What’s your take on brushed motor cordless power tools today? Do you even look at cordless tools that aren’t engineered with brushless motors?
Shown above is a brushless motor from one of Dewalt’s 20V Max premium 3-speed cordless hammer drill. I toured one of Dewalt’s then-new converted manufacturing and assembly facilities back in 2015, and a lot has happened since then.
Brushless tools are commonplace today, and even inexpensive.
I recently posted about the new Milwaukee M18 cordless finish sander, and some readers had particularly harsh words about it.
Basically, a lot of end users are automatically dismissing the new M18 sander, just because it’s not part of the M18 Fuel lineup, and because it presumably has a brushed and not brushless motor.
I asked Milwaukee to clarify the type of motor, but have not yet heard back.
A different brand came out with a new cordless power tool a couple of months ago, and while it was not advertised as a brushless tool, and didn’t have any obvious markings, I later learned it was engineered with a brushless motor.
To me, this suggested that brushless tech had become so ubiquitous that it sometimes isn’t even emphasized as a feature.
But, should all cordless power tools feature brushless motors?
On one hand, brushed motors are less expensive. They’re also simpler. On the other hand, brushless motors offer greater efficiency, which usually means more power for the size, longer runtime, or a combination of these factors. Also, heavily used brushless tools will never need replacement brushes.
When talking about core tools, brushed motors are usually a cost-cutting measure. Premium drills, circular saws, reciprocating saws, angle grinders, blowers, vacuums, and other such tools should have brushless motors.
That’s not to say that brushed motor tools aren’t good, because they can be, but brushless motors generally make such tools perform better and last longer.
But what about something like a 1/4 sheet finish sander?
When talking about circular saws, brushed saws often max-out with a 6-1/2″ blade size, and brushless saws go to 7-1/4″ and beyond.
But what’s compromised here, with this finish sander?
Assuming it has a brushed motor, would a brushless motor make this better?
If it were designed as a brushless motor, would there be any compromises there? Would the difference in price be more than it would cost to get an extra compact battery?
It’s okay to be critical of tools, but automatically rejection seems harsh.
Would you rather have a brushless drill or a brushed one? What if the brushless drill was Greenworks’ weak 24V model, and the brushed was an older Dewalt, Milwaukee, Makita, Bosch, or Metabo?
We’re at a point where *brushless* can be a feature or flashy marketing.
When the cordless power tool industry moved to Li-ion battery tech, it wasn’t long before there were no reasons to buy NiCad or NiMH tools anymore.
The same isn’t yet true for brushed vs. brushless motor tech.
Does the new Milwaukee M12 cable stapler have a brushless motor? Is that important?
Dewalt’s 20V Max 7-1/4″ cordless miter saw came out 7 years ago. Has a brushless upgrade been necessary?
Milwaukee’s M18 5″ ROS came out 4 years ago, and it was said to be capable of lasting up to 35 minutes with an XC 3.0Ah battery. The sander is well-regarded. So what’s there to worry about with the new 1/4 sheet finish sander?
Back then, I said in my post:
I wonder what the runtime specs look like, and why this isn’t boasting a brushless motor. I’m thinking that maybe they’ll see how well this sander sells, and if it does well, maybe we’ll see a brushless 6″ sander.
I’m of course curious why the new finish sander also doesn’t have a brushless motor, but that doesn’t automatically make it a bad tool.
If a brushless motor is important to you, look at competing brands’ offerings.
To me, it’s not usually a “make or break” feature.
Don’t lose sight of the big picture. I’ve seen reviewers do teardowns and complain about the size of wire gauge that’s used inside a tool. While the type of motor is a more significant part of a tool’s design, it’s still just a part of the story.
It’s okay to be critical about a tool’s design or engineering choices. And, it’s perfectly rationale to knock a tool for featuring a brushed motor instead of brushless.
Are we at the point where it’s fair to harshly judge tools nobody has even tried yet, solely based on the type of motor?
I’d say yes, but on a case by case basis.
For something like the new M18 sander, I believe that Milwaukee knows what they’re doing. I’m sure they have reasons outside of pricing considerations, and their 5″ random orbit sander has already made the case that cordless sanders don’t need to feature premium brushless motors.
We’ll have to revisit this in a few years, but as of mid-2022, brushed-motor tools are still relevant, at least in certain product categories.