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Reviews For: Icom ID-51A

Category: Transceivers: VHF/UHF+ Amateur Hand-held

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Review Summary For : Icom ID-51A
Reviews: 53MSRP: 629.95
Dstar VHF/UHF Handheld tranceiver
Product is in production
More Info: http://
# last 180 days Avg. Rating last 180 days Total reviews Avg. overall rating
G4AON Rating: 2019-11-05
No dual FM receive Time Owned: more than 12 months.
My radio is the ID-51E Plus 2 version. This review is an update to my earlier one.

While the radio has been a solid performer, a surprising issue came to light recently... there is no facility to monitor VHF FM and UHF FM simultaneously using the memories (only if you use the VFO for both). 30 year old dual band hand helds can do this, but not the ID51.

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

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...

There are YouTube videos that suggest the user interface is similar to the ID-5100 mobile radio, I have both and it’s 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.

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.

Another plus point, is being able to program your home QTH location along with your home hotspot frequency. The radio GPS feature can find your nearest “repeater” in seconds, saving looking for hotspot by scrolling through memories.

Battery life (with a BP-272 size battery) is reasonable.
SAPPHIRE Rating: 2019-11-04
Icom ID 51 Plus the best portable RTX Time Owned: 3 to 6 months.
Icom id 51 is the best portable rtx, it has excellent reception in both vfo A and B. We can adjust the amplification of the microphone from the function menu, mic gain internal obtaining a perfect and strong modulation at level 4. Also it is possible to set the power save in long, decrease the light intensity and turn off the GPS to increase battery life. The squelch can be set automatically with advantage over small signals.You can set digital tones by increasing trebles for better sound I was very happy with the performance of this rtx because it was superior to all the tested including the yaesu ft3d.
K9OBX Rating: 2019-09-21
Worth the Money Time Owned: 0 to 3 months.
I am an addict. A handheld radio addict. I have a few HT's in my collection 4 Yaesus, 2 Kenwoods, 4 Baofengs, and 1 Icom. I compare all of my HT's to the current (in my opinion) King of Handhelds; The Kenwood TH-D74A. Compared to the Kenwood this thing hold it's own when it comes to audio, and functionality. It actually beats the Kenwood in one area.....Repeater search function. I can search for nearby ANALOG repeaters AND D star repeaters using just the internal GPS. I like that. While this isn't an EDC radio for me, I would not be afraid to carry it everywhere. I like the size and fit in my hand as well as how it rides on my belt. The front panel took some getting used to, but all in all this is a really good radio. I will definitely use it and would absolutely buy another one. For this price point you aren't going to find a more capable radio.
W4BFA Rating: 2018-05-21
Excellent transceiver Time Owned: more than 12 months.
I own two of these digital transceivers, the Plus model, which enables digital communication between two people on simplex. Works great, though I do use one of them on FM broadcast almost daily.
AK1CT Rating: 2018-05-19
Great HT Time Owned: more than 12 months.
I have a few different HT's - Yaesu FT-60R, Baofeng (a few), and I have two of these ID-51A 50th Anniversary editions - got them cheap leftovers in an ugly green color, and they look like a toy FMRs radios in this color. These are Fantastic radios. Battery lasts long enough for me - I find the supplied battery lasts 8+ hours with light transmitting at an event, 3+ hours of normal/heavy use. I never bought a spare. I can use this mobile with an external antenna, and I made my own cig lighter cord - this radio takes 13.8 volts no problem; talk and charge the battery at the same time. This is my "go to" HT, I rarely use another HT. Simplex D-Star between radios is great. Water proof enough for me - I use them skiing and rain. My complaints are minor - the speaker driver is weak, they could have done more with the GPS, no numeric pad - which I actually find a plus. Mixed, or should I say cannot mix. DR mode and old fashion channels in one radio is a slight learning curve. I would definitely recommend this.
W5YZR Rating: 2018-03-30
Great radio Time Owned: 3 to 6 months.
I finally decided to go to Digital Radio. I chose DSTAR because I have a repeater near me for that mode. I researched every HT I could find with DSTAR capability. I finally went with the ID51APLUS2. It was $70 more than the ID31 at HRO which is 70 CM only. The 51 is dual band and the display is twice as big on the radio. It had built in GPS so I pushed the digital button went to nearby repeaters and it found mine and it loaded it in for me. All I had to do was tell my radio my call sign and pressed the PTT button and I was on DSTAR!

Like any new mode there is a big learning curve. I use the free software from ICOM to program the radio and set my memory channels. I had trouble at first getting my PC to talk to the radio until I adjusted the baud rate down and then it worked. You can also connect this to your phone and operate the radio with ICOMs free APP or use it from a tablet. My only complaint is ICOM could make it even easier with the PC driver included on the CD that comes with it. I had to find it on their site and download it. I am happy with the radio.
UT7UX Rating: 2017-01-08
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 you’ll get only one stupid slim battery that lasts few hours and a very slow charger
- “normal” 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); I’ve 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 isn’t easy to replace the stock because most antennas are thicker at their bases and couldn’t 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 don’t need to spend $100 for a new battery immediately (standard is good enough and spare one is much less expensive), you don’t need to play with expensive cables or build your ones - simply use standard USB. Instead you’ll get crossband duplex (great for SAT for an example) and unlimited APRS.
W8BYH Rating: 2017-01-01
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: 2016-12-07
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.
N6RLG Rating: 2016-11-30
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.