Bosch’s new generation of compact lithium-ion cordless tools offers more speed, more power, greater comfort, and ridiculously lightweight and compact packages. After using the new PS21 pocket driver and PS31 3/8″ drill/driver for a few projects, my impression of the tools is even better than expected!
Given the two tools’ core design similarities, they are both discussed in this combined review.
PS21 Driver Features & Specs
- 1/4″ universal hex bit holder
- Short head lengths of 5.6″
- Lightweight at only 1.8 lbs.
- 20+1 clutch setting, for perfect torque adjustments and precise screwing
- 2 reversible speed settings: 0-350 RPM is optimized for high torque screw driving, and 0-1300 RPM for high speed drilling
- Variable speed trigger
- Bright LED light to illuminate work spaces
- Soft grip, slightly redesigned for improved grip
- Maximum torque of 265 in-lbs
- 30 minute charger with 2 lithium ion batteries, and a carry case
To put things into perspective, Bosch’s previous cordless driver, the PS20, was 6.5″ long and had a 100 in-oz torque rating with a maximum speed of 500 RPM.
PS31 Drill/Driver Features & Specs
- Single sleeve 3/8″ chuck
- Ultra compact with a mere 7″ head length
- Lightweight at 2.1 lbs
- 20+1 clutch setting (20 fastener driving modes + a drilling mode)
- 2-speed settings: 0-350 and 0-1300 RPM for high torque and high speed applications
- 265 in-lbs max torque
- Improved LED to illuminate work areas
- Battery fuel gauge to ensure that you don’t run out of juice unexpectedly
- Kit includes the drill/driver, 2 12V lithium ion batteries, 30 minute charger, and a carrying case
Right off the bat, it was noticeable that the balance and grip of the new drivers was improved. It seems as if each component was tightened up a bit – the chuck, clutch settings dial, the body, the grip – everything seems to have been made more compact.
After checking out the tools’ increased power and quick-stop motor brake, I focused on the redesigned and enormously comfortable grip. The dimple-textured grip really improved the feel of these tools.
PS21 Compact Pocket Driver
As mentioned, I love the grip of these drivers. It thins out slightly at the top of the grip, and then thickens up to accommodate the battery. While not as flat-bottomed as tools with slide-style batteries, the PS21 can be set to stand up with ease.
The 1/4″ hex chuck is a pretty darned good one. It holds 1″ insert bits securely and with no measurable wobble. The only thing missing is the ability to operate the chuck single-handedly in a Rapidaptor manner. Still, the PS21 features one of the more secure 1/4″ chucks I’ve ever used. You can also use 2″ power bits in the driver, but the power groove will introduce a little bit of wobble.
So the PS21 has two speed settings – that makes it a great impromptu drill, right? Not quite. I tried both hex-shanked twist drill bits and 1/4″ hex shanked spade wood-drilling bits, and as with most other tools’ 1/4″ hex chucks, there was just too much play. The PS21 can still be used with hex-shanked drills in an emergency, but it won’t be pretty.
In addition to the 20+1 setting clutch, the trigger is extremely sensitive and provides additional control. Additional pluses include the electric motor-brake, bright worklight, and great battery life. While I didn’t keep track of how many screws the PS21 could drive per charge, a fresh battery was always at the ready. With a 30 minute charger and two 1.3 Ah batteries included in the kit, battery-related delays are history.
The only thing missing from the PS21 is a battery fuel gauge. The PS31 (pictured above) and PS41 each have one. Why not the PS21?
PS31 Compact Pocket Drill & Driver
The PS31 differs from the PS21 only slightly, so I will only focus on those differences. First, the PS31 has a 3/8″ chuck. As expected, it’s a very, very good one. A single-sleeve allows for quick one-handed tightening and loosening, and it’s quite secure. Whereas the PS21 was optimized to securely grasp 1″ insert bits, the PS31 can very securely hold everything else.
It was a bit of a struggle to find something about the PS31 that I didn’t like. As previously discussed, the PS21 and PS31 seem to be built off a common chassis. While the LED worklight on the PS21 can adequately illuminate a fastener or work area, the PS31’s LED is largely shadowed by its chuck. I’m not saying it’s useless, but its utility is greatly diminished.
One more thing – the weight distribution of the tool is extended slightly forward because of the chuck. Because of this, the drill is somewhat unstable when placed upright on a table. With a bit in the chuck, it will occasionally tip over.
Pardon my frankness, but WOW, the power Bosch packed into these compact tools is much greater than I had anticipated! No, these tools are not going to be replacing 18V tools anytime soon, but they’re pretty darned capable. In actuality, they can handle many if not most of the jobs 18V drills and drivers are used for.
For the sake of the review, the PS21 was used to drive drywall and deck screws, finish screws, 1/4″ and 5/16″ lag bolts, and the PS31 was used to drill holes in wood 1/2″ and smaller. A few larger holes were drilled as well, and smaller holes were bored into aluminum and plastic. Don’t worry, we’re already working on “torture-testing” the tools.
Bosch’s PS21 is by far one of the best cordless drivers I have ever come across. I cannot imagine ever needing to put its 265 in-lb torque capabilities to use, but it’s reassuring to know the power is there if I need it. To be honest, I was slightly disappointed with the PS21’s drilling performance, but this was balanced out by its screwdriving superiority.
The PS21 is an excellent complement to 18V drill drivers. It’s light, well-balanced, and its 5.6″ head helps it reach into tight corners previously only reachable by a right angle driver.
Bosch’s PS31, on the other hand, can in many cases be used interchangeably with an 18V drill. It lacks the mass, size, and power to be used in high-torque or heavy duty applications, but it plows through smaller holes while can be used for most screwdriving applications as well.
Both tools offer enough control to be used on small or delicate finish fasteners as well.
Testing of the tools will continue as we attempt to push them to their limits. From what we’ve seen thus far, Bosch’s new PS21 and PS31 are highly recommended. They’re well built (we haven’t found a blue Bosch tool that isn’t), and are smaller, faster, and stronger than the competition. This alone doesn’t necessarily make them better, but their feature-rich high performance certainly helps.
Bosch’s new PS21 and PS31 cordless lithium-ion tools take things to a whole new level.
Bosch provided the samples featured in this review unconditionally.
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