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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: 29 Average rating: 4.3/5 MSRP: $629.95
Description: Dstar VHF/UHF Handheld tranceiver
Product is in production.
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IZ4UFQ Rating: 4/5 May 13, 2013 14:44 Send this review to a friend
Nice radio, but could be better.  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
Quite small, yet very solidly built, it is a pleasure to hold it, and it's also waterproof. I'm not afraid to use it in harsh conditions. It has a big and beautiful display, but still it is not too big to carry around.

A good radio, but it is far from perfect. For example, with its hardware it could probably be able to do APRS too, but it does not. I know, Icom wants us to use DSTAR and DPRS, but APRS is working here and now, and Dstar is far from ubiquitous (not to mention its horrible voice quality).

Also, it has no numeric keyboard, but I understand that a radio cannot be small, yet have a big display and a big keyboard. Still you can QSY quite fast using the dial, even without a keyboard for direct frequency entry.

Should Icom add APRS to this radio, I would give it a five even without a full numeric keyboard.

If you are considering buying it, read the manual (the more detailed one, 370 pages long) before buying it to better understand its potential and its limits.

Consider that to use Dstar repeaters it is really useful to have a computer and the programming cable (which can be bought on Ebay from third party manufacturers for far less than the original one) to upload repeaters lists to the radio. With the repeaters list loaded to the radio (with repeaters GPS positions) you can simply ask the radio "show me the nearest repeaters" and QSY to the right frequency (and also set RPT callsigns) instantly. Nice feature if you travel a lot.
MW0GUK Rating: 2/5 Mar 18, 2013 10:55 Send this review to a friend
poor technology  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
It is a very nice looking radio and come pre-programmed with all that you might need BUT you cannot use DTMF tones on the fly. It is as though it has been designed for the DStar system of 2 years ago and to be honest the system technology and software has moved on considerably since then. I personally would not give it house room. The 92 is much better especially if you have the remote control software.
K9MHZ Rating: 5/5 Mar 15, 2013 07:04 Send this review to a friend
What a great radio!  Time owned: 3 to 6 months
Icom did a wonderful job designing the ID-51A. What a nice radio. At last, they decided to make D-STAR easier to use. Particularly at the yearly D-STAR Forum at Dayton, the case is always made that "D-STAR isn't hard, you just need to know how to program your radio...." Very true, but very tiring and condescending to hear year after year. It's simply a matter of previous radio models not necessarily being difficult to use, but ABSOLUTELY being needlessly cumbersome to use.

So Icom has finally gotten religion on ease-of-use, and they knocked it out of the park with this latest offering. The databasing is a terrific feature. Many have mentioned the transmit audio quality. True it's not great, but with audio level (deviation) set to 3, low cut, and high increased, you get acceptable audio. It's just not that big of a deal. Yes, you can open the radio and cut the membrane in front of the mic element and get very nice results afterword.

With the ID-51A being a dual band radio, you also have some very nice extended receive capabilities.....aircraft band AM, commercial broadcast FM, weather, etc.

This is a very high end (and high priced) radio, and Icom kicked in the quality of construction. It's small, but very solid. Someone earlier mentioned a Diamond Antenna model to replace the stock Icom antenna. True the Icom stock antenna isn't anything special, but if one chooses to use a better antenna, certainly don't get another SMA connector antenna. If you're going to this trouble, get the Diamond SMA/BNC adapter, which is black and looks very good on the ID-51. You may need a small rubber washer spacer from your hardware store which will allow the adaptor to seat solidly against the radio case. Now, you have a full range of antenna options, large and small, and you can routinely remove and change antennas without and fear of wearing out the SMA connector on the radio. Getting another SMA antenna is just silly.

In summary, this is a fabulous radio. It will definitely reinvigorate your D-STAR use with all of its very fine new features and ease-of-use.
AE7Q Rating: 5/5 Mar 14, 2013 16:14 Send this review to a friend
A winner  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
I have owned (or been loaned) almost all of the Icom D-Star radios (including the miserable V82/U82 series) except for the new IC-9100, and I think that the ID-51A has the firmware with the best features and user interface.

I put myself on the local HRO wait list for an ID-51A in early January, and received it on Feb 4. I have been critical of Icom's radio firmware and associated PC software in the past, but this time they seem to have gotten it mostly right. The ID-51A is a pleasure to use, and the associated (free) PC software is much improved. I bought the radio with the extended-life BC-272 battery, and (one day later) the BC-202 rapid charger.

While the radio's options (and hence the menu) are extensive, the menu system is easy to learn, and (most importantly) the documentation (the manual for the radio, and the help file for the software) is extensive and much improved over prior Icom D-Star products. Icom produces two manuals for both the ID-31 and the ID-51 (available for download on the Icom/Japan web site):

1. An idiot's guide to getting started (Icom being a Japanese company, it's not called that, of course).

2,An advanced/complete manual.

You don't need the data port for updating settings: If you buy a microSD card, you can insert it into the ID-31/51 and copy your settings to/from it, move it to/from your PC, and update the settings using Icom's included software on the PC. So, the only thing you need a data cable for, is for D-Star low-speed over-the-air data transfer. The Icom-intended way for you to do this is to buy their OPC-2218L USB cable. However, due to issues with the Icom USB driver included with the OPC-2218L, if you have an available serial port (or another USB-to-serial converter), I think a better decision is to buy the Icom OPC-1529R serial (RS-232) cable instead. It fits quite snugly into the ID-31/51, but works.

Minor caveats:

1. Outside of the amateur 2m and 70cm ranges (those two amateur bands and the frequencies surrounding them), and the aviation ("air") band, the ID-51 only receives the broadcast AM and FM bands. There is no "DC-to-daylight" receive, like there is on many radios (eg, the Icom IC-91/92AD, and some of the Yaesu radios). Of course, the advantage of this limitation is better selectivity.

2, While most D-Star radios can transmit DTMF tones, due to the complexity of a useful front panel (or microphone) keypad interface in a small space, DTMF tone sequences in most current Icom radios are transmitted by first storing them in DTMF-sequence memory, and then using the menu to transmit them. OK for dedicated sequences, but not for just spur-of-the-moment tones.

To me, some of the concerns about muffled transmit audio are overblown. I have an early model with the thicker (black) microphone felt overlay, and I just (via a menu option) adjusted the gain up.
PA3HGT Rating: 4/5 Mar 10, 2013 01:53 Send this review to a friend
Good but....  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
This little HT is improvement on several terrains with the IC92 which i had for a year:It's smaller,easier to use then the 92 and i love the display.

First I have to remark that the TX-audio was very poor what can't be happen of a expensive HT in my humble opinion.
Sounds like a muffled audio and it's the same as the ID31 which had earlier reports of bad audio.
Don't understand that Icom has solved that problem in the ID51.
I had the worsted audio-reports ever:you get a baofeng?Are you in a bucket,You're not PA3HGT.
When the IC92 has a good audio with the same IPX7 certification then i don't understand the problem with the ID31/51 because that's the problem with the muffled audio.
When potential buyers hear that poor audio then they will be scared to get a ID51.
First i was playing with bass and treble in the menu but was not helping me further so had to open up the ID51.
I had to remove a ring and a membrame to get a more proper audio.For your understanding: the audio goes to 2 membrames.
Info about that can be found in the usefull Yahoo-usersgroup.
Now it's sounds much better.
ID51 has CPU 1.01 DSP 1.00 out of the box.

Second: you get with the ID51, CS51-software but not the cable to program the ID51,sounds like you get a new car with wheels but not the bolts to mount it.
You can make a RS232-programcable for 10% of the cost of the expensive USB-cable.
Schematics can be found on the Yahoo-users group and maybe elsewhere.

Like the silicone jacket SJ1 and the rapidcharger BC202 which can be ordered and i have replaced the antenna for a Diamond SRH701 which performs better then the Icom-antenna.
It's a pity that ICFfiles of the IC92/ID31/ID51 are not compatible with eachother.
GPS: is very sensitive! I get still indoor a lock on GPS.
The menu to set the ID51 for you own taste is good to work with,specially the quickmenu.
Sound of reception for HAM-use is very good and the broadcastreception is almost "hifi" for such small speaker.
Overall is the ID51 not feeling cheap and is the construction durable in my opinion.

It's that i loved the display and that the ID51 is a small HT otherwise i was give it a 3 to needs help.

ON4KVK Rating: 5/5 Mar 9, 2013 09:27 Send this review to a friend
hard to beat !  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
I jut bought this transceiver two days ago. I wanted to go digital since a long time, but didn't find a transceiver that matched "all" my requirements. This device does it all. I was on the air in one hour after the purchase. The Icom logic is different from Yaesu and Kenwood, but staight forward. (This is my first Icom). I'm looking forward to the 7100 to come out in April as I want to replace my "old" Yaesu FT 897 by a HF/VHF/UHF + D-star transceiver.

In a few weeks, once I've explored more of the almost endless possibilities of this little gem, I will post a second review.
PD1ABK Rating: 5/5 Feb 22, 2013 02:56 Send this review to a friend
Almost perfect  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
Got mine ID 51 E about 2 weeks ago. Having experience with the ID 31 E no problems with the settings. It's very easy to scroll through the menu. Programming also just as easy as ID 31E or 880 E on the computer.
Gps fix very quick, even in house.
Frequency coverage: strange that the E version has no extended RX frequency coverage (108-174, 380-479) which is normal nowadays in VHF/UHF equipment. Fortunately this is an easy modification which can be done by your supplier.
Audio: unfortunately same problem with the TX audio as the ID 31E. TX audio sounds muffled and not clear. You can adjust the TX en RX audio in the menu but this in not enough.
This problem is caused by the rubber membrane in front of the microphone. Strange that ICOM did not learn from the ID 31E problems and repeated the mishap.
You can use an external mike or remove the membrane. Doing the latter will void your warranty!
Also the batterylife of the supplied battery is due to the bigger display shorter than the ID 31E.
Hopefully ICOM will improve the items above.
Like to rate this new ICOM 51 E: 4,5
All in all some almost perfect.

KA0BBQ Rating: 5/5 Feb 9, 2013 09:22 Send this review to a friend
D-STAR Dual Band Handheld  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
This transceiver is absolutely my all time favorite out of the box - well with one exception...

The Negative - TX Audio appeares muffeled due to the water tight submerssion membrane over the microphone. Some early adopters have opted to MOD (remove) the membrane which clears up the audio 10 fold, however the second round of units being distributed are reported to have clear audio with a software update from CPU Version 1.00 DSP 1.00 to CPU Version 1.01 DSP 1.00

The Positive - Everything there is to love about the radio starts right out of the box. It took a total of 5 minutes without having used the radio or the ID-31 to program in my amateur radio call sign and TX message, figure out how to turn on the Internal GPS and obtain a Satellite Fix, and then using the DR button locate my nearest D-STAR Repearter and get on the air... 5 Minutes. OK I cheated... waiting for the radio I downloaded the Advanced Manual and started reading the manual. OK I'm a guy and were not suppose to do that RIGHT!... but this manual is some 600+ pages of well written information unlike most ICOM (Japanese in general) Manuals. The radio menus are pretty intuitive. Some menus don't appear unless your in a specific menu area such as the DSTAR To or From fields highlighted in black on the right hand side of the screen. That was a bit confusing at first when I knew I saw a menu item, but where did it go? I'm getting older and the short term memory has something to be desired.

FEATURES - If being able to find the nearest D-STAR Rpearter to operate from with a couple of button presses isn't cool I don't know what is. You will find the DR Button takes you to a selection list of Repearter List / Near Repearter / TX History and with the press of a center button your almost there. A couple of presses and your talking!

Memory Storage - up to 32GB on a removeable microSD card. My initial 8GB card I had lying around is able to hold over 130 hours of .wav files. What do you do with it? Well for one you have the initial ID-51 folder and 8 subfolders. This is why you want to format the card when you first put it in the radio to create the folders which include GPS|QsoLog|Reply|RxLog|Setting|Voice|VoiceRec|VoiceTX
Are you starting to see the logging capabilities. You not only can record all the routing data of each transmission like UR Call, Rpt1 Rpt2 etc. but you can record the actual voice transmissions of both transmit and receive. I recorded a one hour net and it only took up about 20 minutes acutal recording time or about 7MB... I still have 7,502.6MB left! Also stored on the microSD card are all of your settings in the .icf format. So you could have numerous files stored and upload various files depending on the way you wanted to operate. That gets us to the Repeater List. Yes it's stored in a folder too... some 700 Repeaters can be stored, but you say what if there are 1500 repeaters worldwide, I want them all... so be it, just organize them in regions or zones and create different repeater lists... like a Favorites, Western Hemisphere, Eastern Hemisphere etc. Then when you want to access a certin area just upload that to be your current list. You could have hundreds of lists just on a 8GB card and you can use upto 32GB's.
GPS - Ok what can you expect from this bad little boy... I have two older Garmin GPS and this is the only one of the three that gets satellite fixes in my basement... I'm talking locks on twice as fast and to 7 or more satellites in seconds... frankly I don't understand that one. But the radio has a crumb trail feature (GPS Logging) that can be set to various lengths to lets say log your hike down trails to later load into a computer mapping program. You can also have it capture points of interests. It has ICOM Headquarters, Dayton Hamcon, several mountains which you can obtain bering and range from. Well I live in Colorado! I loaded in all the well known front range mountain peaks, Denver skyscrapers, friends QTH's into the GPS Memory for obtaining range and berings. OK, so you say big deal... I thought it was cool!
Then what about having a seperate AM / FM Broadcast Receiver and memory banks to store tons of station calls and frequencies. You can listen to your favorite broadcast until a amateur radio call comes in and it captures the call. Since this is dual band receive you can listen to two V/V V/U U/U bands and as a kicker throw in WX Monitoring too... just remember it chops about every 5 seconds when it take one channel for a few mseconds. OH, you want to listen to aviation... you have the ability to listen there too... with the additional 8.33KHz steps in the AM Band.

So whats cool about this radio... lets take a hike, and set my radio GPS On, Auto Position Reply on, Digital Call Sign Squelch on and head to the trails. OOppsss I fell down a ravine and can't get up! My ham buddies knew I went on a hike because you always file a trip plan right... well I'm unconcious but my DSTAR Radio is just waiting to be called using my call sign and it responds with my current or last known GPS fix remotely obtained by the calling station. That feature could be a real life saver!

I like this radio. Hands down the easiest high tech radio since crystal channels to program. ICOM provides some programming software with the radio but you still have to buy a programming cable so don't bother, contact RTSystems and obtain the ICOM ID-51A Software and programming cable, it's is much more intuitive and works well with their other software to transfer from your exisiting DSTAR radios into the ID-51A.

Pricey? I have paid almost twice the cost of this radio for a GPS Receiver alone. It's both Analog and Digital VHF / UHF Transceiver. And it out performs my ICOM ID-92A Hands down!

This is a solid GREAT! radio in my opinion.

ZL1TAP Rating: 5/5 Jan 18, 2013 19:56 Send this review to a friend
Icoms latest DStar Handheld  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
Purchased as an upgrade to my ID-92 and my ID-31.
If you know how to program the ID-31 you will
have no problems programming the ID-51.
Much easier than the ID-92 to use and program.
Has AM-FM broadcast radio. The larger display
is easier to see than the ID-31 and on the air
I have had good audio reports with just the
handheld and a lapel mic.
Speaker on radio is good but would have been
nice to have stereo plug on side of rig to
listen to FM radio as does the VX-8r Yaesu.
I will still give it a five out of five for a
radio I've had only two days.
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