Review By Dean Bielanowski  Makita Website - http://www.makita.com


Makita BMR100W
Cordless Jobsite AM/FM Radio

 Mini-Review

By Dean Bielanowski

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If you own any kind of Makita cordless power tool that uses Makita slide or pod style batteries from 9.6 volts up to 24 volts, then you can add this handy jobsite radio to your shopping list if lack of tunes on the jobsite or in the workshop is making work more tedious! Somehow a job seems a little less effort and a little more enjoyable when you have a radio nearby to fill the air with airy melody, or thumping bass. Since my only workshop radio was a corded model, and only handled AM band, I thought it was a good chance to upgrade to a cordless FM model, and given I already have a few Makita cordless tools, the Makita BMR100W seemed a
no-brainer.

The Makita BMR100W Cordless AM/FM Radio
Now, before we get started, let it be known that there are two models currently still retailing on the open market. These are the BMR100 and the BMR100W. Both are fairly similar, however, the BMR100W is white and black in color (the BMR100 is more blue and black) and the later BMR100W model also support MP3 or auxiliary input so you can hook up your MP3 player to the radio and have your tunes blast out through its larger speakers.

Now, onto the radio. As mentioned in the introduction, the BMR100W can use your existing Makita slide or pod-style batteries to power it. So there is no need to buy new batteries or specific batteries for this radio if you already own various Makita cordless tools. The radio can use batteries from 9.6v up to 24v, so these typically include batteries with voltages of 9.6, 12, 14.4, 18 and 24 volts. No battery charger is included in the kit, and the radio cannot recharge batteries either. The Amp Hour rating of the batteries will affect how long the radio can be used on a fully charged battery. If you have one of the newer 18v lithium batteries with 3.0Ah capacity, it is quoted that you can run this radio for up to 16 hours on a single battery charge. I haven't times that exactly, but I do use a 3.0Ah 18v lithium battery in the radio and it certainly does last a long time, and would probably be very close to the 18 hour mark quoted. I am sure recently that I ran it for about 3 days over 5-6 hours each day and all on the one battery charge. You can expect less runtime with smaller capacity batteries of course, but a 9.6v 1.3Ah battery will go close to a good day's use before requiring a recharge. A latch on top of the radio opens up the back door to the casing (which folds down) and allows access to the battery compartment. Here you will find ports for the slide style batteries, located above the port for the pod style batteries. Lower down in the compartment there is a battery door which accepts 2 x AA batteries. These can be inserted and used primarily to keep the radio's clock feature running at correct time when the main Makita battery is removed for replacement or charging, as well as ensuring any alarms set remain active if the main battery power diminishes. Alternatively, a mains power pack is included in the kit to allow you to plug the radio into a mains outlet. Doing so requires no batteries to operate, and any batteries connected to the radio will be disabled (not used) whenever the mains power pack is in use.

In terms of physical size, the radio measures 10.25" in length, 6.5" in width and 12" in height. It weighs about 9 pounds. A fold down carry handle is prominent on top of the radio and the large round handle with rubber grip provides a comfortable method of carrying the radio around. The radio has a very rugged look to it with thick rubber overmolds covering all corners and running down the edges of the front and rear faces. In addition, two metal roll-style bars are located on the sides of the front panel. I can only guess their purpose, apart from aesthetics, is to protect the front panel display and controls from damage from large objects. They do add to the "construction" style look and feel of the radio though. The screw-in antenna is provided and attaches to the top of the radio. The whole casing and radio is supposedly weather resistant, and just by looking at it, it does appear to be that, but I haven't tested this and would rather not have the radio out sitting in the rain or throw the sprinkler on it for the simple purpose of testing it. I don't fancy the hassle of having to return it for repairs should there be a problem with moisture ingress. Remember, Makita state it is water "resistant", not "waterproof" so trying to keep it dry as much as possible is my recommendation.

The BMR100W features two 3.25" side firing speakers located on the lower side faces providing stereo output. These are reasonably sized speakers given the size of the radio and can be pumped up to quite a loud volume while still retaining reasonably good audio quality with low distortion or rattling/scratching in the output. The audio balance on a whole seems a bit more weighted to bass output rather than higher range. This radio really needs a tweeter or some sort of equalizer settings to play a range of songs well. Heavy metal bass or techno lovers will probably rejoice in the sound balance however.

Ok, onto the front display and radio features. First is the large, backlit digital quartz display which will show the time (if set), the current radio station frequency set, the radio band selected (AM or FM) and also the volume setting when the volume is changed. Whenever input is made, i.e. by changing volume, station presets or manually changing stations using the dial knob, the LCD will be backlit in a blue hue and remain lit for about 15 seconds after inputs have been completed. You can also turn on the backlight at any time using one of the control buttons on the panel.

There are four buttons across the top of the LCD display. The first is the main power button which switches the radio either ON or OFF. Next is the Mono/Band button. This switches between AM and FM radio bands. It can also adjust output between Mono and Stereo modes if required (say for example if signal is weak and Stereo mode is not suitable for best output). The third button along is the Radio Alarm setting. You use this to set an alarm in which the radio will play on a preset station to wake you up or alert you to the fact that your preset alarm time has been reached. The fourth button is the HWS Alarm, which stands for "Humane Wake System" according to Makita. Essentially it is a buzzer type alarm, however, the rate of buzzes will increase gradually and cycle on and off until the alarm is acknowledged or switched off, or until a one hour period has elapsed in which no user input has occurred. So essentially, the BMR100W also acts pretty much like a traditional bedside "clock radio" device as well.

Under the LCD display is a row of 5 Preset buttons labeled 1-5. These are for radio station presets. Basically you tune the station you wish to set using the dial knob, or auto scan, and when on that station, push and hold the preset button of choice to assign that station to that particular preset button. Now when you want to tune in that station next time, just hit the preset button to take you there instantly. Five FM and Five AM stations can be pre-set.

Moving down the front face we have the large control knob. This sets volume up and down, or when pushed once, allows station frequency to be changed to find your favorite station manually. It is also used to help set clock and alarm times in combination with the other buttons. To the right of the control knob is Scan/Clock Set button. This button when pressed will perform an auto-scan of radio stations until it finds one to lock onto. It will then hold that station for about 5 seconds then move onto the next station it finds. If you wish to remain on any of the stations it stops on, just hit the button again to lock on that station. The same button is also used to help set clock and alarm functions. Instructions for that are all included in detail in the printed user manual.

Underneath this are two ports under a rubber cover. On the left is the AUX 1 input port which allows connection of an MP3 player/Ipod etc via the 2.5mm jack. On the right side is the power port to which a mains power plug (supplied) can be connected to the unit to run on mains power.

In Use and Conclusions
Ok, it is basically a fancy cordless radio... but it performs well in my opinion. It is not perfect, but not many things are. To start with, reception seems quite good using the supplied screw in antenna. FM stations are picked up easily and clearly, at least in my location in a major town. The tuner locks onto the stations quickly and accurately and the output is clear and scratch/interference free for most all FM channels. It will even pick up some channels a bit further away on occasion (about 60 miles south of me). AM stations are received quite well too although in general these are not quite as clear (a characteristic of AM radio waves and lack of stereo), but major AM stations in my area are received in good radio quality. There is also ability to adjust the frequency steps for radio stations depending on where in the world you are. A nice touch.

As mentioned before, I think the major thing this radio system lacks is an equalizing or Bass/Treble balancing option. Output is relatively a bit too bass heavy for my liking, but that could be just a personal thing. Nonetheless, having the ability to be able to adjust balance and tone would have been excellent. The speakers can certainly pump ou some audio waves given their size and I really only need to run it at perhaps 1/4 of its maximum volume around the shop, and sometimes that is even too loud. At higher volumes, you do tend to get a bit of distortion from the speakers in audio output terms but this is to be expected to some degree, so its not a bad point as such. It has limitations that you would and should expect.

Controls are all very easy to operate and use, and the alarm functions add versatility to the mix. The ability to hook up an Ipod or MP3 player etc and run your songs through the system is excellent and a nice addition over the older BMR100 model. Portability is good and the unit is no trouble to transport to any jobsite or workshop for quick and easy tunes.

If you already own some Makita cordless tools with batteries that will work with the BMR100W, I would highly recommend taking a look at this jobsite radio. Sure, it is not the cheapest radio in the world, but it is a nice design and functionally it works very well. Add your MP3 player and you can work along to your favorite tunes all day long. I guess the question is... would I buy another if this current BMR100W I have gets lost, fails, or dies a premature death... Well, if it got lost, stolen etc, then yes I certainly would. Its a handy and cool little jobsite radio. If it died a premature death for whatever reason, well, if that happened within say a year or three and for no good reason, I would have to consider buying a replacement on terms of durability, or lack of, but I expect this radio to last the long term, and Makita is a fairly trusted name in the power tool field and I haven't come across an owner yet who's radio has failed (if you have one and it has kicked the bucket, let me know)!

The BMR100W has a street price around the US$100 mark at present (June '09) and you don't even have to be a woodworker or tradesperson to own or use one. I often find mine in my 7 year old's bedroom, gone missing from the workshop! Overall a good little portable jobsite radio.
 

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Makita BMR100W Photos
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The Makita BMR100W.


Fold down handle, antenna and battery
compartment clip up top.


Battery connections for slide style and pod style batteries, plus one of the AUX ports.


A Makita 3.0Ah 18v Lithium slide style battery connected and ready to go.


One of the two 3.25" side firing speakers.

 

 

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