Wise Buys: Palm Drivers

Why buy? Sometimes a high-voltage cordless drill is just plain overkill for a small job -- driving screws to install cabinet hardware, for example. That's when you'll find a palm-size driver mighty handy. It fits comfortably in a shop apron or tool belt,

Black & Decker Li3000

Editor test-drive:
At half the length and one-sixth the weight of my 14.4-volt drill/driver, Black & Decker's 3.6-volt Li3000 feels more like a hand tool than a power tool. On a full charge, the Li3000 drove 41 2" screws into unpiloted stock in about 10 minutes, although it did not fully seat most of them. After recharging the battery (a six-hour wait), I used the Li3000 for other shop tasks. I was able to drill 5/32" pilot holes into pine, but discovered the 1/4" hex chuck -- which has a spring clip that presses against the bit's base -- would not hold the bit to back it out, so I had to pull it out by hand. To my surprise, the Li3000 drove 62 #8x1" screws into pilot holes in pine before the battery gave out.

The single-speed, 180-rpm driver has a large handle trigger that I could grip comfortably with three or four fingers. But the three-position drive-direction switch atop the driver felt awkward to operate while gripping the tool. (The middle position locks the driver so you can use it as a screwdriver.) The tool includes a set of 40 hex drive bits.
-- Tested by Owen Duvall, Projects Editor

To learn more:
800/544-6986; blackanddecker.com

Skil iXO

Editor test-drive:
Skil's 3.6-volt iXO has enough oomph to drive just about any-size screw into a predrilled pilot hole in hardwoods. That said, it won't replace my 12-volt drill/driver for jobs that call for more torque or speed. The iXO drove 41 screws in the 2x4 test -- although it could not fully seat them -- taking about 11 minutes to drain the battery and three hours to recharge it. Even after this tough, continuous-duty test, the tool and its built-in battery felt only warm. I drilled a 1/16" hole into red oak, but the magnetic 1/4" hex chuck wasn't strong enough to back the bit out of the wood without slipping out of the tool. But its 200-fixed-rpm motor isn't meant for drilling; it's too slow.

The three-position drive-direction switch is located just above the trigger, as in larger drivers, and I like the LED arrows on top of the tool that show drive direction. The iXO comes with 32 driver bits, a 1/16" drill bit, and 1-1/2" extension. In sum, it's a handy small-task tool that's always at the ready.
-- Tested by Dave Campbell, Deputy Editor

To learn more:
877/754-5999; skil.com

Bosch PS-20 Pocket Driver

Editor test-drive:
Comparing the Bosch PS-20 to the other compact drivers is like pitting a Porsche against a Yugo: Both perform the same functions, but on completely different levels. The PS-20 differs from the other two drivers because it has two removable 10.8-volt battery packs (so you always have a spare), double the torque, an 11-setting clutch, a quick-connect hex chuck, and a trigger-activated light. It is really just a baby cordless drill/driver. It comes with two hex drive bits (Phillips and flat) and a 30-minute charger.

I tested the tool by drilling with 1/8" and 1/4" twist bits into pine and ash and had no trouble. Next, I used 1/2", 3/4", and 1" spade bits to drill into hard maple. Although the variable-speed 400-rpm motor was slower than my 14.4.-volt drill/driver, it managed nicely. After recharging the battery, I drove 138 2" screws into a 2x4. Next, I used the PS-20 to drive 112 3" screws on a full charge; very impressive for its size.
-- Tested by Bob Hunter, Tools & Techniques Editor

To learn more:
877/267-2499; boschtools.com

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