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 PS21-2A Cordless Screwdriver Kit via Amazon ($123 as of 7/16/10)
Bosch PS31-2A Cordless Drill Driver Kit via Amazon ($149 as of 7/16/10)
PS21 via ToolGuyd | Bosch
PS31 via ToolGuyd | Bosch
Bosch provided the samples featured in this review unconditionally.
Check out our photo gallery is on the next page:
I’m in the process of upgrading my Crapsman cordless driver. After countless hours of research, I think you’ve helped me make up my mind. Now I just have to convince the other half.
Thanks for the review.
I’m glad that you found the review to be helpful!
I really don’t envy the position you’re in right now. There are many great compact cordless tool options available these days with even more on the way. Choosing a system to buy into has become a somewhat daunting task.
Well, good luck!
(If you need help narrowing down the choices to help make up your mind, let me know – it may be the motivation for us to finally publish a compact cordless tool “buying guide”.)
I have the old model of impact driver. I picked it up after I saw an electrician using it. Looked so handy to carry in your regular tool belt. I’ve been very happy with it for the last few years. I’m disappointed to see they moved the light from a ring around the chuck to the body. The light on my impact driver is actually functional and shines on the work. The body mounted light on my Dewalt 18v drill casts a shadow on the work. Looks from your photo like the new models have the same problem. What were they thinking?
wow nice review
Ben, the driver featured in this review is not an impact driver. You will be happy to know that the new impact driver has an improved 3-LED ring light.
The PS21’s body-mounted light is not shadowed, although its reflection pattern is a bit funky. The PS31’s light is obstructed a bit by its longer 3/8″ chuck, but the same is true for every single 12V and 18V cordless 3/8″ or 1/2″ drill I’ve ever come across.
uthscsaedu, thanks! Hopefully we’ll continue to meet and exceed your expectations!
The Bosch 10.8 volt cordless range just kepps getting better. Here are a couple of links to video demos we done on a couple of their products:
I picked up the P31 a month ago. It’s a great tool, and the drill/driver I reach for unless I need far more power (which is a rare occasion for most homeowners). The chuck is fabulous, and the ergonomics spot-on. I looked at the Milwaukee, and found that my palm would get caught between the chuck and the LED housing (there’s a gap there).
does it use the same batteries /charger as the PS20?
The batteries (BAT412) have been upgraded slightly, presumably to offer slightly better performance, but older batteries (BAT411) and chargers should be cross compatible with the new ones.
The older BAT411 and BAT 411a batteries are compatible. The 411a has been offered as a mail-in or in-store “rebate” with the new drill. Reports are that the new one lasts longer.
I’d love to find a compact cordless impact driver and a low profile right-angle cordless impact driver suitable for automotive use that I liked. I’m looking into taking my business mobile and I’d rather take nitrogen and battery tools in a service van than have another compressor. Right now I have a Milwaukee 9070-20 1/2dr 120v impact and I’m not fond of it, it doesn’t really hammer like a pneumatic wrench or even my cordless Makita 14.4v impact driver does. The cordless Makita isn’t up to what I want in a tool, it runs in decking fasteners all day on the weekends but it’s not for lugs and I won’t use it for that. In cordless tools, I’m fond of Makita since I’m already invested in them but with an eye to the future and new style batteries I know I’ve got to start fresh. I’ve been thru the aisles in Lowes and Home Depot, and nothing is really saying “buy me!”
For a right angle impact driver, take a look at Ridgid’s JobMax kit. The took is a little larger than it could be, but the right angle driver head is as compact as I’ve seen on a 12V tool.
Hi Stuart, Great review! quite a few of our customers ask for our opinion on certain drills when they are considering buying and its often hard to give a non bias review. I’ve actually pushed this post around our sales office, because its very useful to get someone else’s point of view. So many thanks!
Thank you for the kind words, and I’m glad you and your colleagues found the review to be helpful!
Stuart, great review! I bought my dad a PS20 a couple of years ago and he loves it, uses it all the time! For his birthday this month, I’d like to add to his driver with a PS31 so that he has a 3/8″ chuck and can do some drilling if he needs to as well. Are the 10.8 batteries that came with his PS20 compatible withe the PS31 if I buy just the bare tool? Or do I need the PS30?
Yes, Bosch’s 10.8V and 12V batteries and interchangeable and backwards compatible. The form factor is the same, and the 12V batteries are actually 12V “Max”, with a 10.8V nominal voltage.
You may want to consider the PS31 kit, however, since the batteries have been upgraded slightly over the years. But if you/your dad is happy with the current battery performance, then the bare-tool will save you a bit of cash as you already know.
Now that the L-Boxx kits are shipping, I contacted Bosch to find out if they’d be selling the form-fitting inserts separately, so I could get one for my PS31. Unfortunately, they don’t have them for sale, and there are no plans to offer them. So all who bought the earlier kits are “orphaned” and can’t get the same L-Boxx2 as the newer kits. Stupid decision, Bosch! Very short-sighted.
i have owned the ps21 for over a year, this driver is amazing. i had been working on a project and took a break, while on break a popup thunderstorm drenched my driver, peeved at myself i took the battery out, let it dry and voila, it works just fine. built bosch tuff.