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Ryobi P238 Review

This driver is fast and provides excellent torque, but for the cost we wish the battery had a bit more endurance
Ryobi P238
Credit: Laura Casner
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Price:   $110 List | $65 at Amazon
Pros:  Fast, lots of torque
Cons:  Loud, average battery life
Manufacturer:   Ryobi
By Max Mutter and Austin Palmer  ⋅  Jan 22, 2020
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77
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#3 of 13
  • Speed - 35% 8
  • Torque - 25% 10
  • Convenience - 20% 7
  • Battery - 15% 6
  • Noise - 5% 1

Our Verdict

Leading the pack in both our speed and torques tests, the Ryobi P238 is an enticing option for ambitious DIYers that want as much power as they can get from their cordless tools. However, we did have some gripes with this tool, namely that its battery lasted only slightly more than half as long as those of some similarly priced and similarly powerful models. It is also one of the noisiest models we tested, though noise is pretty much an inescapable downside to using one of these devices. Overall, though this wouldn't be our first recommendation to someone that is building a set of power tools from the ground up, if you're already invested in a line of Ryobi tools and thus have a number of compatible batteries, we don't think you'll be disappointed with the P238. Plus, Ryobioffers far more cordless tools than most other manufacturers, so that versatility may outweigh the mediocre battery for many people.

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Overall Score Sort Icon
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Pros Fast, lots of torqueIncredibly fast, phenomenal torque, four speed settingsExceptional torque, very fast, great battery lifeGood speed and torque, decent battery lifePhenomenal torque, three speed settings, quick insert chuck, quick release chuck
Cons Loud, average battery lifeNot the best battery life, noisyLoud, only one RPM settingLoud, relatively priceySlower than a handful of other models, so-so battery life, noisy
Bottom Line An exceptionally fast and powerful tool that is slightly held back by an average batteryThis impact driver offers fantastic speed and torque in a compact packageIf you want a high performance impact driver that can hang with the best, this is a good choiceA solid addition for those that already have a bevy of DEWALT tools, but carries a heftier price tag than mostComing up a bit short of winning an award, we were a big fan of the torque of the R86038 but it was outperformed in other ways
Rating Categories Ryobi P238 Milwaukee M18 FUEL... Makita XDT13 DEWALT MAX XR... Ridgid R86038
Speed (35%)
8
9
8
8
7
Torque (25%)
10
10
10
8
10
Convenience (20%)
7
8
6
7
6
Battery (15%)
6
7
9
7
7
Noise (5%)
1
2
3
2
2
Specs Ryobi P238 Milwaukee M18 FUEL... Makita XDT13 DEWALT MAX XR... Ridgid R86038
Impact driver model # P238 2853-20 XDT13 DCF887 R86038
Average measured fastening torque 300 ft-lb 300 ft-lb 282 ft-lb 238 ft-lb 300 ft-lb
Measured breaking torque 300 ft-lb 300 ft-lb 300 ft-lb 300 ft-lb 300 ft-lb
Measured length 161 mm 116 mm 126 mm 136 mm 147 mm
Average measured sound pressure level 104 dBa 99 dBa 97 dBa 100 dBa 100 dBa
Quick bit insert Yes Yes Yes Yes No
Bit holder Yes Yes No No Yes
Multiple fastening modes Yes Yes No Yes Yes

Our Analysis and Test Results

The Ryobi P238 is one of the fastest drivers that we tested, with its expediency in sinking lag bolts being particularly impressive. In our test it drove a ½" by 3" lag bolt into a pre-drilled hole in just 14 seconds. For comparison, the average amongst all of the models we tested was 30 seconds, making the P238 is twice as fast as the average impact driver when it comes to lag bolts.


This tool also turned in one of the best performances in our ledger screw test, managing to fully seat a 3-⅝" screw into a stack of plywood in just 5 seconds. Very few models were able to best this time, and it felt significantly faster than the average time of 7 seconds.

Torque


Torque is one thing that certainly is not lacking with the P238. It was consistently and seemingly effortlessly able to tighten ¾" nuts onto bolts that we welded to an I-beam to 300+ foot-pounds. Similarly, it was able to loosen nuts that had been tightened to 300 foot-pounds with ease.

The torque delivered by the Ryobi is top-notch.
The torque delivered by the Ryobi is top-notch.
Credit: Laura Casner

These test results put the Ryobi in the upper echelon of the cordless impact drivers that have come through our testing lab. If your projects tend to require an extra bit of power, this tool will likely serve you well.


Convenience


The P238 offers a slew of convenient features, with a relatively long front-to-back length being its only particularly inconvenient attribute.


First off, the Ryobi P238 offers 3 different RPM settings, which can easily be adjusted via a selector on the back of the driver.

The RPM setting switch on the back of the driver is conveniently...
The RPM setting switch on the back of the driver is conveniently located where it's easy to see and access.
Credit: Laura Casner

There are also a string of LEDs around the chuck that light up during use, and that stay on for 10 seconds after you take your finger off the trigger. These lights throw very bright light onto your work area, making it easy to see exactly what you're doing.

We can't imagine a better set of LEDs than the ones on the Ryobi.
We can't imagine a better set of LEDs than the ones on the Ryobi.
Credit: Laura Casner

Top that off with a quick-insert chuck that makes switching bits fast and effortless, a bit holder that keeps track of your spare bits, and a magnetic plate that holds bits and fasteners and you've got a tool that offers pretty much all of the bells and whistles.

We love that Ryobi thought to add a magnetic plate to hold extra...
We love that Ryobi thought to add a magnetic plate to hold extra fasteners.
Credit: Laura Casner

The only thing we find somewhat inconvenient about the P238 is its length. From front to back it measures 161mm. This is appreciably more than the average of 144mm and can feel gargantuan compared to the slew of models that fall in the 130mm range. This isn't a big deal for most projects, but if you tend to find yourself working in crawl spaces or other cramped areas, that extra heft can be awkward and make it difficult to get the driver in the right position.

Battery


This is one area where the Ryobi is less than impressive. Its battery certainly isn't poor, but it fails to keep up with this tool's stellar performances in our speed and torque tests.


Our battery test involved driving in 14 ledger screws, and then driving a large lag bolt in and out, and then repeating the process until the battery failed. The P238 made it through 2 full rounds of this process. On the third round it was able to get all 14 ledger screws and the lag bolt in, but the battery died trying to get the lag bolt out. This is a respectable performance, falling right around the average mark. However, there are some equally powerful models that were able to complete 5 full rounds in this test, which does make the Ryobi's battery feel a bit lacking.

Noise


Bottom line, the P238 is loud. And sure, all impact drivers are loud, but the P238 averaged 104 dBa at the ear level of the user while driving in ledger screws in our test.

Sadly, the Ryobi is very, very loud.
Sadly, the Ryobi is very, very loud.
Credit: Laura Casner

This is well above our average measurement and loud enough that most safety standards consider continued exposure to be unsafe, making it very important that you follow the manufacturer's recommendation concerning personal protective equipment when operating this driver.


Value


The P238 offers good performance for a relatively average price. However, there are some models on the market that perform slightly better while costing the same or less.

Conclusion


The P238 is a great option for those that already own Ryobi tools and batteries, but those looking into their first set of electric tools may be better served elsewhere.

Max Mutter and Austin Palmer