The Ryobi 18V 1/4" Cordless Trim Router review in a nutshell: it's a fantastically handy little tool that works well for those smaller, more intricate jobs but it buckles under heavy workloads.
You can be a fairly competent DIYer and never really feel the urge to use a wood router and that's because it's a fairly niche tool for those who like to get seriously up close and personal with wood.
Using a rotating "bit", similar to those you might throw in the end of a corded or cordless power drill, the best wood routers cleverly remove wood from a project to create perfect grooves, chamfered edges or even large holes. It's a must-have if you're into anything woody, from making a fancy new dining table to replacing the doors in your house with hand-finished numbers.
Bear in mind the Ryobi 18V 1/4" Cordless Trim Router is quite clearly advertised as a trim router, so it doesn't feature variable speed, nor does it have a plunge feature like those from Triton and Festool that we mention in our buying guide.
Plus, the onboard motors aren't really designed for oversized cutting heads. Instead, it plays nicely with most 1/4-inch bits, which could be a limiting factor for your next project.
However, it does represent a fantastically simple hand tool for those who are perhaps just starting or the more professional users who need something smaller, more lightweight and cord-free for small repetitive tasks or more intricate work.
Ryobi 18V 1/4" Cordless Trim Router Review: price and availability
The Ryobi 18V 1/4" Cordless Trim Router is far more affordable than similar models from DeWalt and Festool, with an RRP of £99.99/$87.85 USD for the bare tool. Amazon (opens in new tab) is your best bet to pick up something and have it delivered pronto.
It's a little more expensive to buy in Australia, where we found it for $169 AUD and it costs $199 NZD in New zealand. But bear in mind the bare tool doesn't come with a battery, which you'll most definitely need if you want it to, erm, work.
Ryobi 18V 1/4" Cordless Trim Router Review: build quality
There is a really nice heft to the Ryobi 18V 1/4" Cordless Trim Router and it has been designed so it features dimpled rubber grips in all of the areas you are likely to hold it. Without the battery, it's lightweight and not particularly daunting and feels ergonomically designed, but strap the recommend 5.0 Ah One+ pack onto it and it suddenly gets quite heavy and fairly bulky to hold.
The chunkiness does add an element of peace of mind, because the collar - the area taking the brunt of the weight of the tool - is fashioned from die-cast aluminium and it definitely feels like it can withstand a bit of a beating.
The on/off toggle switch also has a nice weighty action to it and the latch mechanism for adjusting the routing height is also similarly professional grade. On top of this, Ryobi throws in a tough perspex cover, which protects the user but also allows for great visibility when cutting, as well as LED lighting for better visibility.
There are a few areas that could be improved though, such as the micro-adjustment dial at the top of the tool, which rattles around like crazy when the tool is switched on. This isn't such a big deal but it's enough to move the bit up or down by a few millimetres during long cutting projects.
Secondly, the latch that adjusts the aluminium collar requires adjustment after some use, as it too works loose. Fret not, there's a nut to do this and Ryobi includes the correct spanner but it's almost impossible to get it around said nut. You'll have to locate a small socket set to make your life easier.
Ryobi 18V 1/4" Cordless Trim Router Review: performance
As previously mentioned in my Bosch POF 1200 AE wood router review, I'm okay with some general DIY but I'm not a professional woodworker, so in no way did I test this tool to its absolute limits.
However, I do know a few people handy with dead tree, if you know what I mean, and they can back me up when I say this makes a fantastic little cordless hand tool for lightweight routing job or for those just starting out.
Rounding edges on worktops is an absolute breeze and Ryobi now even packs this tool with a handy edge guide for creating beautifully straight grooves in whatever might need it. A friend of mine likes to make his own homemade guitars and he enjoyed how light and free it felt compared to a larger corded router he usually reaches for.
That said, this is almost half the price of those offered by major players like DeWalt and even the Bosch Professional line, so there is a little compromise. The overall output power and runtime might get in the way of more extensive projects, for example, while the rattling micro-adjuster dial could create some headaches for those who like a millimetre perfect finish to every job.
It's also extremely noisy to use, so definitely not the sort of thing you can mess about with in a small flat without gaining unwanted attention from the neighbours.
Regardless, I still think this is a fantastic piece of kit for the price and Ryobi has hit the nail on the head in terms of build quality and ease of use. It feels quality and it's precise enough for most amateur projects without breaking the bank.
Ryobi 18V 1/4" Cordless Trim Router Review: what the customers say
From Amazon UK
• "Honestly, all of the (Ryobi) hand tools I've had are excellent and over the last seven years of being utterly abused, as I've been renovating a house, have worked perfectly even when dropped from the second story of my building site. In all that time only one battery has carked it as well despite the daily use"
• “Used primarily to rout door hinge rebates using a Ryobi A99HT2 Door Hinge Installation Kit. Depth adjustment is both easy to set and very accurate. LED light and Perspex guide plate makes it very easy to see where and what the router bit is cutting. Body is beautifully ergonomic which encourages great hand control”
• “Fantastic piece of equipment. It's easy to use, has been very reliable and feels like a sturdy piece of kit”
Ryobi 18V 1/4" Cordless Trim Router Review: verdict
The glowing customer reviews say it all really: despite a few minor design oversights this feels like an excellent tool for the money and one that will remain useful, even if your DIY skills progress.
Even when handed over to seasoned carpenters and woodworkers, I heard nothing but good things, with those talented folk praising its ease of use and its cordless nature for the freedom and speed at which it can tackle small but repetitive tasks.
Ryobi suggests paring it with the 5.0Ah battery pack, which can make the whole set-up a bit expensive, but it's still a good deal cheaper than the more professional offerings out there. If you're already a Ryobi One+ battery convert, it's a no-brainer.