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Tired of lugging that 18V monster drill/driver around just to drive small screws and assemble stuff? Bosch’s PS20 sub-compact driver has provided an alternative for the last few years, but it’s seen little competition.

Until now. Milwaukee’s new sub-compact is similar in size and claims slightly better specs. But we needed to see it – and put it to the test in the Toolmonger shop — to believe it. Read on past the jump to see how it fared.


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Inside the Milwaukee’s shipping box we found a pretty sturdy-looking soft case with room to hold the drill, two batteries, and the charger. There’s also a little extra space that could hold, say, a couple of small boxes of screws, a drill bit set, or some fastener bits. If you leave the charger at home, you might fit all three inside.


The lights on the front of the Milwaukee’s charger are labeled only with pictograms, but a quick look in the manual explained that the charger’s red light is on while the unit is charging, and it flashes when the battery is too hot to charge. A solid green light indicates that the battery is fully charged, and an alternating green-red means that the battery is unchargeable (read: kaput).


Our test driver shipped with a battery in it, and though the instructions require a full charge before use our battery indicator displayed half a charge – and the driver had enough juice out of the box to drive screws.


The driver itself features a quick-release bit collar, which Milwaukee claims provides “true one-handed operation.” What this means is that you don’t have to hold the collar out to insert the bit. When you pull the collar out, it stays out, only snapping closed when you push in a bit. Pulling the collar forward causes it to forcefully eject the bit. Result: you don’t have to hold the collar with one hand while you insert or remove the bit with the other.


A fuel gauge on the side of the driver – as opposed to on the battery-like larger drivers – indicates battery charge via four red LEDs when you slightly depress the trigger.

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The Milwaukee is roughly the same size as the PS20 but has a slightly larger battery and is about an inch longer; however, if they weren’t standing side by side it’s difficult to tell the difference in their dimensions. Like the PS20, the Milwaukee also includes an LED worklight that illuminates a small area around the collar.
Read on to page two for our in-use experiences.

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23 Responses to Hands-On: Milwaukee’s 12V Sub-Compact Driver Drill

  1. Koba says:

    As soon as Milwaukee sells a sub-compact impact, I’ll be buying both. So few people underrate the one handed bit changing, dealing with quick connects can be very aggravating.

  2. McBeardsalot says:

    I was wondering if Toolmonger wouldn’t put together a comprehensive lsit of all these sub-compact drill/drivers. Now with Milwaukee in the mix that makes at least six I can think of off the top of my head including Bosch, Skil, Hitchi, Dewalt, Makita, and Milwaukee. I know there are other players they just aren’t pooping into my head right now. Does anybody have some experince with these different styles. I’m looking to get my little brother one, as he’s moving out on his own into his first aprtment and needs something small but useful.


  3. fred says:

    We are still big fans of our older Makita 12 volt impact drivers (6914’s) which we think have the right combination of light weight and power. When we bought these in 2003 – we had a number of skeptics who thought that we were going backwards (18V down to 12V) and they would never have enough power. No only have 9 of the 12 we bought still perform (the other 3 may be performing in someone else’s light fingers) – but we now probably use impact drivers more than we use drills.

  4. My Makita 18v lithium-ion impact driver is 2.9lbs vs. the 2.0lbs of this thing, so it’s not like there’s a huge weight penalty for the higher power tools now that lith-ion batteries are common. It’s fine for a full day of overhead work and puts out a _lot_ of punch.

    The Makita is way too powerful for some stuff, though, so my PS-20 still sees some use.

  5. Jason says:

    McBeardsalot Says: I know there are other players they just aren’t pooping into my head right now.

    I know that was just a typo but my six year old would think it was hilarious. So do I.


  6. bc says:

    If they had a light or some other tool I may consider it… right now I use the Panasonic 14.4v ion (w. the extra light). Hands down the best / most advanced drill. No brushes, runs cooler, super light….

  7. Pavel says:

    If you will do the comparative review some day – don’t forget about Metabo. Its PowerMaxx LI and (older, with NiCad, but great if you like your batteries to last 30 years before replacement) PowerMaxx and PowerGrip2 are great little devices. I have the original PowerMaxx and it’s one of my favorite tools. Here’s the link: http://www.metabo.com/PowerMaxx-LI.20962.0.html
    Sure, it’s only 7.2V 2.2Ah – but that’s more than enough for most tasks. Would be great to see how it compares…

  8. Mike says:

    I bought one of these a while ago to replace a 9.6v craftsman drill that I usually used a a power screwdriver. I chose it over the Bosch because of the battery indicator but it hasn’t been necessary given that lasts so long and charges so quickly. It’s powerful and reliable due to the Li-Ion batteries but small enough that I carry it in my tool bag and use it pretty much daily even if only to speed up small jobs. To my surprise though, it also took the place of my 18v for most jobs just ’cause it’s always with me and always charged. — Anyway, not much there than you couldn’t already tell from the review but I just wanted to throw in my two cents.

  9. Almurph says:

    Ridgid recently came out with a litium ion sub compact driver with a 3/8 inch chuck. I woould like to see how this compares to the options (eg. makita, bosch, skil…)


  10. mike t says:

    The only thing this has on the bosch is the one handed chuck, thats a really nice feature, especially for drilling and stuff. For driving i use the small magnetic bits in a holder so it wouldnt make a difference.

    I bet you that bosch is coming out with a 10.8Led flashlight and a 10.8Cualking gun and that i will buy them both!!

  11. Mike says:

    I think it’s the one handed chuck is probably more useful than the battery guage. What the Bosch has on the Milwaukee, though, is that they’ve proven that they will expand the line. Especially after Bosch is offering a ps20 as a rebate with the purchase of a ps40, it makes me really anxious to see what Milwaukee comes out with. A mini recip or even just a LED light would be a pretty good start. I like the tool but I bought it on faith that they would add some other tools to the line.

  12. Mike says:

    (I wish I could go back and correct my typos) – Like Almurph said, I’d like to see a review of the Ridgid model. It does have a real chuck but felt kind of cheap. Not to say that it actually is cheap, I just can’t tell.

  13. Aaron says:

    I got to demo this at the local Grainger store and it’s very impressive. By the way, if anyone lives in the Richmond VA area, Milwaukee is doing a tool and trade show at the local Grainger on June 11th. Many of the tool companies will be there showing off their latest and greatest

  14. Javier says:

    Is it really fair to compare this to the Bosch, yeah it has more torque and lasts longer but like the review points out, it is an inch longer and has a slightly bigger battery. I put one in my hand at home depot and it just felt bigger. If they would have got more power than the Bosch without going bigger then I truly would have been sold. I like the compact size of the Bosch and if your going to call them pocket drivers, then every inch should count.

  15. Henrik says:

    For the guy that is asking for a Bosch 10.8 volt LED Flashlight, we have had them here in europe for a while, so they might make it to the states soon:


  16. PutnamEco says:

    Javier Says:
    …if your going to call them pocket drivers…
    I hope, even though you call them pocket drivers, none of you all would be so careless as to actually carry one in your pants pocket. Picture if you will, the driver accidentally turning on in your pocket, the bit grabbing hold of a piece of your pants and tightening, with you unable to withdraw it from your pocket or get it to stop turning. Could really hurt if it decides to head for your leg, not to mention how tight your pants might get. I don’t know about you, but I’ve got stuff in my pants that I would not care to have crushed.

  17. hjablomy says:

    “pocket driver” usually means that you can leave it in your toolbelt pocket, not your pants pocket. besides, you can lock the trigger so I have left it in my pants pocket without a bit in it of course.

    I bought this one a few months ago, it is awesome and I only wish I could take it to work (union bulls**t) if at least to prove to my foreman that I could carry it with me at all times and never really be without a driver (looking for stuff takes up so much time!)

  18. Farrier-Dave says:

    I bought one of these a month ago. I work for a concrete company building suspended slabs and forms (Cribbing is hard on tools) and have used Makita, Bosch, Dewalt and a few others, I can easily say this is a great tool. Awesome power to weight (half the weight of my Makita), lasts for ever (2 days or more on 2″screws) a handy light for dark nooks and this thing fits almost anywhere you can get your hand (Not so with the Makita or Bosch).
    The only problem is that if you leave it unattended it seems to walk away, I use to save time not having to change batteries and lugging around 6lbs. of drill but now I loose time wandering the site trying to find my drill as many of my coworkers including the boss really like it!
    I would love to see a hammer version. I test drove the Bosch sub-com….not quite as nice. More torque, better chuck and well I like red.
    5 out of 5
    P.S. buy the Acc. kit for $30 its worth it as you need locking hex bits.

  19. Marshall Good says:

    Milwaukee needs to design a matching cordless impact with a 1/4″ or 3/8″ drive and then put together a kit with this drill, the impact, batteries, flashlight, and charger in a plastic hard case. This is a thing I would buy.

  20. Rod Overton says:

    Bought one of these 12-12-07. Used it all the time. up till the trigger went bonkers. Always thought it felt cheap. Now I’m told that it’ll be middle to end of February, before a replacement part will be available. This is crap. If Milwaukee can’t do better than that for service. I’ll be replacing with bosch. They have a 12v driver now also.

  21. JOHN CANNON says:

    Id like every one here to know that milwaukee is owned by T.T.I., which also owns rigid & ryobi, so if the quality isnt there, now you’ll know why. I sell tools for a living, and personally have had great success with the Makita cordless line up. You should check em out

  22. George E. Perry says:

    I bought the Milwaukee M12 drill driver, the only problem I have is replacing the battery. It is the hardest battery to remove. At some point it feels impossible to get off. The battery locks don’t compress enough to get them to release, so you can pull the battery out. Other than that this is one of the best tools I have in my cordless driver sets and I have many.

  23. Ernest Crossman says:

    I have a drill an impact a recip and a flashlight. I have used the riged,bosh,firestorm,dewalt,I wouldn’t have used a Milwaukee for anything until they came out with the mini line. Nothing holds up or lasts as well as they do day in day out. I still have the first they made, it is single speed and slow but I have had i8 years and it still works. I am an hvac tech and installer and lots of times people laugh at my tools when they first see them. Then I go to work. I will by the rest one piece at a time. For someone that uses tools all day long every day they can’t be beat. From being a construction worker 30+ years I can tell you something else as well. I see more old Milwaukee tools than anything else. I just don’t like their power tools. Their cordless seem to be as well built and baitteries last me about two years not bad for a tool that I drag into 130-160 degree attics all summer long. 🙂

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