December 10, 2007

Ryobi 4-Piece Lithium-Ion Power Tool Kit - Review

Ryobi_Li_set.jpgLithium-ion batteries are a big deal right now. They last longer, charge quicker, and are half the weight of other batteries. But the catch is that they're quite a bit more expensive. There has been a lot of talk lately about Ryobi and their new line of inexpensive li-ion tools. But are they any good? Bad tools for a good price are still bad tools. Well, we spent all week using and abusing the 4-piece set and we're here to report back our findings. For the review, we're going to look at each tool individually and then wrap things up with some thoughts on the set as a whole.


The reciprocating saw has a nice tool-free, spring-loaded blade change. If you've ever used a DeWalt cordless recip saw, you'll be familiar with the type. As for power, we found this to be more than adequate for anything we threw at it (pipes, 2x lumber, and sheet metal). As for durability, we dropped it a few times, once off a ladder, and it hardly showed a scratch, so that settles that.

The saw functions great, but we weren't fans of the body design. Most cordless saws have the battery pack at the base of the handle, which leaves the majority of the body nice and slim. And since, recip saws are commonly used in cramped settings, like between joist bays, this allows the saw to be maneuvered around easily and to fit into tight spots. The Ryobi saw has a very different design which puts the battery pack in front of the handle, adding a good deal of bulk to the middle of the tool. This lessens the maneuverability of the saw and moves the center of gravity up towards the middle of the tool. In a way this is a good thing because it places more of the tools weight on what is being cut. But also, if you flip the blade and are cutting up, this weight is working against you. This design is a bit baffling to us. It's not a deal breaker for the tool by any stretch, but we're not sure why they didn't just go with the standard design.


The circular saw also departs from the standard design by putting the battery pack to the side of the tool as opposed to the rear of the handle. In this case, the change is a success. It places more weight over the footplate, resulting in increased stability and a feel that is more like a corded saw.


The saw has a number of nice features. It's got a measured out depth setting, and kerf markers for a straight cut as well as a 45 degree cut. It uses a 5-1/2" blade which gives a depth of cut of 1-9/16" for a 90 degree and 1-1/8" for a 45 degree. There's no doubt that it's a small saw, so you won't be able to build a house with it, but it's capable of cutting 2xs and 1xs with no problem.


The cordless drill is also very nice. It has a smooth two-speed toggle switch, a nice chuck, and it feels good in the hands. At first we thought the drill was big and bulky due to the size of the battery pack, but when we compared it to the Ridgid Compact Drill, we realized that the two drills are practically the same size.


One good feature that the drill has is a little magnetized panel just above the battery where you can stick a few screws while you're working.


The Flashlight is a good addition to the set and it works as advertised. It has a swiveling head so you can set it down and direct the light where you want it. The head only moves 180 degrees in one direction, but unless you're in a really tight situation this won't ever be limiting.


The battery pack has interesting power gauge. On each of the batteries, there is a little button that lights up an indicator and the color of the light determines how much juice you have left. We thought this veered into gimmick territory, but we found ourselves using the gauge quite a bit. The battery is also compatible with all other Ryobi One+ tools, so if you just shelled out for a few of their older tools, you'll be able to 'upgrade' them to the lithium-ion.


Because here in New England, things have been pretty cold lately, we stumbled on the Achilles heel of the lithium-ion technology: it hates the friggin cold as much as we do. Once it gets chilly, the charger simply refuses to work and if you do get out of the cold, you have to wait a while for the battery to warm up before it starts charging. For the most part, this doesn't come into play, but it's something worth knowing if you've got an unheated garage as your workshop or if you're a contractor framing up a new house in the winter and you don't have any heat (or walls) yet.


Ryobi_Li_bag.jpgThe kit comes with a nice bag that has little fabric partitions that allot space for each tool. Everything fits in pretty easily and the bag can be zipped up. Why it doesn't come with a shoulder strap or at least clips to add one is beyond us.

Is this kit worth it? You bet it is. We've always liked Ryobi because they manage to split the homeowner/contractor line so nicely and these tools are no exception. They're tough enough for some serious work, but they're also affordable and easy to use. A DeWalt kit of similar tools runs around $375 (and that's with the Ni-Cad batteries!), while this Ryobi kit sells for a mere $260. Like we said, Ryobi makes nice tools, and after using this kit for a week, that's a very small price to pay for the amount of use you'll be getting out of these guys. If you were considering buying them, you should just go ahead and do it, you won't be disappointed.

The Ryobi Lithium-Ion Set is available exclusively at Home Depot.

At Home Depot

Read More in: All Reviews | Cordless | Lithium-Ion | Power Tools

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Posted by Doug Mahoney at December 10, 2007 5:34 AM
Recent Comments

I love this Ryobi tool kit, I have it and think that every product in the kit is great quality and very reliable. I was also really pleased with the price that I purchased it for.

Posted by: Steve Davis at November 29, 2012 6:36 AM

I now have a Ryobi hedge trimmer and blower, and have used them both several times. Satisfied.
So much easier than gas. I have a selection of used drills and batteries of different voltages to give away...going with all Ryobi tools. because of the one plus system.

Posted by: harry at June 12, 2012 12:42 AM

Also have a "green" Lion kit bought from Home Depot in Nov 2009. Set was purchased for mild house duties and has been used less than 10 times total. Batteries already useless. Stored indoors. Repair centers are few and far between even here in Charlotte, NC. Stay away from Ryobi.

Posted by: Jason at January 1, 2011 8:31 AM
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