Wise Buys: Palm Drivers
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, and gets into tight places no full-size drill can. In our tests, each of the three drivers we recommend displayed surprising power. We drove 2" drywall screws into a pine 2x4 without pilot holes, and each driver exceeded our expectations. All three feature lithium-ion batteries that manufacturers say won't lose a charge even when stored unused for more than a year.
Black & Decker Li3000
At half the length and one-sixth the weight of my 14.4-volt drill/driver, Black & Decker's 3.6-volt Li3000, shown above, 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
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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 11⁄2 " extension. In sum, it's a handy small-task tool that's always at the ready.
—Tested by Dave Campbell, Deputy Editor
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Bosch PS-20 Pocket Driver
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
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