It's very seldom that one can call a product from a company founded in 1884 a "newcomer" to the category. However, that is exactly what the Victorinox SwissTool is. Victorinox has made "multi-tools" for over a century, in the form of the ever-recognizable "Swiss Army Knife". However, it is only recently that they chose to go head-to-head with the pliers-based multi tool category inventor Leatherman. As the underdog, Victorinox delivers a super polished product, reminiscent of both classic Swiss Army knives and contemporary pliers-based multi-tools. Overall, the SwissTool is very well made, but the category leading Leatherman tools are just a little better.
Victorinox SwissTool Spirit X ReviewPrice: $135 List | $104.99 at Amazon Pros: Polished, smooth
Cons: Heavier, no external bit options
Bottom line: A strong European contender in a market dominated by the company that arguably invented the category.
Weight (ounces): 7.4 oz
Locking Tools?: All but pliers
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Our Analysis and Test Results
The SwissTool Spirit X is solidly built, well-well appointed and polished to shine.
No non-award winner scored better than the SwissTool. The two that beat the SpiritX are virtually the same tool, with some budget considerations made for the less expensive version. The SpiritX didn't win any awards because it lags slightly behind these other two all-around tools and it doesn't have a unique niche to fill like our Top Picks. Nonetheless, it is a piece of art that can work hard. It deserves your consideration. Read on for more details.
According to the respective manufacturer's count, the Victorinox leads the field, by far, in terms of numbers of features and functions. However, when you boil it down and look more closely, the feature set isn't all that much different than, say, the Gerber Suspension. First, Victorinox claims 26 functions in bold print alongside the tool's name on their website. However, immediately below, in listing the features, their count goes to 24. Additionally, this number is pretty liberal, including separate entries for soft wire cutter, hard wire cutter, wire bender, wire stripper, wire scraper, cable cover longitudinal cutter, cable cover crossways cutter, crate opener, 7mm chisel, and scraper. These ten listed tools, best we can tell, are contained entirely in the jaws of the pliers and on a single piece of metal in the folded tools. Another manufacturer might list these ten as three or four, total. Examples of this "feature inflation" exist elsewhere in the Victorinox literature.
When one looks past the catalog exaggeration, one sees a pretty standard set of tools for a modern full-size multi-tool. As compared to the Editors' Choice Leatherman Charge TTI, the most notable difference is the Leatherman's bit driver. The option to accessorize with a nearly infinite array of driver bits makes the Leatherman more versatile.
On one level, the SwissTool is a basic, rough-sided pliers based multi-tool. Of the four "corners" of each plier handle, only two are rounded for comfort. However, for some reason, the tool is comfortable in one's hand, and the squared corners hardly affect the function. The good news is that the rounded corners guard the user's hands when using the pliers, and the fold-away tools themselves sort of round out the external profile of the closed device. The plier handles, when deployed, are slightly curved inwards. It's as if the handles have been bent by incredible hand strength when grabbing a nut or bold with the plier's head. This pre-curve makes for a small-fist-full with the pliers fully closed, while leaving a generous space between the handles to minimize pinching. We like this.
Finally, every single fold-away feature is accessed from the outside of the stowed pliers. In our review, only the SwissTool, Top Pick winning Gerber Dime, tiny Leatherman Squirt PS4 and otherwise unremarkable Gerber Suspension/Bear Grylls Ultimate were built this way. We like this attribute. In the end, regarding ergonomics, the SwissTool has pros and cons, generally tilting to slightly above average performance and score.
The portability of a tool is a function of its size, weight, external "roughness" (rougher tools tear up pockets), and carry options. In many ways, the Spirit X is best compared to the SOG Pocket PowerPlier. Aside from scissors, they have similar functions. They are roughly similar in size. The SOG is slightly shorter and narrower and lighter and has a more rounded external profile. Neither have pocket clips, even optionally, while both come with tight, practical belt sheaths. For its smaller size, the SOG scores slightly better, although many will gladly carry the slightly greater bulk in exchange for scissors.
The durability and strength of all our tested tools is a testament to both our initial selection criteria and the practical design criteria these companies use. Across the board, we had no problems with the strength and construction quality of any of our 2017 tested tools. (in the past we have had tools fail in testing. We have since omitted those products from our review roster). The SwissTool is no exception to the quality of our tested tools. In going head to head with a category super-power like Leatherman, Victorinox is wise to have built a solid product. They also surely have that Swiss pride that results in precise, smooth mechanical and electronic products.
The SwissTool is an excellent everyday carry tool for the Europhile that digs having scissors handy.
The SwissTool Spirit XC is the most expensive non-award winner in our test. While it is a solid product, and we definitely recommend it, a few dollars more can get the flashier Editors' Choice winner. For considerably less, one can get a remarkably similar feature set in our Best Buy winning Leatherman Wingman. The only major feature the Wingman lacks, as compared to the SwissTool, is a saw. The SwissTool has two, one for wood and one for metal.
We love the Spirit XC like we love espresso machines, Arc'teryx jackets, and classy underdogs in major sports leagues. It is a super polished product, whose polish is likely unnecessary and perhaps detracts from some practicality. Not to mention that the sophistication in the Spirit XC comes at a premium price.
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Most recent review: June 24, 2017
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