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Tool review: Compact Power Drivers

These compact but capable tools pack surprising punch, making them the go-to drivers in our shop.

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Compact Power Drivers
Driving drywall screws
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Our tester fills up another pine
2x6 with 1-5/8" drywall screws.

Compact Power Drivers

Just as the diminutive David slew the ferocious giant, Goliath, to the surprise of everyone, these pint-size lithium-ion powered tools blew our expectations out of the water with their staggering screw-driving abilities. In fact, since we began using them, the larger 14.4- and 18-volt drill/drivers in the WOOD® magazine shop now see primarily drilling duty as we reach for compact 10.8- and 12-volt micro-drivers almost exclusively for driving screws -- especially for hinges and small hardware. Their compact size minimizes hand fatigue and provides them better access to tight quarters.

They're lightweights, but only literally

With weights ranging from 1.8 to 2.6 lbs (with battery installed), these cordless tools weigh about half as much as nickel-cadmium powered 14.4-volt drill/drivers, and even less than the bulkier 18-volt drills. They achieve this by using lighter-weight lithium-ion chemistries in their compact battery packs. Although most micro-driver manufacturers claim 12 volts of power compared to 10.8 for others, we saw no distinct advantage that could be traced to rated voltage. (One manufacturer started the trend of claiming 12 volts of power, and for competitive reasons most others followed suit.) All 10 tested units drove more than 150 1-5/8" drywall screws into pine on a single charge, and five drivers topped the 200 mark. (By comparison, the 14.4-volt drill/drivers we tested only a few years ago drove from 217 to 522 screws per charge.)

Using new 3/4" spade bits, all the tools drilled at least 19 1-1/2"-deep holes in pine on a single charge. One driver nearly tripled that with an average of 48 holes per charge. But most struggle with bits larger than 3/4" in diameter and drill slower than larger drills. Driving screws is what these tools do best, effectively making micro-drivers a bit of a luxury item for most home workshops. So if you can buy only one tool for your drilling and driving needs, get a conventional 14.4-volt or larger model.

Continued on page 2:  More to consider before buying



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