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.
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
Yes, wood/metal and a diamond-coated file
Yes, wood/metal and a diamond-coated file
Metal and wood
Can and bottle
Can and bottle
Can, bottle, and a unique box opener
Other important features
One-handed blade. Replacable wire-cutters
Ruler, cutting hook, wire stripper
Very small ruler
Other carry options
Pocket clip, key ring
Carabiner style clip, pocket clip
Pocket, Pocket 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
3.8 x 0.7
Open length (pliers, in inches)
Open overall length (primary blade deployed, in inches)
Length of primary blade effective edge (inches)
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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."
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.
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.
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 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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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