I just snapped pictures of all of the 1/4" ratchets that we have at work, and I will just post some of my recommendations for what works well and what does not.
Here are the ones that I personally own:
|Proto Challenger 1060-1|
Found this one in a trash can. It is a good backup ratchet, but seldom leaves my toolbox, mainly because the 32 teeth necessitate a big swing and have too much slop.
|Mac Tools MR18|
This is a cool ratchet, but not very useful for me to this point. It has an extremely compact 72 tooth head, and the indexible part is cool, but it is very expensive for no more than I use it, and I have never really needed it.
This is a pretty vintage Craftsman (c.1980s), so it is a very good tool from my experience with it. I especially love the knurled section on the head. It is great for spinning things off by hand. I also am a fan of the pushbutton release. This has 32 teeth, but it does seem tighter than the bottom end Craftsman. I am not a big fan of the reverse switch, but overall, this is not a bad ratchet.
Hands down, this is the coolest ratchet in the shop. It is a 66 year old co-workers, and he got it from his grandfather who was a machinist. This ratchet dates from the 1940s most likely, and it is by far the smallest ratchet I have ever seen. It is not heavy duty, but I have borrowed it several times to get into spots where even the MR4C would not go. It is a 32 tooth, but the action is very smooth and tight. I would love to find one, but they go for the $50-$70 range on ebay, which is a little steep for a used ratchet that you can't get parts for anymore.
This is a good older ratchet. All of the newer Snap-on are 72 or 80 teeth, which is nice, but these are a nice compact ratchet. I prefer the Mac MR4C because it is smaller and has the pushbutton release and toggle reverse switch, but this is a good possible substitute as a compact ratchet.
This is a decent older ratchet. 32 tooth with jumbo size head, otherwise not much to see here. This would be a good backup ratchet.
The Snap-on indexible is not as good as the Mac version. Bigger and bulkier means tougher to fit in the spots where you might need an indexible ratchet. Otherwise a good build quality Snap-on.
|Unidentified Stubby flex-head|
This is a really cheap ratchet, but the flex point being below the head is unique. I personally have never needed one like this and it is pretty bulky and cheap.
This is basically identical to the Gearwrench reviewed earlier. I suspect they are built by same company and then molded with a different handle. Pricing is also similar, so it mostly comes down to which one you would rather go to for warranty, Sears or Lowes.
Another good Snap-on, with the different pivot point flex head. Good ratchets, but very expensive. I think the Gearwrench or Kobalt offers comparable performance at 1/3 the price.
|Pittsburgh Pro from Harbor Freight|
This is actually a surprising nice ratchet. It has a nice smooth 72 tooth action, and a relatively compact head. I love the reverse switch and the pushbutton release. Hard to go wrong at less than $10, but you don't really need it if you are going to invest in a good quality brand name ratchet. This doesn't offer any extra functionality.
|E-Z Red SR14 8G Ratcheting Handle|
Probably the second coolest ratchet in the shop. It has the ratcheting handle, but what really sells this ratchet is the compact size. This thing is as compact as a regular ratchet, but it can save a LOT of time in certain situations where you need it. It is a fine tooth ratchet besides. I probably will try to add this to my collection at some point.
|Stanley 89-961 Ratcheting Handle|
The Mac guy sells and warranties this off the truck, but it is expensive and really bulky, so there will be spots that it does not reach.
|Ratcheting Handle from Harbor Freight|
This is an ok budget option for a ratcheting handle ratchet, but the head on this is massive, and the action is pretty rough (on this one, anyway). The handle on the bottom is pretty nifty though.
|Pittsburgh Pro by Harbor Freight Insulated Ratchet|
This is a surprisingly good ratchet. It is great for pulling battery posts. I actually really like the 72 tooth action on it. It feels really tight, and at $8, this is a really good buy if you will use it.
This is a pretty good little older Mac ratchet. It is about the same price as an MR4C though, and there is really no comparison between those two ratchets.
This is my favorite ratchet redesigned as a flex head. It is everything I indicated earlier, but you give up a little bit of size for the addition of the flex head. I still think that I would go with the straight ratchet and the Gearwrench as my flex, but this one would make me think twice. I don't really like using the flex-head when I don't need it though, so that is what tips the scale for me.