We did this Milwaukee 2601-20 drill review to see if this compact drill delivers enough heavy-duty performance to make it your go-to tool for applications that don’t require a hammer-drill. Its reduced size and weight are due to Milwaukee’s relatively new 4-pole frameless motor which also maximizes efficiency to increase battery life. There are a lot of tool categories on the market, and this one seems to be a great all-around medium-duty solution for those looking for pro quality in a more portable package. We’re also fans of the new 12V form-factor, but as anyone who is familiar with both ca attest, there is a significant difference in what an 18V lithium-ion tool can handle over the new super-light models hitting the market.
Series note: We performed a hands-on evaluation of the Milwaukee 2601-22 Compact Drill kit, but this review also applies to the battery-less 2601-20. The two have identical Specs and Features elements thought the 2601-20 is only a drill and comes without the case or charger. We’ve included the review of the 2601-22 below for reference.
Also check out our review of the Milwaukee M18 Cordless 4-Tool Combo 2694-24 Kit
Milwaukee 2601-20 Drill Build Quality
The M18 Compact Drill Driver from Milwaukee Tools fits nicely in the hand and weighs roughly 3/4 of a pound less than their comparable XC-battery-equipped Hammer Drill. This makes the tool a lot more useful for toting around on a tool belt or lifting above your head for extended use. While a Hammer Drill has some excellent uses, the extra weight is unnecessary if you are primarily doing basic drilling and driving functions.
The tool will look very familiar to any M18 users, sporting Milwaukee’s signature red ABS plastic and black overmold in all the right places. The tool simply will not slip during use, even if your hands are oily and you left your work gloves in the truck. The forward and reverse controls are easy to access with a simple thumb or index finger movement and the top-mounted speed control has a large, durable switch that can easily be controlled when using even thick gloves. We liked the authoritative ratcheting of the clutch system and the tool has plenty of venting, so if you are pushing from behind you won’t block all of the airways and burn up the motor.
In terms of convenience features, the 2601-22 Kit comes with a belt clip (woo-hoo!) and an LED light comes on when depressing the trigger. This is my favorite type of illumination, though I have plenty of friends in the industry who prefer the new bottom-mounted and defeatable switches, since most of their work is done in the daytime or outdoors. Since the light is LED, it really doesn’t deplete the battery all that much, so I think either solution is acceptable and it’s just a matter of choice for the end-user.
Changing bits was a breeze, though we didn’t particularly care for the all-plastic chuck sleeve. It won’t take long for that to get dinged up pretty good during the course of a project. The speed of the Compact Drill Driver and its available speed made it a pretty impressive tool overall, with a balanced feel that drove the weight of the tool straight down the handle – where it should be.
In looking at the included M18 Lithium-ion batteries, you can immediately note that you’re going to have a lot less run-time, due to their difference in capacity. What you gain, however, is less weight, so this tool is perfect for heavier-duty overhead use and jobs where you’re going to be using the tool for extended sessions of drilling or driving.
Milwaukee 2601-20 Drill Testing and Use
We bench-tested the M18 Compact Drill Driver and found its “no-load” Low speed to be around 320rpm. Our laser tachometer clocked the “no load” High speed at 1230 RPM. Between the two measurements we found they averaged around 10% below the manufacturers numbers. Noise output was actually pretty high and we measured a full 96 dB SPL in our standard 3-foot outdoor test at no load and at full speed.
We used this Compact Drill Driver on several jobs. One included building a children’s outdoor playset. The job entailed a lot of drilling and driving into decking boards and dimensional lumber. Despite sending an entire day with the tool, we only used up one standard battery, even though we drove what seemed like dozens of screws and lag bolts into pressure treated wood. This is a testimony to the tool, but also to the battery technology Milwaukee employs in its M18 line. This seems to be a common theme with these tools – they last through the job, recharge quickly, and get the job done. We also lined up some tests to drive 6″ lag bolts into multiple pieces of PT lumber in a rapid-fire series of tests designed to see if the tool bogs down under heavy use. Let’s just say that my wrist hurt from the torque and the tool seemed none the worse for wear. In all cases, the 2601-22 did a bang-up job and held itself together. The tool doesn’t get overly hot and the battery tends to drop off suddenly, rather than wind down (a refreshing attribute of Lithium-ion over Ni-Cad).
The Milwaukee M18 Compact Drill Driver fits nicely into a niche where you want power and portability. This isn’t the most powerful drill the company makes, nor will it work well for concrete or serious-duty drilling. For that you’ll want to step up to the heavier duty products. But for serious work that will be better served with a lighter tool, this is your ticket. Build quality is decent, though there isn’t a ton of metal on the surface of this tool, and the overall feel of the drill makes it very comfortable to use. For this, we gave it a performance rating of 7/10. The tool isn’t cheap, and with a lot of competition in this area we still feel Milwaukee is an above-average value, giving it a value rating at 7. We can easily recommend this tool for both home and professional users.