Icom ID-51A Handheld Ham Radio Review

When it comes to choosing a handheld ham radio, one of the challenges can be to identify a radio which unites the features you are looking for in a balanced package. All too often, radios which offer high coverage and powerful features end up being bulky and hard to use. Those which are smaller fail to provide you with the functionality you need.

The Icom ID-51A is an answer to this dilemma. This radio is compact enough to fit comfortably in your hand, but still offers you a large, clear display, ample features, and fantastic range.

It is durably designed and aesthetically appealing, available in a wide range of colors (black, yellow, blue, orange and pink). These bright colors make it easy to find at a glance if you set it down somewhere.

With A band frequencies of 136-174MHz, 380-479MHz and B band frequencies of 108-174MHz, 380-479MHz, this radio provides you with fantastic coverage. There are 1304 channels in all. The Icom ID-51A includes the popular D-STAR feature which greatly augments the radio’s capabilities above those in lower price brackets.


  • Multiple output power options. You can set the wattage as high as 5.5 or as low as 0.5. Additional options include 1 or 2.5 watts. This allows you to choose a higher output to boost your range or a lower one to conserve your battery.
  • Durable and good for outdoor use. With a waterproof rating of IPX7, your device can survive submersion in water 1 meter deep for up to half an hour. That means that if you drop it in a puddle, it should survive.
  • D-STAR. This is an excellent feature which greatly extends what your radio is capable of. With it, you can get online, check friends’ call signs, send texts, and do a whole lot more.
  • RS-MS1A. This is a free application which you can download for your Android mobile device. When you connect the app to your radio, you are able to review a repeater map, import and export call signs, and take advantage of even more great features.
  • DV Fast Data Mode. The Icom ID-51A replaces voice frames with data in order to facilitate faster transfers.
  • Many other great features are included. Some of these are DV and the FM Repeater Search Function, AM/FM reception, QSO recording, a communication log in CSV format, a MicroSD card, and a voltage indicator for your battery. The radio also features Dualwatch and comes with built-in GPS for navigation.


  • Battery life is not the best. That said, it is not the worst either. The best way to prolong it is to shut off features if you are not using them. You can also reduce the power output.
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