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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: 47 Average rating: 4.3/5 MSRP: $629.95
Description: Dstar VHF/UHF Handheld tranceiver
Product is in production.
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KB9MNM Rating: 5/5 Apr 3, 2015 13:24 Send this review to a friend
Love this HT!  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
This is my first dabble into D-Star. I bought this radio to replace old HTs anyway, and thought I would give it a try. The programming is easy once you figure out the .icf file stuff. The audio quality is very nice, and if you've never heard DV before, my kids say it sounds like a 'Mr Speak and Spell." The radio feels solid in my hand and is very comfortable. Not too thrilled about the belt clip though. I carry this radio with me almost all the time and cant wait to get a hotspot set up so I can do more D-Star work!
WX4GPS Rating: 3/5 Mar 6, 2015 07:30 Send this review to a friend
Still no 5 star radio even after releasing PLUS model  Time owned: more than 12 months
I owned the original ID-51A, and wished they would have implemented FM analog repeater searching. Well they did the unexpected, they released a PLUS model, I guess the memory structure of the original did not allow it to be a firmware update. So I upgraded to the Plus, and wish I had not. I am not gaining much and this feature that I was excited to get was poorly implemented. You have 500 regular FM repeater and simplex, and 700 D-Star memories that you access in DR mode. So what I was expecting to happen in the new model, is you would be able to assign lat/long to the 500 regular memory channels and using the quick button in memory mode, have an option to Show nearest, and display the closest repeaters or memory channels to you.

Well what I learned the hard way, is they only implemented this in the DR mode (or what is labeled in the brochure as your D-Star Memories. So now you have to use up your memories for D-Star for FM repeaters. So now you can't store as many D-Star machines. Seemed to be a poorly designed implementation and they lead me to believe now you can search your regular bank. At this point I doubt they can fix it via firmware again, and it is what it is. At this point Im not sure why they even now offer a DR mode and regular bank of memories. They should have made it all one and used it as you seen fit if everything was to be searchable as implied. I do hope other manufactures that offer radios with GPS will implement this better. I think every memory bank should be able to be assigned a lat long, if you leave it blank, then its not part of the search (like simplex, etc).

Other then that the radio has a nice interface and works as described. has a decent feature set. Oh and one mor quibble is you can use the quick button to turn on the tone, but you have to go elsewhere to pick what tone it is... I think that wasn't thought out that well either. Now that I can see them fixing in a firmware, however were on the 3rd generation of the radio (original,anniversary,plus) and nothing like that has changed.

I know we all perceive how things should be done, I tend to home people agree with my two complaints, it almost seemed like a no brainer to do these things this way, and they didn't.
KK9H Rating: 5/5 Oct 20, 2014 09:27 Send this review to a friend
Vast improvement in D-Star use  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
I have been active in D-Star since 2007 when our club put a D-Star repeater on the air in Chicago. My first D-Star HT was an IC-91AD which I liked very much. Since I am one of those who likes to upgrade along with technology, I recently replaced it with the ID-51A. I do admit that having a good familiarity with how D-Star works did shorten my learning curve with this radio and it truly highlighted the significant improvement in how much the ID-51A simplifies D-Star operation. That is the #1 reason for buying this HT. The "DR" mode is tremendous. If you travel, finding and actually beginning to use the nearest D-Star repeater is a snap! My radio also has a database of regular FM repeaters in it so my travel comment applies to that mode too. Very handy! The stock battery seems to have a nice lifespan to it and the HT is slim enough to fit into a shirt pocket which makes it very easy to take with you. Both transmit and receive audio sound very good in both D-Star and FM modes. I think there is a significant improvement in D-Star audio over the IC-91AD. It took a little while to get used to the logic of navigating the menus, but once you do get used to it, finding things becomes easy and straightforward. This is a nicely made HT. Everything fits together well, the buttons have a nice feel to them and the display is bright and easy to read. I do not share the expressed shortcomings of some previous reviewers, but that may be because I bought this radio to use primarily as a D-Star radio and to keep handy in my briefcase.
HB9TNW Rating: 3/5 Aug 4, 2014 00:17 Send this review to a friend
Not really excellent  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
The first impressions are that ICOM designed a nice radio, easy to use. In the details I am missing the ICOM quality. For example the desktop-charger BC-202 generate HF-interference! I think we have enough noise on HF and now ICOM build also such bad devices. Incredible.
Another Problem is that you can have a noise during the external power-operation. In the ICOM manual you find: "ID-51A/E’s charging circuit may generate certain spurious signals; the S-meter appears, or noise may be heard. When you operate the transceiver while charging, and if you cannot receive signals correctly, set “Charging (Power ON)” in the MENU screen to OFF."
In my opinion
the positive points are:
easy to use;
a good display;
a good manual;
programming Software.

the negative points are:
no possibilty to use DTMF on keypad;
audio-quality in the digital-mode;
HF-Noise created from the power-charger.
K0JEG Rating: 4/5 Jul 2, 2014 21:28 Send this review to a friend
So Close, yet not even  Time owned: 3 to 6 months
This is my first Dstar radio, but I've had several HT's over the years. I generally agree with most of what's been written, but I also think there were a lot of poor design decisions made.

The positives:
Very good receiver. Nice size if you have big hands. Speaker-mic connection maintains water resistance. Easy to use, and easy to program with supplied software or RT systems (with the cloning cable or USB). Screen display is sharp and legible. Long name field means plenty of characters for repeater names. "DR" mode with local repeater DB is very handy (although sometimes a little bit optimistic). Recorder function, I use it to record a west coast net that's past my bedtime and will use it for satellite work. It only records when the squelch is open so you can save a lot of time too.

The negatives:
Broadcast bands, and maybe weather band are a waste. Imagine if that expense and circuit board space went toward a Bluetooth chip (like the ID-5100 option) so that you could use it with off the shelf headsets and your smartphone camera (like the ID-5100)?

Repeater DB should include FM repeaters too. This is a premium product in the age of the $30 Baofeng, and Icom had better realize what they're up against. Having the entire 2M/70CM ARRL repeater directory in your HT would be an excellent selling point.

USB on the radio. No excuse for this one. I thought Kenwood settled this one with the USB port on the TH-d72 back in 2010. Heck, even Icom's HF rigs have USB interfaces! And why is their $75 USB-data cable incompatible with Windows 8.1 and OS-X? For $75 you'd better be able to get someone to write some drivers!
Stock battery life is terrible. I got less than 5 hours out of it when out hiking just monitoring a local DV and FM repeater. The 1880mA battery is a necessity, unless you plan on just keeping it in the car or house.
N4SJW Rating: 5/5 May 17, 2014 19:32 Send this review to a friend
Excellent  Time owned: months
I'm in to my third month and this is an excellent HT. You buy it because you want to work DSTAR otherwise the price doesn't justify the purchase. If $ if important to you get an FT60 or equivalent. Living in Denver metro area we have several DSTAR repeaters and this HT works well with all of them. (a note to the fellow below, if you can't hit the DSTAR repeater but can hit other analog repeaters, maybe it's the repeater and not your ID51).

Likes: dual VFOs you can easily toggle to a mono VFO; big beefy belt clip; fits well in my hand, just abt the right size; customizable audio TX/RX.

Dislikes: you really need to get the programming software for this radio; audio note, I initially had the base boost on TX and RX but was getting reports of "muddy" audio. I change audio settings off the base boost (normal) and added treble boost and put mike gain to 4 and that is getting excellent audio reports (YMMV). Battery life, with the GPS working the stock battery doesn't last long so I got the bigger batter and that works well for several hours.

Wish it had: easier way to bring up and unlink reflectors. Dual DSTAR RX like the 5100.

Yes it's around $500 but if you want best of breed DSTAR HT, this is a good choice. It's waterproof and an easy carry radio for all around use.
WA7KGX Rating: 2/5 Apr 22, 2014 09:47 Send this review to a friend
Oops  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
At ten times the cost of a Baofeng, I expected several times the practical utility. Not in this radio.

The main feature of this radio is D-STAR. Unfortunately there don't seem to be any fully functional D-STAR repeaters in the Portland Oregon area. Using an external antenna I can get a response to a D-STAR repeater about 12 miles away. I can hit a co-located FM repeater with a Baofeng and a short stubby.

The evolution of digital modes seems to be moving awat from the somewhat low performance but overly costly proprietary D-STAR codec.

The advertising for the ID-51 mentions the ability to locate nearby repeaters using the built-in GPS. Unfortunately, this only covers D-STAR repeaters, not FM repeaters. If you are close enough to a working D-STAR repeater chances are your smartphone can get service. This unexpected limitation in a major feature killed the deal for me. I returned the ID-51a and learned a $90 lesson.

KT4EP Rating: 5/5 Mar 21, 2014 09:01 Send this review to a friend
Excellent Radio  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
I've had mine 48 hours and love it. My last HT was an ICOM IC-24AT @ $420 in 1992. The ID-51 is light years ahead for just $100 more. I bought the RT Systems programming for the rig, a nice little hand microphone, fast charger, and already see the need for the higher capacity battery. Local UHF D-STAR repeater here (Memphis) is excellent and I have absolutely no problem accessing it in D-STAR mode with a half watt. The repeater is about 6 miles away. The audio is just fine. The radio is sturdy and solid feeling. Broadcast AM/FM, GPS, analog 2 meter and 440, NOAA weather with alert, voice recording, QSO recording, uses a micro SD card, I could go on and on. Like my venture into psk-31 two years ago after 15 years off the air, the ICOM ID 51 is renewing my ham radio enthusiasm.
KG7GNI Rating: 4/5 Mar 9, 2014 18:54 Send this review to a friend
great Radio, Difficult To Use  Time owned: 3 to 6 months
I have both this and the Kenwood T6A. I primarily use the 51A because it's reception is so much better. I really miss wide band receive, though, and setting this radio for D-Star is so complex I still haven 't figured it out. I've gotten on D-Star repeaters in Portland, but, here, in Southern Oregon, I am forced to use a DV-Dongle, the 70cm version, that I simply cannot make work. The instructions for both products are terrible. For all of that, the radio is so well made, the GPS and memories are sensational, the controls well laid out, that it would recommend it to anyone. Typical top notch Icom quality with typical a Icom poorly written, often incomprehensible, user manuals. With this being such a common praise and complaint about their products, I would think a Icom might invest a tiny bit of money into hiring an American technical writer for their amateur radio products. With that major defect handled, this would get 5 stars.
Mike, KG7GNI
VE2DC Rating: 5/5 Feb 12, 2014 10:27 Send this review to a friend
Sounds fine  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
OK, this is preliminary. I have only played with one that my friend has bought as I helped him get started with D-Star. I have however talked to him many times on D-Star and Analog. It sounds fine...D-Star sounds like D-Star... OK given its first generation AMBE chip... it doesn't sound as good as Motorola MOTOTRBO, for example. But that's the mode, not the radio. It sounds as good as any D-Star radio I've worked. On analog, it sounds great. We are using D-Star and Free-Star repeaters locally and it decodes flawlessly. I think I'll get one for myself ;-)
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