A few days ago, we posted our Kobalt Hand & Power Tool Preview. In addition to a lot of technical details about the tools, we learned a few things about Kobalt’s design practices and philosophies that are definitely worth mentioning.
1. Kobalt won’t cram unnecessary features into their tools just because they can
As consumers, we usually want the most for our money. In regard to DIY tools, or even tools meant for professional use, that means we often look for the most features, best technical specs, and highest performance.
When checking out the new Kobalt 18V impact wrench, I noted that there was no electronic brake. Wait a second, no brake? That seemed a little unusual to me, so I queried a Kobalt rep about this.
It turns out that Kobalt went out and asked end-users and mechanics about what features they look for in an impact wrench, and that most were not concerned with whether there was an electronic brake or not. So, Kobalt engineers designed the tool without one, reducing complexity and saving on production costs. They could have designed the tool with an e-brake, but did not see much demand for one.
2. Kobalt listens to and cares about their customers’ needs
Related to my first point, it really looks to me that Kobalt cares about their customers’ needs. It became obvious that they’re not just trying to push into the market with a me-too attitude, they’re actively trying to get things right to best suit the needs of potential buyers.
That said, there are some nice user-friendly features in both the corded and cordless tool product families. Kobalt’s attention to user needs and demands also spans across their hand tool and storage lineups as well, but that’s a story for another time.
3. Different pricepoints for difference users
Kobalt designed different cordless tool packages to meet different user needs. To provide what looked and felt to be solidly-built tools at a more homeowner and beginner DIY-friendly pricepoint, Kobalt left a few advanced features out of their 18V NiCad tool kit.
Some of the differences between the 18V NiCad and Li-ion tool kits include a slightly less compact drill-driver, NiCad-specific vs. dual-chemistry charger, circular saw with stamped shoe and plastic housing vs. more robust aluminum shoe and housing, reciprocating saw without vs. with orbital action, incandescent work light vs. more adjustable LED light. Then of course there’s the NiCad vs. Li-ion battery chemistries.
4. Looks can be deceiving
Let’s be honest, the new NiCad tools look bulky and unsightly, but this is mostly due to the monstrously large battery pack. Seriously, this is 2011, and 18V 1.5Ah batteries should not be this large. And then with a bit of apprehension, I picked up the drill…
To my surprise, the 18V NiCad drill felt alright. I handled it a bit, and when checking to locate its center of mass and balance, I was pleased to find it towards the top of the handle close to the trigger. Now, I have not yet determined the optimal balance point for cordless drills, but I tend to favor models that balance out near the top of their handles
Although initially repelled by the sight of the huge NiCad battery packs, I realized that I couldn’t trust the tools’ looks to represent how they feel. While this sounds obvious, I have found that tools that look bulky and imbalanced often are.
5. If challenged by a Lowes or Kobalt team members to a cornhole/beanbag toss, hesitate!
I never lived in areas where tailgaiting was popular, and so my experience with beanbag toss games is limited to what I’ve seen on television. I think I played the game once or twice before at a carnival, but don’t really remember. Playing a little bit at the Kobalt media event, or at least trying to play, I realized it’s not a game I am at all good at. At least it made me feel better that a few others at the event were just as bad. But the Kobalt team members are insanely good cornhole toss players, with the exception of a few of them (who were still more skilled than I).