*PRODUCT REVIEW* bhi Radio Mate

Three weeks ago I bought a bhi Radio Mate from Universal Radio in the States for my soon to become DXpedition rig, a Yaesu FT-817, after reading about one on the new bhi website a while back. 

The strength of the Aussie dollar against the greenback meant I was able to snag one for just over $120 delivered to my door too…an absolute bargain in anyone’s language! 

Lucky too as I was fed up with using the streamlined panel interface of the 817 due to my clumsy, thickish fingers and was in desperate need of something to make it more user friendly…

Made by 2009 and 2010 11m Oceania Contest sponsors, bhi, the Radio Mate is a compact keypad for the Yaesu FT-817, FT-857 and FT-897 and is said to enable many of the common functions of these rigs to be used more easily. 

According to the bhi website, portable, mobile, and handicap ops will delight in the added ease of using their radios.

We’ll see…


The item arrived on my doorstep well boxed in bubble-wrap and was complemented by a 12 page manual and some advertising paraphernalia, much to the YL’s chagrin, for other bhi products.  Niceeeeeee!

After unraveling the protective sheathing, I had in my hands a solid 10 x 15cm black anodized aluminium plate. 

With four rubber feet on the bottom to give it stability on the shack bench top, the plate also housed the much sought after keypad which covered most of the top panel. 

At the back of the module was a plastic section around 2cm high which screened the inside mechanics and carried the familiar bhi logo and product name. 

An “ON/OFF” power switch was located on the side of the unit also.

The general impression was and still is of a solid product built to last!


The Radio Mate connects to the DIN-8 ACC socket/CAT interface of the rig and requires no external power. 

It was necessary to alter the FT-817’s CAT interface speed from the default 4800 Baud to 9600 to enable the unit to work.

My Findings

After 3 weeks use, the bhi Radio Mate keypad continues to provide me with a number of fast and advantageous shortcuts.  These include:

* Quick easy band change at touch of a button (by using the onboard memories)
* Quick and easy modulation selection in any mode to any mode by a single selection
* Quick memory function (40 memories), press to recall, press and hold to store (Freq & mode)
* Quick and easy intelligent direct frequency input and frequency nudge function
* Swap VFO A/B using the (.) key
* VFO A=B using a long press of the (.) key
* Split VFO mode by pressing the Clr button
* Tune function enabling up to a 10 second carrier to tune an ATU

One of my most used features to date is the direct frequency nudge function that allows me to fine tune the frequency on my Yaesu FT-817 directly from the keypad in the following steps by pressing keys 1—6: +/- 10Hz, 100Hz, 1KHz, 10KHz, 100KHz and 1MHz. 

Suddenly I can QSY from one frequency to another in seconds whereas before it took a deal of fumbling around to get where I wanted to go!

On this note, direct frequency entry is selected by pressing the Dir button. 

Frequencies can then be entered directly on the numeric keys — for instance, 27.335 MHz (one of the Pacific island calling frequencies).

Abbreviated entry is accepted also: to set just the decimal part you can press the decimal point followed by digits; likewise, you can enter just MHz (followed by Enter), in which case the decimal remains unmoved.

I note that the Radio Mate has three basic operating modes: Modulation, Direct Frequency Entry and Memory. 

Each mode is accessed by a dedicated button on the right of the keypad.

The LED changes colour to show the mode I am operating in — yellow for Modulation, green for Direct Frequency Entry (DFI) and red for Memory.  This feature is really helpful also!

All nine modes are supported by this unit…CW, USB, LSB, FM, AM, CWR, Packet, Digital and FM Narrow. 

These can be selected by pressing the proper button on the keypad which immediately changes or selects a mode.

One thing I really love about the keypad itself is its large clearly labelled buttons.

Furthermore, the membrane keys are slightly recessed and effortless to feel, making it much easier to use if your shack is poorly lit, if you’re using the radio on a portable DX adventure in difficult conditions, or even suffering from the effects of too many glasses of red after a romantic night out with the YL.

Memory mode is interesting also.  

The memory function on my FT-817 has been difficult to get my head around, but the Radio Mate made it super easy indeed courtesy of its own system of 20 memories. 

Pressing the Memory button allowed me to recall one of ten memories by pressing numeric keys 0-9. 

A second bank of ten could be accessed by holding the Memory button a little longer until the unit beeped twice.  

To write a memory was simple also — I just pressed and held a number until the Radio Mate beeped!


The bhi Radio Mate has transformed my FT-817 into an enjoyable little radio and certainly enabled me to get more use out of it. 

Some users have noted that presses on the keyboard are not immediately reflected on the radio display, but this is a limitation of the CAT control protocol rather than the unit itself. 

All other features combine to make a magic little unit indeed!

In conclusion, I thoroughly recommend this unit to those radio comms enthusiasts who find using the streamlined panel interface of the Yaesu FT-817, FT-857 and FT-897 radios problematical. 

Like its name suggests, the Radio Mate is the ideal bench top companion for these radios and, in my opinion, makes them far more user friendly.

For more information on this awesome bhi product, please visit the bhi website at http://www.bhi-ltd.com/.

73 de Darren, 43DA001