If you've read our guide on choosing the best impact driver, you know what separates a great impact from an average one. There is no doubt that the Ryobi P238 18V Brushless Impact Driver will be an excellent tool. We're going to find out today if it's worth being there.
Check out our reviews of the updated Ryobi HP Brushless and Ryobi HP Compact Impact Drivers!
For years, Ryobi's tools have been somewhere between DIY and Pro tools, with most of its products falling into the DIY category. Recently, however, Ryobi tools have stepped up in the game, some of which can certainly be considered for professional use. In fact, we use them a lot at work — and we think they're worth the money. We've had an older Ryobi P1870 impact driver for a while. This new version packs a bigger punch.
Right out of the gate, the Ryobi P238 18V Brushless Impact Driver has an edge over its big brother. Brushless motors are proof of the penetration of both technologies, and the Ryobi is ready for the big leagues, or both. If you are a regular reader, you know that brushless motors are electronically commutated; that is, there is no physical contact between the brushes and the commutator. Brushless motors are more efficient, last longer and weigh less than brushed motors. They are also the basis for smart tools , where the motor and battery communicate with each other to optimize performance and prevent thermal overload.
RPM range and variable speed trigger
In the introduction, I mentioned that impact drivers give you a lot of control over your job thanks to their mechanical capabilities. Ryobi, like the other effects, takes control even further by using three RPM ranges: up to 1,050, then 2,200, then up to 3,200. The switch to switch between these speeds is on the back of the motor housing.
But these three speeds are not set in stone. They have more fine-grained control with the help of variable-speed triggers. Like almost every other tool on the planet, sometimes you need to run it wide open and sometimes you need to adjust the speed. These two functions achieve this.
Impact force and torque per minute
Impact drivers work by using a hammer and anvil system to produce a pulsed rotational torque (as opposed to static torque like a drill). Not surprisingly, the measurement of anvil impact is called impacts per minute (IPM). This is a measure not used in drills.
The Ryobi P238 18V Brushless Impact Driver offers up to 4,000 IPM, which is really high-end. That compares to 3,400 IPM for the tool's older version. The Hitachi Triple Hammer (one of the best hammers available) does the same at 4,000 IPM. Impact per minute isn't the most important metric, but a higher number certainly helps.
Likewise, this new model offers more torque than the old model: 2,200 inch-pounds compared to 1,500. It's important to note that this is in line with or better than almost every other cordless impact driver you'll find at the Pro level. The Ryobi may punch above its weight, but you have to admit that, on paper, it does a pretty good job.
Auto-loading chuck and other notable features
Most impact driver chucks require two hands to change bits, but the self-loading chuck of the Ryobi 18V Brushless Impact Driver is designed for one-handed changing. Once a bit is ejected from the collet, the next bit can be pushed in without pulling the collet out.
Almost every power tool has an effective LED work light these days, so we won't spend too much time talking about them. But that doesn't mean manufacturers can't try to improve. The 3-LED design around the front of the motor housing isn't unique to Ryobi – I've seen them on some Hilti and Ridgid tools – but I'm surprised it doesn't appear more often.
Magnets for holding bits and screws are another handy feature. If you're lucky – or just lucky – you can sometimes use it to catch dropped fasteners! A neat belt clip and a redesigned overmolded grip round out the features I'll be focusing on. Time to do some work!
have an impact
We've been using an older version of this Ryobi impact driver for about three years. We use it all the time – and we beat it! But it never disappoints us. It just works. Time will tell if the new version is durable, but I'm hopeful for its tougher pedigree and more muscle.
So let's review what's new and improved in this model. The 3 speeds are new as well as the autoloading chuck and belt clip, the torque has been increased, the IPM is higher, the LED lights are brighter, and the belt clip is new.
These are significant improvements over the old model. Since impact drivers are an everyday tool for tradesmen, there was no shortage of test material during this review. I've driven all kinds of fasteners, even 3/8" lag bolts, and the Ryobi 18V Brushless Impact Driver was a breeze! I'm almost proud of Ryobi for making such a lovely tool for – wait – $99 (bare).
It weighs 2.7 pounds bare, although your choice of batteries will add some weight, of course. Ryobi offers compact 18V batteries, but you'll see I use a larger 4.0 Ah battery pack. All controls are easy to reach and operate with one hand. This is important – we've all been there when it's difficult or unsteady to reach your other hand/arm/shoulder in a tight space.
The redesigned grip area is overmolded for a comfortable and secure feel. Like Ryobi's brushless circular saws and brushless reciprocating saws, the handle design of the handle is much better. I love so much.
The impact driver has a shorter profile, perfect for those tight spaces. At just over 6-1/4 inches long, it's not the most compact striker in the world, but it's certainly shorter than a drill. If your work area is very small, you may have to choose a 12V version from another manufacturer. Otherwise, this should be fine.
the bottom line
These days, I generally refuse to drive fasteners with a drill. It's just not the right tool for the job compared to an impact driver, if that's not too bold. You have to overcome the drill's rotational force, weaker feel and larger profile.
The Ryobi 18V Brushless Impact Driver did a great job in this review. It definitely swings and decides to run with the Pro pack. I think it can — especially considering that staggering price I mentioned earlier — $99 bare-bones. All in all, it's just a powerful, super handy tool that's now part of the 100+ Ryobi 18V series. Get yourself some impact-rated drill bits and you'll be ready for anything at home or on the job site.
Ryobi 18V Brushless Impact Driver Features
- Brushless motors provide longer run time, more power and longer motor life
- Three-speed switch: 0-3,100 RPM, Medium: 0-2,150 RPM, Low: 0-1,100 RPM
- variable speed trigger
- Powerful design generates up to 2,200 in-lbs of torque for easily driving or tightening large fasteners
- Up to 4,000 IPM (impacts per minute) for fast driving applications
- 3 LED lights minimize shadows
- Self-loading chuck for quick and easy one-handed bit changes
- New grip zone with micro texture for user comfort and control
- Belt clips mount on either side of the tool for easy access
- Magtray Magnetic Holder for easy access to screws and drills
Ryobi 18V Brushless Impact Driver Specifications
- Model: Ryobi P238
- Drive Size: 1/4″ Hex
- Depth: 6.31″
- Height: 7.75″
- Width: 3.25″
- Impact per minute: 4,000
- Maximum speed: 3,100 RPM
- Product Weight: 2.7 lbs
- Torque: 2,200 in-lbs
- Price: $99 (bare metal)
- Warranty: 3-year limited