Hands-On Review: Ryobi’s High-Torque Impact Wrench vs. DeWalt’s
We found out which battery-powered wrench is better suited for typical jobs in the home garage.
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No matter your level of involvement with cars, it’s difficult to find a tool that positively affects your workflow more than an impact wrench. You can't just grab the first thing you stumble upon and expect the best experience, however. You need to take the time to balance out some of the features to choose the one that works for you.
If you're on the hunt for your first impact wrench, it's a good idea to put an emphasis on power rather than size. These tools see the most use in situations where you have plenty of room to work—busting lug nuts free, for instance—and more power is usually better. There’s a limit to this rule, though. Too much power can easily break things if you’re not careful. Also, size does increase with power, and you need to make sure whatever you pick is something you can comfortably manage.
Budget is another major factor in the decision-making process. If you have $250-$300, you can land a serious tool. Ryobi’s high-torque impact wrench delivers impressive power output for the money with more than 1,100 lb-ft of torque. That initially makes it seem like the best deal when you consider that the pricier DeWalt’s standard half-inch impact delivers 300 lb-ft less. Some folks will say that the Ryobi is better for the home garage because size doesn’t matter when you’re using it primarily to bust lug nuts. Others will argue that the balance of the DeWalt is better, and it's still putting out more power than you’ll ever need for the average vehicle. I tested both to find out which is better for the DIYer.
As I unboxed these cordless impacts, I immediately noticed the difference in size. The Ryobi is physically larger and has an entire pound on the DeWalt. The DeWalt weighs four pounds without the battery, while the Ryobi is five pounds. That doesn't sound like much, but it's something you notice when handling them.
Ryobi’s big impact sits around 10 1/2 inches tall with the battery, is roughly 3 inches wide, 8 1/4 inches long at the head with a battery that measures right around 5 1/8 inches long. The DeWalt is a half inch shorter at 10 inches with the battery, has a width of 3 inches, a top length of 7 inches, and a battery length of 4 1/2 inches. Both batteries are 3 inches wide.
Speaking of batteries, I compared DeWalt's 20-volt 5-Ah battery and Ryobi's 18-volt 4-Ah battery. The DeWalt battery weighs 1.4 pounds, so the overall tool weight was 5.4 pounds when installed. Ryobi's battery is larger but weighs the same, bringing the total weight to 6.4 pounds.
The DeWalt is rated to deliver 600 lb-ft of fastening torque and 800 lb-ft of nut-busting torque. Those are impressive numbers, but Ryobi's 700 lb-ft of fastening and 1,170 of breakaway torque justifies the size difference.
As for the price, the DeWalt is more expensive with a retail of $250 for the tool alone. Ryobi’s sells for about $220. Considering that the batteries and charger can add a significant cost, the Ryobi is already the more desirable tool. However, my initial impression from the size alone is that these are not intended to serve the same purpose, and there is a clear choice depending on your needs.
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I have a modest two-bay garage that resembles the average home shop. As for my fleet, we're talking pretty light-duty stuff. My other half and I own a 2016 Honda Civic, a 2003 Dodge Ram 1500, two Suzuki dual-sport bikes, and a 1969 Dodge Charger.
Testing involved using the two impacts for routine maintenance tasks. To evaluate the two battery-powered impact wrenches, I split the work up evenly between them. When I was removing the wheels, I’d alternate between them. I did the same for job under the vehicle or in tight spaces.
I don't have any fasteners that need a ton of torque, so I didn't have to count on the overly muscular nature of either. However, using them to bust suspension components, exhaust bolts, and seemingly endless lug nuts free gave me a good feel of each tool's performance. It didn’t take long to figure out which is more appropriate for the amount of room I have to work with, how likely fasteners are to fail, or which I’d rather deal with.
As expected, the Ryobi’s high torque comes on more quickly. It’s always a blast to use it to bust fasteners free. The DeWalt is a powerful tool, but it gets to its strength at a more gradual pace. Because of that, the DeWalt impact seems to be slightly easier to control, except when using the automatic feature.
The automatic mode on either wrench is a great function that comes in handy. In this mode, the speed and power of the tool is controlled automatically, preventing over-torquing. Ryobi crushes DeWalt in this area.
DeWalt’s impact wrench does an excellent job of knowing when to speed up and slow down. It doesn’t stop when loosening fasteners, though. While you can still control the fastener, Ryobi’s ability to stop right when you run out of thread is superior.
That’s not all that makes a tool manageable, though. The DeWalt is smaller and therefore much easier to handle in tight spaces or for longer projects that mean more continuous use. The DeWalt is also much quieter, making it much more pleasant to use. Even as I tried to split the work up evenly between the two, I found myself more often reaching for the DeWalt.
The DeWalt is the better tool all around. It makes sense for my situation and the jobs I typically perform. Unless I'm losing my patience or just want to sling around nearly 1,200 lb-ft or torque for fun, I'm grabbing the DeWalt first.
Almost immediately when I began testing, I disocvered that the Ryobi is far better suited to heavy-duty applications while the DeWalt is better for the vehicles I regularly work on. Had I been working on big trucks or equipment, I'd undoubtedly go with the Ryobi. The additional power and more rapid application of the excessive torque simply outclass this DeWalt for high-demand situations.