Multi-tools are convenient tools but they are seldom the best tool for the job. The introduction of ergonomic handles, locking tools, standard size drivers (i.e. Leatherman Core), and hex bit drivers are improving the function of multi-tools but they're still not a replacement for a well stocked tool box. One of the most popular features of multi-tools is their size. The original Leatherman PST was popular because it was small and light (5 oz) enough for everyday pocket carry.
Wanting a multi-tool that was convenient for pocket carry, I purchased the SOG Power Pocket Plier (S44).
Although it came with a nice leather case, I carry it in a pants pocket --after all it is called the "Pocket Power Plier". At first I thought the compound leverage gears would be uncomfortable for pocket carry (and I joked about possible injuries that might occur) but I haven't found it to be a problem. In fact, I often end up searching both pockets because I've forgotten which pocket I put it in.
Although the S44 is more comparable to the original Leatherman PST (including tool clumping and lack of an ergonomic grip), I actually find that I most often choose between carrying it and the SwissTool Spirit. The Spirit has a more comfortable grip and far more features but is a bit thicker and heavier than the S44 and lacks a clip point blade. The S44 weighs 5.5 oz--just a little bit more than the original PST.
The S44 features SOG's patented compound leverage pliers which uses gears to move the pliers’ jaws. The gears allow greater handle travel in relation to pliers jaw movement. The result is that by using the same hand strength, twice the wire cutting and pliers gripping strength is generated compared to conventional pliers. This also allows better control of the pliers since they require less force. I wasn't able to empirically test that the strength is actually twice that of conventional tools (as SOG claims) but I can say that I find that the difference is noticeable.
Another feature of the pliers is that they are skewed and flattened on one side. Using conventional pliers, it is sometimes necessary to sacrifice your grip or hold the tool at an angle. Holding pliers at an angle, it's only possible to grip an object by the tips of the pliers. SOG's design alleviates this frustration since the skewed pliers allow greater use of the pliers jaws.
The S44 doesn't feature locking tools but the selection of tools is what I consider to be the gold standard for a minimalist design. Borrowing from Victorinox, SOG uses combination tools (driver/file, driver/bottle opener, driver/can opener) to fit the most essential tools into a compact package--actually with room left over (there's a deluxe version with more implements).
Although combination drivers have drawbacks (they require greater clearance) they are an efficient design. The combination drivers/openers on the SOG have less reach than those on the SwissTools but the combination driver/file (like a jumbo version of the tool on the Victorinox Classic SD) may very well be the longest flat driver on any multi-tool.
The Phillips driver on the S44 is a standard #1 driver. The flat drivers have three sizes but none are standard. This is a disappointment but not a surprise. Most multi-tools lack standard size drivers. I find this trend irritating. Standard size drivers fit better and are less likely to slip or damage fasteners. It is a major fault that separates many multi-tools from professional quality tools.
The knife blade on my S44 is a plain edge drop point blade but the S44 is more commonly found configured with a combination blade. I prefer the plain edge. Given the reputation of SOG's knives, I was surprised that the factory edge was quite dull. I strongly agree with popular belief that a sharp blade is a safe blade. Unlike Leatherman blades which have a double bevel and are typically razor sharp, the SOG blade is ground on a single side. This is easily addressed by grinding a second bevel.
As with the original Leatherman multi-tools, tool clumping is a matter of fact. Some people find tool clumping makes it easy to access the tools and others find it irritating. Since the S44 is so small, I find it can be difficult to dig out the smaller tools and I actually find that the tool clumping helps me access the tools.
An unfortunate consequence of the tool clumping is that the file rubs against the bottle opener and will likely wear down the file as well as scrape up the opener. This problem occurs since SOG used a single large spacer and didn't place washers between the tools. The spacer was likely used in order to accommodate the skew of the pliers but there appears to be enough clearance to accommodate thin washers between the tools.
The S44, like other SOG multi-tools, is assembled with hex screws which allow you to adjust the tension or disassemble the tool for maintenance. Replacement parts are available direct from SOG. A replacement knife blade costs around $6. If you are able to purchase the S44 for cheap, like I did ($18.95 on Ebay), the cost of replacement parts may be somewhat prohibitive.
Like the Leatherman PST, the handle on the S44 lacks ergonomic design. I find the handle on the S44 slightly more comfortable than the handle of the old Leatherman tools. Perhaps it's because the compound leverage pliers require less force. Also, the edges of the S44 seem a bit more rounded than the edges of the Leatherman PST. A rolled edge like that on the Leatherman Pulse would have improved the comfort of the grip.
Although it has faults, overall I'm pleased with the S44. It contains the most essential tools in a compact package and offers the benefit of compound leverage.
Compound leverage pliers
Convenient size/weight for pocket carry
Good selection of the most essential tools
Standard #1 Phillips driver
Replacement parts available direct from SOG
Lacks an ergonomic grip
Exposed compound leverage gears
Lacks locking tools
Lacks standard size flat drivers