Earlier this year Milwaukee introduced a radio/charger (model 2792-20) with Bluetooth capability; Tools of the Trade sent us one so we could test it. They chose us because we regularly use jobsite radios and have reviewed most of the models that have come out in the last five years. Jobsite radios have been getting better and better—primarily through the addition of features. This particular model has two that made me want to test it: It’s the first jobsite radio with Bluetooth and the first from Milwaukee with a built-in charger.

Our crew listens to music every day and we don’t want to hear commercials and get tired of what they play on the local FM stations. For years we’ve connected an iPod or a smartphone to the auxiliary port of various jobsite radios and listened to MP3s and streamed music (from Pandora and Google Music). For us, music is more than entertainment; it makes for a better attitude, which translates into higher production.

The thing I like least about most jobsite radios is that my phone has to be physically connected to them. That’s not convenient when I need to take/make phone calls and check my email for messages from the engineer, lumber yard, truss company, or office.
This radio allows me to control the music from almost anywhere on site while keeping my phone with me. Setup is easy; it took me 10 seconds to make the Bluetooth connection and I didn’t read the instructions. It was far more difficult to set up my earpiece. I like that when I’m connected via Bluetooth the volume will cut out to alert me I’m receiving a phone call or text.

According to the specs the radio can be used up to 100 feet from an audio device; though in practice, the range varies. I haven’t been able to figure out why. On some jobsites I’ve been able to maintain a connection from a distance of 100 feet when there’s a fully framed house between me and the radio. Indoors I’ve been able to go upstairs and around a corner and still have it work. On the other hand, I’ve had the connection cut in and out when there is a clear line of sight and the radio is 35 feet away. The connection is generally good but is not entirely predictable.

There aren’t a ton of good FM stations near here but the ones there are came through loud and clear. The sound quality is good, though it’s worth noting we wear earplugs so our standards are not up to those of an audiophile. Most of the time we run the radio off of an M18 battery; we can get more than 8 hours from a fully charged 4.0 Ah pack. When the radio is plugged in we can use it to charge M18 batteries, which is convenient because it means there is one less thing to plug in and we don’t have to carry a charger.

The M18 radio is larger than the most recent 18-volt model from DeWalt but smaller (by a couple of inches in all directions) than the Bosch PowerBox. As jobsite radios go, it’s heavy (17 pounds) but not as heavy as the PowerBox (25 pounds). For me, the size and weight of this radio is not an issue.

Many jobsite radios have USB ports that allow you to charge a phone or audio device from it when the radio is plugged in. One of the unique features of this unit is you can plug a device into it and charge it off the M18 battery that's powering the radio.

Devices that lack Bluetooth can be played through the radio’s speakers by plugging them into an auxiliary port. The port is located in a weather sealed compartment on the top of the unit. The compartment is large enough to hold and iPod or iPhone4 but my Samsung S5 is too wide to close the lid over it—which is not a problem for me because I normally use Bluetooth. A lip on the inside of the compartment lid can be used to stand a tablet (such as an iPad) on top. This feature might mean something to someone who works in a shop but I wouldn’t do it because I don’t like the idea of subjecting a tablet to all kinds of dust.

Thick handles and a roll cage (more like rugged-ized corners) protect the radio from impact and falls. Ours has gotten wet and been knocked around and is still going strong.

If I was in the market for a jobsite radio I’d be looking at the M18 Bluetooth radio/charger or at the Bosch PowerBox radio/charger. For me it would come down to whose battery system I wanted to be on.

M18 2792-20 Specs
Size (W x L x H): 12” x 12” x 15”
Weight: 17 pounds
Power: AC and DC (M18 batteries)
USB charger output: 2.1 amps
Bluetooth compatible: yes
Radio Pre-Set: FM (10) AM (10)
Features: no-interference charger; cord wrap; bottle opener
Includes: 16” aux input cord
Country of origin: China
Web price: $229

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