Milwaukee M18 2656-20 Vs Dewalt 20V Max XR DCF845

Milwaukee 2656-20 Angle 5

Milwaukee 2656-20

Quick take

The Dewalt 20V Max XR DCF845 is the better overall impact driver. It is significantly faster driving long screws and lag bolts, offers better battery run time, has a brushless motor, and includes three drive modes for versatility. The lower-priced Milwaukee M18 2656-20 is a great way to get into the coveted Milwaukee M18 ecosystem at a discount, but it needs more driving versatility with a single drive mode and is slow under load.

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 -
Brand Dewalt
Platform 20V Max XR
Motor Brushless
Tested torque in-lbs 612.6
IPM 4,200.0
Drive modes 3
Collet 1/4-inch hex
Same as DCF845B

Editorial opinion

Rating

3.14 / 5 stars

Methodology used: Heavy duty

Pros

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

Cons

  • Brushed motor
  • Poor battery run time
  • Moderately heavy

Rating

4.40 / 5 stars

Methodology used: Heavy duty

Pros

  • Excellent battery run time
  • Great torque and driving speed
  • Brushless motor
  • Versatile drive modes
  • Long tool and battery warranty
  • One-handed bit changes

Cons

  • Long collet to back length
  • Not ideal for light-duty tasks

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
TestResultRank
Driving speed (sec.)12.82
Torque (in-lbs)612.610
Battery run time (min.)49.05
RPM3,214.07
Bare weight (lbs)2.0311
Impacting noise (dBA)97.412

Recommended configuration

2656-22CT

Includes (2) M18 Red Lithium CP 1.5Ah battery

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

Torque

Dewalt DCF845 Torquemeter
Dewalt DCF845 Torque Charts

Max torque drive mode 1 (in-lbs): 612.6
Max torque drive mode 2 (in-lbs): 396.6
Max torque drive mode 3 (in-lbs): N/A
Max torque drive mode 4 (in-lbs): N/A

While the DCF845 sped through heavy-duty driving jobs in our tests, the torque output doesn’t explain most of the driving performance. The DCF845 is moderately powerful compared to impact drivers in the Dewalt lineup and outside of it. It is sufficiently powerful to handle demanding tasks, but the Dewalt 20V Max XR DCF887 has a far higher torque output for models in the Dewalt ecosystem.

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

RPM

Dewalt DCF845 RPM Charts

Max RPM drive mode 1 (fwd.): 3,214.0
Max RPM drive mode 2 (fwd.): 2,711.0
Max RPM drive mode 3 (fwd.): 1,437.0
Max RPM drive mode 4 (fwd.): N/A
Max RPM drive mode 1 (rev.): 3,290.0
Max RPM drive mode 2 (rev.): 2,555.0
Max RPM drive mode 3 (rev.): 1,465.0
Max RPM drive mode 4 (rev.): N/A

We appreciate that Dewalt didn’t design the DCF845 with an absurdly high RPM just to impress users with its on-paper performance. RPM does help drive screws fast, but torque does more to explain overall driving performance. An impact driver that ramps immediately to a high RPM results in frequent cam-out and stripping screws.

None of these are issues with the DCF845 with its moderate RPM readouts. There is also no noticeable RPM difference between forward and reverse in all three drive modes. Some Makita impact drivers include specialty driving modes with different forward and reverse RPMs for a given drive setting.

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.

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Driving speed

GRK total driving time forward (sec.): 12.8
GRK average driving time forward (sec.): 2.6
GRK total driving time reverse (sec.): 9.0
GRK average driving time reverse (sec.): 1.8

The DCF845 yielded some of the fastest results in our GRK driving speed tests. Dewalt designed the DCF845 with the right balance of features for excellent driving performance without the downsides, such as short battery life, that plague some high-end impact drivers.

The DCF845 is equally capable of driving more than just long GRK screws. We tested driving lag bolts, structural screws, drywall screws, and other standard sizes and lengths. This impact driver handled all with ease for nearly unmatched driving versatility.

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.

Drive modes

Dewalt DCF845 Drive Modes

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

The DCF845 includes the essential drive modes that most users need. There’s a high and low speed impacting mode and a precision driving mode.

The precision mode works well for light-duty tasks, such as general woodworking or driving soft screws in a pinch when your cordless drill is out of reach. But we found ourselves using drive mode 2 more frequently when precision was paramount, such as accurately recessing screws into MDF and drywall studs. The increased driving power is more versatile than what’s offered with the precision drive mode while retaining most of the same accuracy.

Users desiring best-in-class driving versatility should look to a Makita impact driver. The Makita 18V LXT XDT19Z and Makita 40V XGT GDT01Z include similar drive modes as the DCF845 but layer in additional assist modes, including self-tapping and bolt-specific settings.

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.

Collet

Dewalt DCF845 Collet Closeup

Collet size: 1/4-inch hex
Quick-change collet: Yes
Bit-eject collet: Yes
Easy-insert collet: Yes

The DCF845 is excellent for one-handed bit changes. There is an easy-insert feature that doesn’t require sliding the collet forward to accept a bit. A bit-eject feature also lightly ejects the bit when sliding the collet forward.

Dewalt’s collet design is better executed than other brands offering similar features. The easy-insert mechanism is smooth for simple operation, and the bit-eject feature doesn’t jettison the bit too hard to potentially miss catching the bit.

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.

Motor

Motor: Brushless
Impacts per minute: 4,200.0

As should be expected at this price point, the DCF845 includes a brushless motor, which improves longevity, battery efficiency, and driving performance compared to a brushed motor. This motor choice explains some of the impressive battery run time and driving speed performance.

The high advertised 4200.0 impacts per minute also explain the capable driving performance.

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

Battery run time

Power type: Cordless
Battery run time (min.): 49.0
Battery tested: 20V Max 2Ah (DCB203)
Voltage: 20

The DCF845 is among the best-performing heavy-duty impact drivers we’ve tested, with 49.0 minutes of no-load run time. Adding a 5Ah battery should result in outstanding run time, though we didn’t test the run time with this setup.

We tested battery run time with the 2Ah battery version. With a 20V Max XR 5Ah battery, expect the battery run time to continue outperforming competing models running the same Ah setup.

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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.

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Charging time

Dewalt 20V Fuel Gauge

Charger tested: Dewalt 20V Max (DCB115)
Charging time 2Ah battery (min.): 59.0
Charging time 2.5Ah battery (min.): Not tested
Charging time 4Ah battery (min.): Not tested
Charging time 5Ah battery (min.): 139.0
Charging time per Ah (min.): 28.7
Fuel gauge: On battery

The Dewalt charger that is standard in most kits (model DCB115) isn’t as fast as chargers from other brands. In our tests, it took 59.0 minutes to top off a Max 2Ah battery and 139.0 minutes to charge a Max XR 5Ah battery. Expect that this charger will charge batteries at approximately 28.7 minutes per Ah. Faster chargers charge batteries at 20.0 or fewer minutes per Ah.

Nicely, the DCD112 works with Dewalt’s 12V and 20V platform batteries, conveniently saving space in your shop if you have several tools in the Dewalt ecosystem.

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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

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.): 80.0
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

Weight

Dewalt DCF845 On Scale

Bare weight (lbs): 2.03
Weight w/ 2Ah battery (lbs): 2.83
Weight w/ 2.5Ah battery (lbs):  Not tested
Weight w/ 4Ah battery (lbs):  Not tested
Weight w/ 5Ah battery (lbs): 3.43

The DCF845 isn’t lightweight in its heavy-duty driving class, instead, middle of the pack. The Makita 18V LXT XDT19Z sheds some weight and is a better option if you covet a light, equally powerful setup.

The working weight can differ significantly depending on the battery run in your setup. To keep it as lightweight as possible, We recommend combining the DCF845 with Dewalt’s new 20V Powerstack 1.7Ah battery, which weighs less, has a smaller footprint, and performs better than Dewalt’s 20V Max 2Ah battery, which is a solid alternative for a svelte setup.

If weight is less of a concern, pair the DCF845 with Dewalt’s 20V Max XR 5Ah battery for a longer run time and improved driving performance. Moreover, this setup is one of the lightest 5Ah kits we’ve come across.

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).

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Footprint

Dewalt DCF845 Footprint1
Dewalt DCF845 Footprint2

Max height (bare tool, in.): 7.375
Max width (bare tool, in.): 3.000
Collet to back length (in.): 5.125
Base length (bare tool, in.): 3.500
Base width (bare tool, in.): 3.000
Trigger circumference (in.): 6.750
Handle circumference (in.): 5.125

The DCF845 has a narrow profile but isn’t highly compact like the Dewalt 20V Atomic DCF850, which has a far shorter collet-to-back length. Held in hand, the DCF845 still feels nimble compared to some of its competition.

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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

Driving clearance

Min. interior width clearance (in.): 7.750
Min. top edge clearance (in.): 1.250
Min. interior 45-deg. clearance (in.): 6.500

While the DCF845 casts a thin shadow viewed from the front, it didn’t shine in our interior clearance tests, which is somewhat expected for a heavier-duty impact driver. The primary reason is the long collet-to-back length. Otherwise, the footprint resembles many competing impact drivers with similar average results in our clearance tests.

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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

Noise

DCF845 Impact Driver Noise Chart

Max noise no load (dBA): 78.8
Max impacting noise (dBA): 97.4

No impact driver whispers while impacting, including the DCF845, a moderately loud impact driver that can damage your ears with prolonged exposure. You can shave off a few decibels of impact noise performance with the Milwaukee M18 Fuel 2953-20, but you’ll need to switch up impact driver classes to markedly improved noise performance.

The Milwaukee M12 Fuel Surge 2551-20 and Milwaukee M18 Fuel Surge 2760-20 are hydraulic impact drivers with more subtle impacts, albeit lower torque.

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

Vibration

Max head vibration no load (m/s2): 32.9
Max grip vibration no load (m/s2): 2.9

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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.

Light

Dewalt DCF845 Light
Dewalt DCF845 Light Closeup

Light: Yes
Light on/off: No
Number of lights: 3
Light time delay (sec.): 20.0

The DCF845’s work light illuminates a moderately large and bright surface area that is focused in the correct location. One minor head-scratcher is Dewalt’s choice of a 20-second time delay for the light, which is unnecessarily long and drains battery life.

There is no dedicated flashlight mode, one featured included with some Makita impact drivers, where the trigger acts as an on/off button to turn on the light without moving the motor. You also can’t disable the light.

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.

Warranty

Tool warranty (years): 3
Battery warranty (years): 3

Dewalt stands behind the durability of its impact drivers with exceptionally-long warranties. The DCF845 has a three-year warranty. Dewalt 20V batteries include a two-year warranty.

Dewalt also offers free maintenance and replacement of worn parts for one year for the DCF845 and three years for its 20V batteries.

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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