SOG Baton Q4 Review
Cons: Short knife blade, clumsy pliers, loose construction tolerances
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Our Analysis and Test Results
SOG repeatedly makes unique multi-tools. We find their execution to be a little rough, but the innovation is welcome. The Baton Q4 stands out for a truly unique and very utilitarian form factor. Its design and geometry is a little clumsy, but the drawbacks are easily overlooked by those that will employ its unique function. We have come to understand multi-tools as folding pliers with more tools in the handles. On these "standard" designs, the pliers are optimized while the other functions tag along. The Baton Q4 is a ratcheting screwdriver with a few functions in one end and an overall structure that "breaks" to turn into basic pliers. For extensive work with any sort of screwdriver bit (the Baton includes 12 bits and is endlessly customizable with standard 1/4" drive bits), this is nearly the best multi-tool we have used.
With functions, more is better, to a point. We choose a "multi-tool" because it has "multiple tools". We want multiple tools, of course. But we also need for each of those tools to be functional. Cramming in more, just to have more, is ineffective if the additional features don't work. Any multi-tool is going to optimize one attribute at the expense of the function of one or more of the others. The Baton Q4 optimized the screwdriver function. As a screwdriver, the SOG works nearly as well as a stand-alone option. With aftermarket accessories, it will even more closely approximate a dedicated screwdriver. All the other features of the SOG are significantly compromised in the interest of optimizing the screwdriver.
In the past, aside from one warranty issue, we have had nothing but good things to say about tested SOG tools. The Baton Q4 is perhaps the least polished SOG tool we have tested. Its joints are rattly and the tool locks are a little sticky. The main attribute, the ratcheting bit driver, works flawlessly so far. Our biggest issue with construction quality on the SOG was with the tool's built-in bit holder. The Baton Q4 is set up to carry one bit on the tool itself, with a separate holster for 10 more bits. The bit holder on the tool itself is a spring steel jobber that grabs the bit until you need it. Right out of the box, the bit holder wouldn't hold the bit. It was an easy fix to bend the spring steel a little bit (using another tester multi-tool), but this doesn't seem like it should be necessary.
We were surprised at the somewhat sloppy construction of the SOG Baton Q4. It is serviceable, and exceeds that of the more budget tools but isn't nearly in line with the SOG PowerAssist. We did have one issue with one (of two) tested PowerAssists, but overall this sibling to the Baton is much more robust in construction.
As a screwdriver, the Q4 is very easy to use. With the included bits, our only minor complaint is that the ratcheting bit socket is a little bulky and interferes with screws in tight places. A simple 1/4" drive extension, readily available at any hardware store, addresses this concern. The pliers, though, are less than ideal. While only one of a handful of testers had the following issue unprompted, it is a fairly major one. In certain situations where the user is pushing "in" on the pliers while grabbing or reaching for something, the plier handles collapse rendering the pliers useless. Think about pulling staples from furniture or corrugated cardboard. In order to get purchase on the staple, one must push the tips of the plier jaws into the backing material, pushing said material out of the way. Because of the way the Baton Q4 stows, the handles collapse when pressed in this way. Not only is your "inward" pressure relieved this way, the jaws of the pliers will not close when the handles are collapsed like this. For tasks of this nature, the pliers of the Q4 are completely useless.
Our first tester found this issue and was ready to write off the Q4 entirely. He dutifully and quietly handed the SOG off to more on the test team. The remaining three testers did not experience this issue. They recognized it when prompted, but did not encounter a situation in which it was a concern. The OGL system of thorough testing does its job, and we are happy to offer qualified recommendation of the ergonomics of this product.
As a screwdriver, no other tool we have tested is more ergonomic. As pliers, virtually all of the other tools we tested are better.
Portability is a function of carry options, weight, and size. The Baton Q4 tool alone weighs 6 ounces (included bits and cases bump it up to almost 11 ounces). This is about average. The size is funny. Because of its inherent design, the stowed SOG Baton is longer and skinnier than other tools. For deep pockets, it is equipped with a pocket clip. It has dimensions more like a very fat pen than like other multi tools. It also includes a faux leather case that holds the tool together with its bits. This case magnets closed and includes no belt loops. It is more of a case for in-bag transport than for every day carry. Our preferred way of carrying the SOG is clipped inside a pocket, without the case. It can be clipped in a pants pocket like a pocket knife or inside a shirt chest pocket like a pen.
When clipped to your pants pocket, the SOG is more unobtrusive than most. It is definitely longer, but narrower, than the competition.
The Baton Q4 price is in line with the higher end products in our review selection. For the quality, this is spendy. For the uniqueness though, the price is understandable.
The SOG Baton Q4 is a specialized multi-tool from a proven manufacturer. We had some issues with the design and construction, but the form factor is so unique that it will certainly have broad appeal. The Baton Q4, overall, scores pretty mediocre. As a screwdriver, it excels. The pliers are very basic and limited in application. The knife blade is small. The other tools are very limited and unsophisticated. The end result is an overall score that is just above average.
— Jediah Porter