Leatherman has nearly 30 years of designing and building multi-tools, and the Charge series is the pinnacle of that process. In our testing, no other tool came close in overall performance. In the big categories of functions and construction quality, it is the clear leader. In the competing categories of ergonomics and portability (large tools are easier to use but more difficult to cart around, and the opposite is also true) the Charge TTI strikes a worthy compromise and balance. The tiny Top Pick winner Gerber Dime is more portable for sure, and in terms of ergonomics, a few different tools earn high scores coming from a few different angles. However, the Leatherman Charge TTI isn't the heaviest or the largest in our test, but it manages to have the most functions. And it has, by far, the most options for carrying. Read on for more details.
Leatherman Charge TTI Review
Cons: Heavy, expensive
#1 of 14
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Our Analysis and Test Results
The Charge TTI is this venerable manufacturer's top of the line, no-holds-barred, full service folding tool box.
On our weighted scoring matrix, this award winner comes out on top. With review-leading marks in half the scoring categories and above-average performance in the remainder, the high overall score is no surprise.
As listed, the Charge TTI has the most functions in our test. If you include in the tally the auxiliary bits that are included with purchase, the total comes to twice that of the next in line. For the most part, each of these functions is a compact, yet fully functional version of its purpose built counterpart. The pliers on the Charge are 4-in-1: from a tapered and precise needle nose, to an inset crimper, to serrated jaws for torquing on nuts and bolts, to, finally, a broad and vigorous set of wire cutters, the pliers alone are an engineering marvel. Stepping back into the titanium-cased handles, the selection of tools is nearly perfect.
First of all, on all four outside "corners" of the closed plier handles, is a selection of the tools you'll use the most. Two blades, one serrated and one straight, live on the tool edges where they can be opened with the owner's right thumb. On the back of the serrated blade is a hook-shaped webbing cutter. If you have the wherewithal, this guy will slice your submerged car seatbelt faster than you can say "extremely unlikely but still frightening nightmare". On the other edges are a pair of saws. The wood saw appears shiny and precise as if it were laser-cut. This little three-inch wonder rivals full-size tools in its sharpness and tenacity. The metal saw will suffice in small tasks. The real beauty of the metal saw, however, is on its sides. One side is cut into a standard file. This file cuts both ways, polishing burrs and smoothing metal. The other side is a diamond-embedded file. That's right, titanium side plates and diamond on the file - high rolling. The diamond file sharpens carbide steel tools. Unreal. Each of these four external tools locks in place with its own "liner lock" style tab.
The remainder of tools requires opening the pliers before deployment. On one side is a small pair of precise and sharp small scissors. Like virtually all of our favorite multi-tools, the scissors set the Charge apart. Next to the scissors is a small bit holder. This holder secures a removable, double-ended tiny screwdriver. One end is straight, and one is Phillips. This combination will repair any eyewear you may need. Finally, on this arm of the pliers, is a simple straight screwdriver. If there were any single tool we'd leave off the Charge TTI, it would be this integrated screwdriver. We'd leave it out, because, on the other arm is Leatherman's proprietary bit driver.
Leatherman has designed a thinner bit holder and driver to fit in its multi-tools. Some bits, like a straight screwdriver, make no compromises to fit in the driver. However, larger tools like hexes bigger than 9/64" (3.5mm), Torx bits larger than #15, and all Phillips heads require thinning to work. This thinned profile works fine for light-duty. However, for high-torque jobs, these compromised tools risk slipping and damaging the fastener or bit or both. Next to the bit driver is a can/bottle opener. We like this feature. We'd like to see the can opener moved over to replace the dedicated straight driver. This should leave space for a standard 1/4" driver. Then the user could tap into the virtually limitless supply of accessories and adapters and extensions on the market. It may seem to Leatherman that this would cut into their profits on selling their accessory bits. We would argue, however, that this is far outweighed by the additional volume of actual tools sold. But that's tangential. Generally, the bit driver works. And a package of accessory bits is thin and lightweight. In 90% of your applications, you won't notice the difference.
As you can see, no competing product comes close to the Charge TTI in functions. The Best Buy Leatherman Wave earns its award with basically the same "layout" as the Charge, with almost the same list of tools. The Charge has a few things the Wave does not, but the main features are all there on the Best Buy. The next best comparison, concerning features, is to the Baladeo Locker. The Baladeo is nothing special in terms of its construction, but it includes a full-sized 1/4" bit driver. With this, the Baladeo can be accessorized to a virtually unlimited degree. With adapters, the Charge can also use standard 1/4" bits. Again, we wish Leatherman made some minor changes to fit in a full-sized bit driver. They, for instance, integrate such a driver into the Top Pick Leatherman Crunch tool. Clearly, they are not opposed to the idea.
The Charge TTI is a full-size, multi-purpose tool. It is a solid, no compromise, chunk of high-tech materials. It is curved in the right places and the tools are located where you'll want them. Regardless of which feature you are using, the handles are rounded and fill up a loosely clenched fist. For right-handed users, the Leatherman Charge is set up brilliantly. Most frequently the user will use one of the blades. Both blades are configured and engaged by the right hand. If the user uses the included pocket clip in a pants pocket, the standard blade is right there at the thumb without re-positioning the tool. Lefties, unfortunately, will need to figure out their blade deployment sequence that will require at least one additional regripping. The saws each open with a fingernail notch near the end. The internal tools also open with either a fingernail notch near the end or a finger nail groove along the side. Each tool locks in place. The liner locks on the external tools are precise and easily disengaged when time. The inner tools secure with a spring loaded, external plate. All of the internal tools on one side lock with the same lever.
In a perfect world, we'd have an ergonomic multi-tool that would be "full-sized" like the Charge. It would have a plier profile that matches that of the Charge and Wave, along with the super smooth external contour of the Gerber Suspension, and would let the user access all the tools from the outside, like the Top Pick Gerber Dime does. Apparently, the Charge makes one significant compromise in obscuring some of the tools inside the plier's handles. There is a reason for this, but we are unable to ascertain what this reason is. If Leatherman got all the tools accessible from the outside, the Charge would be perfect, ergonomically speaking.
In our test, the Charge comes from the factory equipped for the most diverse of carrying options. First of all, it comes with a sturdy nylon belt sheath. The sheath velcros closed securely. In the back of the sheath is an elastic pouch to store a sleeve of accessory bits. Along each side of the belt pouch are slots for the other carry accessories. This award winner comes with a removable pocket clip and a lanyard/keychain loop. We found ourselves storing the Charge in its holster in the car and duffel bag, and then pocket-clipping it when puttering around the house or garage.
The tool is cumbersome and bulky (Only the Gerber Suspension and Bear Grylls Ultimate are heavier) so every day, extended carry in the pocket or on a keychain is cumbersome. No other tool in the review comes with so many options for carrying. The diminutive Gerber Dime and Leatherman Squirt PS4 are equipped for key chain carry (or, of course, to be carried loose in your pocket), but they earn high portability scores by virtue of their tiny stature. The small tools are way easier to cart around than the Charge.
What can we say? This is the Cadillac of multi-tools. We had no problems. And Leatherman users for years have said the same thing about all the models. Hinges and locks are made to close with lasting tolerances. The materials are carefully selected to be appropriate to their application. Every pivot, aside from the main plier hinge, is user-serviceable.
Just like the cheaper Leatherman Wave, the blades are set up so that they lock closed when, and only when, the pliers are engaged. This subtle detail may only matter in dire circumstances, but its presence merely reinforces Leatherman's commitment to quality and lasting function.
Whether for day to day use, automotive storage, backcountry trips, or handy-person weekends, the Charge TTI is versatile and useful.
You won't purchase a Charge TTI for its value. You'll purchase it because it is the best around. If you are looking for a downgraded version, try the heavier Charge AL.
The Leatherman Charge TTI is the top-of-the-line tool from the top-of-the-line company in the business.
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Most recent review: June 24, 2017
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