″ keyless variety — however, unlike higher-end units, it is not ratcheting. This means that it takes both hands to tighten a bit in place, and you do run the risk of them falling out if you dont get things tight enough. We didnt have any problems with this in testing & drilled hundreds of holes without issue.
On the base of the grip you will notice an LED light. This lights up anytime you press in on the variable-speed trigger — but it does not have a time delay. Once you release it, the light goes off. We did find that you can “barely” press in on the trigger (without turning the chuck) & the light will come on, so in a low light situation you can also use it as a flashlight to illuminate what you are working on.
Run-time testing, endurance testing, and overheating are always concerns with any cordless tool we test. The B+D was no exception — and we ran it fast & hard until the battery completely drained. For the test we drilled 3/8″ holes into a 2×6 — over the course of about 20 minutes it drilled 330 holes — without overheating, smoking, stalling, or having any problems. When it got to the last 15-20 holes, the speed cut back somewhat (to roughly 75% of full power). However, it kept going & was able to complete the test — with results much higher than we were anticipating.
For the DIYer or Homeowner — having the ability to “lock” the battery is a lot bigger deal than you may consider. If you have small kids running around, and they end up in the garage or workshop, power tools can hurt them quickly. Although these are not “toys“, kids dont know that — and disabling the batteries until you actually want to use them will prevent unauthorized use and/or accidents when you arent around. Think about a 5yr old popping a battery on a saw — not safe! Now, think of that same saw with a disabled battery — much better situation!
How many times have you went looking for your drill — only to have it not where you left it? Happens to me all the time. Open up the app — click “Locate” & the BlueTooth signal tells your B+D battery to flash the USB LED light rapidly while beeping. Even if it is stuck inside a toolbox drawer or under your workbench, you will quickly be able to locate it. Once you disable the “Locate” option, the lights & beeps stop.
For traveling, biking, camping, picnics, etc — the USB power port will be a big help. As we all know, batteries die at bad times (with cell phones draining internal batteries too fast!). Plug your USB cord in the top of the SMARTECH, activate the port, and it automatically starts charging your cell phone or other USB device immediately. There is a 6hr timeout, so once it is done the port cuts off & prevents your B+D battery from draining.
For $79 — this is a deal. Batteries are always a huge cost when it comes to cordless tools, but since they are basically giving you a drill & charger for $10 extra (over the $69 normal price of just one battery) — this is a good kit to buy. Although it doesnt have massive power levels, multiple speed modes, or the bells & whistles of the high-end units — those same high-end drills dont have the extremely versatile SMARTECH battery which doubles as a power source & allows you to lock it (preventing unauthorized/accidental use).
All Black + Decker power tools are covered with a 2yr warranty against manufacturer defects & a 30-day money back guarantee.