A few weeks ago we wrote about Milwaukee’s new line of tape measures. Milwaukee’s new measuring tapes (tape measures, tape rules, call them what you will), are engineered with longevity in mind, but are nonetheless based off of the same design concepts that have changed little over the years.
Tape measures, which as you know come on many different sizes, shapes, and styles, are heavily used at jobsites, home workshops, and commercial settings.
I have begun testing Milwaukee’s new 25-foot magnetic tape measure and couldn’t resist the chance to compare it to Dewalt’s flagship 25-foot tape measure.
Milwaukee 48-22-5125, 25-foot magnetic tape measure, $25 via Home Depot. (Not-magnetic models and additional styles and sizes are coming soon – our Milwaukee tape measure preview includes an availability schedule.)
Dewalt DWHT33385L, 25-foot tape measure, $25 via Home Depot, $27 via Amazon
Main Selling Points
Milwaukee: tough nylon blade protection, durable case, large magnetic hook, finger-stop, vertical markings and architectural scale on back of blade.
Dewalt: 13-foot blade standout, large blade hook, Mylar blade coating, 3M plastic film helps protect first few inches of blade from damage.
Blade Lock Design
The ability to stop the blade with your finger – safely – gives Milwaukee an edge, but we must look passed that to the lock itself.
Milwaukee: prior to using the tape measure, I was concerned that the blade lock looked a bit smallish. However, I can find the lock quickly and easily by feel, and in practice it’s as comfortable to thumb forward or back as could be.
Dewalt: the blade lock is a little large and bulky for my liking, but is relatively comfortable to use. Dewalt advertises the blade lock as being duo-durometer for comfort and durability, which means it has a soft rubber overmold.
Blade Lock Engagement
Milwaukee: lock engagement is exceptionally good. Once the lock is engaged, pulling or pushing on the blade doesn’t cause it to budge.
Dewalt: lock engagement is generally poor, but passable. Gentle pressure will cause the blade to slip back into the case, and gentle pulling will disengage the lock where it’s largely ineffective. I suppose some users might prefer a lock where you can apply variable friction, but I like a lock that works properly.
It should be noted that I have two tape measure samples that were provided by Dewalt several months apart. The first appears to be an early production model (based on tape color) – and had a much worse locking mechanism that would slip every time. The one described here is a later production model.
Blade Retraction Spring Power/Recoil
I prefer tapes that have strong but gentle springs. I extended both tapes to 3′, 6′, and 10′ three times each and let them retract fully. The Milwaukee tape measure is slightly more gentle, the Dewalt transferred more of the blade retraction impact energy to my hand.
(By a small margin)
I found that both are equally easy to read. The Dewalt has a high-visibility green blade color, and the Milwaukee standard yellow but with high contrast markings. In theory, the Milwaukee tape reflects less glare.
Milwaukee: the nylon-bonded blade (1-1/16″ flat, 15/16″ bent) feels really good and evinces quality. It feels different, sounds different, and according to Milwaukee it will last appreciably longer than competing tapes. The print quality is a little more uniform, but you can only tell from close up.
Dewalt: this blade is a little wider (1-1/4″ flat, 1-1/8″ bent), which some users prefer, and has a plastic coating across the first 6-inches for greater durability. Dewalt and Stanley found that these first few inches are where a lot of blades fail. The Dewalt tape feels like glossy tin foil compared to Milwaukee’s, but so do all other mylar-coated blades.
Although I find myself preferring Milwaukee’s tape, being different does not necessarily make for better quality. Only time will tell whether Milwaukee’s tape design is more durable or not.
Milwaukee claims that their blade has a 9-foot standout. I cannot extend the blade more than 8-1/4 feet without supporting or reinforcing it with my other hand. 7 feet is the practical extension limit, and near 8-feet the standout becomes very unwieldy.
Dewalt claims that their blade has a 13-foot standout. Their tape can be extended to 9 feet comfortably, and even 10 feet without blade deflection. It deflects too much and becomes unwieldy after that, and pops at 12 feet.
Both brands have exaggerated standout claims, but if you need more than ~7-1/2 feet of standout, go with the Dewalt.
Both tapes have oversized blade hooks. Ignoring the magnetic properties of Milwaukee’s tape measure for a moment (Dewalt does not offer a magnetic tape, but Stanley FatMax does), both hooks are thoughtfully-shaped and engineered. Both are shaped to reference materials from top, bottom, or side edges, and both hooks have nail slots.
Comfort & Ergonomics
Milwaukee: I find that this tape measure fits my hands quite comfortable. The soft-overmolded case isn’t overdone and seems to be very carefully designed and engineered. It’s the perfect size for a 25-foot tape measure and has no pressure points.
Dewalt: I actually found this tape to be a bit too large for my hand. It’s only a tiny bit wider than the Milwaukee, but I can feel the difference. The width of the case, size and position of the locking lever, and high blade retraction recoil makes this a less than ideal choice for my medium-sized hands.
(Unless you can’t do without the extra-wide blade.)
Milwaukee: the wire-loop belt hook is a little more difficult to slide onto my belt, but is more secure.
Dewalt: the bent-metal belt hook slips on easier, but is less secure.
(By a small margin, based on preference.)
Milwaukee: Milwaukee says that additional structural fastening points makes for a stronger case.
Dewalt: Dewalt says that their tape measure is “Dewalt Tough”.
(Until one proves to be stronger in practice.)
Scorecard: Milwaukee: 5 | Dewalt: 1 | Tie: 4
Overall, I find myself preferring Milwaukee’s 25-foot tape measure over Dewalt’s. From as objective a standpoint I can muster, both are very high quality tape measures. But tape measures are the kind of tool where subjectiveness and opinions make a world of difference.
With Stanley’s long history producing great tape measures (the PowerLock just hit its 50th anniversary), I wouldn’t have expected anything other than absolute perfection from Dewalt’s flagship tape measure. The Dewalt tape measure is well designed and well built, except for the blade lock, which was exceptionally poor on an early production sample and passable – but still crummy – on a later production model.
By itself, the Dewalt tape measure is better than a lot of the other options on the market. But when compared to Milwaukee’s, the Dewalt falls short in 5/10 categories. 4/9 if we assume the flawed blade lock was another fluke defect. The only area the Dewalt tape measure bests Milwaukee’s is in standout.
I found that both brands’ standout claims were higher than my tests showed, but with its wider blade the Dewalt is controllable past 10 feet, while the Milwaukee limit is between 7 and 8 feet. I anticipate that Milwaukee’s 35-foot tapes might offer greater standout.
I am still working on a full review of the Milwaukee 25-foot tape measure, but I think my mind’s made up. It is very thoughtfully designed and well built. Quite frankly, Milwaukee got everything right, which is surprising given that this is Milwaukee’s first in-house attempt at bringing professional-grade tape measures to market, but not surprising given their recent track record with hand tools. (They made a 25-foot magnetic tape measure a while back, but I don’t believe it was engineered in-house.)
At the end of the day, Milwaukee’s 25-foot magnetic tape measure blows Dewalt’s 25-foot tape measure completely out of the water.
Buy Now(via Home Depot)
Buy Now(via Home Depot)
Buy Now(via Amazon)
Both brands’ tape measures are priced at $25.
Thank you to Dewalt for providing a review sample unconditionally. Review samples are typically given away, donated, or retained for benchmark and comparison purposes. The Milwaukee tape measure was purchased at full retail price from Home Depot.
As a commercial electrician, I am pretty hard on my tapes. They get dropped, they get snagged, they get (ab)used, so replacing them is a common occurrence. I have been using a HUSKY brand 30ft tape for around a year and have no complaints. They are “Guaranteed for Life” so when they break, I take em back to Home Depot, and they give me a new one at no charge. Magnets fall out? take it back, tape breaks? take it back. rivet comes out? take it back… Just my 2 cents…
the huskys are hard to beat the life time warranty is good and the magnets are strong. I do have one big complaint the 16′ tape is metric on one side of the tape which makes it pretty freaking useless to me.. And its not really the metric that makes it horrible its having both on the same tape terrible freaking idea..
after fondling one of the milwaukees in HD this weekend I can say I am switching my 16′ to red.. It felt like a really good unit..
I borrowed a buddies 16′ tape when I misplaced my 30′, I gave it back after the first piece of pipe I tried to measure 🙂 While Metric might be nice for some, I’m stuck in the land of inches and feet
Here in England its nearly impossible to find a tape which doesn’t have both on it, whilst we technically use metric here so work to metric dimensions overall, imperial is a lot easier on the brain and lots of stuff, like doors and ply are still the same imperial size they always were. Personally i use Fisco tapes as they are quite cheap and were English made but they have been bought out by Hultafors who are Swedish i think but they do make some very good tools themselves.
I have the DeWalt 25′ one you covered. I think it’s a great heavy duty tape measure. The largest complaint I have with it is that over sized blade hook. However I only use it if I have to. My goto tape measure is a safety green 16′ Stanley.
Agreed! I’ve been using the Stanley FatMax tape measures for quite a while now and I really like them. I needed a new tape and the hardware store I went to only had the Dewalts. They really aren’t much different with the exception of the hook. Unfortunately, as a result of that hook, I’ve hardly used it since I bought it. I’m still debating how I can cut it off without ruining it…
I have a 16ft version of the new dewalt tapes and really like it. It is In a plastic housing rather than stainless abover but otherwise matches in over molding etc.
I just wanted to note that my dewalt tape lock has two two distinct levels of engagement which I find is really nice. Pushed half way down it is engaged enough to stop the recoils but can easily be manually advanced or retracted and will stay put without pressure. Then if I lock it all the way down it is quite secure against pressure. I like to think if your reviewed model matched this you would’ve noted it, but maybe that is just what you are calling “variable friction” but it certainly works properly if fully engaged.
I don’t know, I’m no pro but I like your stuff. Have a good one.
Agreed with the hook comments above. This is a critically important part of a measuring tape, especially for rough carpenters, who often take long measurements from joints in wood.
I sprung for a Stanley FatMax XTreme a couple years ago due to the claims of a longer standout. Those claims were true, but the hook was so huge that it was unwieldy. Since one of my main tape uses is siding homes, I’m often in positions high in the air attempting to get long lateral measurements. The huge hook on the XTreme resulted in way too many snags, eventually “cracking” the blade—which snapped completely in short order.
Stanley’s “standard” FatMax 25′ has a smaller hook that is much less likely to get snagged. I’ve owned several, and I’ll probably stick with them—but that Milwaukee looks like a potential competitor. I like the extra measurements on the bottom of the tape. I’ll have to take a good look at the hook before I spring for one, though.
I’d be curious to see the FatMax XTreme that you had. I had a couple of those a few years ago (I think I still have a couple of them) and they all had the same hook as the standard FatMax.
Fat Max Xtreme hook
Regular FatMax hook
I guess mine must have been an older version. That looks like the same hook as the Dewalts.
Thing with tape measures it’s all personal preference… The Dewalt and the The larger hook fits perfect on tool bets and fits tight atleast on the best I use, the longer standout is the best for carpenter’s and framers etc…. going from joist to joist.
The tape I use though kinda has a lock similar to the dewalt with like variable friction which allows me to move it a bit when need be
Best tape going and still in white easy to read and not a busy tape at all for us older people .. Personal preference I guess White not yellow and Light to carry around in the shop all day . .
LUFKIN 1″ x 16′ Black Max Tape Measure
Paul, I personally have a American made vintage Lufkin tape that is easily 40 years old and is still as legible as this was seemingly day one. But I also own a American made Wilde 25 inch tape measure as well, which in contrast to the Lufkin, has yellow tape compared to the white tape.
Having used both of them, including my American made Lufkin mini tape, I can definitely see where you are coming from with how it’s easier to see with tapes that are white, compared to the standard yellow color.
But when I recently bought the USA made Lufkin tape and Wilde tape, I considered most, if applicable of what Stuart’s criteria was, but also a factor that is likely not important to most people. This factor is country of origin. As I said earlier, most people don’t care about this information, but I digress and state I do.
The Milwaukee also claims a lifetime warranty, but I’m guessing you’d have to send it back to them or take it a warranty/repair facility if there’s one close to you.
It’s obvious from the statements above everyone has their own favorites, and that’s human nature. The Milwaukees are so new very few people own one, so no on can comment on them directly, instead just talking about what they already use. Give it a few years and that’ll change.
Stanley and Dewalt tools typically need to be shipped back for warranty/replacement assessment as well.
Everyone does have their favorites, which is why I tried to emphasize the subjective nature of my assessment. In terms of 25-foot tapes, this Milwaukee has become my clear favorite. I might even pick up a 16-foot model as well, once the non-magnetic version hits the market.
I’m not really surprised. I think Milwaukee has been really hitting their tools out of the park in the last few years while Dewalt has tended to produce a bunch of “me too” sorts of products. Dewalt makes great stuff, I guess it just seems like Milwaukee has been trying to make innovations for the tradesman instead of just marketing the crap out of the color yellow.
Dewalt’s tape measure’s are great, I never bought one but when I’m ready to buy a 30 dollar tape measure I’m getting a Dewalt… This review is totally subjective and all depends what your after in your specific tape measure… Both are good, but buy what fits you and your needs best…
The DeWALT Premium tape is built for the pro and for guys working on the job alone, great standout is king. The Milwaukee tape will prematurely fail because the opening at the bottom will allow dirt and water inside. The coating on the blade doesnt matter if the spring dries up. I find the Milwaukee nylon coating to be particularly noisy and obnoxious when retracting. The case feels cheap and chachki and the lock kept popping loose when I pulled on the blade. For those who commented above on the big hook from DeWALT, use a Fatmax or a Fatmax Magnetic since that is the only tape with a True Zero reading and you can take the magnet off if you want. The other brands are not as accurate.
Any chance you work for Dewalt?
This is the first comment you left using that email address, you spelled Dewalt by their official brand name, DeWALT, and you referenced the Fatmax Magnetic tape with their “True Zero” marketing description.
Or you could be a well-informed enthusiast.
In any case, you’re right about the Milwaukee tape being noisy. I didn’t experience any slippage of the lock, but cannot say the same for the two Dewalt tapes I tested.
The Dewalt is a good tape measure, but in my opinion not as great as the Milwaukee. Time will tell if the Milwaukee tape suffers from high wear and damage due to ingress of contaminants through the bottom opening. I don’t think that will happen, but don’t have the means to do accelerated durability testing.
Stuart, it’s interesting you suggest that a comment is made by a dewalt employee, when every page on this site has a Milwaukee banner ad.
Take a look at the time stamps. These comments, and the post, were published 14 months ago, long before this month’s ad went up.
If we enter an advertising relationship with Dewalt, does that mean there is hidden meaning to the one or two times I have had to call out Mulwaukee-affiliated commenters? Of course not.
I don’t tolerate commenting funny business, regardless of the brand.
If a opening lets dirt in would it not also let dirt out? Which really would not guarantee a faster fail rate, just that you could possibly get something inside that would then fall out..
I did not fell cheap in either case..
And how do you surmise the accuracy of these different tapes??
Stuart, I am a different Chris if your wondering lol
I am aware. =)
Stuart: have you reviewed/compared HUSKY tapes at all?
No, not yet. For that matter, I still have a few tapes I bought in the last 3 years that I haven’t reviewed yet.
Stuart – I rennovate houses and I have many friends in the industry. I prefer to research before I buy.
Thanks for the clarification! I’m sorry I had to ask, but at the same time I did give you the benefit of the doubt. I figured there was a 50:50 chance of you being a well-informed pro or enthusiast vs. SBD associate.
I was doing something with the Milwaukee tape last night, and my wife called out from the other room asking what the heck was making that sound. The sound doesn’t bother me a bit, but I can see how some might find it to be intolerable.
I was in the market for a new tape last year and after handling and inspecting them all, I went with the Stanley/Bostitch from Lowes and couldn’t be happier, I’m sure its almost identical to the DeWalt.
I have seen the milwaukee and it looks and feels like a great tape measure, but I already have the DeWalt and it has worked great and I am partial to the Made in USA of the DeWalt. I know everything milwaukee is chinese made, it may be good quality, but its a chinese made, chinese owned company. At least Stanley Black and Decker is an American company. Call me bias.
I was given a Milwaukee 25′ tape by a Tool Rep. I like the features they told me about which are the wire hook (doesn’t wear out pants pockets like the normal clips on other tapes) The flexibility of the tape (the Rep tied it in a knot to show how flexible it is without breaking) but, the reality is that when you extend the tape out horizontally on a vertical surface to get a measurement, the blade rolls when only extended a couple of feet. The big hook claims are great, but the reality is that it is too heavy for the tape when trying to measure horizontally on vertical surfaces. I do a lot of miter work where you need to be able to lock the tape and leave the case end while you go to the hook end to make sure it is exactly at the mark then return to the case end and mark for your cut. The Milwaukee tape will not stand on it’s own unless the case is on a perfectly level surface. The problem could be solved by making the finger guard a little more square on the bottom edge. There are a lot of things I like about the tape, but there are also a lot of things that I depend on that make it practically non functional for my use.
If I was to give it a rating based on 5 stars it would be 5 stars for quality and 2 stars for functionality.
I am a Milwaukee customer for life but there is one major problem I have with their tape measures. I’m not sure if it is just me but the coating on their tape sounds like nails on a chalk board. Again, it may just be a personal issue but thought I’d throw it out there since it has cause me to not use it if I can help it.
I own both milwaukee 16′ and dewalt 16′ and bought them around same time. I liked each one for it’s own specific uses. I use the big magnetic hook when I am doing that kind of work and use the dewalt when I don’t need the big hook. Both tape locks failed on me within a couple weeks of each other, and they were only about 6 months old. I took them apart. Both tape locks are cheaply made and certainly not made for endurance. So I’m looking for a better made tape!