Icom ID-51A PLUS2 vs. Kenwood TH‑D74A

Discussion in 'Amateur Radio Equipment Reviews' started by K9DTM, Dec 11, 2016.


Is the Kenwood TH-D74A a better D-Star HT than the ICOM ID-51A PLUS2?

Poll closed Dec 11, 2017.
  1. Yes, the Kenwood TH-D74A is better than the ICOM ID-51A PLUS2.

  2. No, the ICOM ID-51A PLUS2 is better than the Kenwood TH-D74A.

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  1. K9DTM

    K9DTM Ham Member QRZ Page

    Icom ID-51A PLUS2 5.5 W 144 / 430 MHz VHF/UHF Dual Band D-STAR
    Kenwood TH-D74A 5W 144/220/430 MHz Tri‑Band D‑Star APRS

    ICOM ID-51A PLUS2 ==> See Specs here and comeback.
    Kenwood TH-D74A ==> See Specs here and comeback.

    Which one is the best D-Star HT to buy?
    - Now, do you think the Terminal Mode and the Access Point Mode, 5.5 W out put power, RS-MS1A Features, and the Special Color Edition of the Icom ID-51A PLUS 2 are enough to make a D-Star user buy the ID-51A PLUS 2 over the TH-D74A?

    - Do you think the built-in APRS, Bluetooth, Micro USB port, Extended Receive with HF CW/SSB, AM (shortwave coverage receive), color transflective TFT display, Full DTMF Keypad, and the 220 MHz (1.25 -meter) are enough to make a D-Star user buy the TH-D74A over the ID-51A PLUS2?

    KSC-25LSK Rapid Charger for Kenwood TH-D74A
    BC-202 Rapid charger for ICOM ID-51A PLUS2.

    Attached Files:

  2. KB1WAL

    KB1WAL Ham Member QRZ Page

    I am looking at these two HT and it reads like the same unit with marketing buzz words it is hard to discern the differences for myself.
    K9DTM likes this.
  3. UT7UX

    UT7UX Ham Member QRZ Page

    I've owned a previous ID-51 Plus (not Plus2) and was not really happy with it. It is pretty good radio but beware:
    - slim kit battery will last just few hours (a normal one costs almost a hundred bucks and you'll need it immediately)
    - kit wall charger charges even that slim battery almost eternally (a normal desktop charger costs additional fifty bucks)
    - no occasional APRS activity with a simple phone-to-ht cable and APRSdroid on your phone because Icom has locked built-in VOX and wants another $30 from you for a special few-cents cable (I've figured out how to homebrew it for cheap)
    - no full 4x4 keyboard is a pain
    - kit antenna does not work on 440MHz
    - I was told by other owners that rubber dust cups are tends to wear out very fast (my own one was OK)

    IMO yes. I'd prefer TH-D74 w/o any doubt.

    Just for your reference. Icom's antenna SWR.
    400-470MHz. Note SWR is higher than 5.0 almost everywhere and within 420-450 it rises even more.

    How to homebrew a ht-to-phone cable.
    Hint: R2 is required for a Icom to recognize cable as a $30 one; R5 is required for a phone to recognize cable as a headset. R1, R3 and R4 are optional to reduce audio levels from headphone outputs to microphone inputs. C1 and C2 are required to break DC. Audio transformers are an overkill IMO. However I've used them.
    K9DTM likes this.
  4. KU3X

    KU3X Ham Member QRZ Page

    I just purchased the TH D74A three weeks ago. I love it. Super easy to program with the Kenwood supplied software. Interface cable is the same as i use to charge my cell phone.
    There is a learning curve and the user manual is not the best, but i am so glad I chose the 74A.
    K9ROC, WD9EWK and K9DTM like this.
  5. DK1MAT

    DK1MAT Ham Member QRZ Page

    Hi there,

    Do have the ID-51 plus (not +2) for 2Y. Decided to "upgrade" to the TH-D74 because the many new features such as bluetooth, APRS, ...
    Need to mention that I´m a heavy user of HT (Handheld TRX). I´m an outdoor person and beside that travel a lot (for business, too).
    After an intensive comparison between the ID-51 vs. TH-D74 I decided to return the Kenwood and to continue w/ the Icom. Why?

    Here is what I found out:
    - Both radios equipped w/ the same antenna (Diamond SRH771) and position the Icom had a remarkable better reception of weak signals.
    - The Kenwood bluetooth does NOT connect to any bluetooth speaker. So using the radio w/ a remote BT speaker does NOT work at all.
    Example no use in the car! :(
    - Any data transfer between the Kenwood via bluetooth using a Mac does not work (and I tried hard to make that happen and failed).
    --> Bottom line: to me the Kenwood bluetooth function is/was worthless.
    - The comfortable repeater-list feature in the Kenwood supports only D-Star repeater. Icom supports both, D-Star & regular FM! Huge advantage!
    I´m traveling a lot. So the Icom tells me always which repeaters are close to me for both FM & D-Star. Two clicks and it starts a scan on them - soooo useful!
    Kenwood does that only for D-Star and the comfort of that feature is just basic, Icom is superb!
    - The batterie operations time: the Icom w/ BP-272 is much better. I experienced that in direct comparison.
    Right, that costs extra money for the larger Icom battery. And even more right: the pricing of the Icom accessories is a mess.
    - You can operate the Icom with permanent switched on backlight display and it has close to no effect to the battery runtime - very remarkable!
    I use always permanent backlight - especially in the night and evening hours.
    - Yes, the Kenwood display is colored etc. but to me the Icom display is better readable in any condition. Display information layout is better w/ Icom, too.
    - The scanning capabilities of the Icom are far more comfortable and feature rich compared to the Kenwood.
    With the Icom you feel to have real two independent receivers/scanners in your hand. Kenwood has much more limited.

    So is the Kenwood such a bad radio?
    No, certainly it isn´t. If I would start from scratch (not having an ID-51 already) then it would become a hard decision.
    Here some aspects to be considered:
    - The Kenwood has definitely the better TX audio quality. I tested both radios w/ several other stations and that was always confirmed.
    Beside that I did a recording using a receiver and recorded both TX signals. Kenwood definitely sounds better ... (much better).
    - If APRS is a must have then it´s Kenwood. I personally don´t see the advantage. It´s nice but no must have to me.
    - The Kenwood has to me a more general purpose HW (2m,70cm, ... wide band RX, bluetooth, USB-connector) but the build in SW is (sorry to say) lousy.
    - Some few menus in the Kenwood have more options, example the TOT. In Icom only 1,3,5, ...minutes. Kenwood has more options.
    - Big Kenwood plus: the VOX works w/o any extra HW. Ooooh Icom guys, you drive me crazy on that!
    - The Icom is smaller. Using the small battery it´s even more portable.
    - The Icom leaves a more robust impression (to me). Kenwood feels a bit more consumer.
    - If you intend using your HT mainly from home than the Kenwood has more features and might be the better fit.
    - BTW, a blind ham friend mentioned that the Kenwood has a better support in the audio response as all menus do have audio feedback.

    Hope that helps you if you´re doing a decision.
    vy 73 de DK1MAT
    K1DJB and K9ROC like this.
  6. KE8HIM

    KE8HIM Ham Member QRZ Page

    I found that connecting the Kenwood to a bluetooth speaker required you to press the "answer call" button on all of my speakers I tried. Using my Bose QC35, my JBL Clip2, and my Kenwood aftermarket car stereo. The TH-D74 will flash its connecting message until you hit the answer call button. Once you do that the audio from the HT comes through great. At least on my Bose the volume was controllable only from the headphones, the knob on the radio did not have an effect. Did not try transmitting with any of them at the time.
    WD9EWK likes this.
  7. WD9EWK

    WD9EWK Ham Member QRZ Page

    I had no problems pairing my Plantronics earpiece and my 2012 Kia Optima to the TH-D74. Since both of these expect to work with mobile phones, I had to use the answer buttons to essentially start a phone call with the radio. VOX is OK with the headset, but I tend to use the mic mute function in the car to make sure I don't inadvertently transmit. Reports on my transmitted audio from both were good.

    Overall, I like the TH-D74 over any flavor of the ID-51. The keypad makes a big difference, along with the color screen. D-Star is much easier for me with the D74 than almost any of the Icom HTs, and the all-mode RX works fine when using an appropriate antenna for the frequency/band you want to hear (and much better than the all-mode RX in the previous TH-F6/TH-F7). I have used mine mostly for working several different satellites.

    K9DTM, K9ROC and KB1RIJ like this.
  8. KI7QJR

    KI7QJR Ham Member QRZ Page

    I realize this is an old thread, but things change and I wanted to note that as of November 2017, the ID-51Plus2 is $300 at HRO while the D74 is $589 - almost double the price.

    I ended up getting the iCOM as my first HT (first radio, new tech here), and after a few hours in the manual and playing with it, find it pretty straight forward to drive.
    K9DTM, W4EAE and K9ROC like this.

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