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Back in August, Ryobi launched a new line of 18V One+ HP cordless power tools that were centered around two main characteristics – these new tools featured brushless motors, and they were compact.
At the time, I wrote about the new Ryobi 18V HP compact brushless drill/driver, which looked to be their best drill ever.
Many of the Ryobi 18V HP brushless tools are definitely fitting of their Compact Series description, even with the stem-style battery pack that seems out of place in today’s Li-ion day and age.
Ryobi 18V HP Expansion in 2021
Ryobi has very quickly expanded their line of HP cordless power tools with additional compact tools equipped with brushless motors.
2021 kicked off with quite a few new cordless power tools added to the Ryobi 18V HP product family.
New 18V One+ HP Brushless Tools Products List
- 1/2″ Drill/Driver Kit (PBLDD01K)
- 1/2″ Hammer Drill Kit (PBLHM101K)
- 1/4″ Impact Driver (PBLID01B)
- 4-Mode 1/4″ Impact Driver (PBLID02B)
- 4-Mode 1/2” Impact Wrench (P262)
- 1″ SDS-Plus Rotary Hammer (P223)
- Reciprocating Saw (PBLRS01B)
- 7-1/4″ Circular Saw (PBLCS300B)
- Jig Saw (PBLJS01B)
- Multi-Tool (PBLMT50B)
- 4-1/2″ Angle Grinder/Cut-Off Tool (PBLAG01B)
There are also two new batteries:
- 18V ONE+ 4Ah High Performance Lithium-Ion Battery (PBP004)
- 18V ONE+ 2Ah High Performance Lithium-Ion Battery (PBP003)
I’m still working through details and hands-on assessments, but the progress seemed deserving of a quick couple of words in the meantime.
In our best cordless power tools guide, I mentioned that the HP line of tools might deserve a closer look. That was a bit of a conservative statement. If you’re in the market for DIYer-level cordless power tools, these tools are definitely worth a closer look.
A lot of value-minded pros use Ryobi cordless power tools as well, usually for more specialized and infrequently-used tools.
It’s hard to know what Ryobi is going for here, but one thing that’s for certain is that they’re pushing forward with a different energy than in previous years.
Ryobi updated their compact battery pack. But did they have to?
Why – Increased Competition?
I have been wondering – what, or who, is responsible for the new 18V HP lineup?
Ryobi is certainly facing new competition these days, and with relatively fresh brands. Lowe’s has Kobalt’s 24V Max cordless power tool system, as well as Craftsman’s 20V Max cordless power tool system. Skil’s new 20V Max system has been available at Amazon and is now going to be featured at Lowe’s stores.
Kobalt, Craftsman, and Skil have all launched their cordless systems in recent years, with all three brand’s systems being designed from the ground up.
So, Ryobi is facing increased competition, and against newer cordless power tool systems designed around Li-ion tech. Ryobi’s battery interface is dated, but reflects their commitment to users.
Although few other brands match up to Ryobi’s breadth of lineup, their 18V HP initial launch and recent expansion seems to reflect an effort to ensure their continued dominance.
Was this a responsive measure? Pre-emptive? Was this always the plan but finally made possible now that brushless power tool tech has come down in price?
Do Fresh Tool Designs Indicate Shifting Strategies?
Ryobi’s 18V One+ battery pack form factor results in certain design constraints, but the ergonomics of these new tools are definitely quite decent.
For example, while the new compact 1.5Ah battery pack doesn’t seem very different on paper if you’re only looking at dimensional specs, it feels a little more compact. Plus, the redesign allowed for a battery fuel gauge.
The tough part of trying to get to the bottom of this story is that Ryobi’s strategy isn’t clear. Their motivation isn’t obvious. The results aren’t exactly an extension of their past advancements and progress. The 18V HP series is more of a branch of the 18V One+ lineup than a continuation.
This is all very good for users.
To help illustrate what I mean, Ryobi launched a brushless drill/driver more than 4 years ago. They also launched a brushless circular saw, angle grinder, sander, and other tools.
With Ryobi’s initial power tool launches, the focus was on affordable power. There were some compromises, but they brought higher performing tools to the Ryobi 18V platform.
Those tools offered higher performance, greater power, and modern features, but without premium pricing. In my experiences, the tools didn’t have a premium feel either, but their compromises were acceptable.
They gave users brushless options, but the tools lacked some of the refinement other brands’ pricier pro-grade tools offered. But, I considered this to be an acceptable tradeoff.
Here’s the full Ryobi 18V HP series of compact brushless power tools now. Compared to the earlier brushless tools, Ryobi’s HP products don’t fit the same mold. In my experiences, at least so far, you get a more premium experience in comparison.
Where’s the sacrifice here? Where are the compromises? These tools aren’t so much about brute power at more affordable pricing, but about delivering a more balanced experience.
I need more workshop time with these tools before I can fully characterize them.
I can’t place my finder on it, but the new HP tools seem more refined, but that could also be part of the balanced experience and tuned ergonomics. There’s a subtle undertone where these tools feel more serious compared to many previous core-type Ryobi cordless power tools.
Shown here is an image of Ryobi’s 18V One+ and 18V One+ HP cordless jig saws. The HP product doesn’t just have a brushless motor, it has completely different styling and ergonomics.
Ryobi has different pricing and performance tiers for many of their core offerings. But with HP, they seem to break that paradigm. These new HP don’t just have a couple of upgraded features, they are completely different. This doesn’t seem to be an effort by Ryobi to expand outwards, but an effort to expand upwards, and that would be a big deal.
Some of Dewalt’s Atomic series 20V Max cordless power tools are a downwards expansion, seemingly intended to capture the attention of more budget-minded shoppers. Here, you have Ryobi now pushing upwards and into the same space.
Is this a consequence, or the goal, for Ryobi to have created new premium value-system offerings to compete against value-focused pro-system offerings?
If you look outside of the Dewalt Atomic series lineup, consider how popular older brushed motor cordless power tools and combo kits are, especially when they’re aggressively priced during holiday shopping season promotions. Compared to many of those tools, these new Ryobi HP tools have brushless motors, smaller sizes, and in many cases better specs with respect to power and performance. And, there might still be a pricing advantage.
Ryobi Tools’ New President was a Milwaukee Tool VP
There’s also one idea that I cannot quite shake.
Ryobi Tool’s President is Bobby Shaw. Most readers won’t recognize the name, but Shaw was a product manager, group channel manager, and Vice President at Milwaukee Tool.
Bobby Shaw was at Milwaukee Tool for nearly 11 years.
I quickly identified Shaw in Ryobi Tools’ 18V HP launch video in August, and at that time he had already been President at the company for around 10 months (according to his LinkedIn profile).
I can’t tell you anything about Ryobi Tools’ past corporate leadership, or even how it’s organized now. But, I can tell you that this is not an insignificant development.
Although Ryobi Tool and Milwaukee Tool are both part of TTI, they are not jointly operated. I’d say you could think of Ryobi and Milwaukee Tool as you would Pepsi and Gatorade, but quite frankly there’s no way of knowing if the same product team manages both brands’ beverages. What I do know is that there is a disconnect between Milwaukee Tool and Ryobi where the two are effectively completely different companies despite sharing the same parent.
Bobby Shaw isn’t Steven Richman, President at Milwaukee Tool since 2007, but surely Shaw’s philosophy, strategies, and approaches have been inevitably influenced by his experiences at Milwaukee Tool.
Would it be reasonable to think that Shaw has been shaped by some of what worked and didn’t work at Milwaukee Tool?
In no uncertain terms, Milwaukee Tool has grown to be a widely successful company under Richman’s presidency.
It would be unfair to define Shaw solely by his experiences at Milwaukee Tool, but it is fair to assume they are at least a part of him and what he brings to his presidency at Ryobi Tools.
The question here is whether Shaw is a driving force behind Ryobi and the new direction they’re taking with their 18V One+ HP cordless power tools.
Milwaukee Tool announced their first-ever M18 Fuel cordless power tools back in 2011, and the tools launched in 2012. Shaw was a cordless power tools product manager at that time. He was later Vice President of Hand Tools and Storage for 4-1/2 years.
What lessons, culture, or history has been instilled in what Shaw brings to Ryobi Tools, and how does that play into the One+ HP product family?
Additional Context and Influential Factors
Ryobi’s HP line gives users a core selection of compact power tools. The batteries were modernized, and the tools have a more premium yet modest feel.
These tools are somewhat uncharacteristic for the brand, but fitting.
With the 18V HP line only being 6 months old, it’s too soon to identify any trends. But as wrong as it would be to prematurely conclude that Ryobi is redefining their position in the tool industry, we also cannot ignore the strong possibility that these aren’t just a couple of new tools.
Complicating things further, Ryobi is a Home Depot-exclusive tool brand, and so Ryobi’s cordless power tool developments are very strongly influenced by the retailer’s needs and wants. The retailer is Ryobi Tool’s customer. You are not the customer, you are the end user.
Ridgid, adjoined to Ryobi under TTI’s umbrella with respect to cordless power tools developed for and sold at Home Depot, also came out with a 18V SubCompact line of power tools in 2020.
There are so many pieces to this puzzle. New leadership. Industry trends. A grand strategy.
The story needs to be worked out. But, here is where everything comes together. From everything I have seen so far, the only thing that is clear is that these tools were not designed around price. If they were, then Ryobi masked this well.
These aren’t tools for the budget shopper. They’re not for the “maximum bang for the buck” shopper. While not unheard of for the brand, there seem to be inherently different driving forces behind these new tools.
There is a lot of compartmentalizing within the cordless power tool selections at Home Depot these days. Dewalt Atomic. Ridgid SubCompact. And now, Ryobi 18V One+ HP.
Does the One+ HP Compact Series branding describe the tools, or were the tools developed to satisfy the branding?
How big of a role does Home Depot play here? What about Bobby Shaw now at the helm as President of Ryobi Tools? Are these tools designed with Ryobi 18V One+ users in mind, or is increased competition a larger contributing factor than one or two years ago?
I don’t know what to expect from Ryobi Tools after this, but I’m hoping they continue to raise the bar.