Graco Ultra Handheld Airless Sprayer

Written by on May 3, 2017 in Product Reviews, Sprayers with 7 Comments

2017: Year of the Comeback for Handheld Sprayers?

There is a new line of Graco Ultra handheld airless sprayers for 2017. If you have used handheld sprayers in the past, keep reading because the technology has changed considerably. The new offerings from Graco are no longer called “ProShots”. And they have very little in common with the previous generations, which we have been testing and abusing since 2010.

There are 3 models in the new line. One is corded, one is cordless, and then there is a cordless model that is specially designed for use with hot solvent products (called the “Max” unit). These 3 units are branded under two different names depending on where you purchase. You will see them in Sherwin Williams stores under the name “Graco Ultimate” and in other stores they will be labeled “Graco Ultra”. The 3 models under each label are identical.

Looking at the corded and cordless models, the changes start right at the front end of the tool. In the past, the handheld sprayers required special tips and housings that were unique to them and not interchangeable with other airless guns. That has been changed.

Fine Finish Low Pressure Tips

There is an already popular new tip for 2017 called Fine Finish Low Pressure (FFLP) that is RAC X in style and compatible with all airless and aaa spray guns, including the handhelds.

Graco ultra handheld FFLP tips are a redesign on the previous RAC X Fine Finish reversible tips. They allow you to work with the same results and size preferences as you always did, but at a much lower pressure. This results in a softer and tighter fan pattern, less overspray and more efficient material usage.

So, this is good news for the handhelds. The tips on the handhelds are now compatible with the rest of your airless pump fleet. What is nice about the FFLP tips on handheld units is that they help you to harness the power a little bit.

In the past, you had to move really fast to get a good result with handhelds. With the new FFLP tip style, you can now work with similar spray technique as you would use with a conventional pump and hose-based airless rig…in terms of pace and how far you need to be from what you are spraying.

The new handheld sprayers come with a 514 tip and are capable of running .008 to .016 orifice sizes across the usual range of fan sizes. The Max unit also comes with a 210.

Flex Liner

The cup style is new and more functional – allowing you to spray multi-directional, even upside down. While still a bottom cup, it is no longer solid plastic. It is an open, molded plastic housing with disposable soft plastic “flex-liners” that fit inside. The liners hold the paint and you can see through them. Additionally, they are part of the priming process to pressurize the sprayer. The corded and cordless Ultra and Ultimate units come with 4 liners, and the Max version in both the Ultra and Ultimate lines comes with 6.

At the top of the cup housing, there is a small “vacu-valve” that you open the top of and look down into. While squeezing the flex liner softly, you remove any air from inside the cup. You can see in the valve when this is complete, and simply flip the valve top shut. Flip the control knob to the “prime” position, pull the trigger for a few seconds and you are ready to spray.

This takes the guess work out of getting the handheld primed and ready to work. You can see, feel and even distinctly hear when the air is fully gone from the liner, and the machine takes the pressurization process from there. In practical terms, there is no cup with air in it, the flex liner collapses to keep fitting the shape of the fluid inside it as you draw from it.

There is no longer a down tube into the cup. There is a simple 60 mesh filter at the inlet, which is removable.

Battery

Perhaps the most critical improvement with the Graco Ultra handheld technology is the battery. The previous generations ran on batteries that were overweight, underpowered and too short lived.

Graco Ultra handheldThe Ultra and Ultimate cordless units are now powered by a slim and powerful Dewalt 20 volt battery that is well-aligned with the power draw needs of the sprayer.

The cordless unit comes with two of these batteries and a charger. Batteries from your other current generation Dewalt 20v cordless tools may be compatible as well.

This is a huge improvement in functionality, performance and user experience. You can expect to get about 4 cups (or approximately 1 gal) of spraying from one battery charge. Batteries typically recharge in about 35 minutes, making it pretty easy to keep swapping out for a fully charged one during extended sessions with the cordless handheld.

Controls

The motor speed/power control is now located at the back of the sprayer handle near the battery, making it easier to see and adjust while working. You can smoothly scroll the power band from 500-2000 psi to fit your product viscosity and finish needs. The motor control used to be on the prime/paint knob, which is now a simple two position dial on the side of the housing above the cup lid. Vertical position on the knob is prime mode, and horizontal is for spraying. There is no longer a prime lever to flip up and down.

Under the Hood

PumpOne of the biggest causes of downtime with the previous handhelds was that the small plastic check valve up inside would get stuck sometimes, which could be really inconvenient.

The new units have no check valve. There is also an automatic outlet ball knocker so there should be no sticking there either.

The pump is completely new, with a Triax triple piston version made of stainless steel and carbide. It is lightweight, powerful and also has the same ProConnect capability as the current generation of Graco airless pumps, meaning that it can be quickly swapped out right on the job. That makes for less downtime by not having to take it in for repair if the day comes that the pump has worn out.

Cleaning

The Flex Liner makes cleaning the machine simple. You can dispose of it if you choose, but they are easy to rinse. Paint does not stick to them and they retain their shape after cleaning. It is no longer necessary to clean the inside of a solid cup, which is nice. You can get many rounds of use out of each liner.

It is worth noting that cleaning handhelds after each session is critical to their consistent performance. These units are easy to rinse with a liner or two full of water, and the tip cleans just like any other RAC style by blowing it out with water, then removing and scrubbing with a toothbrush.

Final Take

One thing that has not changed about handheld sprayers, in my opinion, is that they are reasonably priced tools that are intended for convenience. The Graco Ultra handheld line moves that tradition forward. 

By reasonably priced, I mean in the $500 and under range, which all 3 units in the Ultra/Ultimate lines should roughly be (depending on where you purchase). It is hard to find a new airless style sprayer in that price range that can solve a lot of problems for you at the professional level.

Graco Ultra HandheldBy “convenience tool”, I am referring to those small projects that you don’t want to waste hours brushing.

Think of items like stair spindles, lattice work, bulkheads…those tasks that take about a gallon of paint, and you don’t want to haul out a larger airless rig for a gallon of work. At the same time, you don’t want to spend all day brushing a gallon. That is where handhelds are handy.

Portability is a primary benefit of handheld spraying, especially in the cordless versions. Having 2000 psi in the palm of your hand with full mobility and a solid 20v battery onboard creates some flexibility that makes nuisance tasks much more tolerable. With no hose to manage, it is that much easier to focus on your finish.

Handhelds won’t be the only sprayer technology you need in your business, but they are definitely worth adding to your arsenal if you run into a lot of small tasks that just need to get done well and quick by a workhorse that can do good work.

Scott Burt

Scott Burt is a contractor and freelance writer whose column "From the Field" has appeared in American Painting Contractor magazine (www.paintmag.com) since 2008. His writing and projects also appear in other print and digital venues. This site is an extension of Scott's publication work, and he encourages readers to leave comments and questions about articles published here. Hope to hear from you!

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7 Reader Comments

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  1. Alexandre says:

    Parabéns aqui no meu país ainda é novidade este tipo de equipamento
    Querem me vender uma proshot II mas não estou confiante gostaria de comprar uma trucoat proII acredito ser mais moderna
    Oq você me o dica? Obrigado
    Já sou proprietário de duas Graco uma 390 e 490 Max II

  2. Steve says:

    HI Scott. I am a novice wanting to paint kitchen cabinets with a nice finish. Would you recommend the graco ultra for that project

    • Scott Burt says:

      You could do the doors and drawer fronts with it for sure if you take them off. Face frames you might be better off to brush because it takes a lot of careful and tight masking to spray them.

  3. Scott, I just picked up one of the new Graco handheld fine finish cordless sprayers from my local Sherwin store.
    I was able to trade in my older cordless regular sprayer on the new unit and get $200 in Graco bucks. I’m keeping the old Fine finish cordless sprayer for now. Can’t wait to use the new one; should be great with the low-pressure fine finish tips. We really like those tips in the air assisted airless or just airless finishing overhead doors and things like that. Thanks again for your valuable contribution to our trade.

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