Last year at around this time, Porter Cable released a new line of redesigned cordless and corded tools that started lining the shelves at Lowes right before the holiday shopping season began.
After the new tools were released, several recurring questions about them have popped up on online forums and discussion boards. Many of those confused and asking these questions are those that have prior familiarity or experience with Porter Cable tools.
The aim of this informal assessment is to address some of those questions. Click here to skip ahead to the summary.
Background and Overview
About one year ago, all Black & Decker Firestorm tools carried by Lowes were being clearanced out. At about the same time, Lowes began heavily promoting a new line of low-priced Porter Cable tools in their flyers and ads.
To be honest, after first seeing these new tools, our initial thoughts were that the new tools were priced oddly low for Porter Cable branded tools, and that perhaps they were Firestorm tools in disguise. We soon discovered that this was a popular theory. It was not exactly unreasonable, since, after all, what else could be inferred about $40 angle grinders and $109 cordless combo kits given the circumstances?
What Does Porter Cable Say About These New Tools?
In the original press release, it says that these new tools were “developed with the specific needs of the tradesman in mind – offering flexibility, performance and reliability at a great value” and that they were also “designed to meet the demands of the worksite and around the shop.”
So Are These Rebadged Firestorm Tools or Not?
This was our first thought, but our perspective has changed slightly since then. First of all, if these were simply Black and Decker Firestorm tools in disguise, why are their releases being staggered? Porter Cable is gradually expanding the new product lines, suggesting to us that perhaps the tools are in varying stages of development or redesign.
Plus, some of these new tools seem to have better specs and different functional appearances than the Firestorm tools they replaced. Not to mention the warranty is better – 3 year warranty, 2 year warranty on batteries, 1 year free service, 90 day money back guarantee.
Another thing that we noticed is that the the new drills have metal keyless chucks, and feature torque ratings not typically found in consumer level tools.
In short, our answer is a definite absolute maybe. It just cannot be denied that the new tools’ low pricing strongly suggests a deviation in tool quality, design, or durability. Typically, something must always be sacrificed to achieve such low prices.
If we had to guess, we would hypothesize that these tools are Lowes’ mid-range answer to Home Depot’s lineup of Ryobi tools, and Sears’ lineup of Craftsman C3 power tools.
Are These New Tools Equivalent to Their Predecessors?
This is a tough question to answer, but, quite frankly, we don’t see how it would be possible. For example, consider Porter Cable’s new 4-1/2″ angle grinder, which is priced at $40. The previous model, which is no longer mentioned on Porter Cable’s website, the 7418, is currently selling for for $93.
How can a $40 tool compare to one that is priced twice as much? It is this type of discrepancy that has confused many to whom Porter Cable has always meant “professional quality.”
What About Porter Cable’s Other Tools?
As far as we can tell, Porter Cable’s nailers, routers, sanders, and all of their other professional woodworking tools are unchanged.
How Can I Tell if a Tool Has Been “Redesigned?”
As far as we can tell, the product number says it all. The newer Porter Cable tools all have product numbers that start with “PC”. The new angle driver? PC750AG. The new 18V drill? PC1800D. Porter Cable’s pro-quality premium low-profile sander? 390K.
You can probably also tell by looking at the price.
Is Porter Cable Changing Their Focus?
From where we’re sitting, it looks like Porter Cable is still hell-bent on designing and manufacturing top-quality woodworking tools.
I Always Buy Porter Cable – What Does This Mean for Me?
Well, to be honest, it depends on whether you are looking for a consumer-grade tool, or a professional-grade tool. If you are looking for a professional tool, then you may not be able to base your decision solely on Porter Cable’s name and reputation anymore. These new tools are obviously not the same, as should be apparent by their pricing.
At least for the time being, if there is no “PC” prefix, then there is no need to hesitate.
What Does ToolGuyd Recommend?
This is a tough question, and again the answer depends on what you are looking for. Since Porter Cable no longer exclusively offers pro-quality tools, you may need to lend less weight to brand loyalty the next time you go tool shopping.
If you would like to avoid these new lower-priced tools, you can differentiate them from Porter Cable’s existing pro-quality tool lineup by their “PC” prefix as mentioned. If you shop around, you may be able to find some of Porter Cable’s previous model tools. For example, their 19.2V drill (9826), which is no longer being manufactured, can still be found at a few online retailers.
If you’re on the fence and are not sure if you should give these new tools a chance, remember that the tools carry a 90-day money-back-guarantee, and that Lowes has a fairly lenient return policy as well.
We wouldn’t say to stay away from these products, but do shop carefully. If you’re looking for a new drill and amongst your other considerations are Bosch, Milwaukee, and Makita models, you won’t want to look at the PC1800D. But if you’re looking for a cordless 4-tool combo kit and your budget is $200, then the PC418C-2 set should definitely be on your short list.
In short, some of Porter Cable’s new corded and cordless handheld power tools are definitely different than the black and grey pro-level Porter Cable tools that many professional tool users remember. However, Porter Cable’s woodworking tools and all other tools with model numbers not prefixed with “PC” are still pro tools and remain unchanged.
This is not to say that the new Porter Cable tools are aimed at budget tool users. Judging by their specs, features, and designs, the new Porter Cable tools seem to be targeting the mid-range tool market.
Currently, it looks as though Lowes is marketing their selection of Skil tools towards budget tool users, the relatively new Porter Cable lines towards serious DIYers and light pro users, Hitachi tools towards serious DIYers and value-oriented pro users, and Dewalt towards very serious DIYers and pro users, with tools from a few other brands mixed in.
That all said, we would not hesitate to recommend Porter Cable’s new line of corded and cordless tools towards those looking to buy mid-range tools.
Reference Press Releases
Porter Cable Releases New Cordless Tools
Porter Cable Releases New Corded Tools
Porter Cable Expands New Cordless Tool Line
Porter Cable Expands New Corded Tool Line
Sigh and another great company starts to coast on it’s name. How long until the PC flashlights?
The high end companies start dipping into the low and mid range markets and soon they are gone.
The new 15″ Porter Cable standing drill press (PCB660DP) at Lowes is really a Rexon DP330F from a company in Taiwan. It took me a while to figure this out, but this is why the Internet and Google is fantastic. You can put the pieces together. Knowing what I know now, I’ll get the Rigid DP1550 at Home Depot which is priced the same ($299).
just tried out my 4″ disk x 8″ belt sander
the disk was way out of wack making it very not fun to sand on it
and one of the handles on the disk table was all jacked up
$179 on for harbor freight quality
its going back to lowes
I spoke with the manager at the Dewalt/Delta/Porter Cable parts and service center in Portland, OR. It has been two years since the previous post, so some things may have changed since then. I apologize if I state what is already known.
Bottom line. Today, Dewalt owns all three above brands. Delta, for a time was taken offline. Now it is coming back. I can’t speak to the quality of the new Delta. However, the new Porter Cable tools are “home owner” quality. I was told that Dewalt wanted to be the big dog on the block, so they redesigned the PC line to be inferior. The service manager added one caveat. Porter Cable routers are still as good today as in the golden years of the 90’s and before. Hope this helps.
I remember Norm Abram, on The New Yankee Workshop using all those Delta and Porter Cable tools and am saddened to see the nameplates sold and then losing their cachet.
Stanley Black & Decker owns the brands, not Dewalt. Delta split away some time ago and is now owned by a Taiwanese company.
Porter Cable product managers have repeatedly said that their newer tools are designed to endure rough and tough professional jobsite conditions. Some (many) of the cordless tools appear marketed towards homeowners and DIYers, but the Li-ion ones perform a step above.
It’s still a little confusing to see where Porter Cable fits between Dewalt and Black & Decker, but the company’s marketing dept. developed charts of all kinds to depict this. The way I understand it, Dewalt is being pushed forward as the premium heaviest duty tools, and Porter Cable as the powerful yet value-priced offerings.
My stance on PC has changed much in the nearly 3 years since this post. The situation isn’t quite crystal-clear, and PC is still fighting to rebuilt their reputation. Probably doesn’t help that service managers are telling people the tools are inferior homeowner-level products.