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Icom ID-5100 Review: VHF/UHF D-Star Mobile with GPS

Discussion in 'Product Reviews' started by Moleculo, May 20, 2014.

  1. Moleculo

    Moleculo
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    I've been so impressed with Icom's recent ID-31 and ID-51 handheld radios, that when news came out that they were releasing a new mobile VHF/UHF/D-Star radio with built-in GPS, I was immediately interested. Early reports indicated that the new ID-5100 would incorporate most of the same user interface concepts, including the SD card slot which made the decision to purchase even more compelling. I freed up some cash by selling a few items from the shack and when the radio finally showed in stock at my favorite retailer, I made the $750 purchase.

    Upon receiving the package, i immediately tore into it like a kid during Christmas, took everything out of the package and laid it out for the obligatory de-boxing photo:

    [​IMG]

    One thing you immediately notice about this package is that it is missing some typical inclusions: the mobile mounting bracket for the body is not included and neither is a way to mount the control head. Other than the main radio body, control head, and mic, the package includes the typical power cord, CAT 5 cable to connect control head to main body, mic hanger, manuals, and CD with PDF documentation and the radio programming software.

    The first thing I was impressed with when I got everything hooked up is the size and quality of the touch screen display.

    [​IMG]

    There have been a few preliminary posts by the ham community questioning the greyscale screen, but I can honestly say that this might be the easiest to read, best VHF/UHF mobile radio screen I have ever used. My day job gives me the opportunity to review many different software application user interface designs, so when I experienced the 5100's overall layout and menu design, I could immediately tell that a lot of thought has been put into optimizing the user experience.

    I'm going to use this radio in the shack before taking it mobile, so I needed to decide how to overcome the lack of included head mounting bracket. Icom's desktop mounting accessory kit is almost $100 which seems excessive, so I started rooting through my radio junk drawers. I've always wondered why I hang onto dead equipment mounting brackets, and now I know why. Using a combination of old CB and Ham radio brackets, I fabricated a simple, yet effective desktop stand:

    [​IMG]

    In the upcoming weeks, I'll shoot the whole stand with a nice black paint and it will look like I bought it from Icom!

    Before I go much further in this review, I want to share some perspective on the size of main screen. Here is a photo comparing the ID-5100 to a standard iPhone 5:



    [​IMG]

    As you can see, the touch screen on the radio is quite large, as is the text which should be easy enough to read by just about any operator.

    Over the next several weeks, I'll continue to update this review by giving an overview of the major features, including D-Star operations. If you have any questions, feel free to ask, or if you have your own contributions to this review, feel free to contribute!
     
    #1 Moleculo, May 20, 2014
    Last edited: Aug 2, 2014
    1 person likes this.

  2. Moleculo

    Moleculo
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    Since I'm a Navy MARS operator, I have a good reason to modify my radios for extended transmit. The mod for this radio is pretty easy, and I posted the instructions here.

    While the mod is easy, the size of the diodes that you need to remove are so small I could barely see them, even with 2X magnified reading glasses! Here is a pic that shows how small these things are next to some fine point tweezers:

    [​IMG]

    So far, I've experienced no side effects with the mod and have successfully accessed our local Navy MARS repeater.
     
    #2 Moleculo, May 21, 2014
    Last edited: Aug 2, 2014
  3. Moleculo

    Moleculo
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    After a short break for work duties and Memorial Day weekend, I'm back to continue the review.

    Audio Reports
    I've used the radio on both standard FM and D-Star modes and have received nothing but stellar audio reports. The first time I keyed it up on the local repeater, a particularly harsh audio critic (who generally only likes Kenwood audio) remarked, "Wow, THAT'S really nice audio!" The D-Star audio reports were equally as good.

    While the radio has Treble and Bass settings for DV Mode, it only has Mic Gain for the FM modes. I like to hold the mic pretty close to my mouth, so a gain setting of "2" worked equally well on both DV and FM modes for me. I didn't even mess with the EQ settings for DV, which worked good for my voice characteristics.

    It should be noted that a few other amateurs have noted improved audio reports by opening up the rubber membrane inside the mic that covers the element. I didn't receive any reports that I sounded muffled, so I have not performed this mod.

    In DV Mode, you can also adjust the RX audio characteristics: there are settings for treble, bass, and "bass boost". I'm using an external Motorola speaker which sounds pretty good, but I will play around with these settings in the next few weeks.
     
  4. Moleculo

    Moleculo
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    A Quick Note about Icom Programming Cables

    I have the original Icom OPC-2218LU cable which I purchased when I needed to update the firmware on the Icom ID-31A. Icom's cable is based on the FTDI chipset, but the software seems to check for the Icom specific driver to allow you to use the cable for programming. I wanted to see if my original OPC-2218LU cable would work with with the new 5100, so I was quite disappointed when I went to Icom's website and read that the original (non "B" version) would not work with Windows 8.1.

    Well, since I knew that this cable was just an Icom branded FTDI USB-Serial cable, I decided to give it a try on my Windows 8.1 PC anyway. I installed the latest version that Icom claimed would not work and....it didn't. Windows 8.1 did not like the driver and wouldn't activate the the USB Serial cable. Worse yet, it conflicted with my other FTDI USB Serial cable and kept causing the other one to inactivate. These problems resulted in me uninstalling the Icom driver.

    Next, I decided to try the 1.0 driver that Icom says will only work on Windows 7 and prior versions. I decided to give that a try anyway, and IT WORKED!. I have used it on my Windows 8.1 machine and it coexisted successfully with the other FTDI based cable. This is an important development, because you need one of the Icom cables if you intend to use any of the slow data modes like text chatting or D-RATS, or intend to update the firmware when updates are released.

    Here is a pic of my radio sending programming data to my Windows 8.1 PC with the original OPC-2218LU cable:
    [​IMG]

    BTW, it should be noted that Icom's software doesn't like reading the radio when you have it set to TX out of band, even though it will open a config file from the SD-Card. I had the same problem with the ID-51A handheld.
     
    #4 Moleculo, May 28, 2014
    Last edited: Aug 2, 2014
  5. Moleculo

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    Crossband Repeat

    Before I run through the primary features of this radio, I want to address the question I've been getting asked most often: "Does this radio do crossband repeat?"

    I'm happy to report that yes, the American version of the radio supports crossband repeat with no modification. However, you can only turn it on when both VFOs are in either FM or FM Narrow mode. You can have one side using FM and the other using FM-N, but you cannot do crossband repeat using a DV mode. Here's how you do it:

    Touch MENU from the main panel, use the arrows to get to the third menu screen and then select "OTHERS". On the first menu screen, you should see a menu titled "Repeater Mode" like this:

    [​IMG]

    Select that item which takes you to the following screen:

    [​IMG]

    When turned on, the "Hang Up Time" setting adds about a 1/4 second squelch tail to the repeat transmission after the received station has unkeyed. Most people will want to leave this setting off. Select the "<<Repeater Mode>>" setting and then answer "Yes" to turn on crossband repeat. If you are successful, you will be returned to the normal VFO screens, but the bottom left screen icon will be replaced with a blinking one that says "RPT" like this:

    [​IMG]

    To turn it off, press that new RPT button and follow the prompts to disable. The crossband repeat function on this radio works really well, and the default "hang up time" setting is exactly what is needed to keep the obnoxious squelch tails to a minimum.
     
    #5 Moleculo, May 30, 2014
    Last edited: Aug 2, 2014
  6. Moleculo

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    Touch Screen Basics

    Most of the basic operations for standard FM VHF/UHF operation can be performed using the touch screen. In this post, I'll cover a few of the commonly used functions and describe how it works in the touch environment.

    Changing Step

    While viewing the main screen, changing the frequency step is as simple as touching and holding the KHz side of the frequency that is displayed. This is the resulting screen where you select the desired step:

    [​IMG]

    Changing Band

    Simply tap the screen on the MHz side of the displayed frequency and you get this screen:

    [​IMG]

    If you tap the "F-INP" (frequency input) button on the same screen, you get this menu where you can punch in the desired frequency:

    [​IMG]

    Changing Mode

    Tap the displayed mode at the top of the screen (FM, etc.) to get this menu:
    [​IMG]

    DV is the basic D-Star mode, of course.

    Change Power Level

    On either VFO, tap the power level indicator on the screen (L, M, H) to select the desired power output:

    [​IMG]

    Memory/VFO/Call Channels

    To toggle between the saved memory channels, VFO, and call channels, tap the three digit channel indicator in the bottom right on either VFO screen. The resulting screen is as follows:

    [​IMG]

    The radio has 26 memory banks allowing up to 100 channels per bank. Keep in mind that there are 999 total memory slots. On the previous screen, if you first hit the "MR" (Memory) button while in VFO or Call mode, then tap the channel indicator again, you get new options to either punch in the channel or select the desired bank. If you tap the BANK button, the bank menu pops up. As you can see in this screen, I have not named any of the banks yet:

    [​IMG]

    Keep in mind that you can always just tap the V/M button on the main screen to toggle between VFO and Memory.

    Sometimes it's fun just to tap around on the screen to see what is touch enabled. I discovered that you can see the GPS info by tapping on the little GPS symbol at the top of the screen:

    [​IMG]

    By tapping the time in the top center of the screen, I discovered that the rig displays both your local time and UTC, which is extremely useful to me!

    [​IMG]

    Of course, once I discovered that it displayed both time zones, I was quick to set the local time zone in the menu. BTW, the current time is set via the GPS.

    As you can see, the touch screen on this radio is not a trivial add-on. It is essential to the basic operation and works very well.
     
  7. SIX-SHOOTER

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    I still prefer my ICOM 2820H because I do not like the monochrome display on this rig.Looks as if ICOM took a step backwards with that & I can't see why? Same with the New IC-7100.Monochrome display & with it you can't run an external display like with my IC-7000? They add features that are unimportant to my style of operating & take away very positive features from the previous models.I though it was about making forward strides not backward slides? I am a huge fan & big time user of ICOM gear but none of these New rigs even spark my interest even a little bit so I hope I don't have a rig failure or I'll be buying a used rig from their previous offerings prior to the monochrome craze! {:>(
     
  8. Moleculo

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    I haven't taken the time on this review to go through every feature and function, but I have been using the rig quite regularly. At this point, I can honestly say that this is one my favorite 2m/440 rigs that I have ever owned. The touch screen is super intuitive and easy to use and the DStar functionality is easy enough for the most novice of DStar users to adopt it. GPS works flawlessly and the addition of the SDCard makes for fantastic additional functionality, including ease of programming.

    The only negatives on this radio are price and the lack of included mounting brackets. Everything else about this radio is top quality and flawless functionality.
     

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