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Gerber Center-Drive Plus Review

A large, full-function multi-tool that includes a top notch bit driver and nice storage via its carry sheath
Gerber Center-Drive Plus
Photo: Gerber
Top Pick Award
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Price:  $125 List
Pros:  Excellent bit driver, big blade, scissors, fast-action pliers
Cons:  Rattly construction, bulky and heavy, serrated blade section
Manufacturer:   Gerber
By Jediah Porter ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  May 4, 2021
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61
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#11 of 21
  • Functions - 40% 7
  • Construction Quality - 25% 5
  • Ergonomics - 20% 7
  • Portability - 15% 4

Our Verdict

The Gerber Center Drive Plus has the best bit driver of any tool in our collection, plus a set of complementary features that work well and cover all your bases. We can't think of any functions to add to the Center Drive Plus. We can think of some materials, construction, and design refinements that would really up the game if we need to be really critical, though. We also wish the Center Drive Plus were a little smaller and lighter. With all its accessories and storage pouch, the Center Drive Plus weighs nearly a pound. This isn't what you'll carry day-to-day or on self-propelled adventures, but if you want a multi-tool with a best-in-class bit driver, here you go.

A Lower-Tech Option
We have also tested and reviewed the original Gerber Center-Drive. It costs a small sum less. You don't get the scissors, the leather sheath, or the full collection of accessory bits. You get the same pliers and driver, similar other functions, and a smaller blade. We find that the Plus model is worth the additional cost, but would be remiss to not point out the availability of its close cousin.

Compare to Similar Products

 
Awards Top Pick Award Editors' Choice Award Editors' Choice Award Best Buy Award  
Price $125 ListCheck Price on REI
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Pros Excellent bit driver, big blade, scissors, fast-action pliersTitanium handle, S30V steel blade, modular portability, full functionsCompact, light, with multiple carry options, smart, effective toolsComprehensive, well-made, aftermarket accessories and carry optionsVersatile and comprehensive outdoor tool kit
Cons Rattly construction, bulky and heavy, serrated blade sectionHeavy, expensive, squashed bit driverFew featuresProprietary bit driver, no pocket clip includedSpecialized components, independent parts can get lost
Bottom Line This is a top of the line multi-tool, with a full feature-set, robust collection of accessories and a bomber storage sheathThe sky-high standard by which other multi tools are comparedClever and clean, with only a few tools, all of which are executed well for everyday carryAll you should need, with proven pedigree, at a forgiving priceFor outdoor adventures and wilderness survival considerations, we don't know of a better tool than the Leatherman Signal
Rating Categories Gerber Center-Drive Plus Leatherman Charge+ TTi Leatherman Skeletool CX Leatherman Wave+ Leatherman Signal
Functions (40%)
7
9
5
8
7
Construction Quality (25%)
5
9
9
8
8
Ergonomics (20%)
7
7
10
7
7
Portability (15%)
4
6
8
5
7
Specs Gerber... Leatherman Charge+... Leatherman... Leatherman Wave+ Leatherman Signal
Number of functions 16 + bits 19 + bits 5 + bits 18 + bits 17
Weight (ounces) 9.9 oz, 14.4 oz with case and bits. 8.8 oz 5.0 oz 8.5 oz, 9.5 oz with case 7.6 oz, 8.7 oz with sheath
Locking tools? All but pliers All but pliers All but pliers All but pliers All but pliers
Pliers type Spring-loaded pliers Needlenose with wire cutters, crimper Needlenose with 2 wire cutters Needlenose, regular, wire cutters, hard-wire cutters, crimper Needle nose, regular
Tools accessible without deploying pliers Primary blade, bit driver Blades, saw, file Blade Blades, saw, file Primary blade, saw, sharpener
Blades and type 1 hybrid straight/serrated 1 serrated gut hook type, 1 straight drop point 1 straight drop point 1 straight, 1 serrated 1 hybrid straight/serrated
Scissors Yes Yes No Yes No
Number of screwdrivers 14 incuded. Infinitely more available as aftermarket bits 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 2 included. More available aftermarket for proprietary driver. Even more availalbe aftermarket for limited-function, standard 1/4 inch driver socket.
File? Yes Yes, wood/metal and a diamond-coated file No Yes, wood/metal and a diamond-coated file No
Saw? No Metal and wood No Yes Wood
Openers Can, bottle Can and bottle Bottle Can and bottle Can, bottle
Other important features One-handed blade. Replacable wire-cutters Ruler, cutting hook, wire stripper None Ruler Knife sharpener, ferro spark striking rod, whistle, 1/4 inch socket.
Sheath included? Yes Yes No Yes Yes
Other carry options Pocket Pocket clip, key ring Carabiner style clip, pocket clip Pocket Pocket, Pocket clip, carabiner clip
Closed dimensions (Length by thickness, in inches) 4.8 x 1 4 x 0.8 4.3 x 0.6 4 x 0.7 4.5 x 0.6
Open length (pliers, in inches) 6.4 in 6.2 in 6.2 in 6.3 in 6.8 in
Open overall length (primary blade deployed, in inches) 7.8 in 7 in 6.8 in 6.9 in 7.1 in
Length of primary blade effective edge (inches) 2.9 in 2.8 in 2.6 in 2.8in 2.6 in

Our Analysis and Test Results

The Gerber Center Drive Plus is all that we liked about the original Center Drive, plus more. The Plus model comes with bits and a sheath, adds scissors, and keeps the excellent bit driver and unique pliers deployment. The original Center Drive earned an award and the Plus takes that award now. The addition of scissors is the real deal-maker. We've long held that our ideal multi-tool has to include a large, straight edge blade, pliers, scissors, 1/4" bit driver, and stow compactly with a pocket clip. No tool yet does all this. But the Center Drive Plus takes a step in that direction with the addition of the scissors. We're moving in the right direction, but not yet "there."

Performance Comparison


All the components, tools, and accessories of the Center Drive Plus.
All the components, tools, and accessories of the Center Drive Plus.
Photo: Jediah Porter

Functions


Gerber claims 28 functions on the Center Drive Plus. They're not wrong, and that number is striking. A multi-tool that gets its feature count up out of the teens is remarkable. Pushing 30 is hard to believe. Turns out, a count of 28 requires some explanation and qualification. Again, the count holds up, but exactly half of them are in the form of accessory driver bits. You could keep adding to that count with the inclusion of more and more accessory driver bits. You could lose them all and be left with a tool with a much lower count.

 

It is the bit driver that sets this tool apart. As the name indicates, the bit driver is centered on the handle. That seems perhaps unimportant, but it really makes the tool more usable and ergonomic. The main blade is very large (it includes a serrated section, but we wish it was all straight). The scissors are tight and handy. We dig. The pliers are pretty standard, with blunt tips, a rounded/ribbed jaw section and replaceable/reconfigurable wire cutter surfaces.

We sort of understand why hybrid serrated/straight blades are so...
We sort of understand why hybrid serrated/straight blades are so common. That doesn't mean we like them or even forgive their inclusion. For us, a straight edged blade is superior to a hybrid. Better yet is one full blade of each.
Photo: Jediah Porter

Aside from the features already mentioned, there isn't much. That's ok. The pliers, blade, scissors, and driver cover a lot of tasks. To complement these Gerber equips the Center Drive Plus with one place to hold an extra bit, an awl, a bottle opener, a pry bar/nail puller, and a metal saw/file. It's a pretty darn good feature set, overall. We can't think of anything major to add or subtract.

Here you can mostly see the centered nature of the bit driver on the...
Here you can mostly see the centered nature of the bit driver on the Center Drive Plus. As compared to the bit driver of other multi-tools this one is much easier to use.
Photo: Jediah Porter

Ergonomics


It has all these features. How is it to use them all? Let's start with the bit driver. As alluded to above, the centered driver really does improve its functionality, especially compared to other multi-tools with screwdriver functionality. It is both extended and centered. As compared to a purpose-built, hand bit driver, the Center Drive compromises far less than any other multi-tool. It's the best bit driver on a pliers-style multi-tool that we know of. Much of what many will do with a multi-tool is drive screws. Do it with the Center Drive easier and more effectively than with the competition.

 

The main blade is readily deployed with just the thumb on your right hand. It is large and locks open. The serrated section in the proximal 1/3 of its length is unnecessary and, to us, undesirable. A fully straight blade would be more versatile and easier to maintain.

The handle of the Center Drive Plus is just a tiny bit bigger than...
The handle of the Center Drive Plus is just a tiny bit bigger than ideal. Only those with the most discerning tastes and the smallest hands will notice or care.
Photo: Jediah Porter

The slide-out pliers are a hallmark of Gerber multi-tools. They do make folding pliers tools, too, like other companies. But they are the only ones we know of making slide-outs. When equally practiced, slide-out pliers are faster to deploy, especially with one hand. This is good. In use, the pliers are pretty comparable to fold-out styles. There are two drawbacks to slide-out pliers, though. First, they require larger "tolerance" in the moving parts. Slide-out pliers are more rattly than fold-out pliers. There is no way around this. Next, and also inevitable, is that a slide-out plier deployment mechanism is bulkier than a fold-out plier mechanism.

The scissors are great. You'll use them a lot, whether in "normal...
The scissors are great. You'll use them a lot, whether in "normal life" or in specific projects around house and garage.
Photo: Jediah Porter

Portability


The Center Drive Plus is a heavy, bulky tool set. You don't choose this product for maximum portability. Other award winners are half (to less than half) the weight and bulk of the Center Drive Plus, especially when you factor in the included sheath and accessory bits of this Gerber.

 

You don't get maximum portability with a maximum feature set. There are inherent trade-offs in multi-tool design. Gerber leans toward the large, comprehensive end of the spectrum with the Center Drive Plus. There are some little portability matters that we might suggest. A pocket clip could be integrated with minimal cost. Few would want to carry this in their pocket, no matter what. However, those that will carry it in their pocket will benefit greatly from a low-profile pocket clip.

Next, let us talk about bit storage. Gerber ships the CD Plus with a nice leather sheath that holds the folded tool and a bit holder that retains 12 included accessory bits. On the tool itself, in use and in storage, one can keep 2 accessory bits (one in the driver and one in a dedicated holder on the tool. It seems to us that, with minimal compromise, the tool could be configured to hold another bit or two. Having one piece (the tool itself) that includes your 3-4 most used driver bits would greatly increase the portable convenience here.

Gerber's Center Drive leather belt sheath. It holds the tools and a...
Gerber's Center Drive leather belt sheath. It holds the tools and a set of (included) 12 bits.
Photo: Jediah Porter

Construction Quality


When new testers are comparing multi-tools, the slide-out Gerbers always raises some red flags. The rattly construction inherent in a slide-out pliers mechanism, especially as compared to top-of-the-line folding pliers tools, feels and sounds flimsy and vulnerable. Our long-term testing (several years) of Gerber slide-out pliers indicates that the parts always hold up just fine. If anything, more wear only improves the ease of pliers deployment.

 

We like that all the tools lock in their deployed position. We like the hardened steel that the bit driver is made of. We like that the wirecutter surfaces can be rotated (three cutting edges are included and can be cycled through) and eventually replaced. The scissors are great. Some other companies have a screw-adjusted scissors hinge. On those the owner can tighten the pivot as needed. The Gerber scissors are riveted, so no user service is possible. No user service, for decades, should be necessary. It would be easy and beneficial to make the plier tips pointier.

Another view of the sheath and nested components of the Center Drive...
Another view of the sheath and nested components of the Center Drive Plus. The sheath is especially nice and well-made.
Photo: Jediah Porter

Value


This is a wicked expensive product for the construction quality. Don't get us wrong; this is a well-made tool. But you don't necessarily get the materials and construction that you might expect. What you do get is great design and feature set. If Gerber polishes this tool up without omitting more than a thing or two along the way, we could have our ideal multi-tool.

If you can't do it with the Center Drive Plus or a hammer, you...
If you can't do it with the Center Drive Plus or a hammer, you probably need YouTube instruction or a professional. Our lead test editor takes time from skiing and writing to do some home improvement.
Photo: Jediah Porter

Conclusion


Multi-tool selection improves every year. Companies add models way faster than they remove them. We liked the regular Center Drive just a couple of years ago. Gerber upped their game with the Center Drive Plus pretty quickly, all things considered. We hope that the Plus sticks around and that Gerber's refinement continues on pace.

Jediah Porter