If you need to change a toy’s batteries, swap out a thermostat, or tighten your sunglasses, you need a precision screwdriver, and the best one for most people also happens to be the simplest and least expensive: the MAXCRAFT 7-in-1. Most homeowners won’t use a precision screwdriver all that often, so we think you really just need to cover the essentials. The basic MAXCRAFT has the most frequently needed bits, and they store right in the body of the tool, so it’s a convenient item for a toolbox or kitchen drawer. The pocket clip helps while a project is going on, and the knurled body makes it easy to grip and turn.
If the MAXCRAFT isn’t available, or if you’re a Home Depot regular, we also like the Husky 8-in-1 Precision Slotted and Phillips Screwdriver Set. The Husky’s curved handle fits the hand better than the MAXCRAFT and comes with one additional bit. On the downside, the storage area holds only three of the four double-sided bits, so one needs to sit in the nose of the tool at all times. That bit-to-tool connection is a weak one, so you’re more likely to lose a bit while the tool is bouncing around your toolbox, or when you toss it into a kitchen drawer or pull it out of a pocket. The Husky also lacks a pocket clip, a feature that we found to be useful on the MAXCRAFT. Finally, the Husky has a spinning rear cap similar to that on high-end precision screwdrivers, but unfortunately the cap doesn’t actually spin well at all.
These two drivers are priced the same and are very close in performance. While we give the edge to the MAXCRAFT, we think that most people would be happy with either one.
If you’re a first-class tinkerer (or if you want to be one), we suggest bypassing the MAXCRAFT and stepping way up to the iFixit 54 Bit Driver Kit. This set comes with the most complete bit selection we could find (including Apple’s pentalobe security bit), and the screwdriver itself has all of the pops and buzzes that are lacking in the MAXCRAFT. Here you find a flexible shaft for accessing hard-to-reach fasteners, a freely spinning rear cap to speed up installation or removal, and a bit extender that you can convert into a T-handle for greater torque on stubborn screws.
I spent 10 years as a carpenter, foreman, and job-site supervisor building high-end houses in the Boston area, some of which were pretty extreme. I’ve also been writing about and reviewing tools since 2007, with articles appearing in Fine Homebuilding, This Old House, Popular Science, Popular Mechanics, The Journal of Light Construction, and Tools of the Trade, where I’m a contributing editor. My experience specific to precision screwdrivers mostly centers on the fact that I refuse to pay more than $5 for a pair of sunglasses. That means I spend a lot of time tightening little hinge screws. I also have three kids, so I fix toys on a daily basis.
As with a regular screwdriver, certain bits see use all the time while others sit around and collect dust. As someone who uses tools on a daily basis and stays extremely hands-on with building and repairing, I honestly have never once needed any precision bits beyond a Phillips #000, #00, and #0, as well as a few slotted sizes ranging from 1/16 to ⅛. For years I’ve had a decent-size precision screwdriver set, and other than those few bits it has gone unused, simply taking up space in the workshop.
Beyond the basic bits you’ll encounter less common ones that are useful for appliance and computer repair or a variety of specific hobbies, like radio-controlled cars. You’ll also find a class of proprietary security bits such as the Apple pentalobe bit that can crack open an iPhone or iPad.
The best precision screwdriver for most people is the MAXCRAFT 7-in-1. It’s about as basic as they come, but it offers everything you need out of a precision screwdriver: all of the most commonly used bits, convenient onboard bit storage, a knurled shaft for easy gripping, and a little pocket clip. The MAXCRAFT combines all of that for a bargain price of around $5. It isn’t a fancy tool—you can pay big bucks for a set of pro-level precision screwdrivers—but for most people, making a big investment just doesn’t make sense. It simply isn’t an item that you’ll use often around the house (but when you need it, there’s no substitute).
The onboard storage is rudimentary but fully functional. The butt-end of the tool unscrews to reveal a compartment that contains the bits (Phillips #000, #00, and #0, and slotted 1/16, 5/64, 3/32, and ⅛). The cap unscrews easily and stays tight when it’s on; even while the tool spent a couple of hours in a pocket, the cap remained secured.
When a bit is in the nose of the tool, a small magnet prevents it from falling out. The bits are easy enough to pull out when you’re changing them, but they’ll stay put during use. I also thought the pocket clip was a nice touch. I wired a thermostat with the tool, and the clip let me store the tool on my collar, where it stayed easily accessible while I prepped the wires.
All of our carpenter testers really liked what the MAXCRAFT had to offer, with one saying, “At that price, this is the kind of thing that I’d buy three of: one for the toolbox, one for the glove box, and one for the kitchen drawer.” Owning three of these is overkill, but if you’re really into your tools, like our tester, the MAXCRAFT is affordable enough to have more than one.
For such a simple, basic, and inexpensive tool, the MAXCRAFT has great Amazon reviews, with an overall rating of 4.4 stars (out of five) across 250 reviews at this writing. The consensus among the reviewers is that it’s an excellent tool for the price.
The storage of the MAXCRAFT can be a little frustrating at times. The magnet at the tip of the tool that secures the bit in the nose of the screwdriver is powerful enough to also grab onto the bits in the storage compartment. On more than one occasion, I had to really bang the screwdriver on my palm to free up the last of the stored bits.
The MAXCRAFT also lacks some features associated with high-end precision screwdrivers, which isn’t surprising, seeing as it’s only about $5. On many precision screwdrivers, the butt end of the cap spins independently of the handle, so you can brace the tool with one finger and spin with two others. If you’re using a precision screwdriver a lot, this is a great feature to have, but for occasional use it isn’t worth paying for.
Also, at such a low cost, the durability of the bits is a concern. In the time I’ve been using the tool, they’ve held up fine, securely fitting the screwheads. My hunch is that they’ll continue to do so as long as I don’t do anything extreme with them, like use the slotted bits as a prying tool. Under daily use, I suspect that the bits would start to wear out, but for more occasional use, they’ve been fine.
If the MAXCRAFT is unavailable, we also like the Husky 8-in-1 Precision Slotted and Phillips Screwdriver Set. Ergonomically, we liked it more than our main pick, but the design of the storage system increases the chances of losing a bit, which is why we gave the edge to the MAXCRAFT.
The handle of the Husky is lightly padded, and the curved design makes it a nice tool to hold and turn. We also like that the nose of the driver is long and narrow, so in tight spots it will be a bit easier to maneuver than the MAXCRAFT.
The Husky comes with four double-sided bits: Phillips #000, #00, #0, and #1, and slotted 1/16, 5/64, 3/32, and ⅛. Of those, the MAXCRAFT doesn’t have the Phillips #1. But because that size is commonly found on regular multi-bit screwdrivers, it isn’t an essential part of a precision set.
Where the Husky falters is in the bit storage system. The compartment in the tool body can hold only three of the four bits, meaning that you always need to keep one set in the nose of the tool. The bits click into the nose with a small spring-loaded ball bearing, but the connection is not very strong, so a bit could fall out while you’re retrieving the tool from a pocket or tossing it into a toolbox. And because the bits are double-sided, they’ll be harder to replace if you ever lose one.
The Husky also lacks a pocket clip, something we liked about the MAXCRAFT.
Although the Husky has a spinning rear cap, a nice feature, it doesn’t rotate smoothly at all. While you’re using the tool, it’s effectively useless. The MAXCRAFT doesn’t have a spinning cap, though, so in comparing the two models, the ineffectiveness of the Husky’s cap doesn’t really play a role.
The Husky and the MAXCRAFT are similarly priced (around the $5 mark), and each presents some trade-offs. We prefer the MAXCRAFT due to its more secure storage system, but the Husky is a nicer tool to handle. The Husky is also widely available at Home Depot, so it may be more convenient to purchase as well.
If you really like to tinker with electronics and appliances and you need the full array of bit sizes, we recommend the iFixit 54 Bit Driver Kit. This set has everything, including the less-common bits used in appliance repair and a selection of security sizes, such as the pentalobe bit suitable for iPhones and MacBooks. The iFixit set also has several convenient features such as a flexible shaft extension, a freely spinning rear cap, and a T-handle for added torque.
As far as bit selection goes, we couldn’t find a more complete set out there. If you have a hobby that revolves around the precision screwdriver (electronics, RC cars and helicopters, appliances), it makes sense to ensure that you have all of the available bits. This set covers the entire range, from the basic to the proprietary.
The iFixit screwdriver is very nice. The shaft is extremely comfortable in the hands (it looks and feels like a high-end dart), and the freely spinning rear cap adds speed to screwing and unscrewing. You can attach an extension to the shaft to add about 2 inches of length, or you can insert it into the side of the shaft and use it as a T-handle for difficult screws. The bits easily fit in the nose of the screwdriver, where a magnet holds them in place just as on the MAXCRAFT. Although the magnet is strong enough to maintain a hold, removing the bit is not a hassle.
Currently the iFixit set has very good Amazon feedback, with an overall rating of 4.6 stars (out of five) across 429 reviews. Users seem impressed with the set’s features and quality. One review in particular says that iFixit has excellent and proactive customer service, so if a problem crops up, company reps seem prepared to do their best to resolve it.
The iFixit set has no onboard bit storage, and the case is only okay. Everything is clearly marked, organized, and easy to access, but overall it feels a little delicate, and it looks like it would break if it fell onto a tile floor. The thin plastic insert that holds all of the pieces is particularly flimsy. Seeing as this is not a rough-and-ready tool (like, say, a hammer), the durability of the case isn’t much of a concern, but it’s definitely something to be aware of if you’re the clumsy type.
This kit is also sold under the company name Trident of Olympus. This other branding doesn’t offer any price break, and we couldn’t find any evidence of customer support for it, so we recommend the iFixit version.
After spending hours researching available models, we were surprised by how few screwdrivers offered the baseline selection of Philips and slotted bits. For example, the Stanley doesn’t have a 1/16 slotted bit or a Phillips #00, and the General Tools 751016 doesn’t have the Phillips #00 (it also has terrible customer feedback). The HDX 4-in-1 has only the larger sizes and not the smaller ones.
Lastly we avoided any multiple-screwdriver sets (where each bit size is its own screwdriver), because for something that gets used so rarely, there’s really no reason to have seven separate tools when you can have only one. If you’re interested, Stuart Deutsch has spent some time covering these items here.
(Photos by Doug Mahoney.)
Originally published: January 19, 2016