Monday, April 23, 2012

Cables to Go Workstation Repair Tool Kit - 27372 [Review]

Tasked with putting together a few tool kits for IT technicians and saddled with corporate restrictions, I was drawn to the Cables to Go Workstation Repair Tool Kit (Cables to Go P/N 27372). How does it stack up in an IT environment or as a computer tool kit in general? Let's take a look.

I had a few of my own requirements for these kits. I needed a kit that was small and relatively inexpensive. I didn't want something that included electronics like toners, cable testers, and multimeters. In my experience, the test equipment bundled in inexpensive, curated, computer tool kits is not something anyone should ever use. Last, I didn't want an interchangeable tip screwdriver. The tips are too easy to misplace. With these being communal tool kits, I think it made sense to stick to good old fashion screw drivers and keep the number of small parts to a minimum.

One of the attractions of the Cables to Go Workstation Repair Tool Kit is the case. The kit comes in a sturdy zippered case with a carrying handle and detachable shoulder strap. It incorporates two tool pallets with elastic bands for the included hand tools. The bottom cargo area consists of several padded dividers held in place with Velcro. There's enough room in here to add a couple pieces of test equipment, cables, and a few other small things if you remove some of the unnecessary items. There is no lock for the case and it is not something you would want to check as luggage on a plane. I'm interested to see how it holds up over the next months or years but the case is well suited to our needs.

The quality of the tools and the selection leave much to be desired. I've seen plenty of computer tool kits over the years. Most have been of very low quality and seem targeted to take advantage of a growing population of computer users, tinkers, and service people. Even though I had to purchase these sight unseen, I had a pretty good idea of what I was going to get.

There are no real surprises with the tools included in the kit, but a couple of things do stand out. The four conventional screw drivers seem to be fine, but only time will tell how the tips hold up. The precision screw driver set is cheap but usable, and that's really how most of the tools in this set stack up. For the most part, they’re cheap but usable. The wire cutters and needle nose pliers fall firmly into this category. The wire cutters are wire cutters. The pliers tips close completely and will grip a piece of paper all the way to the tip. The same can be said of the tweezers. The wire strippers are not something I would want to use but they will work, the magnifying glass actually has a glass lens, and the mini wrenches will turn a metric bolt head if needed.

The really bad tools are also the tools that shouldn't be included in a computer tool kit in the first place. The soldering iron is something that I hope I never have to use. I'm pretty sure it will get hot and that it could solder in a pinch, but the soldering iron in our kits will never see an AC wall outlet. Soldering irons are simply not required for working with computers. This goes for the rest of the included soldering accessories. Virtually no one solders on a PC. Even less people desolder things which makes the inclusion of a solder sucker laughable. The 3-piece soldering aid set is very cheap. These can be used for other things and might come in handy elsewhere but much like the heat sink and parts grabber, these tools are just filler. At least half of the tools in the kit seem to be there "just in case."

The Bottom Line

I had to put these tool kits together from vendors that accepted purchase orders, vendors we currently have terms with, and I didn't have a lot of time for research. The Cables to Go Workstation Repair Tool Kit was one of the few things I could find that fit the bill.

If it sounds like I'm trying to make excuses, I am. I'm a little embarrassed about these kits. I was an auto mechanic for a while before switching to IT, I know the value of good tools. Everyone at my employer seems to be fine with the kits but when I look at them through my eyes I'm forced to see them with the filter of my experience. That experience tells me that The Cables to Go Workstation Repair Kit is to be avoided if possible. Given more time and a broader choice of vendors, I could have put together a better kit from scratch. That would have been something I would be okay with, but unfortunately it wasn't in the cards.

I can't strongly enough recommend against buying this tool kit. When you consider the level of quality and the inclusion of tools that will almost never be used, except to boost the perceived value, this tool kit is overpriced. A better kit could be put together for with a little savvy and a bit more effort. Unless you have no other choice and absolutely have to buy this, don't.

As a little aside... I pulled the parts box and shoulder straps out of our kits and put a Fluke Intellitone Pro 200 probe and toner in each one. Now there's at least one quality tool in these little cases.