Leatherman Charge+ TTi Review
Cons: Heavy, expensive, squashed bit driver
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Leatherman Charge+ TTi
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|Pros||Titanium handle, S30V steel blade, modular portability, full functions||Compact, light, with multiple carry options, smart, effective tools||Comprehensive, well-made, aftermarket accessories and carry options||Excellent bit driver, big blade, scissors, fast-action pliers||Inexpensive and well-made, spring-loaded pliers, scissors, pocket clip, one-handed blade|
|Cons||Heavy, expensive, squashed bit driver||Few features||Proprietary bit driver, no pocket clip included||Rattly construction, bulky and heavy, serrated blade section||Hybrid straight/serrated blade, squashed Phillips driver, short main blade|
|Bottom Line||This exceptional product is equipped with almost every imaginable tool, organized and optimized for compact function||A multi-tool that optimizes ergonomics and portability by reducing the tool set to the most important ones for daily use and carry||A full-function tool from a great manufacturer at a reasonable price||A large, full-function multi-tool that includes a top notch bit driver and nice storage via its carry sheath||A budget tool with real value and function, this model is compact with a feature set that does much of what you want and little that you don't|
|Rating Categories||Leatherman Charge+ TTi||Leatherman Skeletoo...||Leatherman Wave+||Gerber Center-Drive...||Leatherman Wingman|
|Construction Quality (25%)|
|Specs||Leatherman Charge+ TTi||Leatherman Skeletoo...||Leatherman Wave+||Gerber Center-Drive...||Leatherman Wingman|
|Number of Functions||19 + bits||5 + bits||18 + bits||16 + bits||10|
|Weight||8.8 oz||5.0 oz||8.5 oz (9.5 oz w/ case)||9.9 oz (14.4 oz w/ case & bits)||6.8 oz (7.8 oz w/ sheath)|
|Locking Tools?||All but pliers||All but pliers||All but pliers||All but pliers||Scissors and blade|
|Pliers type||Needlenose w/ Wirecutters, Crimper||Needlenose with 2 Wirecutters||Needlenose, Regular, Wirecutters, Hard-Wirecutters, Crimper||Spring-Loaded||Spring-Loaded Regular & Needlenose|
|Tools Accessible without Deploying Pliers||Blades, Saw, File||Blade||Blades, Saw, File||Primary Blade, Bit Driver||Blade & Scissors|
|Blades and Type||1 Serrated Gut Hook Type, 1 Straight Drop Point||1 Straight Drop Point||1 Straight, 1 Serrated||1 Hybrid Straight/Serrated||1 Hybrid Serrated/Straight Drop Point|
|Number of screwdrivers||1 integrated. Many bits included, with more available aftermarket for proprietary driver||4 included, more available aftermarket for proprietary driver||5 included/integrated. More available aftermarket for proprietary driver||14 incuded. More available as aftermarket bits||3|
|File?||Yes, wood/metal & diamond-coated||No||Yes, wood/metal & diamond-coated||Yes||Yes|
|Saw?||Metal & Wood||No||Yes||No||No|
|Openers||Can & Bottle||Bottle||Can & Bottle||Can & Bottle||Can, Bottle, & a unique box opener|
|Other important features||Ruler, cutting hook, wire stripper||None||Ruler||One-handed blade, replacable wirecutters||Very small ruler|
|Other carry options||Pocket clip, key ring||Carabiner style clip, pocket clip||Pocket, Pocket clip|
|Closed Dimensions (Length x Thickness)||4.0 x 0.8 in||4.3 x 0.6 in||4.0 x 0.7 in||4.8 x 1.0 in||3.8 x 0.7 in|
|Open Length (Pliers)||6.2 in||6.2 in||6.3 in||6.4 in||6.2 in|
|Open Length (Primary Blade Open)||7 in||6.8 in||6.9 in||7.8 in||6.4 in|
|Primary Blade Effective Edge Length||2.8 in||2.6 in||2.8in||2.9 in||2.4 in|
Our Analysis and Test Results
The Charge+ TTi is this venerable manufacturer's top-of-the-line, no-holds-barred, full-service folding toolbox. It has all the attributes we look for. Some of them can always be refined or improved. Any multi-tool could get smaller and more portable. Given, though, the realistic limitations of these designs and the state of the art, this is the best tool we know of. We've tested versions of the Charge TTi since 2014. Our original test model is still in use and still floats around the test team. (That original is the Charge TTi, with no "plus." A few years back, Leatherman updated the Charge with interchangeable wire cutter surfaces. Nothing else has changed).
As listed, the Charge+ TTi has the most functions in our test. If you include in the tally the auxiliary bits that are included with purchase, the total comes to twice the average. For the most part, each of these functions is a compact, yet fully functional version of its purpose-built counterpart. The pliers on the Charge are 4-in-1: from a tapered and precise needle nose, to an inset crimper, to serrated jaws for torquing on nuts and bolts, to, finally, a broad, replaceable, and vigorous set of wire cutters, the pliers alone are an engineering marvel. Moving back into the titanium-cased handles, the selection of tools is nearly perfect.
First of all, on all four outside "corners" of the closed plier handles, is a selection of the tools you'll use the most. Two blades, one serrated and one straight, live on the tool edges where they can be opened with the owner's right thumb. The straight blade is made of high-end "S30V" stainless steel that we are more accustomed to seeing on high-end pocket knives than on an all-around multi-tool. On the back of the serrated blade is a hook-shaped webbing cutter. If you have the wherewithal, this guy will slice the seatbelt of your submerged car faster than you can say "extremely unlikely but still frightening nightmare."
On the other edges are a pair of saws. The wood saw appears shiny and precise as if it were laser-cut. This little three-inch wonder rivals full-size tools in its sharpness and tenacity. The metal saw will suffice in small tasks. The real beauty of the metal saw, however, is on its sides. One side is cut into a standard file. This file cuts both ways, polishing burrs and smoothing metal. The other side is a diamond-embedded file. That's right, titanium side plates and diamond on the file—high rolling. The diamond file sharpens carbide steel tools. Unreal. Each of these four external tools locks in place with its own "liner lock" style tab.
The remainder of the tools requires opening the pliers before deployment. On one side is a small pair of precise and sharp small scissors. Next to the scissors is a small bit holder. This holder secures a removable, double-ended tiny screwdriver. One end is straight, and one is Phillips. This combination will repair any eyewear you may need. Finally, on this arm of the pliers, is a simple straight screwdriver. If there were any single tool we'd leave off the Charge, it would be this integrated screwdriver. We'd leave it out, because, on the other arm is Leatherman's proprietary bit driver. The integrated screwdriver is mostly redundant with the options in the interchangeable bit driver. The integrated straight driver is a better pry-bar (picture opening a paint can…) than an interchangeable bit will be, but we still would like to see this space used more wisely.
A widespread standard for bit drivers is a six-sided interface 1/4" across. This "1/4 hex drive" interface is used in many different contexts, with virtually unlimited options available in this format. Leatherman has designed their own thinner bit holder and driver to fit in its multi-tools. Some bits, like a straight screwdriver, make no compromises to fit in the Leatherman driver. However, larger tools like Allen drivers bigger than 9/64" (3.5mm), Torx bits larger than #15, and all Phillips heads require thinning to work. This thinned profile works fine for light-duty. However, for high-torque jobs, these compromised, with less working surface area, tools risk slipping and damaging the fastener, the bit, or both. "Proper" 1/4 inch drive bits are sturdier. Further, there are more options on the market for standard 1/4 inch bits.
Next to the bit driver is a can/bottle opener. We like this feature. We'd like to see the can opener moved over to replace the dedicated straight driver. This should leave space for a standard 1/4" driver. Then the user could tap into the virtually limitless supply of accessories and adapters and extensions on the market. It may seem to Leatherman that this would cut into their profits on selling their accessory bits. We would argue, however, that this is far outweighed by the additional volume of actual tools sold. But that's tangential. Generally, the bit driver works. And a package of accessory bits is thin and lightweight. In 90% of your applications, you won't notice the difference.
What can we say? This is the Cadillac of multi-tools. We had no problems and Leatherman users for years have said the same thing about all the models. Our original Charge tester is still going strong after almost 7 years. Hinges and locks are made to close with lasting tolerances. The materials are carefully selected to be appropriate for their application. Every pivot, aside from the main plier hinge, is user-serviceable. Before you disassemble your Charge TTi, note that the service of small mechanical objects like a high-end multi-tool is potentially more complicated than you might first hope.
The Charge blades are set up so that they lock closed when, and only when, the pliers are engaged. This subtle detail may only matter in dire circumstances, but its presence merely reinforces Leatherman's commitment to detail and lasting function. In 2019 Leatherman updated the Charge to the "Charge+". The only change with the update is the inclusion of changeable wire cutter jaws. This change is very simple and minimal. Only those who make extensive wire cuts will ever notice the difference.
The Charge+ is a full-size, multi-purpose tool. It is a solid, no-compromise chunk of high-tech materials. It is curved in the right places and the tools are located where you'll want them. Regardless of which feature you are using, the handles are rounded and fill up a loosely clenched fist. For right-handed users, the Leatherman Charge is set up brilliantly. Most frequently the user will use one of the blades. Both blades are configured and engaged by the right hand on its own. You can also open them with two hands. If the user uses the included pocket clip in a pants pocket, the standard blade is right there at the thumb without repositioning the tool. Lefties, unfortunately, will need to figure out their blade deployment sequence that will require at least one additional regripping.
The saws each open with a fingernail notch near the end. The internal tools also open with either a fingernail notch near the end or a fingernail groove along the side. Each tool locks in place. The liner locks on the external tools are precise and easily disengaged when it is time. The inner tools secure with a spring-loaded tongue-and-groove arrangement. All of the internal tools on each arm lock with the same lever.
In a perfect world, we'd have an ergonomic multi-tool that would be "full-sized" like the Charge. It would have a plier profile that matches that of the Charge and would let the user access all the tools from the outside. Apparently, the Charge makes one significant compromise in obscuring some of the tools inside the plier's handles. There is a reason for this, but we are unable to ascertain what this reason is. If Leatherman got all the tools accessible from the outside, the Charge+ would be perfect, ergonomically speaking.
In our test, the Charge comes from the factory equipped for the most diverse of carrying options. First of all, it comes with a sturdy nylon belt sheath. The sheath velcros closed securely. In the back of the sheath is an elastic pouch to store a sleeve of accessory bits. Along each side of the belt pouch are slots for the other carry accessories. This award winner comes with a removable pocket clip and a lanyard/keychain loop. We found ourselves storing the Charge in its holster in the car and duffel bag, and then pocket-clipping it when puttering around the house, campsite, or garage.
The tool is cumbersome and bulky (though some, to be sure, are heavier). Every day, extended carry in the pocket or on a keychain is cumbersome. No other tool in the review, though, comes with so many options for carrying. Tiny tools that are equipped for key chain carry (or, of course, to be carried loose in your pocket) earn high portability scores by virtue of their tiny stature. These small tools are way easier to cart around than the Charge.
You won't purchase a Charge+ TTi for its low price. The Charge is the best multi-tool we have tested to date, but its price is intimidating for many. Leatherman makes several other tools that are more budget-friendly, such as the nearly-as-competent Wave+ or the even lower budget option, the Wingman. But, we expect this tool to last for many, many years, which increases its value as the years go by.
The Leatherman Charge+ TTi is the top-of-the-line tool from the top-of-the-line company in the business. On our weighted scoring matrix, this award winner comes out on top. With review-leading marks in half the scoring categories and above-average performance in the remainder, the high overall score is no surprise.
— Jediah Porter
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