Now that DeWalt has launched their Xtreme Compact brushless 12V line of tools, it's a great time to go one-on-one. So for this issue of Pro Tool Reviews Thursday Throwdown, which is a DeWalt vs. Milwaukee 12V impact driver – place your bets!
Editor's note: Be sure to check out our best cordless impact drivers article for our top picks.
This isn't our average shootout. We'll break down how these two effects compare point by point, and we'll call out the winners as we go. Remember, everyone has different priorities. One might get more points, but that doesn't mean it's the best impact driver for everyone.
As always, we welcome your constructive comments and let us know why you prefer a 12V impact driver from DeWalt or Milwaukee. Also, keep in mind that while we've invested hundreds of hours collecting face-to-face data, it's impossible for us to test every possible scenario.
Let's meet today's competitors.
In the yellow corner we have the DeWalt 12V Brushless Impact Driver
- Model: DEWALT DCF801
- Power: DeWalt 12V Max battery
- No-load speed: 2850 RPM
- Maximum Torque: 1450 in-lbs
- Impact rate: 3600 IPM
In the red corner, it's the Milwaukee M12 Fuel Impact Driver
- Model: Milwaukee 2553
- Power: Milwaukee M12 battery
- No-load speed: 0–3300 RPM
- Maximum Torque: 1300 in-lbs
- Impact rate: 4000 IPM
Both impact drivers are vast improvements over previous versions. The DeWalt measures 5.1 inches long by 7.4 inches tall without batteries. The Milwaukee measures 5.2 inches long and 6.8 inches tall.
Measured with a digital caliper, the actual difference in length is only 0.054″, DeWalt has the advantage. Essentially, it’s a tie. The Milwaukee has a more compact overall footprint due to its shorter height, but is useful for most For users, height is not as important as length.
We measured both impact drivers on a digital scale with and without the compact 2.0Ah battery. The DeWalt weighs 1.74 lbs bare and 2.23 lbs with batteries. The Milwaukee weighs 1.78 lbs bare and 2.19 lbs with batteries.
Either way, it's a tie, judging by the fact that we're talking a weight difference of just 0.06 lbs.
Both impact drivers have features that cover the basics. But what about going beyond the basics?
- Motor: Both tools have brushless motors.
- Collets: Milwaukee is one-handed bit in, DeWalt is one-handed in and bit out.
- Batteries: DeWalt uses a slide pack, Milwaukee uses a pod – the difference affects the handle design.
- Speed: Both tools use electronic speed control. The DeWalt has 2 speed and assist modes and the Milwaukee has 3 speed and assist modes.
- LED Lights: While both impact drivers have LED lights, DeWalt uses a more efficient 3-LED ring.
Your winner here basically comes down to whether you want more efficient LED lights or need higher operating speeds. We call this the Milwaukee for the extra speed versatility, but we won't judge whether LEDs are more important to you.
We have two methods for testing the power of an impact driver. In our tightening test, each impact driver tightens a hardened nut to a bolt, and we use a digital torque wrench to measure how much force it takes to break it. This test method will not give the same results as the manufacturer's specification test .
It takes an average of 579 inch-pounds of torque to break what DeWalt has fixed. However, it takes 804 inch-pounds to break Milwaukee's effort.
While the Milwaukee has a significant advantage, the DeWalt has the second highest tightening torque of all the 12V impact drivers we've tested.
In our second test, we verified loading the same hardened nut at specific intervals and seeing how much breaking force (nut breaking torque) each impact driver had.
Here, DeWalt topped 1,800 in-pounds (150 ft-pounds), with Milwaukee not far behind at 1,680 in-pounds (140 ft-pounds).
Milwaukee's tightening torque advantage is much greater than DeWalt's breakaway torque advantage. You could call it a tie because everyone wins a section, or call it Milwaukee because of the wide gap. We call this a tie.
We're blowing through small fasteners and pushing to the reasonable limit of what we can expect from an impact driver before moving on to an impact wrench. By testing speed while driving a 1/4" lag screw, we can see who can keep their RPM wobbling under load.
DeWalt did a great job, averaging 265.6 RPM. However, Milwaukee crushed the field at 397 RPM in this test.
Fastening efficiency is a measure of how easily the motor works under load. The closer its RPM is to the no-load speed tested when tightened, the less stress the motor will experience.
In the same ledger screw test, the DeWalt maintained 9.1 percent of its test no-load speed. Milwaukee's 12.4 percent once again gave the red team the win.
It's worth noting here that these percentages are very low, telling us there's an upper bound on how much these impact drivers can handle without damaging the motor. If you do a lot of fastening on 1/4" or larger, we recommend upgrading to an 18V impact driver.
If you want to expand with batteries other than the ones in the kit, especially for longer runtimes, it's helpful to know what batteries are available.
DeWalt's 12V line currently only has 1P packs (1P = 1 pack of 3 Li-ion cells).
- 2.0 ah
- 3.0 ah
Milwaukee's range gives you even more options, including a 1P battery pack of the same capacity and a range of 2P battery packs to complement it (2P = 2 banks of 3 Li-Ion batteries).
- 2.0 ah
- 3.0 ah
- 4.0 ah
Milwaukee currently has the deepest tool line for anyone on their 12V system. There are over 100 tools that work with M12 batteries.
DeWalt's 12V product line has traditionally been more limited. On the other hand, the 12V brushless tools we've tested so far have been impressive, so hopefully they will continue to expand.
You can buy each of these tools, or the tools with batteries and chargers included. However, more 2-tool combo kits sell better than single tools, so we'll consider them as well.
We encourage you to shop around for the best price. We do price checks at Acme Tools, Home Depot, and Lowe's. You might be able to find both on Amazon, but there are currently no authorized Milwaukee resellers there.
DeWalt 12V Brushless Impact Driver
- DCF801B bare metal: $129
- DCF801F2 kit with two 2.0Ah batteries: $149
- DCK221F2 Drill/Impact Driver Combo with Two 2.0Ah Batteries: $199
DeWalt also offers an impact driver kit with TSTAK II for $154.99.
Milwaukee M12 Fuel Impact Driver
- 2553-20 Naked Tool: $129
- 2553-22 kit with 2.0Ah and 4.0Ah batteries: $129
- 2596-22 Drill/Impact Driver Combo with 2.0Ah and 4.0Ah Batteries: $229
The 2598-22 combo offers an M12 fuel hammer drill for about the same price as the kit with the electric drill.
DeWalt and Milwaukee table tennis prices. While it probably won't make a huge practical difference, the Milwaukee gives you more battery capacity.
DeWalt offers a 3-year warranty, 1-year service agreement, and a 90-day money-back guarantee. Milwaukee offers a 5-year warranty on the tool and a 3-year warranty on its batteries. We'll take an extra two years.
In this DeWalt Xtreme vs Milwaukee 12V Impact Driver Pro Tool Reviews Thursday Throwdown, Milwaukee takes the overall win. It has a significant advantage in points (7-1 and 2 draws) and DeWalt will never have a significant advantage other than price.
Not surprising given the Milwaukee M12 Fuel’s dominance in our shock rider shootout. But don't discount DeWalt too quickly. This is the second highest performing 12V shock we've tested and a solid case for your consideration.
If you're looking for the highest performance available, a better warranty, or a wider line of compatible tools, choose Milwaukee.
If you're looking for top-of-the-line performance, go for the DeWalt…and you really like yellow and black.