Icom ID-51A Review

Looking for a means of staying intact with the police so you can stay updated on crime news? Are you hoping to chase storms right as they pass by? An amateur radio is what you need.

Amateur radio continues to flourish as the years pass by. With advancements in technology, D-STAR is also in the scene with its integration of digital and analog elements in communication.

There is no mistake that you can try out the D-STAR protocol yourself with the Icom ID-51A. It holds a number of features that you can enjoy as you utilize this handheld. Here are some details that you may need to consider. 


The Icom ID-51A is a handy handheld transceiver remains to be a popular model for a D-STAR amateur radio. Like its predecessor, the ID-31A, it's loaded with a wide variety of features and also adds improvements to the system.

The Icom ID-51A has newer variants that improve upon it and adding additional features to it that vastly increases its effectiveness: The PLUS and PLUS2 models. The PLUS2 versions have the Terminal and Access Point modes, allowing you to make D-STAR calls through the internet when a D-STAR repeater is absent in the area.

These models are out on the market, boasting the following features included:

  • Built-in GPS
  • AM/FM Receiver
  • V/V, U/U, V/U Dualwatch band

You also get enhancements for digital operation and compatibility through the use of the RS-MS1A free Android app. These combine to make this the most suitable radio set for a first time user.

Key Features

There are a variety of key features that the Icom ID-51A offers that makes it a fine D-STAR transceiver to use. These are as follows:

Dual Band

Compared to its predecessor, Icom ID-31A, the Icom ID-51A has access to two amateur radio bands. In this case, it has access to the 2 meter and 70-centimeter amateur radio bands, which gives it more options to communicate through and listen to.

Band Coverages

For the US Version, the Icom ID-51A has AM and FM Broadcast Band coverage, as well as Aviation and Weather Band coverage as non-ham radio bands. This allows the handheld radio to monitor NOAA Weather Alerts in almost any location within the US.

Frequency Range

Due to its Dual Band configuration, the Icom ID-51A has a frequency range of 136-174MHz and 380-479MHz for its A Band. While the B Band has a frequency range of 108-174MHz and 380-479MHz. These ranges allow for better communication and reception.

Terminal and Access Point Mode

For the Icom ID-51A PLUS2, there are two new features that it adds that enables you to make your D-STAR transmissions by using the Internet in the event that a D-STAR repeater is not in the area.

Terminal mode, where you get your ID-51A PLUS2 online via PC or Android device and send voice or data through the internet gateway to a destination repeater.

And Access Point mode, where you use the ID-51A PLUS2 as an access point when it's connected to the internet via PC or Android device. This way, you can use another D-STAR radio to send either voice or data through the access point.

RS-MS1A App for Android

The RS-MS1A allows you to use your Android device and connect it with your Icom ID-51A with the optional OPC-2350LU cable. With it, you can locate a repeater site on a map application and set them to the ID-51A. 

The app also allows you to send and receive text messages and pictures, set transceiver's DR functions from the app, view and export received history of the transceiver, view detailed data from the Repeater list, and so on.

Other Features

There are other features that the ID-51A carries, especially with its PLUS and PLUS2 models. Like its predecessor, the ID-31A, it is capable of using the DR mode. This mode allows you to find the closest D-STAR repeater through the GPS integrated on the radio, which makes it the simplest way to use D-STAR.

The ID-51A also has a MicroSD card slot for use with data storage. This is perfect for saving voice and log information, as well as repeater lists and other related information. This helps with expanding the memory capabilities of the handheld radio and can work in conjunction with its internal memory channels.

In terms of its design, the Icom ID-51A is IPX7 waterproof. This makes it capable of getting submerged within a depth of 1 meter for 30 minutes. This makes it ideal for different weather conditions. It also sports a 128x104 dot matrix display, making it larger than its predecessor.

Understanding D-STAR and Its Edges 

For those who are wondering how D-STAR works before taking the ID-51A, here are some things that you should be aware of with this particular system and its benefits in communication.

D-STAR stands for Digital Smart Technologies for Amateur Radio. Designed and manufactured by the Japanese Amateur Radio League aka JARL, D-STAR is one of the first on-air packet-based standards aimed specifically for amateur use.

What makes this appear to be different from the usual is due to how it integrates with the internet with sending messages. It still works like FM but you now have an added reach of sending out transmissions globally using D-STAR. With D-STAR, you have voice quality that is as close to FM but without the noise.

An advantage and benefit that you can get with D-STAR are that most repeaters connect to D-STAR Reflectors, which are basically network servers.

Through this, you can contact other hams at great distances through D-STAR. 

Get the Icom ID-51A Today!

D-STAR is an interesting protocol to use as it offers both versatility and accessibility. Icom is the only brand that can take on the D-STAR protocol and the ID-51A is the right radio for the job. With its dual-band and its wide array of features, the Icom ID-51A is easily one of the most advanced handheld radios so far.

You can browse our other reviews for more to see which model fits your needs.

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