Some time ago, I got a really good deal on Xiaomi’s Wowstick 1P (review) electronic screwdriver. at £13.99 it was hardly a dilemma, but after using it for a while, I wanted more power! We all know that more money spent equals more power, and I already own one excellent product from MiniDSO – the portable soldering iron TS-80 (review). It was time to test their take on the electronic screwdriver ES121.
A lightsaber or a sonic screwdriver: MiniDSO ES121
As with TS-80, this tool beams with quality at first sight! A stainless steel design, hefty weight and a very pragmatic and yet interesting look make the MiniDSO ES121 screwdriver stand out and feel premium. Premium it is indeed, as the tool will set you back around $60-90 depending on the coupon used on Bangood.com.
I have a passion for pencils. While completely functional one can be purchased for $5, my favourite one comes with a stainless steel pen with a £45 price slapped on it. It doesn’t make me a better artist but makes the time spent using it so much better.
The same can be said about MiniDSO ES121. The screwdriver feels nice, and it is a joy to use before you discover the position-sensitive drive control.
Power Armor for precision screwdrivers
Unlike with Wowstick 1P, you will take some time learning how to use the MiniDSO ES121. The screwdriver comes with a single button which performs multiple functions.
Hold to drive the screws, triple press the button to access the setting mode and select one of the options:
- A – automatic mode
- P – user-programmable mode
- 1-4 torque modes
I can’t describe the joy it brings on Hackspace people’s faces when they try it out for the first time. Hold the power button, twist it slightly, and let the screwdriver do the work in a designated direction. It’s magic. If precision screwdrivers were wearing power armours, they would look like MiniDSO ES121.
Jarvis – STM32 edition
Enhanced controls are enabled thanks to STM32 chip. Just like TS-80, the MiniDSO ES121 comes with a custom config file that you can edit on a PC. The settings will let you control the following functions:
Unfortunately, unlike the TS-80, I can’t set my own logo on it! I’m actually gutted about this! 🙂
The MiniDSO ES121 comes with 4 gear settings, Automatic and Programmable setting. Not only you can pick the torque, but the speed (and torque as the consequence) will change the easier it gets to drive the screw. No slow turns on long machine screws. The MiniDSO ES121 will zip through it in no time until the resistance point.
For your ultimate screwing experience, there is an OLED screen to display the current setting (3 button presses to access the menu) and provide you with visual feedback for the selected action, torque and the gear selected.
It’s the same screen as featured on TS-80, but once the screwdriver is set to the prefered mode, you won’t need it for much more.
How much torque is 30kgf.cm?
I’m not the only one who is trying to imagine what 30kgf.cm feels like! So I to put things in perspective, I tried a couple of things to give you an idea of how strong the MiniDSO ES121 is.
Wowstick 1P could be stopped with your fingers. The experience wouldn’t be hard and it would not hurt your fingers either. Try this with MiniDSO ES121 and you are unlikely to stop it in its tracks. Both screwdrivers advertise the same max torque (3Nm vs 30kgf cm), but due to RPMs the ES121 feels much stronger and it does perform a tiny bit better.
In my experience, you will start with the manual operation to budge the screw, then the motor will kick in and finish the job for you, unscrewing the screw faster without resistance.
MiniDSO ES121 is an actually improved design of the ES120. Unfortunately, it looks like a couple of things didn’t make the cut. I’m not sure why USB-C isn’t present, MiniDSO feels comfortable with it on TS-80 and would be so convenient to simply share the same cable.
The power button is located in a little awkward position. I’m in favour of the “pen grip” which would make the use of the screwdriver easier for me, but I’m also aware that to use the screwdriver correctly it has to be in an upright position.
Despite the high price, MiniDSO ES121 comes only with 16 bits, no case or charging cable. I wouldn’t complain as much, but this is an expenisve toy, and as such, it should come with extras.
At first, I was slightly disappointed with the torque. With time, I realised that proper use, selection setting and physics were in charge of how much force I could drive through this tool. I guess the fancy look set my expectations how powerful MiniDSO ES121 would be pretty high. Unreasonably high even.
MiniDSO ES121 is a hard sell despite the really good quality of the tool. Will traditional precision screwdriver do an as good job? Probably. It will be slightly slower, and it won’t make you friends at Hackspace parties! But secretly you will always wish that someone got you the MiniDSO ES121 for a birthday, even if you are not going to use it on a daily basis. If you can’t afford the MiniDSO ES121 but like the idea, consider Wowstick 1P, and add the MiniDSO ES121 to your next birthday wish list that you will send to your friends. If you have any questions about the MiniDSO ES121 leave them in this Reddit thread.