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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: 44 Average rating: 4.3/5 MSRP: $629.95
Description: Dstar VHF/UHF Handheld tranceiver
Product is in production.
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Page 1 of 5 —>

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
N8WXQ Rating: 5/5 Jun 8, 2016 08:21 Send this review to a friend
Super HT  Time owned: 3 to 6 months
I have the ID-51A plus model. This radio is a excellent HT and the Menu system and operation is easy after a bit or orientation. Indeed this radio is easier to use than all of the other HT's that I have owned. I have a couple of Chinese radio's that are OK but difficult to program particularly when on the go. (These are not the super cheap ones)

The memory card allows one to have multiple radio configurations that can be quickly changed in the field.

The RS-MS1A software is a bit tricky. You need an Android device capable of OTG (on the go) that allows connection of USB devices. My Android phone (a cheap one) does not work. My Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 works fine. The Android application "USB host controller" may help with general connectivity. You must also set up the radio correctly. I suspect many complaints relating to the inability relate connectivity result from improper radio set up.

THe following settings are made from the radio's MENU.

Under GPS select
GPS Set then set GPS out (to data jack) to ON

Under Function select CI-V then select CIV (Data Jack) next Select ON (Echo back off). Select CIV Address set to 86 (the default). Select CIV baud rate and set to 9600 bps (the default). Set CI-V transceive to ON.

you should be all set now. The RS-MS1A software is easy to use for sending text a pictures. Quality of pictures is like SSTV without the HF noise.

Registration for the D-Star system can be a nightmare. My ARRL section manager was of great help.

I use my radio most often with a DVAP. I am able to communicate anywhere on the 60 acres of land surrounding my house
MM0HRL Rating: 5/5 May 10, 2016 07:00 Send this review to a friend
Best quality HT  Time owned: 3 to 6 months
Saw a review not far below this one where the writer said he didn't use the DStar side of the rig... Why? Goodness knows. Slightly like buying a Lamborghini, then insisting on driving exclusively in first gear.

I saw a review of this set on YTube where the reviewer said it was the best HT he'd ever seen. I concur. Only difference is, he was a long-practised user and - I'm not. (still concur, even so!)

Its features are well documented like EVERYWHERE so I'll not bore by listing them - reviews like that are inevitably deeply repetitive and read like cloned texts at times.

What I will include are - my impressions of the radio. Put shortly, it's just terrific.

Beautifully designed, beautifully made. Not without imperfections, however - but those are down to Icom's perennial thirst to line its pockets with - our money! I'll explain.

The stock Lithium-ion battery's low capacity is little short of - useless. Use the radio only for listening, and perhaps it's less so. But use it as a transceiver, and you'll soon be ordering up a higher capacity battery to augment the stock one. So - that's a big demerit - but to Icom, rather the rig itself, which continues to delight more the longer I have it.

Another gripe I'll get out of the road is the flimsy plastic belt clip. Sorry, but my £389 radio will NEVER be hung on that piece of trash-level cheapskate junk. It's junk, it's cheaply made and it belongs more on a Baofeng HT.

In fact both the cheap Boafengs I have came with less flimsy belt clips than the ID51's! Last gripe is the quality of the other accessories supplied with the radio, all ridiculously cheaply made junk compared to the excellent standard of the rig. It's like Icom designed and built the rig themselves but farmed out the accessories to some Chinese backstreet joint where the only standard of importance was - make stuff as cheaply as possible. I mean the wall-wart charger and the vinyl faux-leather sheath provided to keep the rig's screen scratch-free.

Perhaps another moan (finished with these in a moment - promise) is the quality of the list of repeaters supplied with the rig. Key FM repeaters of long standing in this area, according to Icom - don't exist. Why? I've no idea.

Okay, that's the bad bits dealt with. The rest is pure cream, pure delight. The radio's performance approaches - perfection. Its FM RX outshines every other HT I own in sensitivity, and by no small margin either. Coping with congestion isn't something I have to do around here, so I can't comment on its selectivity. With its stock duck antenna, too. RX audio is beefy and very pleasant to listen to compared with - other HTs. Its broadcast radio RX is similarly excellent.

DStar performance is - better than my IC-2820 mobile rig - and it's no slouch. Power apart, obviously.

Using the ID-51+ with a DV4mini "dongle" lets you throttle back the TX power to SLo - ie 10milliwatts, to keep the battery from draining too quickly.

But if you need to use the full-on 5W for distand simplex or repeater access, you better order up that larger battery right now, you'll need it pretty sharpish. You wonít enjoy paying for it, however. And while you're at it, order the drop in charge unit - it far outshines the wall wart the radio came with. Since I wanted my ID51 to be as versatile as possible, I also ordered the Icom speaker mike - BTW the standard mike gain settings are too mild and could bring comments about quiet audio from your QSO pals. There are settings from 1-4. Mine defaulted on 2 for both internal and external mikes. Raising to 3 helped markedly. I've avoided 4 so far, but it's always there if needed.

So - if you're not too far from a DStar repeater or hotspot, this may be the only DStar rig you'll ever need. And if you aren't, then getting a DV4mini dongle or DV Mega will give you full reflector access via your internet link. Increasingly, this has become my go-to radio for mobile FM as well as DStar. And can't see that changing, either.

Iíll add that Iíve been trying out a ridiculously cheap mini-magmount+antenna that cost just under £20 all in. its bootlace-diameter coax terminates in an SMA connector so it complements my HTs very well, Yaesu/Kenwood/Icom all Ė and Iíve been surprised at how far itís able to throw my signal. A plus with it is how low-profile and unnoticeable it is, and how easy to stick up on the car roof Ė can even do that with an arm stuck through the driverís door window. Even could be used for a bit of backpacking if youíre confident thereís a steel-constructed something or other you could stick it on, and greatly increase your TX distance over the stock duck.

Rather a long-winded one, this Ė but the rigís good enough to deserve more than just a quick paragraph or two, so no apologies there from me.
WA1FOK Rating: 3/5 Apr 21, 2016 09:06 Send this review to a friend
Initial Frustration  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
The icom ID51a is a miracle of modern technology. However along with that miracle are a host of complication such as endless menu's and things that don't work without a lot of head scratching. I have had mine just two weeks and am still working on the more advanced features. One of the main things I wanted to do was hook up my tablet to the data jack for maps, gps and a lot ot the features available. At first it did not work after I invested $70 for the special Icom cable , calls to Icom were useless as the person that I spoke with was unable to help other than to ask if my tablet was host mode capable. Anyhow after much black smoke from the top of my head I got it to work. The basic steps that I used are to be sure the tablet is host mode capable, use apps available free from the app store, get the opc 2350 cable hooked up get the rs-ms1 software on your device, go in the ID51a menus for CI-V and be sure the address is set to 86, the data jack is on , I am not sure of the other settings , baud rate, and echo but it is easy to change them and check to see if you have a connection. Icom never mentioned that the CI-V had to be set up. I have not given detailed instructions because things may vary but if I had been given these steps to do I would have had things working long ago. Very frustrating. When I get up to full speed I will probably raise the rating but will not change my low opinion of Icom tech support. Good luck Carter WA1FOK
YELLOWLEMON Rating: 5/5 Mar 24, 2016 20:17 Send this review to a friend
So easy to use! My favourite HT.  Time owned: 3 to 6 months
I love my ID-51A PLUS and I don't even use the D-Star features. The best parts are:

* The menus are laid out great, everything is where you would expect.
* The context sensitive "quick menu" puts the things you need where you want.
* The menu has little pictograms that help me recognise everything
* No need to memorise complex key sequences that are easily forgotten unless you use the radio everyday (cough, looking at you Yaesu FT1DR, cough)

* I can find the closest FM repeater anywhere, whenever I'm travelling, on the bike, skiing, whatever. No need for little black books or internet access at the time.
* When travelling overseas it's just a matter of getting a repeater list and loading it into the radio (from repeaterbook or various sources online)
* You just have to realise that in the PLUS version, what was previously called "Dstar memory" should now be considered "Repeater memory" because it can do both FM and DSTAR now. The "standard" memories don't allow lat/lon data and are best used for simplex frequencies or your favourite repeaters where you don't need lat/lon search. Once you realise this, the implementation of FM based repeater search is fantastic.

--- GREAT SCREEN: The dotmatrix screen and backlighting have perfect readability whenever I need, whether it be direct sunlight, in the dark at night, or on a bike.

--- TWO ROTARY ENCODERS at the top: The separate dial for volume makes all the difference for one-handed operation

* The radio is built like a tank, and the buttons feel firm & just right
* The rubber PTT button on my Yaesu FT1DR feels flimsy in comparison to the nice firm plastic PTT on the ICOM. I love pressing the ICOM PTT everytime.
* Waterproof, shock proof.

* For under $10 I built a data cable to plug into my Android tablet and with the ICOM RS-MS1A app I can send text messages and data, photos etc. to my friend with the same radio. It's really cool!
* You can even change radio settings, program memories etc.
* Just need a USB-to-Serial cable and USB-OTG USB-female-to-microUSB cable.

The things I don't like:
* The screen is easily scratched and needs a protector. $5 on eBay.
* The official ICOM repeater list from their website is rubbish and out of date, this is for Australia and the European countries I've tried anyway, and especially the data for FM is non-existent. You have to do an internet search for the data yourself, though in most cases HAMs much smarter than me have already done the data entry work, and it's just a matter of downloading a *.ICF file, putting it on a microSD card, and loading it.
* No data cable included. But it is easy to build, no components required other than a 9-pin DSub, 2.5mm TRS phone connector, 3 wires, and a USB-to-Serial converter for $9 off eBay.
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