Ryobi P238 Review
Pros: Fast, lots of torque
Cons: Loud, average battery life
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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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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