Thursday, September 12, 2019

Review of Two D-Star Radios

D-Star requires resistration with the D-Star system/network before any of the facilities unique to D-Star can be enjoyed. There are online sites but it is easier to register via Icom UK >> Here

It is wise to consult the manuals from the very start as D-Star is unique in many ways so the advice is RTFM! The reason why will become apparent if you do not.

When D-Star was released on the market it was novel and interesting but the audio was not 100% perfect. Naturally there have been many firmware releases and improvements to the D-Star system over the years and it has come a long way since 2004. The AMBE+2 chip is installed in the current equipment releases and this, combined with firmware and software upgrades has brought D-Star audio quality to today's standards. It is impressive.

Programming the Icom radios may be done using the software CD provided by Manufacturer or that provided by RT Systems. Many would recommend the RT Systems program but, of course, it is another extra on which to spend hard earned cash.

Handheld Operation

The ID-51E Plus 2 was chosen as it is the most recent release from Martin Lynch & Sons retailing at £379.95. There is a small "ouch" factor as it is a lot to pay for a handheld but then the Yaesu FT3E Fusion Handheld costs exactly the same. This is the latest generation of hand portable from Icom. The ID-51E Plus 2 is a dual bander and can receive two bands simultaneously.

The output power is 5, 2.5, 1.0. 0.5 a,d 0.1 watts. It is IPX7 waterproof and features built in GPS and has a large 128 x 104 dot matrix display..

There is a micro SD card slot for optional memory which can stor DVR incoming and outgoing message, GPS log and Memory Backup. All the built in CTCSS/DTCS encode and decode facilities for analog FM are included.

This unit features "Terminal ID" and "Access Point" mode.

Access point Mode allows connection to the Internet via a PC or Android device as an access point (gateway). Another D-star radio may then communicate via this system.

Terminal Mode allows the unit to be connected to the Internet using Call sign routing through the Internet Gateway to a destination repeater. There is optional free software to allow this.

RS-MS1A is a free software that allows the unit to be connected to an android device. A number of interesting facilities become available through this software.

 RS-MS1A Features

  •     Send and receive pictures
  •     Send and receive text messaging
  •     Set transceiver's DR functions from the RS-MS1A or a map application
  •     See the location of repeater sites or other D-PRS stations on a map
  •     View and export received history of the transceiver
  •     View detailed data in the transceiver's Repeater list
  •   Import and export the Repeater list and the Call sign list from/to the transceiver

DV Fast Data Mode

By using data in place of voice frames, the ID-51 transfers data 3 times faster (3480 bps) than in conventional DV mode with voice.

DV and FM Repeater Search Function
The repeater search function searches for nearby analogue FM repeaters as well as DV repeaters using the repeater memories and the integrated GPS*.
* To use the repeater search function, the position data of the repeater is required.

Additional Dplus Reflector Link Commands
Dplus reflector link commands are added to the DR function to allow easy multiple repeater connection through the reflector.

Other New and Enhanced Functions
GPS position data can be sent simultaneously with the serial data communication
Enhanced D-PRS functions: receiving only Base/Object/Item/Weather formats
Altitude data added to the GPS memories
CI-V commands can be sent through DATA connector
Call sign, repeater list and GPS memory import and export in the CSV format
FEATURES: Retained from the Original ID-51E
D-STAR DV Mode (Digital Voice + Data)
V/V, U/U, V/U Dual watch
The dual watch function simultaneously monitors VHF/VHF, UHF/UHF and VHF/ UHF bands.* * DV/DV, AM/AM, FM-N/FM-N and DV/FM-N mode dual watch is not available.

IPX7 Waterproof Construction
The ID-51E has superior IPX7 waterproof protection (1m depth of water for 30 minutes). It can be used in harsh outdoor environments, and for hiking, mountain biking, touring and mountain sports.

Menu-Driven User Interface
The directional keypad and quick menu button help you with quick and intuitive access to many settings and speeds up the operation. The large full dot-matrix display with easy-to-read characters increases the amount of information.

Independent AM/FM Receiver
FM and AM broadcast stations can be listened to while using the dual watch function to monitor the ham bands.

micro SD Card Slot
When used with a micro SD card (Up to 32GB), various contents including voice memory, DV auto reply message, TX voice message, QSO log, RX history log and GPS log data can be stored. The micro SD card can also be used to update firmware and edit memories.

Integrated GPS Receiver
The current position and altitude are shown on the display and offers a position reporting function in DV mode. The GPS log function logs your position information at regular intervals on the micro SD card.

5W Output Power
Using a highly-efficient PA amplifier, the ID-51E generates 5W of RF output power from this compact body.

Long Lasting Battery Pack
The supplied BP-271 provides up to 4.5 hours* of operating time, and the optional large capacity battery pack, BP-272 provides up to 7.5 hours*. * Typical operation with 1:1:8 duty cycle in DV mode. (Power save ON.)

Being a newcomer to D-Star, it took an absolute age to set the ID-51E Plus up as the manual did require consultation! The supplied battery ran out of just as everything started to work. However, by the time all was set up the operation was perfect. It is true that D-Star has a longer learning curve than any other modes. The manual supplied is 70 + pages long but the full manual is up in the 375+ size. No stone is left unturned and this is an essential but not all at once.

Be assured, one will think DMR is a walk in the park after a day of setting up the D-Star Handheld.Why so difficult? It was designed for Radio Amateurs as opposed to commecrical users. So many litte refinements result in a manual the size of Leo Tolstoy's War and Peace.

The analog side has many new features and is much like any other handheld in operation.

Mobile Operation

Following a request for information on D-Star Radios, two are reviewed in this Post. The Icom ID-5100 Dual Band D-Star transceiver seems to be the unit getting all the favourable reviews and is the most recently released dual band  mobile radio.

The ID-5100 comes in two versions : the Standard model and the Deluxe model.

The Standard model is supplied with a multi-functional microphone and hanger, DC power an controller cables and CS-5100 cloning Software. All this comes to around £574.95 from Martin Lynch & Sons. When the box is opened it will be apparent that the mounting for the display unit is not part of the deal and has to be purchased as an optional extra!

The Deluxe version includes Bluetooth features, mounting equipment, a UT33 Bluetooth unit and VS3 Bluetooth headset. This comes at a more princely sum of £749.95. At this price one does not even have the programming leads!

The ID5100 incorporates all of the core features found in the IC-2820C and incorporates the User friendly technology found in the IC-7100. The radio features a large responsive touch screen and also integrated GPS, Optional Bluetooth connectivity and support for Android Devices.

Before you buy the ID-5100 bear in mind that an optional blue tooth unit, the UT33-A, maybe purchased and costs just £44.00. This is an interesting unit as it opens up a host of facilities as in operation from an Android Tablet or Android phone. Hands free operation is possible via the UT33-A.

Does one need all of the other paraphernalia? Well, yes, because, unlike other manufacturers they don't supply the mobile mounting kit for the head with the radio. Icom's accessories are by no means cheap! Undoubtedly the programming leads will be required at some stage - more expense! Why can't Icom supply all the requisite leads and accessories in the box? You don not get a stand to mount the head in the car or to stand it on the bench.

Whats does it do?

Touch Screen Operation provides quick and smooth operation for setting and editing functions and memories. The Screen is large and easy to read too.

VHF/VHF, VHF/UHF, and UHF/VHF dual receive allows the reception of two bands simultaneously including two channels within a single band.

DV Dual Watch. The ID-5100 has simultaneous receive for FM/FM, FM/DV and the capability of monitoring two DV signals. The main band reception will take priority if two signals come in at the same time.

Integrated GPS Receiver allows the transmission of co-ordinates from the built in GPS receiver for the benefit of position reports and also as a handy reference to find Repeaters located in the vicinity after reference to information carried in memories. If you wish to go mobile in "Stealth" mode it is possible to switch this facility off.

Dplus Reflector Linking facilities are added to the DR function to allow easy reflector operation Use Reflector link or unlink to reflector.

UT33 Bluetooth unit is the optional accessory for use with the optional VS-3 Headset and the Optional RS-MS1A Android application (this application is a Free download) The UT-33 has been superseded by the UT-33-A.

Other Features:

Menu Driven user Interface
SD card Slot for voice and data storage
Convenient Memory contents management using CSV data format
Enhanced D-PRS functions with object, position item and weather formats
CS-5100 Cloning Software Supplied
Speech function announces operating frequency, mode, Call sign (DV Mode)
50Wattts output on VHF and UHF bands
AM air band dual watch
DTMF via Mic Keypad or touchscreen

If purchasing this radio and using D-Star for the first time, there will be much cursing and swearing if the manual is not consulted. It is quite amazing how a  few minutes into the manual, things will become clearer. The system is quite user friendly, once the user unfriendly bits have been set up, and the Transceiver is a pleasure to operate.

The Bluetooth connectivity to an Android Tablet or phone makes this a gem to operate. All functions can be clearly seen of the display and the hands-free headset either supplied by Icom or purchased elsewhere is safe to use whilst driving.

Audio quality is excellent on both Digital voice and analog. The transceiver is sensitive and on a par with other brands.  

Indeed, this is the most expensive mode on the market but bear in mind that Icom did all the research in conjunction with the JARL to produce the first Digital Mode for the Amateur Market. It did cost a lot of money to achieve their goal. Many "die-hards" will claim that D-Star is the best of the three popular Digital modes which is debatable.

D-Star Facilities in Galway

The Galway Digital Gateway on 144.850 MHz currently runs D-Star and defaults to DCS 049i which is used extensively by the Northern Ireland operators and consequently has plent of activity. The Reflectors are user selectable but we do ask that when you are finished, as a matter of courtessy, that you will unlink to allow the Gateway back to it's default setting.

The current DMR repeater, EI7RHD, located in Galway City will shortly be substituted with a Multi-mode Repeater allowing operation on DMR D-Star and Yaesu's C4FM. This Repeater will have Citywide coverage and certainly extensive coverage outside of the city also.

At present, a dedicated D-Star Repeater is being constructed which will extend the facility further. This will default to DCS 049i and we ask that, if one selects any other D-Star Reflector, put it back as you found it by unlinking when finished as a matter of courtessy.

If out of range of any of the D-Star facilities in Galway think about the purchase of a personal Hotspot.

Further information about this interesting mode may be gleaned from  >>Here