Not Bad For The Money...

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Review by Rich99 posted 04-10-2010 10:04 PM 2656 views 0 times favorited 8 comments Add to Favorites Watch
Not Bad For The Money... No-picture-s No-picture-s Click the pictures to enlarge them

I have a 14.4V and 18.0V Ryobi drill, both with NiCad batteries. They’re heavy. I use them more for driving screws than anything else, so I decided I wanted a lighter battery powered driver of some sort. Looking in the big box stores, I saw units that were in the $200 plus range, some more than double the price of either of my Ryobis (and the 18 volt came with a circular saw!).

Then I spotted this little Black and Decker PD400LG Power Driver. It weighs nothing. Okay,maybe a half-pound, if that. It comes with a wall wart charger labeled as 4.2 volts and 100 mA, and one hex-shank Phillips head bit. All this for $19.99. How could I say no?

Got it home and had to charge it for 17 hours, so no instant gratification. When I started to actually use it, I found a trigger and a three way switch. In the switch’s middle position, the trigger is locked, but the ‘surround’ light comes on (looks like two LEDs; lights up the immediate area in front of the bit—it’s no flashlight). Then, the upper switch position drives clockwise and the lower position counter-clockwise. That’s all there is. Really simple.

The driver has a black rubber ‘snout’ that you would automatically think is the clutch, but you’d be wrong. It has no clutch. I learned to feel the torque it produces to know when to let off the trigger. It’s also not variable speed. Same speed driving and removing screws.

I drove about a dozen 1 5/8” sheet rock screws through pine shelving and into 2 x’s for a project I was in the middle of. The PD400LG wouldn’t sink screws into the pine. It wouldn’t even bring the head flush with the surface of the wood. With no clutch, the driver just peters out to a stop when it can’t go any further. But for what I was doing, it was good enough.

Next, I drove small, 3/4” wood screws into sanded 3/4” plywood, trying to attach a swivel plate. (It didn’t work out—didn’t have the ‘work-hole’ aligned.) I drilled 1/16” pilot holes for this, and the driver did what it had to and sunk the screws all the way, but without the clutch, it overtightened some of them and stripped the hole of threads. That’s when I learned to feel the torque and let off the trigger when the driver gave my hand a little twist.

Oh, did I mention that there’s a button on either side of the handle that allows you to straighten the handle and nose of the unit to be a straight-line tool, just like the B&D battery powered screwdrivers of 25 years ago. Pretty cool, huh?

Now, I’ve only driven about 40 screws with this new tool. In poplar, i could only get about a half inch into the wood with a sheet rock screw and no pilot hole. I did 6 screws like that. I don’t think this unit is going to putting any screws into oak or maple, even with a pilot hole. Out on my deck, it drove 1 5/8” screws into pressure treated (the old pressure treated) southern pine, and got the taper of the head of the screw to just touch the wood’s surface. It was really straining most of the way. 2” screws went through cedar decking like butter, and got the screw head just barely under the surface… I thought I was dimpling sheet rock.

I see few things in my future when using this tool. First, I’ll carry a non-powered screwdriver in my back pocket, to finish off the last turn or two when trying to get screws flush with the surface. I almost always carry one of those 6-in-1 screwdrivers anyway. Second, I’ll have to start drilling pilot holes… I know, I should do that most of the time, but… And thirdly, to accomplish #2, I’ll be getting a small set of hex-shank drill bits. I’ve never had any, so why not catch up with state-of-the-art drill bits?

I had visions of marching into Home Depot and returning the PD400LG, claiming that it was a toy, and they should advertise it as such. (I’ve gotten very good about returning things when I’m not satisfied with them. Must be coz I’m 62 now.) But I think I’ll keep it. Heck, for 20 bucks, why not? I’ll write it off as an experiment in buying the cheapest tool in the category of drivers and see what happens. Of course if it really dies and won’t take a charge within thirty days, I will go marching into that store. I’ll let you know.

-- Far-North Wood-Works (a fantasy company)

View Rich99's profile


60 posts in 3972 days

8 comments so far

View richgreer's profile


4541 posts in 3875 days

#1 posted 04-11-2010 02:36 PM

Most of my cordless tools are 18 volt DeWalt tools. They work great but they are heavy. Like Rich99, I wanted a lightweight cordless drill. I chose the 12 volt Hitachi with the lithium ion battery. It is lightweight, has great balance and just feels right in my hand. It has plenty of power and it is a full feature drill with variable speed (with 2 speed ranges) and a clutch. I forget exactly how much I paid for it, but it was around $100. I could have probably bought 5 of the B&Ds for what I paid for this Hitachi – - but, for me, this was the better choice.

-- Rich, Cedar Rapids, IA - I'm a woodworker. I don't create beauty, I reveal it.

View Rich99's profile


60 posts in 3972 days

#2 posted 04-11-2010 03:09 PM

right, rich… this thingy does only one thing, and not all that well… but if i drill all my pilot holes and not expect too much from it, it will save me a lot of chucking and unchucking of my big drills, and after all, time is money… oh wait, i’m retired.

-- Far-North Wood-Works (a fantasy company)

View richgreer's profile


4541 posts in 3875 days

#3 posted 04-11-2010 09:15 PM

I don’t know about retired, bearded men named “Rich”. Look’s like we both qualify for that designation.

-- Rich, Cedar Rapids, IA - I'm a woodworker. I don't create beauty, I reveal it.

View Rich99's profile


60 posts in 3972 days

#4 posted 04-12-2010 12:51 PM

too bad our names don’t describe our financial situation… but it’s good to be lion-hearted.

-- Far-North Wood-Works (a fantasy company)

View David Craig's profile

David Craig

2137 posts in 3909 days

#5 posted 04-12-2010 02:20 PM

I have the Ryobi version of the mini-drill. I like them because they are useful for assembly, woodworking or otherwise. Small enough to have in the pocket when tooling around the house. Never know what needs tightening and a little easier than lugging the 18 volt around in the holster.

Thanks for the review,


-- There is little that is simple when it comes to making a simple box.

View araldite's profile


188 posts in 4204 days

#6 posted 04-12-2010 04:34 PM

I just picked up a very light weight 12 volt Makita for about $100 that came with an extra lithium battery. The batterys charge in about 15 minutes. Great little drill/driver that works just as well as my big old Dewalt 14 volt. It’s so small and light you can just stick it in your pocket. Worth every penny and no frustrations.

-- Failure is the road to success if you learn to learn from your mistakes - Vince, Greenville, SC

View a1Jim's profile


118079 posts in 4378 days

#7 posted 04-12-2010 04:51 PM

I’ve had Boschies small lithium battery mini-drill for some time it too was about $100 and it does a great job for it’s size and power.


View PhineasWhipsnake's profile


77 posts in 3848 days

#8 posted 04-12-2010 05:46 PM

I have the Bosch version of that tool, plus the Bosch i-Driver, as I do a lot of removal & replacement of subassemblies in medical imaging equipment. I formely used the DeWalt 7.2V unit, but found it too heavy and crude compared to the Bosch. I see now that Makita and Milwaukee have similar units out there. I tried a couple of the cheapies at first, but they just didn’t perform well enough.

-- Gene T

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