Milwaukee M18 2656-20 Impact Driver Review

Milwaukee 2656-20 Angle 5

Quick take

The Milwaukee M18 2656-20 is a solid budget impact driver in Milwaukee’s M18 lineup, which doesn’t include many price-conscious options. It capably drives 3-inch and shorter standard screw sizes but isn’t the perfect tool for heavy-duty jobs. It also includes a best-in-class tool and battery warranty, reducing durability concerns. However, there are some sacrifices made to reach this price point. The brushed motor limits performance and has poor battery run time. There is also only one drive mode, limiting driving versatility and accuracy. Combine its features and performance, and the 2656-20 is best for Milwaukee fans that want a cheap entrant into the M18 lineup. It’ll capably handle any task around the home but doesn’t meet the demands of most job sites and doesn’t have the needed accuracy for woodworking and carpentry.

Brand Milwaukee
Platform M18
Motor Brushed
Tested torque in-lbs 611.4
IPM 3,450.0
Drive modes 1
Collet 1/4-inch hex
Same as -

Global rankings

21 models tested

TestResultRank
Driving speed (sec.)23.116
Torque (in-lbs)611.411
Battery run time (min.)23.020
RPM2,626.020
Bare weight (lbs)2.1816
Impacting noise (dBA)97.413

Editorial opinion

Methodology used: Heavy duty

Editorial rating

3.14 / 5 stars

Pros

  • Exceptionally-long tool and battery warranty
  • Competent driving performance for the price

Cons

  • Brushed motor
  • Poor battery run time
  • Moderately heavy

Recommended configuration

2656-22CT

Includes (2) M18 Red Lithium CP 1.5Ah battery

Series lineup

Model #PlatformDrive ModesTorqueIPMReview
2656-20M181611.4 in-lbs3,450.0Full review
2760-20M18 Fuel Surge4480.6 in-lbs4,000.0Full review
2850-20M181850.2 in-lbs4,200.0Full review
2953-20 (Gen 4)M18 Fuel41,236.0 in-lbs4,400.0Full review

Lab results

Torque

Milwaukee 2656-20 Torquemeter
Milwaukee 2656-20 Torque Charts

Max torque drive mode 1 (in-lbs): 611.4
Max torque drive mode 2 (in-lbs): N/A
Max torque drive mode 3 (in-lbs): N/A
Max torque drive mode 4 (in-lbs): N/A

The 2656-20 is moderately powerful for an 18V impact driver, though it can’t compete with the torque that higher-priced, heavy-duty impact drivers generate.

The Milwaukee M18 Fuel 2953-20 offers flagship torque output in the 18V class, with the price tag to boot.

Compare torque test results

RPM

Milwaukee 2656-20 RPM Charts

Max RPM drive mode 1 (fwd.): 2,626.0
Max RPM drive mode 2 (fwd.): N/A
Max RPM drive mode 3 (fwd.): N/A
Max RPM drive mode 4 (fwd.): N/A
Max RPM drive mode 1 (rev.): 2,604.0
Max RPM drive mode 2 (rev.): N/A
Max RPM drive mode 3 (rev.): N/A
Max RPM drive mode 4 (rev.): N/A

The 2656-20 has a very low max RPM for an 18V impact driver. However, a low RPM can be positive or negative, depending on your intended usage. A slow RPM sets screws well and reduces cam-out potential. On the flip side, a low RPM, combined with its torque profile, explains some of the lacking driving speed in our GRK screw test.

There is no meaningful RPM difference between forward and reverse. Some impact drivers increase RPMs in reverse for select drive mode settings to bust loose stubborn nuts and screws.

Compare RPM test results

Driving speed

GRK total driving time forward (sec.): 23.1
GRK average driving time forward (sec.): 4.6
GRK total driving time reverse (sec.): 14.9
GRK average driving time reverse (sec.): 3.0

As our driving speed tests demonstrated, the 2656-20 is moderately slow driving big screws and lag bolts. It is highly capable of driving 5 1/8-inch GRK screws without bogging down much, but it is slower than some other budget models. The Ryobi 18V One+ PBLID02 performed exceptionally well in our driving speed tests.

Our driving speed tests also included driving 3-inch and shorter standard screw sizes into materials, including dimensional lumber, plywood, MDF, and drywall studs. The 2656-20 breezes through these light and medium-duty tasks, so it’ll tackle any job around the home.

Compare driving speed test results

Drive modes

Drive modes: 1
Drive mode 1:  High speed 
Drive mode 2:  N/A 
Drive mode 3:  N/A 
Drive mode 4:  N/A 
Variable speed trigger: Yes

One drive mode on the 2656-20 significantly reduces its driving versatility. Including several drive modes would make this impact driver versatile for heavy-duty and light-duty jobs, where a consistently accurate screw finish is essential. The single high-speed drive mode on the 2656-20 finishes screw more accurately than other impact drivers since it’s less powerful, but a consistent screw finish is difficult in any high-speed mode.

Consider the Milwaukee M18 Fuel Surge 2760-20 if you need additional drive modes within the M18 ecosystem.

Collet

Milwaukee 2656-20 Collet Closeup

Collet size: 1/4-inch hex
Quick-change collet: Yes
Bit-eject collet: No
Easy-insert collet: No

Collet

It takes two hands to change bits on the 2656-20, one hand to slide the collet and the other to insert or remove the bit. The collet has no easy-insert or bit eject feature, which helps with one-handed bit changes.

Many Dewalt impact drivers include easy-insert and bit-eject collets that are smooth with the best collet design we’ve come across.

Motor

Motor: Brushed
Impacts per minute: 3,450.0

One of the primary downsides of the 2656-20 is that it includes a brushed motor. This motor type is less efficient, drains batteries quicker, can be louder, and isn’t as durable as a brushless motor, which many competing budget impact drivers now include. The motor choice explains some of the performance we experienced during testing, including the limited battery life and slow driving speed.

The advertised 3450.0 impacts per minute also explain some of the tested underperformance, particularly in heavy-duty scenarios driving big screws.

Unless you are highly budget-constrained and are open to other tool ecosystems, review the Dewalt 20V Max XR DCF845 and Makita 18V LXT XDT14Z for high-performing alternatives with brushless motors.

Battery run time

Power type: Cordless
Battery run time (min.): 23.0
Battery tested: 18V Red Lithium CP 2Ah (48-11-1820)
Voltage: 18

The 2656-20’s battery run time underperforms many impact drivers with only 23 minutes of run time in our no-load tests.

We tested battery run time with the 2Ah battery version. With a Milwaukee M18 Red Lithium XC 5Ah battery, expect the battery run time to continue underperforming competing models running the same Ah setup, albeit the battery run time significantly increases.

Compare battery test results

Charging time

Milwaukee M18 Fuel Gauge

Charger tested: Milwaukee M12 & M18 Multi-Volt (48-59-1812)
Charging time 2Ah battery (min.): 41.0
Charging time 2.5Ah battery (min.): Not tested
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 charging test results

Design & ergonomics

Stands upright w/o battery: Yes
Stands upright w/ battery: Yes
Grip material: Rubber overgrip
Magnetic holder: No
Bit holder: No
Belt hook: Yes
Handle angle (deg.): 75.0
Head angle (deg.): 90.0

Weight

Milwaukee 2656-20 On Scale

Bare weight (lbs): 2.18
Weight w/ 2Ah battery (lbs): 3.13
Weight w/ 2.5Ah battery (lbs):  Not tested
Weight w/ 4Ah battery (lbs):  Not tested
Weight w/ 5Ah battery (lbs): 3.79

As expected with the best budget impact drivers, the 2656-20 is relatively heavy in its bare tool form and with a battery.

The working weight can differ significantly depending on the battery run in your setup, which is why we tested the weight in different configurations. To keep it lightweight, we recommend combining the 2656-20 with Milwaukee’s M18 Red Lithium CP 2Ah battery for a good balance of performance and weight.

If weight is less of a concern, pair the 2656-20 with Milwaukee’s M18 Red Lithium XC 5Ah battery for a longer run time and improved driving performance.

The Makita 18V LXT XDT13Z is a lighter alternative to consider in this price category.

Compare weight test results

Footprint

Milwaukee 2656-20 Footprint1
Milwaukee 2656-20 Footprint2

Max height (bare tool, in.): 7.250
Max width (bare tool, in.): 2.625
Collet to back length (in.): 5.500
Base length (bare tool, in.): 3.125
Base width (bare tool, in.): 2.625
Trigger circumference (in.): 6.500
Handle circumference (in.): 5.125

The 2656-20 casts a thin shadow viewed from the front and behind but isn’t highly compact otherwise. The long collet-to-back length adds minimal bulk and isn’t ideal for tight spaces, as demonstrated in our clearance tests (more on that below).

Compare footprint test results

Driving clearance

Min. interior width clearance (in.): 8.125
Min. top edge clearance (in.): 1.125
Min. interior 45-deg. clearance (in.): 6.375

The 2656-20’s footprint isn’t ideal for driving in tight corners and spaces. Notably, the long collet-to-back length reduces its 45-degree interior clearance performance and limits the areas it can squeeze through.

Compare driving clearance test results

Noise

2656-20 Impact Driver Noise Chart

Max noise no load (dBA): 83.0
Max impacting noise (dBA): 97.4

The 2656-20 is in the middle of the pack with its noise performance in our impacting tests, maxing out just below the equivalent noise of a motorcycle.

The Milwaukee M12 Fuel Surge 2551-20 and Milwaukee M18 Fuel Surge 2760-20 are incredibly quiet alternatives. Both are built with hydraulic oil-impulse impacts that are more subtle.

Compare noise test results

Vibration

Max head vibration no load (m/s2): 40.6
Max grip vibration no load (m/s2): 3.1

Compare vibration test results

Light

Milwaukee 2656-20 Light
Milwaukee 2656-20 Light Closeup

Light: Yes
Light on/off: No
Number of lights: 1
Light time delay (sec.): 10.0

The light illuminates a moderately small work area focused in the correct location. As expected in the budget category, the work light can’t be disabled and doesn’t act as a dedicated flashlight.

Several Makita impact drivers include a dedicated flashlight functionally with the forward/reverse switch set to neutral.

Warranty

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

Milwaukee stands behind the durability of its impact drivers with exceptionally-long warranties. The 2656-20 has a five-year warranty, which is among the longest offered by any manufacturer. Milwaukee’s M18 Red Lithium CP 2Ah batteries include a two-year warranty, and the M18 Red Lithium XC 5Ah batteries include a three-year warranty.

Picture of 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.

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2 thoughts on “Milwaukee M18 2656-20 Impact Driver Review”

  1. Thank you for the detailed review! I’m curious about the Milwaukee M18 Red Lithium XC 5Ah battery you recommended. Have you noticed any significant difference in the performance of the Milwaukee 2656-20 impact driver when using this battery compared to the lower Ah options?

    Reply
    • Yes, there is a performance difference with any power tool and using a higher Ah-capacity battery. We generally recommend having a 2Ah and 5Ah combination in your setup. This way, you have a lower weight and portability when needed with the 2Ah and more power with a 5Ah. Consider though that the performance gains moving to a higher Ah-capacity battery aren’t drastic. Impacts will complete demanding tasks regardless of the battery size.

      Reply

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