If you’ve been in the trades as long as I have, you remember what it was like to unplug and switch to cordless, keyless chuck drills. The first cordless drill I ever owned was a heavy, awkwardly balanced 9.6V Bosch. In the 1990s, it was an engineering marvel to me. And because it allowed me to work much of the day unplugged, it increased my efficiency tremendously. Since then a wave of cordless tool innovation ensued that shows no signs of letting up, including advancements in battery technology.

The most recent change happened internally with a switch to brushless motors, which are more efficient, quieter, more durable, and more compact than brushed motors. Ridgid’s newest impact driver, the 12V R8224K, takes full advantage of this technology by offering a one-of-a-kind tool: an impact driver that fits in the palm of the hand and can be easily tossed into a nail pouch; the whole thing is about the size of the battery on my first cordless drill, and it weighs as much too.

The driver features what Ridgid calls “push-to-drive technology”, which means that placing pressure on the screw you’re driving engages the tool. And although it doesn’t come with a trigger like other impact drivers, it is variable speed – controlled by the amount of pressure placed on it. I’ve been using this little tool for several months now and have found it incredibly useful.

First of all, the ergonomics are excellent. It is balanced so no matter how you’re holding it – whether overhead, out to the side, or directly in front of you – it’s easy to engage. Longer screws require a fair amount of pressure to keep the bit from skipping out of the screw head. Unlike impact drivers with a handle and trigger, you’re able to easily focus that necessary pressure directly over the bit and screw making it an effortless action. I also found that I was able to toe-screw easily due to the balance and grip.

With a no-load speed of 0-2000 RPM and max torque of 400 in.-lbs. it’s not the fastest or most powerful impact driver I own. But it’s not meant to be; even the name: Impact Screwdriver indicates its intended use is limited to screws, not lags or bolts. It did very well driving 2” -3”. I found it very useful and plenty powerful when building toe-kick bases for cabinets and adding 2x cleats – especially when the angle or space were too compact for me to use a full-sized impact driver. Vibration is barely noticeable, though it does throw out some noise like most impact drivers.

I liked the one-handed quick-load chuck as well as the on/off switch for the LED light (which also engages the onboard battery gauge). The LED light comes on as soon as the tool is engaged, as well, and goes off automatically when it is disengaged. The forward and reverse switch is located conveniently for one-handed operation; you can change it without pulling the driver off the screw.

It’s hard to criticize a tool that’s one-of-a-kind and that performs as well as it claims to. But one thing that I found missing was a hand strap. I say this because there were times when working on a ladder that I felt nervous having it in my hand. The grip is sure enough that it is easy to maintain control over it. But I still would have liked the added peace of mind that it couldn’t easily slip out of my hand and land on a client’s windowsill below. Also, with a 1.5 Ah battery, it’s not meant to drive hundreds of screws on a single charge. An extra battery would have been nice, but I never used the driver for long enough periods of time to miss it. The kit includes a bit, one 1.5 Ah battery, charger, and carrying case. COO: China Cost: $99

Chris Ermides is a senior editor at JLC and Tools of the Trade.