As 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.
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.
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.
Instead 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.
The 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.
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.
To 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.”
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!