Icom ID-31a Dual Band D-STAR Radio Review

Icom ID-31a

The Icom ID-31a is a UHF (70cm) D-STAR radio and currently the least expensive new option for getting into D-STAR digital radio. When talking D-STAR, the least expensive is still expensive, is it worth it? Let’s find out!

I originally bought the Icom ID-31a as an introduction to D-STAR to see if it was something that interested me. While I won’t go into detail on how that worked out, I will say that this radio did a fine job of representing D-STAR in general. I wish there were cheaper options like there is for both Yaesu’s Fusion and DMR, but that is a discussion for another article.

Icom in my mind has always been a brand that didn’t really bring you a lot of bells and whistles, but what they did give you was well done and well made. The Icom ID-31a carries that idea forward with a good build quality that just feels nice. That is to be expected since it is made by Icom Japan.

From the buttons on the side to the keys on the front, the knobs on top, the covers over the ports, the LCD screen, and even the belt clip all look and feel better than the cheaper Chinese radios. They better because the Icom ID-31a is around a $250 radio.

One of my pet peeves is batteries that have the belt clip on them, and the Icom ID-31a has that. The good news is they solved the problem by making the belt clip easily detach from the battery allowing you to replace it without replacing the battery, or if you need a new battery you do not have to replace the clip too. They also made it to where the clip on the Icom ID-31a can not accidentally come off while the battery is attached to the radio. I like it!

Since I bought the Icom ID-31a specifically for use with D-STAR that was the first thing I jumped on and tried, and it worked very well. Once I got the hang of programming for D-STAR I wound up linking the radio even more. The little four-way control with a center button in the middle winds up being really nice when using D-STAR.

When in digital modes the audio both directions is very good and while I do not get as many compliments as when using my Kenwood TH-D74, I have not had any complaints either. Considering the Icom ID-31a is half the price of the Kenwood, I will take that.

My one real complaint with the Icom ID-31a at this point was not a reflection on the radio at all, but with the Icom id-31a programming software that you have to have in order to do any real programming ID-31A. Not only was it very difficult to even find it, but it is also very rough around the edges and seems to have not been updated in a very long time. Yes, it is functional and got me where I needed to be but when compared to offerings from companies, including the free open source CHIRP (which will not work with this radio, unfortunately, but that is typical of all digital radios) are far nicer.

The next problem I found was that the Icom ID-31a radio seems to just splatter the entire spectrum when it transmits, having one of the worst spectrums of any radio I have ever tested. This seems to detract from its range and can affect the audio transmit quality in a variety of situations. Not all the time mind you, but to me, this is not at all acceptable in a radio that costs this much.

 

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Photos

Icom ID-31a Test Results:

Screen readability Very Good
In-hand feel Good
Included antenna Very Good
Construction quality Very Good
Belt clip Good
Programmability Very Good
Transmit audio CLICK TO LISTEN
Maximum power output (2m/70cm) N/A / 2.3 watts
Size 235 * 62 * 44 mm
Actual weight 8.2 oz
Icom ID-31a manual CLICK TO DOWNLOAD
Programming software CLICK TO DOWNLOAD
Icom ID-31a Overall score
Icom ID-31a VNA Antenna Test
Icom ID-31a VNA Antenna Test – Click to enlarge
Icom ID-31a SRD spectrum analysis
Icom ID-31a SRD spectrum analysis – Click to enlarge
If you are interested, click here for an article on how I test radios.

 

FEATURES:
  • 25.4mm (1 inch) depth slim and compact body
  • IPX7 submersible construction
  • Built-in GPS shows current position and altitude for GPS position reporting
  • GPS log function tracks your movement
  • Micro SD card slot for recording voice of incoming and outgoing calls, GPS log, memory contents to a micro SD card (Micro SD card is not supplied from Icom)
  • Large dot-matrix display and directional keypad
  • Total 1252 memory channels including 500 regular, 700 D-STAR repeater memories, 50 scan edges and 2 call channels
  • Cloning software CS-31 is supplied with the ID-31A
PROS:
CONS:
  • Nice build quality
  • Nice large and sharp screen
  • Good backlighting
  • Excellent digital features
  • Excellent digital audio
  • Waterproof
  • Cheapest DSTAR HT out there new
  • Poor analog transmit spectrum
  • Very pricey for what you get

Conclusions

If you are interested in D-STAR and really could not care less about the 2m band (the Icom id-51a adds the 2m band), and analog is not a super important factor, then the Icom ID-31a is an excellent radio for you. For anything else, and I hate to say this, but the $500 Kenwood TH-D74 is a far superior radio in every respect except fitting into your pocket.
The Icom ID-31a is not a bad radio, it just, in my opinion, does not really live up to its price tag. Drop it down to $199 or even better, $179, and I would rate it much higher. If however you need to hit a 70cm Icom DSTAR repeater, then you might really like this radio.
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I hope you enjoyed my Icom ID-31a review!

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