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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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<— Page 2 of 5 —>

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.
KV9O Rating: 4/5 Jan 21, 2016 20:35 Send this review to a friend
Great Radio  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
I love my ID-51A. Comming from an IC-91AD I can see many improvements in D-Dstar functionality. While trivial, it does seem like they cheapened a few things. The charger is made in china and seems cheap, The 91AD feels like a tougher radio. The belt clip on the 51 a is clip on plastic vs the 92AD's metal belt clip. While I do miss the numeric keys, I like the larger display. (Dont worry, you can still program DTMF memories). Despite this I feel this is one of Icom's best radios yet and a pleasure to use.
K4NBC Rating: 4/5 Jan 11, 2016 04:45 Send this review to a friend
Great D-star beginners radio  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
A friend got me this for Christmas and i love this radio, for beginners like me in d-star is great. it works great, great audio and features. the only thing is FRS frequencies and other frequencies you can't program it in unless you mod the unit.

but everything is is great, many accessories which you can find the oem ones cheaper too. offers lots of help too.
KB7TQD Rating: 4/5 Nov 3, 2015 15:30 Send this review to a friend
Icom Goodness With Caveats  Time owned: 6 to 12 months
Icom has made a very fine radio in the ID-51A. Performance is great, audio is superb, usability is... what you'd expect out of a non-DTMF keypad radio. Menu-based radios are here to stay, so might as well get used to them. The usability isn't bad, though.

I love the dual receive and D* performance. VHF is great, also. I can attest that it's waterproof, as I've used it many times in the rain for hours at a time with various volunteer groups.

I *hate* the "battery" that they include. I put quotes on "battery" because the capacity is next to worthless. As other reviewers have said, you WILL be getting a high capacity battery at some point. Personally, I suggest you get a knock-off on eBay and save $60+. How Icom can charge such exorbitant prices on accessories... I digress.

I'm not thrilled with the form factor. With the stock battery, it feels great. Put on a high cap one and it feels like an actual brick. I, personally miss the ability to add battery capacity by making your radio longer. Making it thicker just feels... wrong. A certain cheap Chinese manufacturer sure got it right on this point. (*cough*Baofeng*cough*)

The belt clip is an atrocity. Due to the length and extra width at the top, it's fallen off what it's clipped to (belt, pocket, molle loops, etc) many, many times. The (very nice) upgraded antenna they send out with the radio is completely ruined because the belt clip has dropped the radio on its antenna so many times. Do not trust it.

So, those are my gripes. But, I still feel like it's still a solid 4-star radio. If it broke, I'd probably get another despite dwindling D* activity in Utah. It just ticks a lot of the checkboxes. But it's not perfect. If you find the perfect radio, let me know.
KR4OP Rating: 4/5 Aug 30, 2015 20:23 Send this review to a friend
Great HT  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
I bought the ID-51A+ and I must say I'm very impressed! The audio is superb and the radio and controls feel very solid. The only thing I'm put off with is the stock battery. Make no mistake, If you get one you will be getting the extended life battery. Just monitoring a 3hr DSTAR net, ran the battery down from full charge. Other than the battery, it's a great radio and the experience of using it on DSTAR is amazing...73's
KE8BSR Rating: 5/5 Jul 31, 2015 09:11 Send this review to a friend
Excellent D-STAR Platform  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
I've had this H/T for about a month, and still learning it - or more exactly - learning about D-STAR.

For a regular VHF/UHF rig, it is very nice. Built like a little brick, charges very quickly, GPS allows you to locate the nearest FM repeater (Anniversary or Plus model, anyway), and the micro SD card allows me to store 50 separate repeater directories - one for each state, again, with the GPS telling me the closest one.

Where this rig really shines is in it's D-STAR capability. Now first, I'm new to D-STAR so I can't appreciate this "new way" verses the "old way" setup and configuration process, but it appears that the ID-51A's setup process is nearly fool-proof. The downside is that - independent of ICOM's manuals - you *need* to *understand* what D-STAR is and what it attempts to accomplish. Google and YouTube is your friend. The ICOM manuals (both the paper one and the 400 page advanced manual that comes on the enclosed CD) step you through setting up the D-STAR fields. But again, unless you *know* D-STAR, you won't know *why* you are configuring the fields. The ICOM manuals cover the 'why' only very lightly. Again, research!

If nothing else, you NEED NEED NEED to register with your local D-STAR repeater. Bascially, you get on the web, go to the local D-STAR repeater site, put in your call sign and email address, create a password, and wait for the sys admin to email you back and say "You're in"... THEN you need to log in, update a few fields, then you are REALLY in... :)

Now you can actually *use* D-STAR in it's intended design.

But like I said in the beginning, I'm still learning, and so far, I've found nothing in the ID-51A that is limiting regarding D-STAR for my intended application use.
VK5FMSB Rating: 5/5 May 24, 2015 08:29 Send this review to a friend
A true dream to use even for the new ham  Time owned: 6 to 12 months
I have a problem with being a ham. That problem is that I want to buy every new thing I see. In Australia we are limited in ham radio shops where we can walk into and see the items IRL.

This month is the 12 month anniversary of receiving my ham ticket. To-date I've amassed a number of Icom transceivers. My first HT was the Yaesu FT1DR and I found its menu system confusing.

I was in the market for another ht that was easier to use for Ecomm work I do. I just happened to be in the region of a ham radio shop and decided to have a look at the Icom ID-51A anniversary edition. I'd already have read reviews of this radio.


Small size in weight and dimensions
High power
Easy to program
Easy menus
Excellent audio on both tx&rx
Affordable accessories
Water proof/resistant
Different colour options
You can actually name your channels fully due to the great number of available scrolls if really long.
Scanning features and options
GPS is a bonus even if I employ on limited basis.
Well built. Ruggedly built
User interface is really good
You only need to read the manual a couple of times and put the manual away. The manual will rarely be used

As a priority I purchased the higher capacity battery as I do a lot of Ecomm work and needed a more reliable source of power. No problems with that choice.
Also purchased was an OEM pouch/case. It's very well crafted and provides protection from scratches but not so much from high impact shocks.
An OEM external mic was purchased. Works fine but the audio is tinny but it's no worse than a Yaesu. I guess I was a little let down given the audio straight from the ht speaker itself was very clear with quality sound.

Lastly...I've been able to access repeaters easier with the Icom ID-51A than the Yaesu. Next I'm going to diversify my units as I want the ability to use echoink and WIRES in my radios.
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