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Milwaukee M18 2631-20 Review

This 7 1/4" saw delivers professional quality cuts without a cord tying you down
Milwaukee M18 2631-20
Credit: amazon.com
Editors' Choice Award
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Price:   $179 List | $179.99 at Amazon
Pros:  Powerful motor, long-lasting battery, good shoe design
Cons:  Heavy, expensive, so-so bevel design
Manufacturer:   Milwaukee
By Nick Miley and Austin Palmer  ⋅  Dec 19, 2019
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76
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#1 of 11
  • Ease of Use - 50% 6
  • Cutting - 30% 10
  • Battery - 20% 8

Our Verdict

The 7 1/4" Milwaukee M18 is a professional quality saw that removes any doubt whether a cordless circular saw can do the work of its corded counterparts. This machine can make full-depth crosscuts with ease and rip hundreds of feet of plywood on a single charge of its 5 amp-hour battery. Additionally, the accurate and easy to adjust shoe means that the cuts this model makes will be precise. While the saw is among the heaviest in the class, it comes equipped with a rafter hook so that you can keep it close at hand without bearing the weight.

Compare to Similar Products

 
Milwaukee M18 2631-20
Awards Editors' Choice Award Editors' Choice Award Best Buy Award Top Pick Award Top Pick Award 
Price $179 List
$180 at Amazon
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Overall Score Sort Icon
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Pros Powerful motor, long-lasting battery, good shoe designSuper long-lasting battery, easy to adjust shoe, powerful motorLong-lasting battery, good sightlines, inexpensiveEasy to change blade, reliable cutting power, lever actuated shoe adjustmentsVery inexpensive, light-weight, accurate sightlines
Cons Heavy, expensive, so-so bevel designNo positive stops, imprecise sightlines, so-so blade removalSo-so cutting power, no positive stops, fiddly bevel adjustmentsAverage battery life, poor sightlines, no positive stopsShort battery life, limited cutting power, difficult to change blades
Bottom Line This 7 1/4" saw delivers professional quality cuts without a cord tying you downLike the Energizer bunny, this efficient, mid-sized model has a battery that just won't quitA capable and inexpensive saw that is perfect for handy homeowners and DIYersThis 6 1/2" saw is mighty when it comes to cutting powerThis light-duty machine will appeal to novices and pros looking for an inexpensive trim saw
Rating Categories Milwaukee M18 2631-20 Kobalt KCS 6524B-03 SKIL CR540601 Makita XSS02Z BLACK+DECKER BDCCS20B
Ease Of Use (50%)
6.0
5.0
5.0
4.0
5.0
Cutting (30%)
10.0
8.0
5.0
8.0
2.0
Battery (20%)
8.0
10.0
9.0
6.0
1.0
Specs Milwaukee M18 2631-20 Kobalt KCS 6524B-03 SKIL CR540601 Makita XSS02Z BLACK+DECKER BDCCS20B
Blade Side Right Right Left Left Left
Blade Size (inches) 7.25 in 6.5 in 6.5 in 6.5 in 5.5 in
Brushless Motor? Yes Yes No No No
Blade Brake? Yes Yes Yes No Yes
Bevel Positive Stops? No No No No No
Linear Feet of 3/4" Plywood Cut per Charge 298 ft 360 ft 324 ft 220 ft 52 ft
Measured Weight w/o Battery 7.7 lbs 6.6 lbs 5.8 lbs 6 lbs 4.6 lbs
Measured Max Depth of Cut w/ Framing Blade (inches) 2-9/32 in 2-3/16 in 1-15/16 in 2-1/16 in 1-1/2 in
6x12" Cross Cutting Time 4.2 sec 4 sec 6.6 sec 5.3 sec 11.1 sec
Rafter Hook? Yes No No No No
Battery Used in Testing (Amp hours) 5 Ah 4 Ah 5 Ah 5 Ah 1.5 Ah

Our Analysis and Test Results

In many ways, the 7 1/4" Milwaukee M18 is in a league of its own in the cordless circular saw world. Its adjustments and controls are accurate and easy to access. Its cutting power is top-notch, and it has one of the better battery lives that we have seen in the circular saw market. This hearty machine will satisfy both the active DIYer as well as the professional who is used to the performance of a plug-in circular saw.

Performance Comparison


Credit: Ian Pearman

Ease of Use


If there is any place to be critical of the Milwaukee M18 it is in the ease of use analysis. Before laying into this saw for its design shortcomings, it should first be said that this model is rated well above average for the class, we just feel that all the saws that we reviewed could improve in this area. With that in mind, let's get into the details.


The ease of use metric is an evaluation of how the user interacts with the product. Specifically, we look at how adjustments are made for cutting depth and angle; how accurate are the markings on the shoe. Does the bevel have positive stops? Are the sightlines that guide the user through the cut easy to see and accurate. Finally, we look at the ease of blade changes, and we weigh the saw.

While the Milwaukee M18 has a sturdy shoe with clearly marked, accurate settings, we've seen better set-ups. The M18 lacks positive stops at common cut angles and the 22.5˚ marker that is needed for more technical work. Finally, we found the blade swapping process more difficult than it needs to be, and the saw was a little on the heavy side. On the bright side, the M18's design allows for quick and easy access to the shoe's adjustment knobs. The sightlines are easy to see, and they promote accurate cuts. Additionally, the M18 has one of the deepest cutting depths.

A sturdy shoe with clearly marked measurements greatly effects cut...
A sturdy shoe with clearly marked measurements greatly effects cut outcomes These features contribute to the saw's ease of use rating.
Credit: Ian Pearman

Cutting


There is a lot to consider when picking out a circular saw, but cutting is the easiest of all these considerations to understand and mark out as a good or bad performance. There can be no mistake, the M18 sets the bar in this evaluation as our testers all agreed that it felt consistent and powerful when sawing through demanding lumber. In a more objective observation, the speed at which the Milwaukee made cuts is at the top of the class. This machine brings high torque and high RPMs to bare when turning its 7 1/4" blade through lumber.


Our cutting tests consist of three basic assessments: full-depth, 12" crosscuts of both hard and softwood, and rips down the length of a 10' 2x12" softwood plank. These cuts are made by each tester, and the times are averaged. The idea is not to assess the quality of the cut — that's addressed in the ease of use metric — but rather the power that the saw's motor has to punch the blade through demanding tasks. By this measure, the M18 is a beast, making 10' long rips in 34 seconds and making full depth crosscuts of a 6x12" softwood header in just over 4 seconds. In other words, this saw cranks it out in much the same fashion as a plug-in worm drive machine.

The Milwaukee M18 is all business, cutting through 2x12" lumber like...
The Milwaukee M18 is all business, cutting through 2x12" lumber like a warm knife through butter.
Credit: Ian Pearman

Battery


In the end, it all comes down to the power supply. Without a good battery, it really doesn't matter how easy the saw is to use or how powerful the motor is because the frustration of having to fetch fresh batteries from the charger will out-weigh these benefits. So, considering the high-end performances that the M18 delivered in the previous metrics, it's a good thing that it has a robust 5 amp-hour battery that will keep making cuts one right after the other.

The Milwaukee M18 doesn't rest on its laurels. It will make cut upon...
The Milwaukee M18 doesn't rest on its laurels. It will make cut upon cut of 3/4" for 298 linear feet on a single battery charge.
Credit: austin palmer

Our battery tests are straightforward but revealing. We take a 3/4" sheet of plywood and mark out a series of 1/4" rips. We then plug a fully charged battery into the saw and proceed to make one cut after another until the saw dies. We use a jig to ensure the cut doesn't wonder and that the drain on the battery is uniform across all the saws being tested. The Milwaukee cut 298 linear feet of plywood before giving up the ghost. As an additional bonus, the battery discharge didn't taper at all — one second the saw was running at full speed and the next it wasn't.


Value


While the Milwaukee M18 is certainly not an inexpensive tool, it is a quality one. We find the value of this saw to be relative to one's need for the pro-level performance it delivers. If you are going to be putting the saw to work frequently on demanding tasks, then the value increases because it won't let you down. However, if the saw will be used infrequently on DIY projects around the house, then one's need for such a tool will decrease and with it the value. That said, this tool is a great investment if you plan on doing more and larger projects in your free time as it will stand up to whatever you throw at it over the years.

Conclusion


The Milwaukee M18 is a professional-caliber 7 1/2" circular saw. This machine has a powerful motor and many of the ease of use features that promote high-quality cuts. This saw also has a long-lasting 5 amp-hour battery that can rip hundreds of feet of plywood. Our only critiques are that this performance comes at a premium and that the shoe design lacked some features that make technical cuts easier to achieve. That said, this machine is as close to an ideal saw as we could find.

Nick Miley and Austin Palmer