Good, but not necessarily a Charge/Wave replacement
Reviewed in the United States on 25 April 2019
The P4 is a great set of pliers with a unique and satisfying opening system. The externally, and easily deployable, tools are fantastic, but they're limited in range compared to comparable Leatherman tools with a more diverse bit selection. Also, the decision to make all tools external means the ergonomics aren't as comfortable for prolonged use of those tools. Disappointingly, although the P4 is longer, the main straight and serrated blades are actually shorter and skimpier than comparable models. While this is a great tool, there are serious design compromises that should guide whether it's the tool for you.
*Update* As the end of April, Leatherman is now putting a pocket clip in each new Free P4 (see the end of my review for my complaint about this). If you bought one that doesn't have a pocket clip, you can email Leatherman and they'll send you pocket clip for free.
The new Free P4 sits between the traditional Wave and Charge TTi in terms of price, but since it's closer to the Charge, I'm going to compare it to that model. I have an older model Charge (without the replaceable wire cutter bits), but I believe this review holds up with the new one.
Ergonomics closed: The P4 is about a 1cm longer than the Charge, maybe 2mms thinner. Leatherman's official stat sheets say that the P4 is lighter, but this didn't check out on my scale: my charge is 8.5 oz, and the P4 is 8.7oz. Both feel good in the hand, but I'd say the Charge feels a little nicer. The Charge feels a little more rounded in the hand than the P4. Also, although the P4 scale design has an interesting new aesthetic, it's not as grippy as the old Charge.
Pliers: The P4's are great. Absolutely great. The whole magnetic opening thing--which I thought looked gimmicky--is legitimately pretty awesome. A gentle push of the fingertips pushes the handles apart, and from there they swing freely into an open position. Once the handles are fully rotated, they "lock" into place with a satisfying click, and they will stay in pliers-mode until you put a good bit of pressure on them. This is an amazing contrast to the Charge which can be too stiff or too loose, depending on how much you use it.
Unlike the Charge, the P4 is not as prone to pinching when using the pliers. Because of where Leatherman positioned the blade-bumps for the Charge (that is: the side closest to the pivot), it was very each to get your palm caught between them, which has led to many a blood blister for me. The P4 swaps the blade swells to the opposite end of the handles, giving more room between the handles. Also, the handles are longer, which means you get can more leverage when you need it. The new pliers on the P4 are wider and beefier. These are simply fantastic pliers.
Blades and deployment: The biggest con in my book of the P4 are the pretty crappy blades. Although they're coming out of a longer handle, the P4 blades are shorter and have less depth. In particular, the main cutting blade (which is a wharncliffe style instead of the Charge's droppoint) is really puny. Also, because all the P4's tools are external, when the blades are deployed your ring and pinkie finger will be digging into the "empty" sides of the P4, rather than the Charge's covered sides. If you're going to be using the P4 blades for any extended period of time, you're almost certainly going to want gloves, whereas I've used the Charge blades for quite a while without getting any hotspots.
Tools: The Charge has a great file, but terrible scissors. The P4 has great scissors, but a terrible file. The Charge comes with a pocket clip or lanyard loop, the P4 only has a (awful) lanyard loop. The Charge is a true multitool that can equip dozens of different driver bits. The P4 has a limited selection of flat and phillips screwdrivers. The Charge has to be opened to access most of it's tools, and it relies on a fingernail destroying grab system. The P4 allows you to deploy any tool while the unit is open with basically just a roll of the thumb. The Charge has an enscribed ruler, the "ruler" on the P4 is a laughable joke.
This is a hard one to call because it really comes down to use. If you never find yourself needing your multitool to drive a hex screw, you probably won't miss the Charge's versatility. I will say this, I think Leatherman sat down and said, "What tools do we think most people will use *most* of the time," and they did a great job with that process.
I think it about this way: the everyday person needs a good pair of scissors more than they need a nice diamond file or a hex driver. So, you really need to think about your use case before you buy one or the other (personally, I'm keeping both). The one-handed convenience of the P4 is its indisputable killer feature, but I do think some people will regret its limited scope of available tools.
I will say that the I think the P4 will become my new camping/hiking multi-tool. It's not like I find myself in the woods thinking, "My god, where is my T6 Torx wrench bit!!!" that often; but the Charge will almost certainly remain my toolbox multi-tool.
As a final aside, the Charge comes with a lanyard loop and pocket clip. The P4 only comes with a lanyard loop, and it's awful. I've heard they're going to sell the pocket clip later, but they *really* should have included it.
161 people found this helpful