This is the second in a series of articles about tools I’ve found during my IT hardware technician career that made my life much easier. These are all tools I have used for years that a lot of people have likely never seen or been exposed to before. Last time we covered a replacement for canned air / duster and this time we’re going to cover the wowStick fully electric precision screwdriver!
If you’ve ever opened a laptop or cell phone you know there are dozens of screws you have to remove. One of the best purchases I’ve ever made was an electric screwdriver. Let’s take a look at why!
The wowstick Lithium Precision Screwdriver wowstick 1F+. Includes built in automatically activating LED light, magnetic mat, a magnetizer/demagnetizer and 56 bits (64 bits for “Pro” upgrade, may vary slightly by seller/region but should be the same/more than shown) to fit most electronics
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Why It’s Useful
Taking apart laptops and cell phones is extremely tedious. It takes a significant amount of time and if you have to do it very often at all this adds up to a very substantial amount of time quickly. It also makes your hands / wrists tired from turning the screws over and over again. If you already spend a tremendous amount of time on the computer like I do then your hands probably don’t need any more abuse than they’re already getting.
Both the time wasted opening laptops/cellphones and abuse to your hand can be vastly reduced by supplementing your tools with a precision electric screwdriver. The “precision” part means it’s meant for more sensitive devices like electronics. There have been “electric screwdrivers” available for a long time that are not “precision” screwdrivers at all and are meant for more traditional building/construction tasks. These are much more gentle and precise. They don’t apply as much force as the “non-precision” ones but that is very much intentional so you don’t destroy your device.
Make no mistake though, it’s still very powerful. You still need to be careful especially if you’re not used to it since you can still strip/break things if you’re not paying attention and using the wrong bits like one that is a size or two too small etc. It has a driving speed of up to 200RPM (non-loaded) and up to 0.15/3N.m maximum torque! It also has a built in bright LED light. The light automatically activates when the screwdriver is active and looks like this:
The device also seems to have some smart logic that helps utilize this power and some safety features to try to keep it from destroying anything as well as some smart logic for untightening screws as well. For example, if you are untightening a stubborn screw a common trick is to very very slightly screw the screw in tighter and then unscrew it as this can loosen things up slightly even though it’s counterintuitive. The screwdriver seems to know to do this automatically if it’s trying to loosen something and can’t turn it. You will hear it change direction very slightly and reverse the torque and then seamlessly flip back to unscrewing it. This is a very nice touch and it’s impressive that it is smart enough to monitor whether it’s successfully turning things instead of just being a dumb on/off turn/don’t turn device.
You get a pretty generous set of bits included with the device. They come in tubes which makes it really easy to throw in a toolkit / toolbox. It’s not an all-encompassing bit set but it includes most of the ones commonly used for electronics (that typically wouldn’t be in the smaller more generic sets that you’d get at the hardware store). It’s definitely a set of bits targeted toward computers/electronics with the right bits to get in most devices included in the tubes so you shouldn’t need much more than what it comes with unless you work on very specific devices not included which should be easy enough to manage.
Here’s a shot of the tubes up close to get an idea of the bits included:
You can definitely see there’s a lot more bits in there than it looks like from the outside where it doesn’t look like anywhere 50+ bits. The tubes can get annoying and some people end up pulling them out of the tubes if the wowStick is going to be at a dedicated station and not move like a tech bench since it’s easier to access them. They are definitely very convenient for throwing in toolkits and drawers and that is where they shine. I’ve managed to not lose any bits to the device since I put them back in the tubes when I’m done.
You also get a handy magnetizer / demagnetizer which lets you change whether a screw / bit is magnetized or not by touching one side of the device. Also includes a very nice high quality magnetic screwpad which you can see me using here:
The stand for it is very handy and I always have it on my desk in the stand. The charge on the battery lasts for weeks at a time typically (may vary with heavy usage but with normal usage I go weeks or longer between charges). Here’s a look at it in the stand:
Tips and Tricks
- If you are trying to unscrew a tough or stuck screw like on the outside of a desktop case for example you can actually “help” the electric screwdriver. Keep the wowStick button pressed up to unscrew and then physically turn it with your hand like you would a normal screwdriver without releasing the button. The screw will come loose and the wowStick will finish the rest of the job for you (as well as keep the screw attached if you magnetized the bit with the magnetizer).
- You can tell when the battery is starting to get low on the wowStick a few ways. It will start blinking a red light to warn you it’s out, but you can also tell from the pitch of the device. If it sounds like it’s getting “tired” and the pitch is lower it’s time for a charge!
- Bits from other kits/devices will usually fit in the wowStick — it’s not a proprietary connection which really helps extend it’s usefulness
Pros / Cons
- Much gentler than most tools of this class
- Saves your hands/wrists from wear and tear
- Saves time
- Struggles with tight outer case screws on desktop or larger class computers — meant for more delicate work
This is a relatively inexpensive device. I have used it for several years for it’s designed purpose now and it has been fantastic. It is saving my hands as well as my time.
You can make taking a laptop apart feel like you’re taking smoking wheels off a supercar in the pit of a NASCAR race with one of these. 15-20 screws on a laptop go very quick with a magnetized tip and letting the wowStick extract and stick the screw to the magnet then sticking the screw to the magnetic pad and going to the next one.
Definitely an excellent tool to have around to save your time and hands/wrists!
Have you tried Bosch Ixo?
If yes, how would you compare it to wowstick?
I think it’s definitely more bulky, and by default it much fewer bits.
I don’t know if it’s well suited as a precision screwdriver (too bulky? too powerful?).
But it looks more powerful and robust to me.
Disclaimer: I don’t have neither Wowstick nor Bosch.
Thanks for being my first comment on this article, and what a great question! There are a lot of these devices and it’s challenging since they are almost all made in the same Chinese factories and then resold to different western labels/distributors making it challenging to compare them sometimes by brand. In this situation I like to compare these devices by a few key metrics/tradeoffs: physical size, battery capacity and torque! Let’s examine this one and a few others through this framework and that should let us see the tradeoffs between the different units.
wowStick: 280mAh battery, 200rmp rated speed, 0.15/3N.M rated torque (soft/hard), 3.6V device, tiny (smallest I’ve ever seen) form factor
Bosch IXO IV: 1500mAh battery, 215 rpm rated speed, 3.0/4.5N.M rated torque (soft/hard), 3.6V device, medium form factor
Bosch Go: 1500mAh battery, 360rpm rated speed, 2.5/5NM rated torque (soft/hard), 3.6V device, small form factor
WOTOW Mini Electric Screwdriver (wowStick knockoff), 330mAh battery, 200rpm rated speed, 0.25/0.35NM rated torque (soft/hard), tiny form factor
Once we dive into the numbers we can break them down into 3 performance categories. You have the ultra tiny category that is meant for working on cell phones / laptops. These devices have very gentle soft torque to be safe to open these devices and they are small/maneuverable enough to comfortably work inside cell phones/laptops. Using anything bigger than this category on I would say about the size of a laptop or smaller carries some serious risk as the next step up we’re going to talk about is a higher MINIMUM torque than the higher MAXIMUM torque on the wowStick, and you don’t want that much force going into a cell phone screw etc.
Next you have the small form factor. These devices have way bigger batteries and way more power. They’re not very gentle and are better suited for things like desktop computers that use the large standard case screw size etc. because the lowest torque setting on these small devices is higher than the highest torque setting on the ultra tiny category. This is going to be a better device for breaking down desktops and probably servers as well because the wowStick sometimes needs help turning really stubborn outer case screws and the small/medium factor would instantly get them without any help. The downside is you could also destroy a laptop/cell phone almost instantly by having slightly the wrong bit size and putting this much power into the device through your screwdriver (or even the right size in some cases).
Finally we have the medium category which is where the Bosch XI would fall. These are the most powerful and the least gentle but a lot of them still fall in the range of the Bosch small form factor screw driver as far as power/battery life. These bigger battery lives mean less charging. I go weeks between charging the wowStick and I suspect I would go months between charging a 1500mAh device when I do add one of these small/medium form factor devices to my toolkit!
In an ideal world you would have all of these different “classes” of devices. You’d have a wowStick to cover IoT/laptops/cell phones and maybe a Bosch XI or Bosch Pro would completely cover desktops and servers that have bigger and tougher screws to deal with and don’t need as much precision / clearance. Hopefully that helps!