Milwaukee M18 2801-20 Vs Milwaukee M18 Fuel 2904-20 Hammer Drill (Gen 4)

Milwaukee 2801-20 Angle 5

Milwaukee 2801-20

Quick take

The Milwaukee M18 Fuel 2904-20 Hammer Drill and Milwaukee M18 2801-20 are fantastic drills built for different users. The 2904-20 flagship is fast and rarely bogs down in demanding tasks. It also includes an auxiliary arm in the box and kickback control technology. The 2801-20 sacrifices some speed and power for a lighter weight and more compact footprint. It is a fantastic drill for homeowners, though it doesn’t include a hammering mechanism for drilling cement efficiently.

Brand Milwaukee
Platform M18
Motor Brushless
Speeds 2
Torque in-lbs 500.0
BPM N/A
Clutch settings 18
Chuck size 1/2"
Same as N/A
Brand Milwaukee
Platform M18 Fuel
Motor Brushless
Speeds 2
Torque in-lbs 1400.0
BPM 33,000.0
Clutch settings 16
Chuck size 1/2"
Same as M18 gen 4 hammer drill

Editorial opinion

Rating

3.90 / 5 ⭐️’s

Methodology used: Heavy duty

Pros

  • Reasonably lightweight with a narrow footprint
  • Great driving speed
  • Brushless motor
  • Long warranty
  • All-metal chuck

Cons

  • No hammer drill feature
  • Low max RPM slows performance in some tasks

Rating

4.67 / 5 ⭐️’s

Methodology used: Heavy duty

Pros

  • Powerful and fast drilling and driving
  • Kickback control technology
  • Long warranty
  • Hammer drill functionality
  • Solid build quality

Cons

  • Bulky and heavy

Global rankings

18 models tested

TestResultRank
Drilling speed (sec.)19.012
Driving speed (sec.)10.67
Torque (in-lbs)500.08
RPM1,601.014
Bare weight (lbs)2.406
Drilling Noise (dBA)85.37
TestResultRank
Drilling speed (sec.)10.83
Driving speed (sec.)7.63
Torque (in-lbs)1400.01
RPM2,055.02
Bare weight (lbs)3.2616
Drilling Noise (dBA)95.016

Kit and bare tool options

2801-21P

Includes (1) M18 Red Lithium CP 2Ah battery

2801-22CT

Includes (2) M18 Red Lithium CP 2Ah battery

2801-20

Bare tool

Lab results

Design & ergonomics

Stands upright (no battery): Yes
Stands upright (w/ battery): Yes
Grip material: Rubber overgrip
Magnetic holder: No
Bit holder: No
Belt hook: Yes
Lanyard compatible: Yes

The 2801-20 has a slightly forward-leaning handle that levels the drill in the proper position when drilling. However, the head is flat, unlike some models in our test fleet that are angled upwards with a more aggressive stance. This design requires you to roll your wrist forward slightly when aggressively drilling.

While it includes an all-metal belt hook in the box that is mountable on both sides of the base, there is no onboard bit holder or magnetic plate to hold fasteners. Third parties offer both that you can add onto the 2801-20 for convenience.

Design & ergonomics

Stands upright (no battery): Yes
Stands upright (w/ battery): Yes
Grip material: Rubber overgrip
Magnetic holder: No
Bit holder: No
Belt hook: Yes
Lanyard compatible: Yes

The 2904-20 has a forward-leaning handle and a slight upward-pointing head that properly position the drill in the correct plane when exerting forward pressure when drilling.

While an all-metal belt hook in the box is mountable on either side of the base, no onboard bit holder or magnetic plate to store screws is included. Both can be purchased in the after-market from third parties.

Weight

Milwaukee 2801-20 On Scale

Bare weight (lbs): 2.40
Weight w/ 2Ah battery (lbs): 3.34
Weight w/ 4Ah battery (lbs): Not tested
Weight w/ 5Ah battery (lbs): 4.01

The 2801-20 is light for an 18V drill, weighing in at 2.40 lbs in its bare form. Fitted with a battery, this drill retains its lightweight status, perfect for reducing arm, wrist, and hand fatigue with prolonged use.

We tested different battery configurations since the working weight can differ meaningfully from the bare tool weight. We recommend combining the 2801-20 with Milwaukee’s M18 Red Lithium CP 2Ah battery for a good balance of drilling performance and weight in a lightweight setup.

Or pair the 2801-20 with Milwaukee’s M18 Red Lithium XC 5Ah battery for a longer run time and improved drilling performance if weight is less of a concern.

Compare drill weight test results

Weight

Milwaukee 2904-20 On Scale

Bare weight (lbs): 3.26
Weight w/ 2Ah battery (lbs): 4.20
Weight w/ 4Ah battery (lbs): Not tested
Weight w/ 5Ah battery (lbs): 4.87

We look forward to when power tool technology advances to the point where the most powerful drills are compact and light. Unfortunately, that day has yet to come, including with the 2904-20, which is heavy and bulky feeling in hand. This drill is one of the heavier hammer drills in our test fleet and one of the heavier options on the market.

We tested different battery configurations since the working weight can differ meaningfully from the bare tool weight. We recommend combining the 2904-20 with Milwaukee’s M18 Red Lithium CP 2Ah battery for the lightest setup we’d suggest that is still powerful with an acceptable battery life.

Or pair the 2904-20 with Milwaukee’s M18 Red Lithium XC 5Ah battery for a longer run time and improved drilling performance if weight is less of a concern.

Compare drill weight test results

Footprint

Milwaukee 2801-20 Footprint1
Milwaukee 2801-20 Footprint2

Max height (in.): 9.125
Max width (in.): 3.125
Chuck to back length (in.): 6.625
Base length (in.): 4.625
Base width (in.): 3.125

The 2801-20 casts a reasonably thin shadow from behind and isn’t overly large in any of its dimensions, giving it a svelte feel in hand. Many other drills that have come through our lab are bulkier and less agile.

The appearance and feel are primarily a result of its moderately short tip-to-tail length and narrower-than-average head.

Compare drill footprint test results

Footprint

Milwaukee 2904-20 Footprint1
Milwaukee 2904-20 Footprint2

Max height (in.): 9.500
Max width (in.): 3.125
Chuck to back length (in.): 7.000
Base length (in.): 4.625
Base width (in.): 3.125

The 2904-20 is bulky when measured in different orientations. While it is tall with a battery attached, the tip-to-tail length is reasonably short compared to the competition. As a result, it fits better through narrow openings and tight spaces than other high-end hammer drills.

Compare drill footprint test results

Motor & BPM

Milwaukee 2801-20 Drill Modes

Motor type: Brushless
Action modes: Drill only
Advertised blows per min. (speed 2): N/A
Advertised blows per min. (speed 1): N/A
Variable speed trigger: Yes
Kickback control technology: No
Trigger draw length (in.): 0.375

The 2801-20 is not a hammer drill, so its drilling features are naturally limited to only a drill mode that disengages the chuck for unfettered torque.

Including a brushless motor was the right call at this price point, even knowing brushless motors are mostly table stakes in anything but the cheapest drills. While we haven’t tested the motor’s long-term durability, brushless motors offer better efficiency and durability than their brushed counterparts.

No kickback technology is included with the 2801-20, which is expected at this price point. You’ll need to upgrade to a flagship Milwaukee drill to get features that reduce the risk of wrist injuries when the drill binds.

Compare drill motors

Motor & BPM

Milwaukee 2904-20 Drill Modes
Milwaukee 2904-20 Over Rotations Closeup

Motor type: Brushless
Action modes: Drill, hammer
Advertised blows per min. (speed 2): 33,000.0
Advertised blows per min. (speed 1): Not advertised
Variable speed trigger: Yes
Kickback control technology: Yes
Trigger draw length (in.): 0.375

The 2904-20 includes Milwaukee’s Powerstate-branded brushless motor, which offers better efficiency and longevity than brushed motors.

Two drill options are located on the same set ring as the clutch settings. The standard drill mode disengages the clutch, and the hammer drill mode does the same but layers in 33,000.0 blows per minute (BPM) to improve drilling speeds.

The hammering rate is high, explaining why the hammer drill mode effectively increased drilling speeds in our tests.

One standout feature is that the 2904-20 features kickback control technology to reduce the risk of wrist injuries. Near the light in the base, there is a small Autostop light that flashes when the kickback mechanism is triggered when binding up.

We tested the kickback control using several large spade and forstner bits and found that it worked as advertised. But we don’t run standardized tests to understand if Milwaukee’s technology works better than any competing kickback control technology.

Compare drill motors

Clutch & speed settings

Milwaukee 2801-20 Clutch & Speed

Speed settings: 2
Clutch settings: 18

The 2801-20 has a two–speed transmission and 18 total clutch options to fine-tune the torque output for precision driving. Two-speed drills are standard, allowing you to operate the 2801-20 in the low or high-speed setting in any clutch setting and drilling mode.

Compare drill clutch and speed settings

Clutch & speed settings

Milwaukee 2904-20 Clutch & Speed

Speed settings: 2
Clutch settings: 16

The two-speed gearbox determines the RPM output and can be used in drill and hammer drill mode when the clutch is disengaged or when a clutch setting is selected.

While 16 clutch settings isn’t the highest number available, it’s more than most people will need in practice. Including more clutch settings would only allow you to finely tune the torque to a given driving task. Still, the 2904-20 is precise when the proper clutch setting is engaged.

Compare drill clutch and speed settings

Chuck

Milwaukee 2801-20 Chuck Closeup

Chuck size: 1/2″
Chuck sleeve material: Metal

The all-metal chuck is an excellent feature of the 2801-20 that is certain to improve durability with extended use compared to models that use plastic for the chuck sleeve.

We were also impressed that the three-jaw chuck locked onto bits tightly and didn’t loosen inadvertently throughout testing. Lesser drill chucks need frequent re-tightening as they loosen up when drilling and driving repeatedly.

Chuck

Milwaukee 2904-20 Chuck Closeup

Chuck size: 1/2″
Chuck sleeve material: Knurled metal

The 2904-20 has an exceptional all-metal chuck that is more premium than most drills, especially the knurled metal sleeve that tightens the chuck with the right amount of friction on your hand for grip.

The three-jaw chuck also holds bits well since the ratcheting mechanism locks tightly onto a bit when tightening. We didn’t run into any scenarios where the chuck inadvertently loosened during use.

Auxiliary arm

Auxiliary arm: No

The 2801-20 doesn’t include an auxiliary handle to control recoil and enhance stability during heavy-duty drilling tasks. But we don’t see this as a downside. The 2801-20 isn’t designed to tackle the heaviest-duty drilling tasks, such as drilling wide and deep holes in masonry or wood, where an auxiliary handle is helpful.

Check out the Milwaukee M18 Fuel 2904-20 Hammer Drill, Milwaukee M18 Fuel 2903-20, or Makita 18V LXT XPH14Z Hammer Drill if you want a powerful drill with an auxiliary arm.

Auxiliary arm

Milwaukee 2904-20 Auxiliary Arm

Auxiliary arm: Yes

The 2904-20 includes an auxiliary handle to control recoil and enhance stability during heavy-duty drilling tasks, improving user safety. The 2904-20 is a powerful drill, so it makes sense that an auxiliary arm is included.

The handle is easy to attach and remove just behind the chuck and is mountable on either the right or left side.

Drilling speed

Drilling speed total time (drill mode, sec.): 19.0
Drilling speed average time (drill mode, sec.): 3.8
Drilling speed total time (hammer mode, sec.): N/A
Drilling speed average time (hammer mode, sec.): N/A
Hammer mode speed improvement: N/A

The 2801-20 isn’t powerful enough to take the drilling speed crown in demanding tasks. But it is more than capable of finishing any job we threw at it without bogging down.

Our drilling speed test is designed to understand the upper limits of a drill’s capabilities, including learning when to drop down a gear for more torque and the speed when boring wide holes.

We didn’t need to drop down to the low setting to finish drilling a 1/2-inch hole in three stacked 2x6s, and it sustained high enough RPMs throughout the drilling depth to sufficiently clear chips.

The primary advantage you get moving from the mid-tier of power to a higher tier is improved speed throughout the depth of the hole bored, not so much being able to complete a task a mid-tier drill couldn’t handle in a pinch.

But consider that the 2801-20 doesn’t include a hammer drilling feature, which is helpful when drilling masonry efficiently and speeding up drilling deep and wide holes in lumber. Upgrade to the Milwaukee M18 Fuel 2904-20 Hammer Drill if you anticipate using a drill frequently for these tasks.

Compare drilling speed test results

Drilling speed

Drilling speed total time (drill mode, sec.): 10.8
Drilling speed average time (drill mode, sec.): 2.2
Drilling speed total time (hammer mode, sec.): 8.0
Drilling speed average time (hammer mode, sec.): 1.6
Hammer mode speed improvement: 25.9%

The 2904-20 rapidly bores small and wide holes alike. Importantly for a performance-focused high-end hammer drill, it sustained high RPMs throughout the depth of the holes bored in our drilling speed tests. The 2904-20 was never close to binding up, and it easily cleared chips from the hole.

We also tested the 2904-20 in various drilling applications, including drilling a range of width holes using spade and forstner drill bits. We didn’t encounter a task where the 2904-20 didn’t either match or outperform other flagship hammer drills.

Consider that the 2904-20 may be overkill for most homeowners. Few tasks around the home are likely to push it to the limits, and there are some cheaper and still powerful drills if you aren’t a prosumer and prefer to save some money.

Compare drilling speed test results

Driving speed

GRK total driving time forward (sec.): 10.6
GRK average driving time forward (sec.): 2.1
GRK total driving time reverse (sec.): 8.8
GRK average driving time reverse (sec.): 1.8

The 2801-20’s drilling speed is more impressive than its drilling performance in our tests. We found that it capably and powerfully finishes big lag bolts and other structural screws, such as the GRK RSS screws used in our driving speed tests. The 2801-20 delivered results that were right up there with far pricier flagship models.

Critically, the 2801-20 completed our heavy-duty driving speed test without dropping a gear into the low setting for increased torque.

Compare driving speed test results

Driving speed

GRK total driving time forward (sec.): 7.6
GRK average driving time forward (sec.): 1.5
GRK total driving time reverse (sec.): 6.0
GRK average driving time reverse (sec.): 1.2

The 2904-20 also performed exceptionally well in our driving speed tests, breezing through driving and removing five GRK RSS screws from 2×6 stacked lumber.

We also tested driving various common length and size shorter screws and different gauge lag bolts and decking screws to understand how the 2904-20 performs across a range of tasks. In each test, it finished fasteners rapidly with power.

Compare driving speed test results

Torque

Advertised max torque (in-lbs): 500.0
Advertised max torque (ft-lbs): 41.7

Note: We don’t currently test drill torque in-house, as we do for impact drivers using a torque meter. The torque commentary discussed here relies upon both advertised torque specifications provided by manufacturers and practical insights learned from performance in our various drilling and driving tests.

Compare drill torque

Torque

Advertised max torque (in-lbs): 1400.0
Advertised max torque (ft-lbs): 116.7

The 2903-20 advertises the highest torque of any drill in our Summer ‘23 test fleet with 1,400.0 in-lbs. This level closely matches the performance of some of the best impact drivers, which are safer and more user-friendly options when driving lags and big fasteners.

Throughout testing, there were several instances where the combined RPM and torque profile led to binding in heavy-duty applications. In those scenarios, Milwaukee’s Autostop kickback control technology shined, helping to avoid wrist injury by instantly stopping the motor.

Note: We don’t currently test drill torque in-house, as we do for impact drivers using a torque meter. The torque commentary discussed here relies upon both advertised torque specifications provided by manufacturers and practical insights learned from performance in our various drilling and driving tests.

Compare drill torque

Battery lineup

Milwaukee M18 Battery Lineup

Milwaukee offers 1.5Ah, 2Ah, 3Ah, 4Ah, 5Ah, 6Ah, 8Ah, and 12Ah batteries on the M18 platform. Upgrading to the higher Ah options increases battery run time and improves drilling performance, though we’ve not tested all of these batteries to understand the cost tradeoffs.

Buying at least two batteries is best so you don’t miss a beat when draining one battery. We recommend buying a Milwaukee M18 Red Lithium CP 2Ah and a Milwaukee M18 Red Lithium XC 5Ah battery for most M18 drill setups for a good performance, price, and size balance.

Battery lineup

Milwaukee M18 Battery Lineup

Milwaukee offers 1.5Ah, 2Ah, 3Ah, 4Ah, 5Ah, 6Ah, 8Ah, and 12Ah batteries on the M18 platform. Upgrading to the higher Ah options increases battery run time and improves drilling performance, though we’ve not tested all of these batteries to understand the cost tradeoffs.

Buying at least two batteries is best so you don’t miss a beat when draining one battery. We recommend buying a Milwaukee M18 Red Lithium CP 2Ah and a Milwaukee M18 Red Lithium XC 5Ah battery for most M18 drill setups for a good performance, price, and size balance.

Charging time

Milwaukee 2801-20 Fuel Gauge

Charger tested: Milwaukee M12 & M18 Multi-Volt (48-59-1812)
Charging time 2Ah battery (min.): 41.0
Charging time 4Ah battery (min.): Not tested
Charging time 5Ah battery (min.): 98.0
Charging time per Ah (min.): 20.1
Fuel gauge: On battery

The Milwaukee M12 and M18 multi-volt charger (model 48-59-1812) included in most kits is reasonably fast at charging batteries, including to beat out team red’s most frequent adversary, Dewalt. It takes 41 minutes to charge an M18 2Ah battery and 98 minutes for a 5Ah battery, or approximately 20 minutes per amp-hour.

Milwaukee’s 48-59-1812 charger charges multiple battery voltages in one, conveniently saving space in your shop if you have several M12 and M18 ecosystem tools.

Compare drill charging test results

Charging time

Milwaukee 2904-20 Fuel Gauge

Charger tested: Milwaukee M12 & M18 Multi-Volt (48-59-1812)
Charging time 2Ah battery (min.): 41.0
Charging time 4Ah battery (min.): Not tested
Charging time 5Ah battery (min.): 98.0
Charging time per Ah (min.): 20.1
Fuel gauge: On battery

The Milwaukee M12 and M18 multi-volt charger (model 48-59-1812) included in most kits is reasonably fast at charging batteries, including to beat out team red’s most frequent adversary, Dewalt. It takes 41 minutes to charge an M18 2Ah battery and 98 minutes for a 5Ah battery, or approximately 20 minutes per amp-hour.

Milwaukee’s 48-59-1812 charger charges multiple battery voltages in one, conveniently saving space in your shop if you have several M12 and M18 ecosystem tools.

Compare drill charging test results

RPM

Milwaukee 2801-20 RPM Chart

Max RPM speed 2: 1,601.0
Max RPM speed 1: 519.0

One letdown in specific scenarios is the 2801-20’s comparatively low RPM output in the high setting. This drill doesn’t quickly set screws into wood, leading to us occasionally fumbling a few screws. Faster drills drive a screw so it grabs onto wood easier.

Interestingly, we found with our contact tachometer that the 2801-20 has moderately high RPMs in the slow setting. While we didn’t test how the RPMs are sustained under a heavy-duty driving load, expect that the 2801-20 will outpace some other drills when gearing down for extra torque in select scenarios. Expect that this performance nugget also won’t be noticed by many and isn’t a game-changer.

Compare drill RPM test results

RPM

Milwaukee 2904-20 RPM Chart

Max RPM speed 2: 2,055.0
Max RPM speed 1: 467.0

The 2904-20 shined in our drilling and driving speed tests due to the high RPM output sustained under load. We tested the RPM output with a contact tachometer, and the 2904-20 is among the fastest in our test fleet.

The 2904-20 also has a moderately high RPM in the low setting, meaning it’ll drill faster than other lesser drills when gearing down for extra torque.

Compare drill RPM test results

Drilling clearance

Min. interior width clearance (in.): 8.125
Min. top edge clearance (in.): 1.375
Min. interior 45-deg. clearance (in.): 6.675

The 2801-20 is moderately narrow and competitively short from tip to tail, explaining some of its performance in our clearance tests designed to uncover how well each drill in our test fleet fits through narrow spaces and into tight corners.

The 2801-20 performed well in our interior width and top-edge clearance tests. In practice, this means the 2801-20 fits reasonably easily between two vertical boards and when drilling close to a top edge when its head is obstructed, such as drilling under a shelf.

Compare drilling clearance test results

Drilling clearance

Min. interior width clearance (in.): 8.625
Min. top edge clearance (in.): 1.375
Min. interior 45-deg. clearance (in.): 6.875

The 2904-20 isn’t the ideal drill for fitting through narrow spaces and into tight corners. While it is admirably compact compared to other hammer drills in its class, it is still bulk overall.

In the three clearance tests we conducted, it performed best with its interior width clearance. It fits moderately well between two vertical boards, primarily thanks to its tip-to-tail footprint.

Compare drilling clearance test results

Noise

Milwaukee 2801-20 Noise Chart

Max no-load noise (dBA): 82.8
Max drilling noise (dBA): 85.3

Drills without a hammering functionality tend to be quieter under load than a hammer drill, which is the case with the 2801-20. It is moderately quiet when drilling compared to other models in our test fleet.

Compare drill noise test results

Noise

Milwaukee 2904-20 Noise Chart

Max no-load noise (dBA): 84.7
Max drilling noise (dBA): 95.0

No power tool is a wallflower, but the 2904-20 is one of the loudest drills in our test fleet. We measured 95.0 dBA of noise output in the hammer drilling mode. This result is loud for a hammer drill and rivals the sound profile of an impact driver, which can cause damage with prolonged noise exposure.

Compare drill noise test results

Light

Milwaukee 2801-20 Light Wall
Milwaukee 2801-20 Light Closeup

Light: Yes
Light location: Near trigger
Light positions: 1
Customizable light settings: None
Light count: Single LED
Light active time (sec.): 15.0

A single LED work light is positioned just above the trigger, sufficient for most lighting needs when operating this drill. Some Dewalt drills include advanced features, such as a spotlight mode and the ability to turn off the work light when pulling the trigger.

Light

Milwaukee 2904-20 Light Wall
Milwaukee 2904-20 Light Closeup

Light: Yes
Light location: In base
Light positions: 1
Customizable light settings: None
Light count: Single LED
Light active time (sec.): 15.0

The work light located in the base is effective and bright and no-frills at the same time. Several competing high-end Dewalt drills include a three-position light that has a spotlight mode or can be disabled. These premium features enhance the versatility, an area for improvement with the 2904-20.

App integration

App integration: No

There is no Bluetooth app integration to track drill usage and location, display tool diagnostics, and allow you to set custom profiles on your phone.

Milwaukee’s One Key-branded drills include an app integration, but you’ll only find the One Key feature built natively into its flagship models. Dewalt utilizes the same approach with its ToolConnect lineup, which offers similar app features and is only available in flagship tools.

App integration

App integration: No

There is no Bluetooth app integration to track drill usage and location, display tool diagnostics, and allow you to set custom profiles on your phone. However, you can buy the Milwaukee M18 Fuel 2906-20 Hammer Drill, which is the same drill but includes Milwaukee’s One Key Bluetooth app integration technology.

Warranty

Tool warranty (years): 2-3 (depends on model)
Battery warranty (years): 5

Milwaukee stands behind the durability of its drills with exceptionally long warranties. The 2801-20 has a five-year warranty, which is among the longest offered by any manufacturer. Milwaukee’s M18 Li-Ion batteries have two or three-year warranties, depending on the specific model.

Warranty

Tool warranty (years): 2-3 (depends on model)
Battery warranty (years): 5

Milwaukee stands behind the durability of its drills with exceptionally long warranties. The 2904-20 has a five-year warranty, which is among the longest offered by any manufacturer. Milwaukee’s M18 Li-Ion batteries have two or three-year warranties, depending on the specific model.

Nathan Hamilton
Nathan Hamilton
Nathan Hamilton is the founder of DIY Gear Reviews and a recognized expert in the home and DIY space. He has over 200 bylines covering topics such as power tools, hand tools, and woodworking. Nathan is the strategic director for DIY Gear Reviews, deciding everything from the content covered to designing the testing methodologies for lab-tested reviews. He can be emailed at nhamilton@diygearreviews.com.

Related

Leave a Comment