Best Cordless Oscillating Multi-Tools |Head to Head Comparison
Cordless Oscillating Multi-Tool Head to Head Testing
Oscillating Multi-Tools (OMT) have exploded in popularity and created a huge sector of the power tool industry. These versatile tools offer contractors, renovators and DIY’ers a go-to option for a variety of cutting, grinding and sanding applications where limited space is an issue. Recent developments in battery technology have allowed the tool manufacturers to produce cordless OMT’s with similar power and performance to the original corded versions.
We recently evaluated seven cordless models in a head to head testing battle in an effort to help you choose your next cordless OMT. The results of our head to head comparison are based on all day testing by seven carpenters/contractors. The testing involved cutting applications including: cutting plywood, pine trim, and 16d nails. These cutting tests allowed us to evaluate power/speed, precision cutting, noise level, ergonomics and blade change design.
In order to have a relative comparison between models with our cutting evaluation, we opted to use the same blades on all the models. The folks at Bosch were kind enough to supply all of the blades for our OMT head to head testing. We used the following blades in our testing:
- Wood – OSC114 (Precision)
- Hard Wood – OSC114JF (Precision Japanese tooth)
- Wood with Nails – OSC114F (Precision Bimetal)
- Metal – OSC114C (Carbide)
Models Featured In Our OMT Head To Head
- Bosch 18V Multi-X Oscillating Tool, MXH180BL
- DEWALT XR Lithium Ion Oscillating Multi-Tool Kit, DCS355D1
- FEIN MultiMaster Cordless, AFMM 14
- Makita 18V LXT Lithium-Ion Cordless Multi-Tool, XMT03Z
- Milwaukee M18™ Cordless LITHIUM-ION Multi-Tool, 2626-22
- Porter-Cable 20V Max Lithium Oscillating Tool, PCC710
- Ridgid JobMax 18V, R862004
The Bosch MXH180BL is sold as a bare tool in an L-BOXX2 storage container. It also comes with an accessory storage box, and one blade (OSC312F Segment Saw Blade). If you don’t own a Bosch 18V battery pack then you’ll also need to order a battery and charger to go along with this kit.
The MXH180BL offers an EC brushless motor, tool-free blade change design, variable speed dial, and a slider type on/off switch. It’s worth noting that this is one of the models that does not feature a work light. The tool-free blade change system on the Bosch is the simplest and most stream-lined of all the models we tested. It has no need for special blades and has no loose pins/bolts.
You can read our review of it here: Bosch MXH180BL Review
The DEWALT DCS355D1 is sold as a kit in a soft contractor style bag. The kit includes a nice accessory storage box along with a nice assortment of accessories including: DEWALT Oscillating Tool Guide System, wood with nails blade, sanding pad, (25) sheets of sanding paper, and a universal accessory adapter. This kit also comes with a fast charger and one 2.0 Ah 20V Max battery pack. The 20V Max in a nominal 18V platform.
The DCS355D1 features a variable speed trigger with a lock, LED work light, and a trade marked QUICK-CHANGE system for tool-free blade changes. However, the QUICK-CHANGE system requires DEWALT blades. This OMT can be set up with other blade systems using an adapter but you’ll have to change blades with an Allen wrench.
You can read our review of this tool here: DEWALT DCS355D1 Cordless OMT Review
FEIN AFMM 14
The FEIN AFMM 14 is also sold as a kit with a hard plastic carrying case. The kit includes the most extensive set of accessories of any of the kits we tested. The kit includes: (5) P60-Grit Sanding Sheets, (5) P80-Grit Sanding Sheets, (5) P120-Grit Sanding Sheets, (5) P180-Grit Sanding Sheets, Sanding Pad, Standard Wood Blade, 1-3/4-in Universal E-Cut Blade – 63502152010, 2-1/2-in Carbide Segment Saw Blade – 63502118016, 3-1/8-in HSS Segment Saw Blade – 63502106015, Rigid Scraper Blade, and the Carbide Rasp – 63731001014. The kit comes with a charger and two 14.4V, 3.0 Ah battery packs.
It’s notable that this is the only tool in this group that doesn’t use an 18V battery, this tool runs on a 14.4V platform. This is another one of the tools that does not feature a work light in it’s design. The FEIN AFMM 14 does offer a tool-free blade change (FEIN is the father of these tools and the tool-free design!), along with a standard on/off switch and variable speed dial. The tool-free blade change system uses a removable pin/bolt that holds the blades in position.
You can read our review of this OMT here: FEIN AFMM 14 MultiMaster Review
The Makita XMT03Z is so new it’s not in the stores yet, however, it will be soon so we included it in the head to head. The XMT03Z is basically the same tool as the Makita LXMT025 but this new version includes a tool-free blade change design. Considering all the cordless OMTs with a tool-free design the XMT03Z is a welcome refinement. At the time of this article it wasn’t clear if the tool will be sold in a kit form or as a bare tool.
The XMT03Z includes a standard on/off switch along with a variable speed dial. This OMT does not include a work light and the tool-free blade design includes a pin/bolt design similar to the FEIN.
The Milwaukee 2626-22 comes in a kit with a soft contractor style bag, charger and two extended run 4.0 Ah batteries. The kit also includes a blade adapter, one wood cutting blade, sanding pad, and 5 sanding sheets.
The 2626-22 features a tool-free blade change design that’s somewhat similar to the FEIN design with a pin/bolt that holds the blade in place. This OMT does feature a nice LED work light, on/off switch, and variable speed dial. The big bonus with this kit are the two 4.0 Ah batteries that come standard.
You can read our review of this OMT here: Milwaukee 2626-22 Cordless OMT Review
The Porter-Cable PCC710B is sold as a bare tool only and fits their 20V Max battery platform (the 20V Max is a nominal 18V battery). This tool is compatible with the DEWALT Universal Fitment style blades and features the same style tool-free blade change design that DEWALT uses. This OMT comes with an accessory box and a number of accessories including: (14) Sanding Papers, (1) PC3005 Sanding Platen, (1) PC3010 Precision Wood Blade, (1) PC3012 Bi-Metal Blade, (1) PC3020 Rigid Scraper, and (1) PC3030 Carbide Grout Blade.
This OMT features a LED work light, on/off switch, variable speed dial, and 2 Finger TOOL-FREE SYSTEM.
The Ridgid R862004 is sold as a bare tool and fits all of the Ridgid 18V batteries including their new 4.0 Ah pack. The R862004 accepts all popular multi-tool accessories with the included universal adaptor. This is the only OMT that we tested that does not offer a tool-free blade change. To change blades a bolt must be removed using an Allen wrench.
This OMT features a LED work light, variable speed trigger and a belt hook. It also has the ability to run other JobMax tool heads including several drilling and cutting heads. Because of the JobMax design the head can be rotated in 4 different positions with respect to the grip/trigger.
Oscillating Multi-Tool Head to Head Summary Video
If you’re the type that would rather watch a video then here’s a quick summary on the results below.
Blade Change Winner – Bosch
Changing blades on power tools can be really frustrating when you misplace the wrench or don’t have one with you. So tools that offer easy to use tool-free blade changes are very attractive to most users. Most of the models we tested offer a tool-free blade change system with the exception being the Ridgid JobMax. There are three basic designs including levers that release a pin/bolt, a lever system that requires special blades, or a lever that opens a jaw which clamps the blade.
The last design, used by Bosch, is the best design in our opinion because it’s tool-free and it has no loose parts (pin/bolt) to lose. It works very well and doesn’t allow the blade to slip or vibrate loose. FEIN may have started the tool-free trend but Bosch clearly developed an even better approach.
DEWALT and Porter-Cable have a really easy to use system that doesn’t need a pin or loose part as well. In fact, their system is even easier to use than the Bosch’s, but you have to use a DEWALT blade in order to use this tool-free design. While you can still use other brand blades, other blades must be installed using an adapter and bolt.
The FEIN, Makita and Milwaukee all use a lever and a removable pin to secure the blades. The FEIN and Makita work very well while the Milwaukee is a bit harder to release the pin.
Ergonomics Winner – DEWALT & Milwaukee
The ergonomics best in class was a tie for us between DEWALT and Milwaukee. Both tools have very comfortable grips combined with well balanced tool weight. Ridgid and FEIN came in tied for 2nd in this category. The smaller grip on the Ridgid combined with the variable speed trigger makes it feel a lot like the DEWALT (the only down side on this one is the cutting blade/head is further from the hands). The FEIN has one of the sleekest and most compact designs which all of us felt lent to a very comfortable tool to use. Both the Bosch and Makita feel very bulky and not as well balanced as the other models we tested so we ranked them both as third in the group.
The Porter-Cable finished off last in large part to significant vibration. With respect to vibration, the group felt that both the FEIN and Makita were best in class with respect to lower vibrations.
Noise Winner – Makita
Noise can be a significant factor both for personal safety and also the comfort of people in close proximity to a work area. We measured the decibel level of each tool at it’s highest speed under no load. The quietest OMT was the Makita at 68 decibels and the loudest was the FEIN at 81 decibels.
All of the guys testing these OMT’s agreed that power is a big deal when considering this type of tool as all of us agree that we use them for cutting more than any other task. Whether it’s cutting metal (nails, screws, and duct work) or cutting hardwood, power combined with a quality blade means speed and efficiency.
We put the cordless oscillating multi-tools to the test cutting 16d framing nails. This was a pretty extreme test that allowed each of us to quickly handle each tool cutting the same material. These results are subjective meaning we did not time the cutting, rather each of us ranked the tools based on our experience cutting 20 nails for each tool. This test was performed using the Bosch Carbide Metal Blade (OSC114C).
Best in class goes to the Bosch MXH180BL. Each of the guys testing the OMT’s had the same impression after cutting through the nails. The Bosch quickly cut through the nails with ease and had a noticeable advantage over all the other models. Both the DEWALT and Makita models tied for 2nd place with very impressive power and speed as well. Milwaukee wasn’t far behind the 2nd place finishers in 3rd place. 4th place was a bit of a surprise with Ridgid performing almost as well as the Milwaukee.
The FEIN AFMM 14 was a bit disappointing in this particular power test. However, in all fairness to FEIN, this model runs on a 14.4 volt battery platform compared to all the other models running on 18 volt batteries. I’d really like to see FEIN redesign this tool on an 18V platform and I feel it would do very well.
The Porter-Cable was in another class altogether with this extreme power testing. This isn’t all that surprising as we consider this more of a DIY option or very light contractor grade jobs. While it did cut the nails, it struggled compared to all the other models that we tested.
Precision Cutting Winner – FEIN
To test precision cutting applications we used the OMT’s to cut vertical lines in 1×6 pine baseboard to simulate a renovation application. The goal was to cut a straight line that has good enough precision to be left as a finished cut. The FEIN really excelled at this test compared to the other tools. The lack of power may be a big reason for this result as the tool seemed to have less vibration resulting in more user control.
Coming in second was the DEWALT model. Users felt the variable speed trigger and “drill style grip” made it easier to control with precision cutting applications. Milwaukee was the next pick in this category, users felt the grip contributed to better control. Overall both the DEWALT and Milwaukee performed very well in this application.
Bosch and Makita finished 4th and 5th with good smooth cutting but users felt that the bulky handle design hindered their ability to control the tools as well as some of the other designs with smaller grips. The Ridgid model didn’t score as well in this category due to noticeably more vibration and the configuration of the blade isn’t as close to users hands which makes control harder.
Rounding out the back of the pack is the Porter-Cable due to excessive vibration and lack of power.
Plunge Cutting Winner – Milwaukee
Plunge cutting is something that most of us use OMT’s for quite a bit. Whether it’s cutting drywall, siding, or sheathing material these tools are faster and easier than other saw options. To simulate this plunge cutting application we used the OMT’s to cut rectangular holes in 1/2″ plywood.
Best in class for this test was the Milwaukee based on a combination of power and comfortable grip. A very close tie for 2nd place included the DEWALT, Bosch, and Makita. All of these tools work extremely well in this application and the distinction between one and two was very small.
The Ridgid model was next followed by the FEIN (mostly due to the less power). Rounding out the bottom was the Porter-Cable again due to vibration and overall lack of power.
It should be noted that the results of this test would likely be much different if this tool was being used solely to cut drywall, or small pieces of trim.
Pricing & Value of Cordless OMT’s
Pricing is certainly one of the biggest considerations for most people when they buy new power tools. Comparing pricing in this category is tough as each tool is sold in quite a few different ways including bare tools and some with full kits. The table below summarizes current pricing at the time of this article (May 2014) along with basic info on what comes with the tool at that price.
Because none of the brands packages their tool the same way it’s pretty hard to compare costs. However, I created the table above with the name of each tool, the price I found the day of the article, information about cases, number of batteries and the battery size. Then I created a column at the end that includes an updated price that includes the tool, a charger, and two (2) full size batteries (4.0 Ah when available). This is the true cost that is needed to compare them side by side.
From this pricing I give the best value to Milwaukee and DEWALT. The DEWALT is a slightly better value as the kit includes a few more accessories and you would end up with 3 batteries (the 2.0 Ah that comes standard, plus the two extra included in the revised pricing).
Overall Winner Oscillating Multi-Tool Head to Head – Too Close To Call
When I starting researching the cordless oscillating multi-tools for this head to head I never imagined the competition would be as close as it was. All of these OMT’s performed the tasks we set up and several of them really surprised us. All things considered we are going to give a tie for the Best Cordless Oscillating Multi-Tool to Bosch and DEWALT. These two tools finished in the top two slots for almost every category we looked at. While the DEWALT has an edge on value, the Bosch has an edge on it’s tool-free design. Both tools are excellent options for PRO users.
I’d be remiss to not mention that the Milwaukee OMT was next in line and frankly not by much. When you consider the price point of this tool many will likely find this to be their top choice.
Final Thoughts – Cordless Oscillating Multi-Tools
While we didn’t rank the FEIN AFMM 14 as high as many of the competing tools, the fit and finish, and long standing leader of this category shouldn’t be overlooked. I’m fairly confident that this tool will perform well on the job-site and it’s certainly backed by a strong history of performance. We’d love to see FEIN step this tool up with a larger battery platform to get it on par with the other 18V models.
The Porter-Cable ranked at the bottom of most of our testing. However, this tool is an excellent choice for DIY’ers, occasional PRO use, and users that already have the Porter-Cable 20V battery platform when you consider the excellent price point of the bare tool.
The big take away from my perspective is this. If you already own one of these Brands battery platforms, each of these tools will perform well. If you’re looking for a versatile platform the Ridgid JobMax is an excellent choice because it can be expanded to other cutting and drilling applications.
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