SOG PowerAssist Review
Cons: Heavy to carry, accessing non-blade tools is time consuming
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Our Analysis and Test Results
SOG has designed and manufactured a product that is fast becoming a classic. It takes a familiar form and adds truly beneficial function and design attributes.
First of all, the most stand-out feature of the SOG PowerAssist is the geared pliers. The gearing and linkage joining the plier handles to the jaws increase the amount of force your hands can apply. No set of pliers, whether included in a multi-tool or stand alone, is intended for use in extended bolt or nut turning. However, the SOG squeezes hard enough to tackle the occasional wrench task without too badly "buggering up" the head of the bolt.
The deep wire cutters in the jaws of the pliers can cut through the largest of wire. In our testing, the handles and pivots all held up to very rugged use. Additionally, this brute tones it down out at the tips of the plier jaws. The needle nose plier surface joins precisely and closely and tapers to a tip pointier than most others in our test.
Behind the pliers, nesting smartly into the handles is a small suite of nearly full-size tools. On one arm rests two blades. SOG equips you with a straight-edged drop-point cutter and a sheepsfoot serrated edge. These blades are both accessible from the "outside" (without opening the pliers) and lock securely open and closed. The lock and opening mechanism is a bit fiddly. However, anyone who chooses the SOG PowerAssist will be mechanically inclined and use it enough to figure out the sequence. A primary reason for the locking and opening mechanism is the assisted-opening feature of these two blades. This tool is the only one in our test that has assisted opening blades. In our pocket knife review testers almost unanimously preferred the knives with assisted opening blades. On the SOG tool, it is indeed handy but feels almost unnecessarily complicated at first. It grew on all of our testers with time.
In the other arm of the pliers is a pair of openers, some screwdrivers, a file, and a v-style cord and webbing cutter. This lattermost tool is a specific tool that proves to be very useful when needed. The small Phillips head driver, unlike the improvised and flattened versions included on other multi tools, is full size and constructed of hardened cast steel. It looks and is built differently from the other tools on the SOG because it has a different function. Kudos.
SOG has a reputation for making beefy tactical knives. They've brought that same construction quality to the PowerAssist. The tool is steel where it needs to be, with composite spacers in one arm of the plier handles. The primary blades can be replaced, as well as the spring-loaded handle cover. All rivets and hinges arrive from the factory with just the right amount of tension. The pliers can be deployed with a flick of the wrist, but friction in the hinges hold them where you want them to stay.
All the tools can be opened easily and lock securely in place every time. Our one issue with the PowerAssist was with the locking mechanism on the screwdriver of one tested iteration of this tool. Over a few years now we have tested two versions of the PowerAssist tool. On the latest, the flat screwdriver got locked open. We tried a variety of things but eventually found that we couldn't get it to close without help from SOG. Thankfully their warranty department was prompt and helpful. We did, though, have to send the tool back and were without it for a few weeks.
In our test, the enhanced pliers and assisted opening blades of the PowerAssist stand out. Once a user is accustomed to these, the utility advantages are significant. Deploying either blade is a snap, and applying a great deal of pressure through the pliers is a joy. The other tools, however, are a bit cumbersome to access. Not only must the user open the pliers to access them (and close the pliers before using these other tools), one has to lift a spring-loaded plate. This plate serves to pad the sharp edges when using the pliers, but it makes deploying the screwdriver or bottle opener more time-consuming. The SOG has a more "industrial" feel to it. For instance, it has far more sharp corners than others. However, in usage, none of these sharp corners interfere.
This is nearly the heaviest tool in our test. The SOG does come equipped with a lanyard/keychain loop but is far too bulky to carry that way. Additionally, in the applications for which it excels, having string or keys dangling will get in the way. The belt sheath is durable but has some quirks that concerned our team. A small patch of Velcro engages a flap that holds the sheath closed. Our testers had some concern about the durability of such a small patch of Velcro.
Additionally, the belt loop portion of the sheath is actually a plastic clip. This means that you can clip it on without unthreading your belt. But it also means that it could come unclipped while crawling under your house or leaning into a big truck hood cavity. It never did in our testing, but the possibility does exist.
The SOG is an expensive tool for he or she that will use it to its maximum advantage. It is unique in many ways, and therefore it is difficult to compare its value to other tools.
Avid home-improvement and car-repair types will find daily use for the SOG PowerAssist. It is well-made and solid. For "every day carry", we dig a smaller profile and quicker access to tools, even when it means compromised function of individual tools. In overall scoring, the SOG does not particularly stand out. It is worth noting, though, that the only products to score appreciably higher are manufactured by category-dominating Leatherman. SOG is in the mix with this multi-tool behemoth.
— Jediah Porter