Brushless 18V Impact Driver Challenge 2016 – Bosch vs Dewalt vs Makita vs Milwaukee

2016 cordless impact compare

The impact driver has really become the go to cordless tool on the jobsite over the last decade. These tools are super compact but can pack a ton of torque without risk of twisting your arm off you will find with a powerful drill/driver. We honestly think the bits & impact accessories for these tools still need to catch up to the power they can all put out. For this test we took the latest and greatest from the top 4 professional brands and used 2.0Ah batteries with each. The contestants are as follows: Bosch 18V IDH182 ($179), Dewalt 20V DCF887 ($110), Makita 18V XDT09 ($199) and Milwaukee M18 2757-20 ($179). We looked at a variety of applications and put them all on the Skidmore for torque testing here is what we found.

Battery Life vs Weight

While it is always a very popular metric for any cordless tool comparison we really thought it best to stay away for the battery life comparison here. From test we’ve seen from other reviews and manufacturers these brushless units are all within the same narrow range of about 150-200 screws per Ah of battery power. We would make the argument for impact drivers weight is more important than splitting hairs of 20 more screws in any one test. The impact driver is one cordless tool we almost always suggest a 2.0Ah slim battery to shaving the weight, this makes using the belt clip all the easier. With their respective 2.0Ah batteries attached tool weight is: Makita 2.5 lbs, Dewalt 2.9 lbs, Milwaukee 3.2 lbs and Bosch 3.2 lbs

Range of Applications

The impact driver has really become a utility player of the tool box, we are seeing impact accessories continue to expand with drill bits, nut drivers, sockets and ever growing list of driver bits. While these impacts used to be single speed it is much more common now to see 3 and 4 speed options to really be able to tackle a wide range of applications. For our high torque range application using lag bolts and a socket they all did a great job, very similar performance but you could feel a touch less power from the Bosch. That being said the Bosch’s Socket Ready ½” drive makes this tool much more user friendly for socket use. Do you know where your socket adaptor is? Not only do you not have to dig around in the tool box but actually using the socket tightly fits on the tool not flopping around which really speeds up the setting process.

For the small hinge screws you would typical drive by hand or use small drill/driver in low, we found it difficult, even in setting 1 to not overdrive these screws. This was a good scenario for the Milwaukee One-Key feature as we were able to connect to the tool and actually lower RPM and torque below “setting 1” to be able to drive these small screws with “by hand” accuracy. This level of control does come at a premium, the difference in M18 FUEL impact 2753-20 ($129) and M18 FUEL impact with ONE-KEY 2757-20 is $50 with no real difference in size or top-end torque. If you never change speeds in the first place the ONE-KEY option probably isn’t for you.

M18 Impact OneKey

Testing Torque with Skidmore

It’s always fun to check out what is on the package says and compare that to how they should stack up on the Skidmore. This machine measures bolt tension not torque (you need to use conversion table) but does a great job of showing how the competitors compare to one another. We run them all up with an 8 second count and provide an estimate peak bolt tension as you can see in the video the needle bounces a bit. Manufacturer’s rating on Boxes: Bosch 1650 in lbs, Dewalt 1825 in lbs, Makita 1550 in lbs, Milwaukee 1800 in lbs. We connected them with ¼” to ½” adaptors which is how you’d be doing it in the real world, except for the Bosch which connected directly to the Socket Ready ½” square.

Torque Tester Skidmore

We ran these several times with each but you can see the money shots at 3:45 in video with the peak bolt tension for each topping out in the 18,000 bolt tension range. Surprisingly close for Milwaukee, Dewalt and Makita which by the manufacturer’s ratings Makita should have been well behind the others. Bosch peaked just over 15,000 bolt tension, which we thought since there was less energy transfer loss we might see Bosch actually do better. While the Bosch was slightly less powerful were it did shine here was with no broken adaptors, both Milwaukee and Dewalt broke their adaptors during testing which if you are on the job and didn’t have another could be a big waste of time. Makita does feature “Quick-Shift” is supposed to prevent stripping and breakage, we did not run this test long enough to definitely say that’s why it didn’t snap an adaptor but we are confident a few more runs and it would have eventually popped. This is not a knock on the tools but more a universal problem with ¼” to ½” adaptors keeping up, when we find an adaptor that can hold up to rigorous testing we will dedicate a full post to it, we promise.

Overall Winner

This is tricky comparison because all 4 of these impact drivers are very tightly matched in size, weight, power, runtime and basic features. The Bosch has the Socket Ready and Milwaukee has ONE-KEY both excellent features which have dozen of real world applications which could make them an easy choice for your applications. The surprise in the bunch just was Makita which seemed to have great power from such a small package, that being said it was the priciest of the group. The Dewalt performed great and on the low end of the budget currently packs the best value. Overall we liked the Milwaukee ONE-KEY the best, it edged out as most powerful, offered the widest range of application use and we really like the ONE-KEY and how it continues to update the features.

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