Milwaukee M18 2656-20 vs Milwaukee M18 2850-20

Milwaukee 2656-20 Angle 5

Milwaukee 2656-20

Quick take

The Milwaukee M18 2850-20 is a better impact driver than the Milwaukee M18 2656-20 for several reasons. The 2850-20’s brushless motor is more efficient, partly explaining the faster driving speed under load, the higher torque output, and the longer battery run time. However, both offer limited versatility with a single drive mode. The primary reason to opt for the 2656-20 is the slightly lower price, though we recommend spending minimally more for the 2850-20.

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 Milwaukee
Platform M18
Motor Brushless
Tested torque in-lbs 850.2
IPM 4,200.0
Drive modes 1
Collet 1/4-inch hex
Same as -

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

3.79 / 5 stars

Methodology used: Heavy duty

Pros

  • Brushless motor
  • Great driving speed
  • High impacts per minute
  • Long tool and battery warranty

Cons

  • Battery life
  • Single drive mode
  • Requires two hands to change bits

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.)14.75
Torque (in-lbs)850.23
Battery run time (min.)38.014
RPM3,240.06
Bare weight (lbs)2.018
Impacting noise (dBA)96.810

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

Milwaukee 2850-20 Torquemeter
Milwaukee 2850-20 Torque Charts

Max torque drive mode 1 (in-lbs): 850.2
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

Torque output is one of the calling card features of the 2850-20, as evidenced in our testing. The 2850-20 generated some of the highest torque output we’ve seen in the 18V class, impressive for such a modestly-priced impact driver.

The Milwaukee M18 Fuel 2953-20 offers considerably more torque and better handles demanding applications, should you be looking for best-in-class performance.

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

Milwaukee 2850-20 RPM Charts

Max RPM drive mode 1 (fwd.): 3,240.0
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.): 3,139.0
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 2850-20 achieved solid results in our RPM tests. The high RPM performance is a con, especially with only one drive mode, but it can be a helpful feature in certain situations. The high RPM sets fasteners quickly into your workpiece.

But such a high RPM too frequently results in cam-out. The cam-out potential is exacerbated by the fact that there’s a single drive mode, leaving the cam-out possibility to how delicately or not you feather the variable speed trigger.

There is no significant RPM difference between forward and reverse driving, unlike some impact drivers that increase the reverse RPM to remove stubborn screws more easily.

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

Driving speed

GRK total driving time forward (sec.): 14.7
GRK average driving time forward (sec.): 2.9
GRK total driving time reverse (sec.): 11.0
GRK average driving time reverse (sec.): 2.2

In our driving speed tests, few impact drivers we’ve tested broke the threshold of averaging less than three seconds per screw. The 2850-20’s high impacts per minute undoubtedly explain some of the performance, particularly when finishing the last leg of driving long lag bolts and structural screws.

Higher-end models, such as the Milwaukee M18 Fuel 2953-20, Makita 18V LXT XDT19Z, and Dewalt 20V Max XR DCF845, beat out the 2850-20 with impressive driving speed performance.

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

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 critical missing factor is that 2850-20 includes only one drive mode, though the variable speed trigger helps in scenarios where a lighter driving force is needed. Additional drive modes would improve the driving versatility, albeit increasing the price tag.

The Makita 18V LXT XDT14Z and Dewalt 20V Max XR DCF887 are good alternatives with more driving versatility.

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

Milwaukee 2850-20 Collet Closeup

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

It takes two hands to change bits on the 2850-20, 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.

Most Dewalt impact drivers are ideal for one-handed bit changes since these impact drivers include a well-designed easy-insert and bit-eject collet.

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

The 2850-20’s advertised 4,200 impacts per minute is high for an impact driver. Our in-house driving speed tests demonstrated that the elevated number of blows results in exceptional driving performance at this price point.

The 2850-20 also Includes a brushless motor, which helps with battery life, smoothes out driving performance, and should improve long-term durability. However, we haven’t tested the multi-year durability to confirm its shelf life.

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.): 38.0
Battery tested: 18V Red Lithium CP 2Ah (48-11-1820)
Voltage: 18

One letdown of the 2850-20 is the run time performance in our battery tests. The brushless motor significantly improves run time over comparable brushed motors. But 38 minutes of no-load battery run time isn’t much to write home about, especially considering that some cheaper impact drivers have a longer battery run time, more driving mode versatility, and higher torque.

Expect running with any of Milwaukee’s higher Ah 18V batteries to increase run time, but still lag behind other impact drivers running a similar Ah setup.

The Ryobi 18V One+ P237 is an excellent alternative budget option with better run time and several drive modes. The Makita 18V LXT XDT13Z is a better pick than the 2850-20 due to the Makita’s exceptional battery performance at a comparative price point.

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

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

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

Weight

Milwaukee 2850-20 On Scale

Bare weight (lbs): 2.01
Weight w/ 2Ah battery (lbs): 2.96
Weight w/ 2.5Ah battery (lbs):  Not tested
Weight w/ 4Ah battery (lbs):  Not tested
Weight w/ 5Ah battery (lbs): 3.62

The bare tool weight is moderately light for an 18V impact driver. It isn’t as lightweight as other drivers with a battery when adding Milwaukee’s M18 Red Lithium CP 2Ah battery, which is a slightly heavier 2Ah battery than several different manufacturers.

The working weight can differ significantly depending on the battery run in your setup. To keep it lightweight, we recommend combining the 2850-20 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 2850-20 with Milwaukee’s M18 Red Lithium XC 5Ah battery for a longer run time and improved driving performance.

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

Milwaukee 2850-20 Footprint1
Milwaukee 2850-20 Footprint2

Max height (bare tool, in.): 7.625
Max width (bare tool, in.): 2.625
Collet to back length (in.): 5.125
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 2850-20 has a middle-of-the-road compact design that makes it versatile for tasks around the home. One of the more essential measurements, the collet-to-back length, isn’t too long, giving you solid clearance in tight spaces.

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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.

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Driving clearance

Min. interior width clearance (in.): 7.750
Min. top edge clearance (in.): 1.125
Min. interior 45-deg. clearance (in.): 6.125

We don’t recommend the 2850-20 if you consistently drive fasteners in tight spaces. A sub-compact or smaller footprint compact impact driver can squeeze into tighter spaces, especially if they have shorter collet to back lengths.

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

Noise

2850-20 Impact Driver Noise Chart

Max noise no load (dBA): 83.7
Max impacting noise (dBA): 96.8

Our noise performance tests demonstrate that the 2850-20 is not a quiet impact driver.

If you want a comparatively quiet impact driver, consider hydraulic models, such as the Milwaukee M12 Fuel Surge 2551-20 or Milwaukee M18 Fuel Surge 2760-20.

The Ryobi 18V One+ P237 and Ryobi 18V One+ PBLID02 are worth considering if you want to squeeze out a few decibels of lower noise at a similar price point and with equivalent driving performance.

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): 37.6
Max grip vibration no load (m/s2): 1.9

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.

Light

Milwaukee 2850-20 Light
Milwaukee 2850-20 Light Closeup

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

The light on the 2850-20 does the job but is not as bright as most other models. The single LED light has a blue tint that we didn’t encounter with other models. You also don’t get the versatility of having the option to turn off the light when pressing the trigger, like many Makita impact drivers.

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

Milwaukee stands behind the durability of its impact drivers with exceptionally-long warranties. The 2850-20 has a five-year warranty, which is among the longest offered by any manufacturer. Milwaukee’s M18 batteries include a two-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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