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bdsd08.jpgAs the small cordless screwdriver market continues to heat up, we’re finding more and more lithium-ion powered releases.  Most recently, we had the opportunity to spend some time with the SmartDriver: a well-equipped 3.6V li-ion screwdriver from Black & Decker. 

Before we get into the detail of what the SmartDriver is, let’s start out by passing on what it’s not: it’s not a $100+ cordless driver.  And honestly, it’s not fair to compare it to one.  In many ways, it’s a compliment to Black & Decker that it’s so tempting to compare it to drivers costing two to three times as much, however unfavorable those comparisons might be. 

So, no, it’s not high powered monster.  It is, however, a surprisingly practical and useful household tool, which at $40 street is a heck of a deal.  We were impressed, as you’ll see after the jump.
 

Unboxing

Black and Decker’s Smartdriver comes packed ready for duty with the driver itself as well as a wall mountable charger and 40 screw driving accessories.  Our first impressions of the SmartDriver were quite favorable.  Its shape fits nicely into smaller sized or larger hands.  This is an important note: The SmartDriver looks almost identical (in terms of form factor) to li-ion drivers made by a number of other companies, but the SmartDriver demonstrated how small differences in design can add up to huge differences in feel.  The grip has a very high-quality feel, and the rounded shape of the trigger simplifies operation.

Black and Decker Smart Driver Black and Decker Smart Driver Black and Decker Smart Driver

Like other drivers in this marketspace, the Smartdriver has a non-locking chuck system that accepts any standard hex shaped bit.  The Smartdriver comes packaged with the most bits and accessories of any driver in its class.  The set is also surprisingly well-selected to handle most occasions that pop up in household use, and includes (among other things) Phillips, Torx, square and standard bits in various sizes as well as a 10 mm socket and an extension for hard to reach areas.

bdsd05.jpgInstead of a locating the directional switch on the side just above the trigger like other drivers, Black & Decker chose to locate the Smartdriver’s switch on the top rear corner of the handle.  This positioning allows the switch to both select and indicate direction without the need for other indicators.  It also allowed us to easily switch direction with the hand that’s holding the driver.  It’s a very user-friendly and intuitive layout; Even our most inexperienced test users could easily identify the direction the driver would turn by looking at the arrows on the switch.

bdsd06.jpgThe SmartDriver’s li-ion battery is integrated into its handle, and the entire driver fits into its charger stand.  The charger stand also comes outfitted with all the hardware necessary to wall mount it, and an extra mounting cup holds the rear of the unit in place while in the wall mounted mode.  (You can also remove all of it to charge the SmartDriver in a standard horizontal mode.)  The stand also comes with an optional side mount that holds one of the four 10-bit holders included with the kit for easy access when grabbing the driver.

In Use

We didn’t perform any numeric torque tests, and Black & Decker doesn’t publish torque data for the SmartDriver.  That said, the SmartDriver feels quite torquey to us in common use.  Any questions of power were put to rest rather quickly though when we took a few 3 inch wood screws and drove them into a two-by-four. The little driver, while only able to go at its single speed, never choked or seemed to have a problem.

bdsd07.jpgTo get a real feel for the SmartDriver in everyday situations, we used it on a few projects such as installing some kitchen cabinet handles and assembly of a workbench.  In these applications the lithium-ion battery’s characteristics really stood out, enabling the SmartDriver to work on both projects all day without any recharging.  It was very simple to use and offered smooth performance the whole way through.

We also gave the driver to a technician friend of ours and let her use it in her every day job. After a heavy day of use in 100 degree heat and some abuse, she reported that the Smartdriver was “a welcome timesaver with plenty of life.”

Conclusion

In its designed role — household jobs — the SmartDriver holds its own, even when performing tasks slightly beyond the call of normal use.  This is more than can be said for any of the cordless screwdrivers of yesterday.  Everyone who laid hands on the Smartdriver during our testing gave a nod to its performance for such a compact and inexpensive unit.

With a $40 street price, Black & Decker is making the SmartDriver very accessible and delivering quite a bit of capability to those looking for a way to turn some screws without breaking the budget.

If you have a Smartdriver or even just an experiance with one, we’d love to hear what you think.  Remember that a comment registers you for our Game Chair Giveaway!

Li3000 Smart Driver [Black an Decker]
Street Pricing [Froogle]

 

3 Responses to Hands-On: The Black & Decker Li3000 Smartdriver

  1. Bill Horvath says:

    Being in the tech industry, I’ve found the Smart Driver to be very handy for opening computer and electronics cases, as well as for putting components in and out of server racks. I had some initial problems with the switch not working (which others noticed as well; see Wired magazine’s review from a few months back), but those disappeared after a few uses, and I still liked the tool enough to buy a second one. I especially enjoy being able to leave it on the charger when not in use without having to worry about the battery going kaplooey.

  2. Emery Roth says:

    Amazon is running a deal on this driver right now…If you purchase $150 or more of tools it’s free. Not a bad deal, I just picked up the bosch ps20, some quick change bits and this (for free). The free B&D driver will end up in my ‘electronics’ tool box while the bosch will be my buddy at the carpentry shop.

  3. Chris H says:

    I also had the issue with the switch not working. Once the switch did work, the battery would only last a few minutes. B&D’s solution to the problem was for me to drive to the next state over to a service center to drop it off for service, where I would have to come back in a few days to pick it back up. What’s worse, the service center is only open during business hours, so I’d miss work to drop it off and pick it up. It would cost me three times as much to get my free warranty service than to buy something else. $40 in the garbage.

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