Milwaukee’s new 17-pound, 18-volt M18 Jobsite Radio/Charger (model 2792-20) can charge or run on any battery from the M18 platform. In addition to a backlit LCD screen, an AM/FM tuner with five presets for each band, and a base and treble equalizer, it has a clock, a roll cage, three handles, a bottle opener, and a weather-sealed compartment with a 16-inch auxiliary input cord inside for connecting and protecting your smartphone or digital music player. Two AAA batteries power the presets and clock, and should last more than a year. The sealed compartment also has a 2.1-amp USB port that’s active whether the radio is using AC or battery power. According to Milwaukee, it charges most mobile devices more than 50% faster than the USB ports in competing models. When opened, the compartment lid can hold a tablet upright while you charge it, transforming the radio into a portable entertainment center.
Perhaps the biggest news is that the M18 is the first jobsite model to include a Bluetooth receiver, reportedly allowing you to stream and control content from a mobile device from up to 100 feet away. In this mode, you can also pause or move through music tracks from the radio’s control panel.
Given that my current work radio is a General Electric long-range AM/FM Superadio II that I bought in 1986, I couldn’t resist dialing into a new M18 to explore its features. For starters, I like its tall profile, which makes it easy to pick up, and its 12-by-12-inch base and low center of gravity make it difficult to knock over. Conveniently, M18 batteries slide down into the charger right behind the top handle. The USB charger worked exactly as advertised, topping off the battery of my iPod Touch with lightning speed.
The radio pulls in FM stations as well as my Superadio does, but the AM reception is a notch below (though I can listen to local AM stations). I would prefer a dial to Milwaukee’s two push-buttons for tuning, but that’s a nitpick.
The M18’s Bluetooth connectivity works like a charm. With a clear line of sight, my iPod Touch could connect from up to 200 feet away. Behind a couple of walls, the range was still significantly more than 100 feet where I tested it. Kneeling next to a clothes washer or walking into a metal-clad pole barn can break the connection, though, which might irritate your teammates.
The Bluetooth receiver also allowed me to stream Pandora and iTunes Radio into my detached shop by placing my iPod where it could simultaneously connect with the wireless router in my office and the M12 radio in my shop. Awesome. Last but not least, to my ear, the poly-cone speakers sound great.
The 2792-20 costs $229, M18 batteries not included.
Bruce Greenlaw is a contributing editor to JLC.