When Milwaukee introduced the model 2704 second-generation M18 Fuel brushless hammer-drill last summer, the tool promised to deliver more power, a faster top speed, longer runtime, and better protection against overheating than its predecessor while shaving about 1/3 inch off the length. The model 2706 introduced five months later has the same performance specs as the 2704, but adds a Bluetooth module that can pair the tool with most current iOS or Android smartphones via Milwaukee’s free One-Key app, allowing you to customize and keep a virtual eye on the tool. I couldn’t resist giving this souped-up new version a test drive to gauge its overall performance and see if the One-Key feature is worth its $50 premium. The feature is also now available on several other M18 Fuel tools, including a drill/driver, an impact driver, and impact wrenches.
According to the specs, the new 2706 delivers a whopping 1,200 inch-pounds of peak torque and a top speed of 2,000 rpm, while the first M18 Fuel hammer drill, launched three years ago, delivered 725 inch-pounds and 1,850 rpm. I initially figured that this extra muscle would drill bigger holes and drive larger fasteners. Yet both operator’s manuals say the tools can power auger and spade bits up to 1 1/2 inches and hole saws up to 3 inches in diameter in wood; drill 1/2-inch holes in steel or 5/8-inch holes in masonry; and sink 3/8-inch-diameter wood screws. When I asked Milwaukee why these recommendations didn’t change, I was told that the latest M18 Fuel models are designed to complete the same applications faster than the first-generation model, not to drive larger bits and fasteners. That’s good to know.
Before trying the One-Key app, I put the tool through my usual trials. Equipped with a 1 1/2-inch spade bit, it raced through 2-by Douglas fir in about 6 to 10 seconds. It also easily bored holes through the material with a 1 1/2-inch Irwin solid-center auger bit. Next, I exceeded Milwaukee’s recommendations and tried my old Irwin
1 3/4-inch and 2-inch ship-auger bits just to see what would happen. The tool bored these holes, but it did shut itself off a couple of times to prevent overloading, and I started worrying about wrist-snapping kickback. I also easily drilled a hole through the 2-by with a 4 3/4-inch bimetal hole saw (my biggest), but had the same safety concerns. The tool also easily sank Simpson Strong-Tie’s .22-inch by 10-inch Strong-Drive SDWS structural wood screws into an LVL/LSL/PSL sandwich without pilot holes.
According to Milwaukee, equipped with a Milwaukee 1 1/8-inch ship auger and powered by the 5-amp-hour batteries included in the 2706-22 kit that I tested, the tool can drill 112 holes through 2-by Douglas fir in high speed, per charge. I’ll take the company’s word for that. It took me 1 hour and 48 minutes to recharge a depleted battery with the kit’s charger.
Once I completed my initial workout, I downloaded the free One-Key app with my iPhone 6, created an account, logged in, read the included quick-start guide, and explored all of the app’s features. I quickly learned that this app can’t be mastered over a cup of coffee or be thoroughly described in a few paragraphs. If you visit milwaukeetool.com/one-key, though, it’ll walk you through every feature. You’ll also find helpful Milwaukee One-Key tutorials on YouTube.
For starters, One-Key allows you to inventory your tools and equipment so you can efficiently manage purchase information, usage, maintenance, and budgeting from anywhere with an Internet connection. The app can also automatically record when and where it last came within 100 feet of any One-Key compatible tool in your inventory, even with no M18 battery installed. If one of these tools disappears, the app can be set to update its location and alert you when the tool comes within 100 feet of any smartphone that’s using the One-Key app (including another contractor’s phone). Milwaukee tells us that a forthcoming free One-Key update called “Tool Security” will let users lock tools so they will be useless if stolen.
The One-Key app allows you to use your smartphone to create and save up to four custom performance profiles directly into the tool’s memory so you can set the ideal parameters for any drilling or driving application.
Tool weight (with/without side handle): 5.68/5.09 pounds
Length: 7 5/8 inches
Hammer bpm: 0–32,000
Price: $350 (includes two 5-Ah batteries, charger, side handle, belt clip, bit holder, plastic case)
Warranty: 5 years, tool; 3 years, batteries
For me, though, the One-Key feature called “Tool Controls” might be the game-changer. To link this to the hammer drill, you need to install a battery on the tool and rotate the application-selector collar to the wireless symbol. Open the app within about 30 to 50 feet of the tool, tap where required to connect to it, tap “Tool Controls,” and you’re ready to create and save up to four custom performance profiles directly into the tool’s memory. Once you do that, you can use any of the four profiles on the job independent of the app by once again rotating the collar to the wireless symbol and then pushing a button at the base of the tool to select mode 1, 2, 3, or 4. You can use the app to change any of these profiles any time. Rotate the collar to the drill, drive, or hammer-drill symbol instead, and the tool works just like the conventional model 2704.
In a nutshell, Tool Controls allows you to set the maximum rpm desired in low and high gear for particular drilling or driving applications, and to reprogram the electronic clutch to change the 13 default clutch settings on the tool’s torque-selector collar so you can adjust the torque in smaller increments anywhere within the default torque range. For instance, you can shift all 13 settings to the low end and dial into the perfect setting for sinking small and delicate fasteners. This feature works as advertised, though I wouldn’t love using a 5-pound drill to drive lots of small fasteners. You can also set all 13 settings to the same torque level.
Even better, you can reprogram the electronic clutch with the precise sensitivity required to prevent kickbacks when drilling big holes. I tested this feature by starting more holes with my auger bits and hole saws and tipping them slightly until they jammed. After I used the app to incrementally zero in on the ideal torque shutoff level for the task at hand and saved it to the tool, the feature worked perfectly every time for that application.
Finally, you can tap “Hole Saw” in the app and select the diameter of the bimetal hole saw you plan to use and the material you’re cutting (aluminum, mild steel, OSB, stainless steel, or wood). The app sets the ideal cutting speed and tells you whether you need to switch your tool to low gear. According to Milwaukee, when hole-sawing mild steel, you get a 25% increase in runtime without sacrificing speed, and you quadruple hole-saw life. To check the speed claim, I drilled 10 holes with a 4-inch bi-metal hole saw through 20-gauge galvanized sheet metal in low gear at the maximum 550 rpm, and then repeated this exercise after using the app to program the tool for the optimal drilling speed for the job, which turned out to be 367 rpm. It’s a small sample size, but the programmed slower speed actually drilled the holes more than a second faster on average than the higher speed. More significant for me, though, the Hole Saw option also includes kickback control, which can be useful when powering big hole saws.
Tool Controls also lets you adjust the tool’s trigger ramp-up speed, along with the duration and brightness of the LED headlight. You can even set the LED to serve as a flashlight.
THE BOTTOM LINE
As a standalone tool, the new Milwaukee model 2706 is almost identical to model 2704, which means it delivers all the power and speed you need from an 18-volt hammer drill. But the 2706 adds One-Key compatibility, allowing you to use a smartphone to customize its performance, track its location, and more. Unless you manage a big tool crib or do lots of repetitive drilling and driving, many of its features might be overkill. Still, I’d pony up the extra $50 just for One-Key’s anti-kickback control. Milwaukee also promises plenty of updates to the app that might prove to be indispensable.
Bruce Greenlaw is a contributing editor to JLC and Tools of the Trade.