Milwaukee M18 2836 vs DeWalt 20V DCS356 Multi-tool

Multi-tools use a variety of attachments in an oscillating motion for sanding, cutting, and scraping. They are commonly used to remove grout, trim door jambs, cut nails, notch out drywall and wood, etc. A great addition to any pro kit.

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When I heard the new Milwaukee M18 FUEL multi-tool model 2836 was plunge cutting faster than the DeWalt DCS356 I had to check it out for myself. Not only did I find it plunged faster, it sanded faster too, a lot faster.

Quick Specs

Both tools have brushless motors, a work light, a tool-less blade change, and a top speed of 20k oscillations per minute (OPM). With a 5amp hr battery the Milwaukee weighs 4.3 lbs. vs. the DeWalt’s 3.6 lbs. The Milwaukee costs more retailing for $229 compared to the DeWalt at $129. Both can be found on sale for less.

The DeWalt 356 uses a variable speed trigger with three speed settings: 0-13K OPM, 0-17K OPM and 0-20K OPM. All three can be locked on high.

The Milwaukee 2836 uses an on/off switch and a variable speed dial that goes from 10-20K OPM. It also has an Auto setting the starts slow and then ramps to full speed under load. An issue with the Auto is half the time it jumps to 10 abruptly before ramping up. I’ve tried three of these and they all did it.

Speed

To test the new Milwaukee I ran it against the DeWalt DCS356 and my 3 amp corded Makita. I ran all three at their top speed of 20K OPM, all had new blades, and both cordless tools had fully charged 5 amp hr batteries.

In the plunge test the Milwaukee cut like a reciprocating saw, posting an amazing 18 second time. It cleared dust much better than the others and seemed to maintain the highest speed under load. The Dewalt especially requires a lot of push and pull to clear dust so it can dig deeper.

On nails, copper pipe, and 1×6″ wood trim they were all pretty close.

But the M18 sanded the paint off of a section of baseboard 2x faster than the DeWalt.

And see below how the Milwaukee pulled up this 1/2” engineered maple flooring with 18GA staples every few inches twice as fast as my DeWalt DCS355, which performs the same as the DCS356.

So it’s not just a few seconds faster as many have commented on my YouTube channel. It’s hours faster. It’s less back, knee and neck pain faster.

Vibration

worker holding dewalt multi tool

The Milwaukee has a looser battery that the DeWalt (the terminals float more than the DeWalt) but it still has less vibration. That said, the DeWalt’s vibration is also good, unless you hold it by the pistol grip, in which case it has about 3x the vibration of the Milwaukee and corded Makita.

Control

The Milwaukee grip is much easier to use than the DeWalt giving the Milwuakee better control. The Dewalt grip is cluttered up by the blade change handle and the variable speed trigger.

During my years using the DeWalt the cluttered handle and excessive grip vibration kept me from using it one handed in situations where I previously used my corded Makita one handed. Now that I’m on the Milwaukee I find myself using it one handed again.

Some people have an issue with the location of the Milwaukee speed dial but I prefer it because it makes it easier to change the speed when using the tool one handed. I do accidentally hit it sometimes but it’s easy enough to avoid when it matters.

Blade Change

The Milwaukee blade change is fast but the DeWalt is faster for universal (open end) accessories.

For closed end accessories the DeWalt adapter is a washer and bolt that requires a hex wrench. So it’s not a tool-less blade change for your starlocks etc. And the washer’s face pins don’t line up with the holes of any accessories I’ve tried. It’s pretty much a joke and you’re going to want to stick with universals, which I find easier to use anyway.

The Milwaukee will take pretty much any accessory from universal to Starlock with no adapter needed. That means you get the best selection to choose from as universals aren’t always the best choice. For example, good luck finding a universal sanding pad with through holes for dust clearance.

Cut Quality

The chuck (blade attachment point) on the Milwaukee has a lot more play than the DeWalt. This introduces blade wander so it’s easier to cut straight lines with the DeWalt. That said, I’m able to get the same straight fine cuts from both.

THAT SAID, I generally use shoed or tabled saws for fine cuts.

Bottom Line

The Milwuakee cuts like a reciprocating saw and sands like an orbital, which is a huge improvement over the DeWalt. I also prefer the feel and control of the Milwaukee grip, 100%. I’ve been running the M18 on DeWalt batteries through an adapter for months now and let me tell you, if you’re a pro, the Milwuakee is worth the extra $100. Plus $25 for an adapter if you don’t run Milwaukee batteries.

If you will only use the tool here and there, and want something cheaper that requires less skill to use, the DeWalt may be the way to go.

Buy the Milwaukee 2836-20 via Home Depot

Check out this review to see these tools in action.

Hey, I'm Alex and I love tools. Having worked in carpentry and as a painting contractor I have a great appreciation for tool innovation. The freedom of cordless is amazing. These days, when not traveling with my wife Zhou, I remodel houses and write tool reviews. Enjoy the website. :)

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