I can’t overstate how much I love and need my MiniWare ES121 screwdriver. Makers can totally get away with a £15 Wowstick 1P when tinkering with Raspberry Pi’s and Arduinos, but anyone serious about engineering will appreciate the value this screwdriver brings. It’s not just a cool gadget to make you look great at the engineering parties, MiniWare ES15 makes screwing things in and out fun again.
MiniWare ES15 precision screwdriver
While completely in love with my ES121, I made a list of features, that would make it perfect for me. MiniWare ES15 doesn’t look like it strayed far from the previous design, but it brings enough to the table to wow you into wanting one for yourself. Until I held both in my hands, I didn’t realise that the new tool is bigger (15mm taller, 3mm fatter). It feels great in my hand, but my custom 3D printed case for ES121, will need a serious redesign.
Just like its predecessor, the screwdriver comes with the bare minimum. Inside the box, you will find the MiniWare ES15 itself, 24 bits of garden variety and that’s all. No carrying case or pouch which is a bit shocking considering the price. 24 bits are enough to get you started, but you will quickly find yourself yearning for a more specialised set – consider ordering these. I tailor well what I carry with me, and as soon as I make a 3D printed case for ES15, I will transfer my selected bits from the old case.
On the surface, it looks like MiniWare ES15 hasn’t changed much. Both automatic screwdrivers share a very similar design and tempt consumers with the ability to initiate the screw in/out with a twist of their wrist.
Once in use, however, changes are very apparent.
The first noticeable change is how smooth and quiet the new drive is. The previous model sounded like a small dentist’s drill, the new version is almost silent. So silent, that without any bits inside, it’s difficult to tell if the device is operating (when the LED light is off). Speaking of, the LED light is also new. It’s pretty strong and handy for all that screwing in the dark areas. 😁
The biggest game-changer is torque. Available in 5 different settings, the power of the MiniWare ES15 has improved greatly. At the highest setting, I really struggled to stall the driver, especially with the impact option enabled.
To navigate through the menu and options, MiniWare ES15 has an extra button located near the USB-C charging port (a very welcome update btw!). Used for adjusting the torque and accessing the main menu, it prevents the user from accidentally changing your screwdriver settings. It means that the main button (while still located a tad too high for my liking), is used only to trigger the torch and start screwing (around).
At first, I thought that included impact setting is a bit of marketing fluff. Judging by the looks, MiniWare ES15 is too small to work as a decent impact screwdriver. I was wrong. The setting is actually very useful and tightens machines screws significantly more than otherwise possible.
What’s less impressive is the automatic back-off option. In theory, it should prevent the bits from sticking inside the screws, in reality, it’s barely noticeable and while the bits don’t get trapped, I feel like the impact option is a reason behind this, than the back-off.
This time around, we have a complete options menu. Settings include toggling LED torch/impact/back-off option, setting driving speed (220-470 RPM) and manually enabling the battery management to look after your battery better.
In addition to that, the main button can be used to switch from accelerometer-based activation to predefined action. If you have 20 screws to screw in, you can quickly change the behaviour of the MiniWare ES15 and drive the screws in with a press of the button.
Just like with the previous screwdrivers, you set the default settings in the config file via computer. Plug your MiniWare ES15 and open the config text file to modify the following attributes:
Speed=2 #0-220rpm,1-360rpm,2-470rpm Sensitivity=2 #0-Low,1-Middle,2-High Torque=5 #1-5 Impact=1 #0-OFF,1-ON Retreat=1 #0-OFF,1-ON Light=1 #0-OFF,1-ON Beep=1 #0-OFF,1-ON Language=1 #0-China,1-English Battery_m=0 #0-OFF,1-ON Mode=0 #0-AUTO,1-Positive 2-Rollback
It’s a shame that the options don’t include the length of the impact driving. Ideally, I’d like to extend it for a second or two. Perhaps it’s something we could see patched in later.
MiniWare ES15 vs MiniWare ES121
It’s time to answer the most important question: Is it better than MiniWare ES121? Yes – and here is why:
- more torque
- impact driving
- bigger battery
Thanks to a different gearing and bigger battery, MiniWare ES15 is able to deliver more torque. How much more? Take a look at this Instagram post showing you how far I can drive the same screw into plastic. With my very heavy use, I charge the screwdriver every 2-3 days which is less often than ES121 which holds up about 1-2 days carrying a similar workload.
Speaking of driving screws into plastic, ES15 does a better job of doing it. Driving screws still depends on how much friction the screw exerts on a hole, but in general, you will drive it much closer to the end than with ES121.
This is where the impact setting comes in handy. The last few millimetres are pushed in thanks to the impact action. It’s perfect for stubborn screws with a tight turn or uneven thread. I found that while on the ES121 I’d need up to a turn to fully secure my machine screws, with ES15 I need about a slight flick of the wrist to achieve the same.
On paper, ES15 is faster – with the ability to spin at 470 RPMs unloaded. In reality, it only feels marginally faster than ES121. It’s the power of the screwdriver that will speed up your workflow not the actual speed setting. You will find yourself manually tightening the screws less than before – which is a very good thing.
One of my final complaints was also addressed. Despite a perfectly round body with little geometry to stop it from rolling across the table, the small bump around the button and off the centre placement of the battery prevents excessive rolling. It won’t roll away and drop on the floor like ES121 used to.
Once again MiniWare has proven that I can’t live without their tools. While their products like Mini Power System or portable Oscilloscope are not crucial to my existence, I can’t imagine living without TS80P portable soldering iron or now – the MiniWare ES15 – a tool a strongly recommend to anyone surrounded by thousands of machine screws. If you can’t afford £75 for a fancy screwdriver, Wowstick 1P is still a valid option as long as you set the expectations right. Let me know if your work or projects could use MiniWare ES15 in this Reddit thread.
🆓📈 – See the transparency note for details.