The iFixit website has long been heaven for techies and geeks. iFixit will take things apart so you don't have to, and they'll tell you how to put them back together. They have instructions for fixing a pantheon of popular gizmos, and they sell kits for do-it-yourself projects of all kinds. And of course they have the tools you'll need for just about anything techie or geeky. This week, we review their top of the line ProTech Toolkit. They say it's The Perfect Tool for Phone Repair (Cracked screen? Bad Battery? There's a fix for that), Computer Repair (You're already a genius. All you need are the right tools.) and Small Appliance Repair (You can repair it. You have the technology.) Is that marketing hype or the straight truth? We've used the ProTech Toolkit for several months now and we'll tell you what's what, in this review:
Unboxing The Toolkit
The iFixit ProTech Toolkit comes in an attractive, glossy, illustrated box. As you can see, it's labeled as being "70 tools for dishing out repair justice," and there's a photo of the rolled-up toolkit on the front.
On the back, you'll see an expanded listing of everything that's included in the box.
This small illustration doesn't do that justice, but you can check the iFixit website for a complete listing of the contents, closeup photos of the tools, specs and some videos and testimonials. Just remember to come back to read the rest of the review after you browse all that. 🙂 When you open the box you'll see the neatly fastened grey canvas tool roll. Hard to believe that all the goodies listed on the box could fit inside that relatively small package, but they do.
The roll is sturdy and fastens with really strong Velcro strips.
The tools have their own pouches and slots, with protective covers that keep things from getting bent or scratched by the other contents of the roll. (The plastic box with the bits in it is held in place by a wide elastic strap, but we've removed the box from the strap so you can see it.)
As we mentioned, the bits and drivers are stored in their own plastic box with two magnetic bit-holder handles.
OK, Looks Good, But What Is All That Stuff?
One tool name that many people may have never encountered before is "spudger." Here's iFixit's explanation. You can also look it up on Wikipedia if you like. And if you've ever tried to pry an iPod apart using your fingernails or a guitar pick or a knife blade and prayed you didn't break something or slice off a finger or two, you will sing the praises of whoever it was that invented the spudger.
The kit includes spudgers in several shapes and sizes, in both nonconductive plastic and metal. The metal ones can also be used to shape Sugru or epoxy putty.
You may also see some unfamiliar names in the list of bits in the plastic box. Refer to the iFixit website for the list, because size limitations prevent our showing the image in a size that would make everything readable. Pentalobe bits look like Torx bits (see below) but they aren't, and you'll mess up a Pentalobe screw if you try to use a Torx bit on it. Pentalobe screws are found in Apple products and people who don't have the proper tools to deal with them will certainly find new uses for the word "screw," none of which this family friendly site will provide definitions for. JIS bits are those built according to the rules of Japanese Industrial Standards. They look like Philips screwdriver bits but they're not. Torx bits are what you would get by turning a six-sided nut inside out. They are sometimes referred to as "star" bits. Torx screws look a little like the six-sided hex screws that you would use an Allen wrench on, but they're not, and if you try to cram an Allen wrench into one of them, all you will produce is major unhappiness. The other bits in the case are self-explanatory. You can see why buying a set of bits that actually fit the fasteners you wish to deal with is a really wise idea. There are two downsides to this otherwise extremely useful case full of bits and drivers. The really big one is that the contents are only labeled by a diagram on their individual plastic holders.
If you do not know or do not immediately recognize the shape you are looking for, you may rummage around for quite some time. Our recommendation is that you make a high-quality copy of the list on the back of the box and tape it inside the lid of the plastic case. Better to spoil the pristine look of the case than to be frustrated every time you want to find what you want. The second downside and this is minor, is that the case doesn't open the way you expect it to. You don't pull up on the black plastic flap, you press in on it to release the lid. Some of us are more likely to be flummoxed by this than others. 🙂 All the bits snap smoothly into the handles and stay secure while they're in use. The handles are of very high quality and fit nicely in just about any hand. The magnets are strong and keep the bits firmly in place until you pull them out. On the top left row of the tool roll, between the plastic spudgers and the razor knife, you'll see three items that at first glance appear to be plastic picks of some kind. They come with protective cones over their sharp ends. When you slide these tools out of their storage slots and remove the cones, you'll see that they are all precision metal tweezers with a nonconductive (ESD safe) coating on their handles. They are excellent for picking up and holding all kinds of tiny items, and if you've ever dropped a small screw inside something you're fixing, you will know just how useful they are. (The bit set also includes a magnet that can be used for the same purpose.)
There is also an anti-static wrist strap that resides in its own pouch. Some people have a lah-di-dah attitude toward static when they're working on electronics, and sometimes the electronics haven't lived to tell the tale. If you don't know how to use an anti-static strap, Wikipedia's got the facts and iFixit's got your strap. And also a suction cup with a nice strong split ring, through which you can run the cable from the anti-static strap if you need to keep it up off the floor and away from your cat.
How Well Do The Tools Work?
Perfectly. 🙂 These tools are clearly designed by people who know how to use them, and who appreciate quality. There are no rough edges or mismatched parts, and nothing looks like it was shipped here in a rowboat from some anonymous sweatshop in West Kerflumpestan. Anyone who's done any tool shopping knows what those things look like and has probably broken several. It's hard to imagine an electronic repair project that would call for a tool not included in the ProTech Toolkit, with the possible exception of a soldering iron. We have used the tools for projects like replacing the whip antenna on a portable radio and installing a new SSD in a Mac Mini and they've been a pure delight from beginning to end. Being able to fit them all back into their neat little roll and put them all away is just frosting on the cake.
Whether you've spent years digging into the innards of computers and electronic doodads or whether you just want to get started making a few simple repairs, the iFixit ProTech Toolkit will make you happy. It's designed by people who clearly know what they're doing and who clearly know what makes a good tool. Plus, there is the iFixit website to browse. See if you don't come away convinced that you too can be a super tech after you've read their instructions. Do you have tool questions or a story to tell? Please talk to us in the comments section.