DeWalt Atomic vs XR Series — What are the Key Differences?

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DeWalt is a well-known brand sought-after by many woodworkers because of its cordless power tools, specifically the Atomic and XR selections. However, given that these products are under the same brand, it’s difficult to tell what sets them apart. 

In this post, I’ll dive deep into the differences between the DeWalt XR and Atomic lines, sharing my expertise to help you decide which tools are the best fit for your projects.

DeWalt Atomic or XR?

Best Budget
DEWALT ATOMIC 20V MAX* Cordless Drill Combo Kit, Compact (DCK278C2)
Best for Heavy-Duty Use
DEWALT 20V MAX Hammer Drill and Impact Driver
DeWalt Atomic Line
• Brushless Motors
• Lightweight Tools
• 20V Battery Packs
• Variable Speed Trigger
• 20V Max Lithium-ion Batteries
• Brushless Motors
• Wide Selection of Power Tools
• More Power Specifications
Best Budget
DEWALT ATOMIC 20V MAX* Cordless Drill Combo Kit, Compact (DCK278C2)
DeWalt Atomic Line
• Brushless Motors
• Lightweight Tools
• 20V Battery Packs
• Variable Speed Trigger
Best for Heavy-Duty Use
DEWALT 20V MAX Hammer Drill and Impact Driver
• 20V Max Lithium-ion Batteries
• Brushless Motors
• Wide Selection of Power Tools
• More Power Specifications

What is the DeWalt Atomic Series?

Although the DeWalt Atomic brand has only been around since 2019, it eventually became a staple for DIY projects due to its impressive collection of compact units. 

Besides smaller sizes, Atomic tools generally have lighter weight than XR brand alternatives. Because of this, they’re easier to wield and suitable for hard-to-reach areas. 

The hand tool selections under this product line vary greatly, from hammer drills to impact drivers.    

Atomic power tools may not be as heavy as other options, but it doesn’t mean they’re not powerful devices. In fact, if you ask our experts, they carry more power than some XR tools available in today’s market. 

The incorporation of a brushless motor in every Atomic tool ensures seamless utilization even for the most demanding do-it-yourself (DIY) tasks.

Many users favor these power tools over the ones with brushed motors mainly because of their ability to withstand harsh conditions and long-lasting durability. 

What I Like

What I Don't Like

What is the DeWalt XR Series?

Believe it or not, the XR line houses some of the most powerful cordless tools that DeWalt offers. 

If you scan the entire DeWalt XR line, you’ll find that these options primarily include devices with brushless motors and lithium-ion batteries. Unlike the Atomic line, the DeWalt XR range isn’t limited. 

Beyond impact drivers, I’ve used powerful XR tools for various tasks: from hammer drills for precise drilling to circular saws for smooth cuts. They also boast combo kits and even reliable angle grinders in their lineup.

The XR line offers greater control, specifically because these power tools have variable speed specifications controlled by a kickback brake. These features allow these units to work well with sensitive work surfaces. 

While comparing these DeWalt tools side-by-side, it’s evident that the XR line includes heavier and bigger models than the Atomic line. This structure allows XR units to handle large-scale projects better than other alternatives. 

What Does “XR” mean in DeWalt XR?

You may not know, but XR stands for eXtreme Runtime. Besides running with 20V lithium-ion batteries [1], the DeWalt XR brand has an upgraded system that allows the tools to have an extensive battery life. 

This feature enables XR batteries to deliver 20% more power and 50% more runtime than the regular DeWalt appliance chain. 

The system in DeWalt XR also has better battery management against exposure to high temperatures. It allows these tools to deliver power consistently and efficiently. 

When Was DeWalt XR Released?

Unlike DeWalt Atomic tools which are relatively new to the market, the XR line has been around since 2013. Manufacturers started selling these products to power equipment enthusiasts under the DeWalt FlexVolt category. 

Because of its compatibility, you can use DeWalt FlexVolt batteries on all the powerful tools under the XR brand. Depending on your runtime and power requirements, you can choose between 60V and 20V max batteries.

What I Like

What I Don't Like

Features of DeWalt XR and Atomic

Power

From my experience with DeWalt tools, both the Atomic and XR products utilize the same 20V max battery packs, powering their sport brushless motors. But don’t be mistaken – just because they share a battery doesn’t mean they deliver the same power range.

Considering that XR units are more robust than the DeWalt Atomic compact series,  it’s clear the power that these tools can deliver is more suitable for large-scale projects. Meanwhile, the less potent Atomic equipment suits residential use better.

Batteries

Besides brushless motor engines, it’s a bit harder to determine which performs better between DeWalt Atomic and XR because they have the same power sources. 

While the XR line carries the same DeWalt 20V Max battery system, it includes a higher voltage and amp-hour rating. Because of this, tools under this brand can produce more power. 

Meanwhile, 20V Max DeWalt Atomic batteries are smaller and lighter, making them more portable than XR alternatives. 

Although both DeWalt tools have the 20V Max label, XR batteries are more compatible with other models. You may not know, but the DeWalt Atomic battery system only works for tools under the same category.  

Range

The XR series has a more extensive product catalog than DeWalt Atomic. If you scan its power tools as we did, you’ll notice that XR showcases different options under 18V, 20V, and 54V specifications, whereas Atomic mostly features hammer drill and impact driver selections.  

Also Check: Top-Rated Impact Driver Bit Sets 

Size and Weight

As discussed earlier, the Atomic line features a more compact design than DeWalt XR tools. Despite XR’s power, we can’t deny that these tools are harder to carry around over extended periods. 

If, like me, you value compact, handy tools that fit well in tight spaces, it’s evident that the DeWalt Atomic series would be your ideal match.

Impact Driver

While comparing both impact drivers from the two brands, Atomic units are undoubtedly more geared for newbies since they’re user-friendly and easier to handle. 

Even though XR models can offer a higher power range, their heavier structure could hinder your productivity. If you’re handling a demanding task, it can lead to excessive arm straining. 

Hammer Drill

If you’re using the hammer drill for overhead applications or tight corners, smaller alternatives from the Atomic line are the best option. 

These models have compact constructions, making them handy for household or small-scale workshop projects. 

You’ll need a bigger, faster hammer drill to finish for more demanding applications. XR options may be bulky, but you can count on them for drilling through tough and thick materials. 

Oscillating Tool

Some projects don’t need heavy sanding, grinding, or scraping, so buying an Atomic oscillating tool for lighter DIY jobs is your best bet. 

DeWalt XR oscillating tool

However, you can expect better results with XR models to avoid struggling with high-demand tasks. XR models are some of the best oscillating tools you can find in the market. 

Performance

Many users, including us, are in awe of the XR line’s power. However, it doesn’t mean it can perform better than the Atomic series. The deciding factor for this category depends on where you intend to use the tool. 

The robustness and structure of the XR tools equip them well for heavy-duty operations. But, from personal experience, their weight and size can be a drawback for smaller-scale and overhead tasks. They naturally excel in more expansive projects.

On the other hand, the Atomic models are designed differently. Even though they might not be cut out for the most demanding jobs, I’ve been pleasantly surprised by their performance, much credited to their brushless motor.

Price

Like other power tools, portable units like the DeWalt Atomic series are more budget-friendly than heavier alternatives like XR models.

Although the latter is more expensive, our experts suggest this product line if you intend to take on commercial-scale projects. 

User Experience and Reviews

The customer reviews for both brands are generally favorable. However, Atomic selections are gaining more praise than alternatives because of the tool’s lightweight features. 

And since these products are more affordable, most feedback calls the brand cost-effective. 

Are DeWalt 20V MAX and MAX XR Batteries Interchangeable?

No, you can interchange these batteries. As we mentioned earlier, Max XR options underwent upgrading. Due to this, they include heavier structures and higher voltage ratings that aren’t compatible with standard 20V Max packs. 

Flexvolt vs. XR Series

Most FlexVolt tools on today’s market, like circular and table saws, are superior to the models under the XR product catalog. Besides more runtime and power, these units offer more versatility and better performance.

Are XR batteries Compatible With FlexVolt Tools?

You can use XR batteries in FlexVolt tools because they have the same battery platforms. However, remember that XR options have lower voltage and amp-hour ratings, so the same performance level isn’t what you should expect.

FAQ

Are DeWalt tools manufactured in China?

DeWalt is a global manufacturer, so it’s a no-brainer that the company has facilities worldwide. While the main manufacturing process happens in the US, the assembling procedures happen in Brazil, Mexico, UK, and China. 

Can you leave Dewalt batteries on their charger?

DeWalt batteries have built-in safety features, preventing long charging sessions from damaging crucial components. Once fully charged, the battery system automatically halts the charging process and will remain in its optimal condition.  

Conclusion

While this DeWalt Atomic vs. XR discussion reveals many similarities between the brands, it’s clear that their range and purpose are different. 

It’s easy to get confused because they’re from the same brand, but trust us when we say that picking the most suitable tool for your project will ease your woodworking experience. 

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Robert Johnson is a passionate furniture maker & carpenter, sought after for his knowledge on the craft.
You’ve probably seen his down-to-earth wisdom in USA Today, Bobvila, Family Handyman, and The Spruce, where he has shared commentary and guidance on various woodworking topics.

Robert is the brain behind Sawinery, where he aims to share tips, tricks, and a passion for all things carpentry.

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