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Reviews Categories | Transceivers: VHF/UHF+ Amateur Hand-held | Icom ID-51A Help

Reviews Summary for Icom ID-51A
Icom ID-51A Reviews: 48 Average rating: 4.3/5 MSRP: $629.95
Description: Dstar VHF/UHF Handheld tranceiver
Product is in production.
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G4AON Rating: 3/5 Jan 26, 2018 05:43 Send this review to a friend
Mostly OK  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
Mine is the ID-51E PLUS 2 version.

It works well, but there are issues as noted by others:

The supplied battery is next to useless, an optional extra 1800mA battery is more or less essential, as is the desk charger.

You cannot use the radio at the same time as charging the battery (with the supplied wall wart charger connected to the side socket).

While you can use the radio hooked up to a PC, the current terminal mode/access point software is poor, it only connects to gateways/repeaters and not to reflectors. You can put a call out, but getting someone to call you back is another matter... At half the cost, a DV dongle is far better in that regard.

There are YouTube videos that suggest the user interface is similar to the ID-5100 mobile radio, I have both and itís not anywhere near as easy to use as the 5100. OK, you get used to using the hand held, but by comparison the 5100 gets 10/10 for ease of use, the 51 only rates 3/10.

The manual suggests the radio is waterproof to IPX7, however using an external speaker/mic via the side sockets could lead to water ingress, some Yaesu hand held radios (VX-7) have a screw-in speaker/mic that gives a much more robust connection. Also, there isnít a seal around the battery, care needs to be taken to avoid water ingress behind the battery where it connects to the radio. By comparison, a VX7 has a rubber seal around the battery compartment.

On the plus side, transmit audio qualty on D-Star is pretty good (mine is a new one, early 51 versions seem to have had issues). FM and FM-N modulation was weak, increasing the mic level in the menu improved matters.

Battery life (with a BP-272 size battery) is reasonable.

Overall, the radio is quite good.
UT7UX Rating: 3/5 Jan 8, 2017 06:29 Send this review to a friend
Mostly disappointed  Time owned: more than 12 months
I wanted to try D-STAR and had no big choice so I gave it a try.

The good:
- D-STAR works perfectly with lot of useful things like easy import/export, GPS and near repeater, etc.; I really enjoy it
- TX audio reported as good
- easy programming with no need of dedicated cable, just pull out micro-SD card and insert it to PC
- voice, position, etc. logging to micro-SD
- unbelievable fast scanning, here Icom shines
- automatic or threshold squelch to choose
- dimensions and weight are quite comfortable
- BW display does not look as fun as a color one but is reliable readable in the daylight
- nice neutral backlit

The bad:
- in standard set youíll get only one stupid slim battery that lasts few hours and a very slow charger
- ďnormalĒ battery costs $100 (there are twice cheaper ones on the market not from Icom) and you really need to buy it or you radio will die after few hours
- desktop charger costs $60 and you really need to buy it or your radio will recharge too long and some day rubber caps will break away (say goodbye to water/dust protection)
- internal VOX does not work until you buy a $30 adapter (BTW chinese dualband HT with VOX, good battery and desktop charger as standard set costs from $20 on ebay); Iíve figured out how to enable it for cheap, look at my page on qrz dot com
- RX audio quality is unacceptable: too quiet even on a maximum, useless for a pedestrian on a street or even in a car; also it lacks lows and distorts at higher volumes
- FPP is a pain without standard 4x4 keyboard; DTMF and everything keyboard depending is a pain
- low display contrast; playing with contrast settings gives nothing
- no USB; while it is possible to up/download a codeplug via micro-SD, firmware is upgradeable only via RS-232; cheap adapters that work flawlessly with other radios will not fit here; I recommend FTDI
- a friend of mine had have a half year major one and rubber caps on his ID-51 was totally worn out and broke away
- standard rubber duck has pretty good resonance just above 148MHz and at 70cm SWR jumps to the sky making it useless on 440; it isnít easy to replace the stock because most antennas are thicker at their bases and couldnít fit mechanically

So what can I say after little less than two years? I really enjoy D-STAR. Everything D-STAR related in this radio takes 5 of 5. Sure, there is a room for further improvements but anyway it is a good D-STAR radio. I really like how fast it scans. I have never noticed RX problems. But everything else is unacceptable. Poor standard set, extraordinary expensive must-have accessories and inacceptable quiet speaker make this radio too expensive to own and too unusable in everyday scenarios. For years there was no choice: want D-STAR - buy Icom. Now, when TH-D74 is on the market, you do not need Icom anymore. Yes, TH-D74 looks somewhat more expensive but wait, you donít need to spend $100 for a new battery immediately (standard is good enough and spare one is much less expensive), you donít need to play with expensive cables or build your ones - simply use standard USB. Instead youíll get crossband duplex (great for SAT for an example) and unlimited APRS.
W8BYH Rating: 5/5 Jan 1, 2017 06:05 Send this review to a friend
Two Months In...  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
Given the current price ($340 as of Jan 1, 2017) and feature set combination I don't think there's a better HT on the market. Even if you don't use DSTAR this is a great radio - analog FM performance is outstanding.

Are there rough spots? Sure. The ICOM programming software is a joke and the outrageously expensive data xfer cable only works intermittently on Windows 10. The ICOM RS-MS1A Android app seems to only work on a subset of Android devices running older OS versions and ICOM has done a poor job of supporting the app and clearing up the operating system and cabling issues. I have yet to meet a single ID-51 owner who's had success getting their radio to work with the Android app.

On the flip side there's a world of support out on the web that's available specifically for the ID-51, to include a number of really good YouTube videos outlining how to use it in the different modes. In addition, this radio is ubiquitous in the DSTAR world so if you have a DSTAR repeater nearby its a sure bet there's a local Ham who has one and can help you get yours up and running in short order.

DSTAR programming and use can be a bit intimidating for first time users, and I had to find a local DSTAR Elmer and suck his brain dry, but after a few hiccups I was up and running and have enjoyed QSOs with folks as far away as Melbourne, Australia.

Overall I strongly recommend this little HT. It's well built, is feature rich, enjoys excellent third party support and the price has come down to the point where it's competitive with a number of analog-only HTs.
W4PER Rating: 4/5 Dec 7, 2016 09:54 Send this review to a friend
ID-51a Plus2  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
No transmit power level setting in programmer.
If I set a memory channel to low power, the next channel has low power as well. RT Sys programmer also has no place to set transmit power.
This and the terminal mode not working are what I have found so far to be problems. If anyone knows a solution please post.
Otherwise it is a nice little radio.
KK6YLW Rating: 5/5 Nov 30, 2016 15:56 Send this review to a friend
Solid D-Star HT  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
Just got the 51A Plus last week. Love it. Great size, menus are intuitive and easy to figure out, and the Tx/Rx quality are solid, the more so on digital (I own several Yaesu System Fusion rigs so I have a basis of comparison). In fact, I worked it from inside my moving vehicle today and the chaps I was talking with complimented the steady clear Tx. Only gripe was the 2-step process setting up analog FM repeaters. You select the frequency offset and repeater tone from the main menu button but then have to go to the Quick Start button to turn "tone" on so your settings work. The manual does not explain that. It took this old dumb guy about 30 minutes to figure it out. If you want an HT D-Star rig, this is your baby especially since the new Kenwood is $200+ more expensive just to get 220. I have an $85 Bridgecom Systems radio for that.
AB7KT Rating: 5/5 Oct 11, 2016 18:00 Send this review to a friend
A Classic  Time owned: 6 to 12 months
This was my first D-Star radio. It took me awhile to fully comprehend what was going on with D-Star but one day the light bulb came on and I discovered that this HT is probably the best HT I have ever owned and I have owned a bunch of them since. about 1980. I enjoy D-Star so much that I just bought the newly released Kenwood TH-D74. I haven't owned the Kenwood for long, but one thing was immediately obvious: the Icom ID-51 is much easier to use. As has been said, it is intuitive. Navigation through the menus and settings is obvious. The features of the radio are innovative. I couldn't be happier with it.
N7UIC Rating: 5/5 Sep 19, 2016 07:20 Send this review to a friend
Great radio  Time owned: 6 to 12 months
This radio has very intuitive menus if you know D-Star. Once you know to use the quick menu for most of the day to day it works out well. The receiver is quite sensitive as well. My only gribe would be lack of DTMF pad. Yes, you can store memories but try to manipulate a repeater controller with memories and you might go mad so this radio is more for the end user vs a control operator. Battery life is a bit short on the stock battery. Over all the radio is great though so I'm giving it a 5. More to offset the 0 rating 2 down than anything else.
K4AX Rating: 5/5 Sep 7, 2016 08:12 Send this review to a friend
Excellent radio  Time owned: more than 12 months
I've had the ID51a and the Plus model which I currently have. So far no hassles with them at all, worked great out of the box. Programming with the free software and saving it to the SD card is straight forward and negates the cost of a programming cable. You can have loads of various programming schemes on the card and load them in if you desire for different parts of the US or the world.
GPS works great and picks up a lock quickly. I like the added benefit of not having to set the time because of the GPS.
The interface is unlike any other HT I've had or know of. It's quick and easy to get to what you want once you learn the menu system and the shortcuts. Easy to program on the fly, easy to search nearby repeaters, easy to read screen.

Unlike stated in the review below, it does charge when it's on and the charger is plugged in.

I started out on Dstar with the IC-91ad, and this HT is a world ahead of it. Two big things off the top, the ID51a doesn't turn into a hot potato on the 5 watt setting. Obviously current draw is down at compared to the 91 on transmit, probably biased differently i'm guess. Secondly the RX on Dstar signals is better. It seems to decode down to the noise floor without issue, where the 91 needs a bit more signal. I tested this with the IC91ad vs the ID51 and ID31 with the same results. The 51 has the Dstar ambe codec in firmware, maybe it's the more updated version.
KC7MMI Rating: 0/5 Sep 6, 2016 19:58 Send this review to a friend
Extremely Unimpressed  Time owned: 3 to 6 months
Like all Icom radios, the controls on this particular model are completely unintuitive. Also, it won't charge the battery while powered on. Thankfully, I didn't spend any money on this specimen. Want a quality radio with a decent user interface, stick with Yaesu or Kenwood. Also, if you want to try out digital voice, DMR is where it's at. 73.
M0JZT Rating: 5/5 Aug 19, 2016 04:24 Send this review to a friend
Best Handie on the market  Time owned: more than 12 months
I have used my ID-51E plus for over a year and can honestly say this is the best handie available on the market today.
Size, build quality, audio quality, ruggedness and waterproof.
DStar works very well but you need to get a hotspot to get the most out of it.
Analog performance is good
This is an excellent all round radio
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