DeWALT 20V vs Milwaukee 18V – Friday Night Tool Fight


Chevy vs Ford, Lowes vs Home Depot and Boeing vs Airbus are all good examples of rivals.  Well we took two of the biggest tool brand rivals and put their latest 20V and 18V drills to the test.  Don’t be fooled by the 20V MAX you don’t get an extra 2 volts, the M18 is also a 20V MAX.  Basically fully charged under a no load condition both batteries have 20V.  DeWALT decided to market it as a 20V which other manufacturers are also doing now.  We used Milwaukee’s “Drill Killer” 1″ auger bit, which earned  this name after it smoked out another brands drill.  The bit is a self feeding auger and really requires a lot of torque and battery power to run, it was perfect for our tests.  The main test is between the 2 brands flagship hammer drills, the Milwaukee FUEL 2603-22 with 4.0 Ah and the 4.0 Ah DeWALT DCD985M2.  Since the FUEL is brushless we also added DeWALT’s Brushless DCD790 Compact 20V drill with a 4.0  Ah battery.  We tried to stay with 4.0 to keep the comparison fair, think of Ah as gas tank sizes.  All the drills have good torque, but since DeWALT uses its own rating in which no other has adopted we decided to skip the exact torque calculations.  I don’t exactly know why they use UWO.  It really alienates them from the rest of the industry and confuses the consumer.





Here are the results:
Milwaukee M18 Fuel Drill 2603-22

Milwaukee Fuel Brushless 2603-22 – 63 holes

Milwaukee has the run time market cornered thanks to Redlink.  A system that communicates with the battery and the motor to keep constant torque and superior run time.  Milwaukee’s claim of 33% more run time is well validated here.  The 2 speed drill weighs in at  5 lbs and has a max speed of 1,850 rpm.  It produces 31,450 BPM in hammer mode.  Overall the 2603 is a great all around drill, you cannot go wrong with it.  A 5 year warranty is the icing on the cake.   Buy it from Amazon





DeWALT Brushless DCD790 – 58 holes

Dewalt’s compact entry weighing in at 3.5 lbs really impressed us.  It can accomplish a lot for its size, drilling only 5 less holes than Milwaukee’s full size hammer drill.  This compact 2 speed drill can produce some serious torque and hold its own with the big boys.  A 3 year warranty covers this tool.  As of this writing it comes with 2.0 Ah batteries and not the 4.0 that we used.  2000 rpm is what this bad boy puts out on speed 2.  Buy it from Amazon.




DeWALT DCD985M2 – 46 Holes

Think of the 985 as a HD truck with a big block v8 in it.  It has a ton of raw horsepower, but sucks a lot of fuel to sustain it.  At 5.3lbs it is the biggest, heaviest drill here and drilled the least amount of holes.  It is a brushed drill!  If the DCD985 can’t do it you better move up to a 36V because nothing in the 18/20V class will.  Even though it was the last in the pack for run time it has an option that the others do not,  3 Speeds.  The 985 is a work horse.  The chuck grips better than any other chuck out there and has zero wobble.  Buy it from Amazon


So to wrap it up, any of these drills are a fine choice.   It really all boils down to what platform you already own.  If you don’t have a platform yet, look at what tools you are going to need in the future and base it on that.  If you are a plumber or electrician you might want to take advantage of Milwaukee’s M18 line, they offer things like propex, caulk and crimping tools. If you demand the highest run time go Milwaukee.  On the other hand, if you are a carpenter or need just an all around great tool the 20V Max is a good choice.  It has the most comfortable grip in the industry and is tough “DeWALT tough”.  DeWALT stands up to job site abuse well.  Eric and I both use a DeWALT DCD790 as our main drill.


  1. Great tool fight guys!! Glad to see they are back. Remember that the Milwaukee is a compact heavy duty, that is there premium and compact drill, all in one, and a side by side competitor with the 790. I wish DeWalt would get rid of UWO, and use what we have been using since the beginning, in/ft pounds. Are they hiding possibly that they dont have as much torque as other brands and cant stand up to everyone else? Damn right it confuses the consumer, Torque is one of the best if not the best way to compare power in a drill, the consumer gets confused and frustrated when comparing(I did) because they have have no clue what uwo is to ft. pounds. I like the jacobs chuck, but I experienced a lot of play in my 780 and i have heard its a common problem, Maybe because the chucks are made in house…. Great tests guys keep up the great work!!! Im sure the 2603 will be updated before we know it with the rapid updates…

  2. Your comparative is very well. We will make the same one with the news metabo 5.2Ah and Milwaukee 4Ah brushless. Good continuation

  3. Love these tool comparisons… If only you guys had the time to expand the comparison across oh, say…. another 5 brands and several voltage classes as well 😛

  4. 2603 is drill/driver brushless no hammer mode…2604 is hammer one.
    if im wrong drill me in the mouth with the dewalt…cool drill shootout.going buy the 6 1/2 milwaukee fuel circular saw coming
    out in fall.maybe fuel grinder to.cheers.

  5. music in background really works made me want go drill something. own 2604 milwaukee drill…dewalt 12 volt max drill with metal rohm chuck.
    snap-on air drill pdr3a, air ingersall rand angle drill.little dewalt
    used the most..light and handy to move toolbox
    the monster 2604…air drill collecting dust bunnies..milwaukee nice
    stuff coming out in 6.1/2 saw has light ..sweet.later .oh
    know you knew it was 2604..teasing u..bye

  6. I glad to finally see a comparison of my new 18V drill and the 20V Max equivalent of my old 18V drill, and even happier to see that I made the right choice in switching from DeWalt to Milwaukee.

    The reason DeWalt’s UWO specification confuses buyers is that it’s new, and DeWalt refuses to explain what it means and how it compares to torque, in terms buyers can understand. If they want buyers to “buy in” to their new performance measurements, they have to explain why it’s better and more meaningful that the old way. I spent a lot of time looking into what exactly it means, and max UWO in a DC motor occurs at 50% max RPM, which also coincides with 50% max torque. But when you take their claimed max UWO and claimed max RPM (on speed 1, for highest torque), and calculate the max torque, it’s well below both what their competitors claim and what DeWalt claims for “equivalent” models on their non-US sites.

    Max toque measurements are easy to do, given the right equipment. If DeWalt really believed their max torque measured up against the competition, they would test their new products just like they did the old ones, and publish BOTH numbers. What I really don’t understand is why another manufacturer (I’m looking at you, Milwaukee) doesn’t have DeWalt’s models independently tested, publish the results, and debunk DeWalt’s UWO BS.

    BTW, the Milwaukee M18 Fuel hammerdrill model is 2604-22, not 2603-22 (that’s the non-hammerdrill model).

    • Why should Milwaukee have to independently test Dewalt to defunct their performance claims? Why should they bother. Worry about their own products and not fling dung at everyone else. Just concentrate on how to make a great tool and convince buyers of that. If Dewalt wants to hide behind some foreign lingo, and people look poorly at that, then Dewalt will pay for that. I have found from my experience and everyone that I know who is competent and intelligent that Dewalt tools are toys in comparison anyway. Someone else trying to defunct Dewalt or anyone else is just like the cheezy politicians throwing claims about other politicians rather than just selling themselves. It is childish and low. Unless the claims by Dewalt are completely and obviously lies and bunk. But the truth is, if it was, the consumers and retailers would probably bring it to light anyway.

  7. Hey, guys–As you and others have noted in the past, a few (five?) screws difference is NOT a big deal. Consider that the drill being tested may not be a representative sample (i.e., possibly defective) out of the box, or the battery of one may not have been fully charged at the start of the test, or…Stuff happens, and what’s important is repeatability; if there was a true disparity over time, you might take that into account in making a purchase decision. There are lots of factors to consider (comfort, ease of use, charging time, speeds available, clutch settings, etc.), such that a winner-take-all test like this may not be the best reason to buy Product A over Product B. Some products just fit better in YOUR hand, and for that reason it’s a better tool for YOU. Another consideration is if you’ve bought into one manufacturer’s battery system; are you really going to drop their product now because a competitor’s drill can drive five more screws before it needs to be recharged? Probably not. If a product works reliably for you over time, you’ll probably stay with that brand. You likely won’t change brands until it can be shown that the other product is superior in ways that are meaningul to your needs.

  8. The dewalt 985 will always have its place at the job site but that 790 brushless at 3.5 pounds is awesome. Eric got me to change over to all milwaukee m12 and m18 tools but i want that DCD790! Great review!

  9. Chase, I’m sure you seen the test coptool did and in their testing the fuel and dcd985 all managed to bring back the same numbers in their torque test so that leads me to believe dewalt has nothing to hide, the milwaukee camp and maybe other people may think so but to me the point is invalid. People say UWO is in fact a more accurate measurement but none of us truly know because no published from a true outside source to confirm… not to mention torque measurement can be checked in a few ways, is Milwaukee’s totally accurate??? We don’t know that either… Unless we see standardized testing from an outside source we all have to take each an every companies word for it… All the drills here in this test are great and nobody could go wrong with either… Like Dan said, it depends on your platform… I wouldn’t switch over 17 less holes. Unless you got money to throw away, go for it…
    I’ve seen 4 dcd 780’s with no wobble all belong to friend’s, one being my own… If your’s had a wobble contact Dewalt for warranty and they will fix it, like anything else.
    Also if the fuel was a true compact it wouldn’t weigh 5 lbs, 1.5 lbs more then the dcd 790… If they want a true compact drill, they need to build one a bit lighter, shorter in height, shorter in length and bit more narrow

  10. Also I’m sure some people are confused by the UWO but Dewalt is probably the #1 tool name on the market, maybe not unless I can find the market share numbers. When people see a yellow drill and are looking for a good drill they trust the Dewalt name and buy it, it’s pretty simple because 3/4 of the market or more buying big names like Dewalt or Milwaukee are big contractors and know what’s good or not good. The average home owner is still buying black and decker and other cheaper tools

    Tool buyers are a loyal bunch, like truck guys… No matter what they are gonna buy the name they use and trust either it be yellow, red, green, chevy, ford etc…I personally highly doubt Dewalt is out to screw the consumer, Because I have never been disappointed in anything with a Dewalt name on it… Dewalt has a lot riding on the name Dewalt and won’t tarnish it with poor tools and UWO

    I bought my first 20v max drill and impact driver combo… I knew Dewalt was probably the biggest most well known tool brand in north america and probably every contractor has a Yellow tool in their trailer somewhere. I didn’t see the in lbs and seen UWO and thought it was weird but I knew it must be comparable or better to most of the brands in that size and the price was awesomea. I quickly found out it must be true about dewalt and other big names because my 780 has no problem drill holes or driving screws, it’s got oodles of power for every task we threw at it since we bought them in very early 2012… My father in laws has been buying Dewalt tools for over 20 years and has never had a problem so what the hell I’m hooked now too and it’s all I try to buy…

  11. SteveR I think you said it best right there… Whatever feels great to you, whatever works the best for you, and even cost is a big factor to a lot of people… The cache in the name is big
    as well like I mentioned earlier. I know a lot of people LOVE the 3 speed tranny on dewalt drills…

    One thing I always loved was the grip and design on the Dewalt’s, I couldn’t ask for a better fit in my hand, it’s just perfect

    Micheal, like any other competitor the other companies products are tested in house, taken apart to the very last screw and gone over head to toe by engineers… Like coptool tested the UWO if calculated the way you explained it be way down on TQ but it was equal to the others. It would be a good idea for Dewalt to explain the UWO to please everyone but truly in the big scheme or things it’s probably not hurting their sales…I don’t thinki Milwaukee or most other brands have done it yet because their is probably little to no difference because if Dewalt was down bigtime on torque, the other companies would be on them like flies on cow crap to show the world they are getting screwed over

  12. Chris , i agree it will always be a ford chevy thing and a big deciding factor is how the tool feels. What i dont agree with is the uwo bs, if it is so great, all the other tool manufacturers would be using it. Tool junkie or not, you are no going in blindly in an investment which you expect to last a long time. When i go to buy a drill, my peraonal preference is to buy the drill that will do 99% of tasks than 93% even if its a little heavier, and with the 4.0 on the 790, its the same height as the fuel, all in all, its like you said, i like Milwaukee and you like dewalt.

  13. Thing is in-lbs is not going to be a huge deciding factor in how long you keep the tool, anyone knows as long as it’s a well known name it should last a long time, In-lbs would be a factor depending on the jobs that need to be done, not longevity… You can measure that you can hope for the best As I mentioned before, the fuel is still taller with the 4.0… Not by much but it is… Maybe dan or eric can confirm that.

    Seems like everyone puts everything into looking at the in lbs of the drills… That’s one factor but everyone forget’s the other aspects of a drill like stever mentioned like feel, how your going to actually use the drill, the price of the tool, so many things come into play and a little more torque then the other tool can’t beat a great feeling tool… Nobody wants to use a tool everyday that they can’t stand even if it has a bit more juice… like to me the Milwaukee feels terrible in my hands, if I had to use it everyday i’d probably smash it lol

  14. Yeah I mean the best aspect to compare tools motor or power, is the torque. The M18 fuel grips have come a long way from the previous M18….

  15. I know a single, un-scientific test means nothing, but the results still gave me some satisfaction in my choice of Milwaukee over DeWalt. But at the time (December 2012), DeWalt’s 20V Max line was lacking several tools I was planning to replace, and this was my primary reason for switching. DeWalt has expanded the 20V Max line a lot since then, and had these same tools been available back then, I probably would have stayed with DeWalt.

    UWO may be a more meaningful measurement than max torque. If DeWalt wants to lead the way in this regard that’s fine, but you can’t lead if nobody follows, and right now nobody’s following, so instead of leading they’ve just changed directions.

    Chris – you’re right – we’re stuck taking the manufacturer’s word for it when it comes to performance specs, so in the end our inability to relate one claim to another isn’t as important as it might seem.

  16. Michael, I switched for the same reason, they still dont have some very important tools, cordless multi tools, updated 12v line, caulk gun, propex, force logic etc.

  17. WOW what a debate. Milwaukee vs Dewalt. I’m like a lot of you I don’t understand UWO, but I know a good drill when I see one. They are both good tools, I have both the dewalt DCD985 and the Milwaukee brushless, I use the milwaukee more due to the fact of the weight and size. The dewalt is a true work horse though, it has never failed me or couldn’t finish the job. It all comes down to what you like, I like power tools. I don’t have one company I just buy. But I got to say Milwaukee can get some awesome tools out quick to the market, that’s probably why I have been buying more milwaukee in the last 2 years. Back to UWO does anyone know how to even compare that to in lb? Dan? Eric? I even called dewalt for help and got nowhere, they didn’t even know I just transferred to person to person. To sum it up they are both good drills it just comes down to if you prefer one brand or the grip, balance, size, 2 speeds, 3 speeds, or if it can just make you happier to use a red drill. I will continue to use both maybe until makita can make a drill that’s can keep up with the big boys. Just joking makita fans! BURN IT UP DAN!

  18. Milwaukee’s 12v tools has many small market niche tools that are meant for very specific trades and to me unless your in this trade why would you base your decision to switch over to Milwaukee because they offer niche trade specific tools that don’t relate to you? Makes really no sense but that’s just me… I’d never need propex tools or force logic etc because I’m not a plumber and a lot of plumbers believe in just old fashioned solder because it works and if your any good at it, you never need to worry about it… A cordless caulking gun seems like something a window installer may use or someone working in a factory making mini homes etc…

    They are all niche specific trade tools and for a lot of us those tools would never be used…

    I need general contractor type tools being a handyman and Dewalt has many more tools in that market then Milwaukee will ever have

  19. I wish Milwaukee offered some more speeds with Brushless motors you can do it electronically and use the mechanical gearbox at the same time. Hitachi offers that with their brushless drills. Anyone know what happened with the release of the Bosch brushless drills and impacts? They were announced over a year ago I think. They did release some 12v tools recently but nothing on the 18v line except the sds drills and multitool.

  20. found this article about dewalt rating system.
    Traditional Measurement Method for Torque Rating:
    Mounting drill into rig
    Locking chuck onto a fixed spindle
    Drill is fully powered
    Measures drill torque level at 0 rpm (does not measure speed)

    New Measurement Method for Power Rating:
    Mounting drill into rig
    Locking chuck onto a rotating spindle
    Drill is fully powered
    Torque loads increasingly applied
    Measures drill speed and torque with multiple data points

    The Power Rating
    A drill’s Power Rating has been used for many years as a tool to design products. It is not until now that it will be used as new way of evaluating a drill’s performance level, and is a direct indication of how fast it will complete an application.

    The drill’s Power Rating is measured by its Units Watts Out (UWO), the point where the drill’s speed and torque output are the highest. The higher a drill’s Power Rating, or UWO, the faster it will perform on the jobsite.

    Torque ? time to complete applications Power = Speed & Torque output under load Max Watts Out (MWO) = Power of the motor Unit Watts Out (UWO) = Power of the total drill

  21. Dewalt is like the staff at a Chinese restaurant with this UWO shit. They’re standing there right in front of me and despite the fact that I’m perfectly capable of understanding English, they speak to each other in some far off dialect. It doesn’t mean they’re hiding anything, and for all I know they could be talking about last nights ball game or what a handsome bastard I am, but it makes me skeptical of them because if they cared what I thought they’d have spoken in a language I understand. The same principle applies.

  22. If you want to know the torque on a Dewalt drill/driver go to the Dewalt uk site they have them in newton-meter ! Nice review ! Its good to see that brushless dose realy give more run time . A cordless grinder tool fight would be nice

  23. “I need general contractor type tools being a handyman and Dewalt has many more tools in that market then Milwaukee will ever have”

    Like what? What does Dewalt have in their cordless lineup that Milwaukee doesn’t?

  24. Thanks Jeth! According to dewalts uk website the DCD985 has 80 NM which coverts to 708 inch lbs. Not bad for a brushed drill.

  25. tks Jeth..went to uk site cordless was dcd98mz ..looks like same
    one in toolfight…rated at 80 newtons…converted to inch pound..708.05
    inch pound.see if i can find brushless one in newton and my 12 drill max newton to…….cheers.

  26. found drill same spec at dewalt uk as my dewalt dcd710 drill. 24 newtons=
    212.41 inch pound…pretty good for my baby 12v dewalt drill.

  27. @Conductor562 – but the staff at the Chinese restaurant isn’t trying to sell convince you to buy their food when speaking their “far off dialect” – but DeWalt is trying to market their products using equally foreign terms.

  28. “I need general contractor type tools being a handyman and Dewalt has many more tools in that market then Milwaukee will ever have”

    Like what? What does Dewalt have in their cordless lineup that Milwaukee doesn’t?

    Table saw, planner, a huge variety of miter saws among other tools… Being a handyman I don’t need a cordless caulk gun or propex or force logic tools. I need a table saw, that sorta thing around the house and Dewalt focuses more on general contractor tools… Milwaukee seems more trade orientated

    Wow 708, that’s pretty good… Thought I read something before the Fuel only made it’s 725 in lbs with the 4.0 ah battery? and less then 700 with the older xc batteries?

  29. Just checked the fuel with the 2.0ah batteries only produces 650 in lbs, 4.0 you get 725 in lbs…

    Dewalt makes no claims about more power with bigger battery, you get all 708 if the UK number is right with any battery… What’s up with that Milwaukee, I need to spend even more money to make full power with the drill? That sounds a little odd

  30. @ Chris

    Who the heck cares about table saws or other corded tools when the discussion is about a battery powered tool?? WOW Derwalt has a table saw so what? So does Bosch, Makita, PC, Rigid, Ryobi Whats your point? When any of us buy into a battery powered Tool you become brand loyal to that line not by choice but by battery platform.

    If I decide I need a table saw or other corded product my Cordless drill choice has no relevance in that choice at all.

    If I decide Hey Brand X has a nice drill and a huge line up of other equally useful to me products I will probably pick that line for a cordless product.. Seems like those “niche” tools are turning more then one back on yellow tools..

  31. Don’t think you realize that many people are brand loyal period not just by battery platform, It’s the brand that makes the most TOOLS for them, regardless of cordless or corded, they will choose that brand… Because once they they trust one company with let’s say their drill, recip saw what have you… many people will be hard to switch over. It’s not just cordless brand loyal…To you it may be, but many it’s the one brand they choose that takes cares of all or pretty well most of their needs…

  32. Seems to Me most people are brand loyal with a certain product more so then a Manufacture.With the exception of the OCD, Car guys, and guys that collect.

    Dan seems to be a pretty good example he has a pretty heavy leaning to Derwalt(not knocking them/Him just pointing out). Eric certainly leans toward Milwaukee, bosch, and Hilti. But Eric seems to really lean to a tool that works well for him over all else. And every single person I know that does the work picks tools like that.

    Not talking about fantasy land internet blogs or bullshiten boards with keyboard warriors arguing over which color matches their shoes the best. But real world doing work people..

    And a FYI Milwaukee makes some pretty impressive general contractor tools. Sawzall, Grinders, Magnum drills, hole hogs, A pretty awesome miter box(a bit pricey but darn nice), cut off saws, I could go on, all pretty common contractor tools. And so does Bosch, Makita, Metabo, Hilti. So even with the cord on a tool I dont see how any of the major brands are more niche brands.

  33. I just bought the 18 volt

    Milwaukee drill hammer brushless and it is a animal and am saw happy thinking about the sawzall I grinder from Milwaukee to.

  34. Dewalts DCD790 is rated at 60NM. 1NM=8.85 in/lb.
    60×8.85= 531 in/lb of torque. Thats not bad for a compact drill. Its actually higher than milwaukees previous hammerdrill the 2602-22 which i own, was rated at 525 in/lb of torque. So why they hide behind UWO without an explaination of what it means and how it conpares to in/lb is beyond me. Obviously they are comparable to Milwaukee. And i own MANY milwaukee m18 fuel and m12 fuel/non fuel tools. But i just bought a DCD790 because its small amd has lots of power and very high speed. I love it. I use my M18 Fuel for concrete and larger diameter holes. I use my M12 Fuel for small concrete anchors and overhead drilling for installing door closers and such. And i use my New dewalt for just about everything else. I recently fresh installed 10 deadbolts in wood and Metal doors using the DCD790 with a 2 1/8″ hole saw and a 1″ hole saw all on one charge. Not bad in my book. Im a locksmith by trade so my drills get used every day from anything from small #8 self tappers up to drilling 2 1/8″ holes in wood/metal and some times 1″ plus holes in concrete.

  35. I know its an old post, but after 2 trips to Home Depot I feel compelled to tell my story. I’ve been a loyal DeWalt guy for a while, but I found myself yearning for a brushless set. I did some online research and after seeing the Milwaukee perform spectacularly on a few youtube torture tests, and after having a good experience with a corded Milwaukee hammer drill I bought recently, I figure I’d give Milwaukee’s a shot. I splurged and paid a nice heafty price of $379. Boy did I regret it! I purchased an M18 Fuel Combo with Hammer & Impact drill, and within 2 hours I completely hated it. First thing that annoyed me was light. The lens is poorly designed and it shoots an led beam right in your eye while drilling and you can’t turn it off. How is being glared supposed to help you see screws better? Strike 1. The drill was significantly heavier than my last, but I guess I could get over that knowing I had tons of power to spare and the drill seemed to have as much torque as a corded. But now the belt clip was annoying me, and I scratched myself a few times on the bit holder as the edges are not rounded. So I figured I would take them off. Big mistake. The threadlocker was so good I needed pliers to remove the screw after they stripped. Now my new drill has a few scratches and I’m further annoyed. Now remember all that power I thought I loved? Know I’m starting to hate it. The drill is powerful, but the low RPM characteristics are terrible. You can’t finesse anything. The power comes on hard and doesn’t give, stripping whatever screw that is not a grade 5. Strike 2. So I figured, maybe I’ll just use the clutch. Well the clutch is some sort of electric clutch that is not consistent and it does not go low enough. It’s lowest setting (2) is more like a dewalt 7 so you cannot use this drill for anything less than a 3/8 lag. Strike 3 your out! I sent the Milwaukee right back where it came from and ran back home to my first love DeWault. Happy to report my new brushless Dewault set performs flawlessly and I’ll never cheat on them again. If you swear by Milwaukee, you simply don’t know better.


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