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Gerber Artifact vs. Swiss-Tech Utili-Key Review

By: Mark Adkins
on November 19, 2008 8:00 am

I enjoy carrying stuff in my pocket or gear bag to take care of everyday annoyances or that can be useful in emergencies- the ‘Be Prepared’ Boy Scout in me. Thanks to a link on The Gadgeteer, I have discovered EDC Forums, a place dedicated to talking about the stuff you usually have with you- they call them ‘Every Day Carry’.

One thing I enjoy carrying is a multi-purpose tool with a knife blade. I really like the Victorinox Midnight Manager pocketknife with the small scissors, Phillip’s screwdriver blade, pen and small LED light, but the $20 tool keeps ending up in the wash or getting lost (as does my beloved Fisher Bullet Pen). Besides, the Midnight Manager is kind of thick and just a tad flimsy for many of my purposes.

I’ve used the Swiss-Tech Utili-Key for a couple of years on and off, and was turned onto the Gerber Artifact by people at the EDC Forum. When I found an Artifact at Target for under $10, I could not resist getting one to try it for myself.

SIZE COMPARISON-

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[Size Comparisons]
The Utili-Key is the silver one.
Overall length of the folded tools: Utili-Key- 2.75″. Artifact- 3.5″
The Artifact is the bigger, heavier, STRONGER tool

BLADE COMPARISON-

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[Blade Comparisons]
The Utili-Key offers a plain and serrated blade section, the Artifact uses a replaceable Xacto #11 blade.
The second photo shows a cut in some nylon cord. The Utili-Key took about 3 tries and made a rather ragged cut, while the Artifact made a clean cut the first time. (Disclaimer- I have used the Utili-Key a lot without resharpening, and the Artifact has a new blade in it, but an Xacto blade will generally outcut a typical blade.)

While the Utili-Key blade works fine in most cutting situations, and can be resharpened, the Artifact has a definite edge in sharpness- but the replaceable blade is also thinner than the Utili-Key blade, which can be a problem sometimes. Another interesting bit is that the dang super-sharp Xacto blade keeps cutting me at annoying times (Suggestion- watch your fingers as you open or close this blade!)

SCREWDRIVER COMPARISON-

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[Screwdriver Comparisons]
Phillips: The Utili-Key is a bit smaller than a typical #1 Phillips tip, while the Artifact is a bit smaller than a #2 Phillips.
Slotted: Both Utili-Key slotted drivers are smaller and thinner than the Artifacts. None of them are especially well positioned for many tasks.]

OTHER FEATURES-

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[Other Features]
– Both tools offer a cap lifter, and both work fine on typical caps
– Both tools have a wire stripper- between the cap lifter and serrated blade in the Utili-Key, between the slotted bits on the Artifact.
– The Utili-Key does offer a serrated knife, while the Artifact’s blade is removeable.
– The Artifact offers a pry bar and the utili-Key can open at right angles for more leverage on the Phillip’s tip.
– The Artifact has a lanyard loop, and the Utili-Key can close itself over a cord or keyring

SUMMARY-

While both tools are similar in many ways, including price, and the Artifact wins for toughness and the blade… I think I am going to stick with the Utili-Key for my Every Day Carry tool- it is smaller and lighter and does what I need a quickly available tool to do. Plus, its size and weight means I am more likely to leave it on my keychain so I am more likely to have it when I need it AND less likely to send it through the wash.

 

Product Information

Price:
Pros:
  • SWISS-TECH UTILI-KEY Pros:
  • Small and light
  • Serrated knife helps make up for duller main knife
  • GERBER ARTIFACT Pros:
  • Incredibly tough!
  • Replaceable and easy to find blade
  • Can be opened and closed one-handed with care
  • Pry bar... if you have a use for it
Cons:
  • SWISS-TECH UTILI-KEY Cons:
  • Not as tough overall
  • Knife is not as sharp
  • Tricky to open one-handed
  • Smaller tools (which may be a 'pro' depending on the job.)
  • GERBER ARTIFACT Cons:
  • Bigger and heavier

Comments

  1. 1
    Jackson says:

    Great Christmas gift ideas! Thanks,

  2. 2
    Paul Grunwald says:

    I have the Utili-Key and generally agree with the above comments.

    A couple of things – I have left it on my keys unintentionaly and gotten through airport security. Not sure if they would fuss if they saw it or not.

    I worry a little bit about the little screwdriver wearing a hole in my pants pocket as it a bit sharp on the leading edge.

    My favorite everyday carry is a Leatherman Skeletool CX though it is much bigger. it is SHARP!!! You could do minor surgeries with this thing!!! The Skeletool fits well in a back pocket or cargo pocket with the clip. Little trick for the clip – put a length of heat shrink tubing on it, it improves the grip a great deal.

    Second favorite every day is a Leatherman Squirt P4 on my keychain as well. I have had it for 3-4 years and it is very handy, just a bit bigger and definitely will not get through the airport. I did lose a Micra at security once. The new E4 looks great also with the tweezers.

    I also have a Leatherman Charge TI but it is very heavy and only for belt wear. I wear it on weekends and when doing manual labor/hiking/hunting etc. It is also a wonderful device.

  3. 3
    Hai says:

    I own the Utili-key and I do not like it, so it has been sitting in my drawer for years now. I don’t know about others, but mine require a great effort to open, even with two hands. That fact alone kills its utility instantly. The screwdriver did poke a hole in my pocket, literally.

    On the plus side, the knife is sharp enough for my jobs such as opening of wrappers or cutting some strings. Now-a-day, I am wearing a Swiss Army knife that is many times heavier and larger, but works much better than the U-key.

  4. 4
    Gabe Garwick says:

    Good review, thank you.
    The 3 screwdrivers on the Utili-Key are meant to be used in the 90 degree open position. The only tool used in the 180 degree open position is the blade.
    See instructions (page 2)

    SwissTech product instruction

    I do not carry the Utili-Key with me, it lives in my desk drawer at the office. The eyeglass driver is occasionally handy.

    [Edited at November 20, 2008 13:04:06 PM.]

  5. 5
    PetersReviews says:

    I just bought my brother an Artifact but might pick up the Utili-key for myself.

  6. 6
    Mark Adkins says:

    Hai- I am sorry to hear yours is hard to open. Mine isn’t bad. You may want to try another or maybe send yours in for repair/replacement. It might be interesting to see how responsive they are.

    Buck Knives, for example, has so far replaced anything I have sent them quickly and for free.

  7. 7
    Mark Adkins says:

    Gabe- thanks fo the information, but I am always a bit irritated when a product has instructions like that. Structurally, I can see no reason the Phillips cannot be used when opened 180- other than maybe cutting yourself, which I have never done.

    The slotted tips are a LITTLE easier at 90 degrees, but they are still a lot more awkward to use than the Phillips. I am also not sure you CAN use the cap lifter at 90 degrees, but I have honestly never used it for that. (Of course, at 180, you’d have to be careful of the ‘razor sharp blade’ the instructions describe.)

    The other thing that bugs me about ‘instructions’ like that are that there is nothing in the use of the tool to remind you of a sentence you may have read a year earlier.

  8. 8
    Mark Adkins says:

    Paul- My ‘work carry’ multi-tool is the Leatherman Juice, the orange handled one.

    I like the Juice’s size- most of my other Multi-tools are a bit heavy and bulky- good for a tool kit, less good for routine carry. The Juice, however, just slips in my back pocket and is un-noticed in my work day.

    Like I said, the thing I like about the Utili-Key is that I ALWAYS have it with me, if I have my keys- and I almost always have them. I often carry other knives or tools, especially on the job or trail.

  9. 9
    Mark Adkins says:

    Jackson and Peters- I think you’ll enjoy the Utili-Key!

  10. 10
    Lex says:

    Thanks for the review. Went out and bought the Swiss-tech ! I like the knife edge better than I would a scapel-style blade.

  11. 11
    scottyhop says:

    i had a swissyrch.. it broke one day while i wasnt even using it

  12. 12
    spence says:

    I too have the utility key but I can not for the life of me find the “micro” screwdriver. can anyone help?

  13. 13
    Mark Adkins says:

    @Spence- the ‘micro’ slotted driver tip is shown in the photo above for screwdriver comparisons- it is the small jutting point on the curved part that forms the lanyard loop.

  14. 14
    Bill says:

    I have the same stiffness issues as Hai (i use a piece of paper to get a firm grip on the blade-side) it must be the tolerances of manufacture, for such a small tool they’d have to have it pretty tight. Tried peeling an orange, and the bottle cap lifter hurt my hand there isn’t really any way to firmly hold onto the tool .

    I now carry a Victorinox classic

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