Last month, the Yaesu FTM-400XDR that I was using in the car decided to quit. I made the decision to replace it with a Icom ID-4100A and my North Georgia Road Trip was the perfect opportunity to put it through its paces. After using it for about a month and a half, I’ve come up with a list of five things that I like about the radio and two that I don’t.
- Bank Link Scanning – Bank Link Scanning is a really nice feature. It lets you program memory channels into banks, much like a scanner, then you can scan the banks individually or linked together. For example, I have all of the Savannah and Brunswick area repeaters programmed as Bank A and common simplex frequencies plus the ISS programmed into Bank Z; normally I have Banks A & Z linked so that the ID-4100A scans just them. I have repeaters for some of the places I visit regularly programmed into other banks and as I travel, I can easily switch which banks are linked together to scan the repeaters for a given area.
- Temporary Lockout – Temporary Lockout is another great feature. Much like recent Uniden scanners, the ID-4100A provides a temporary lockout option. If you’re scanning and the radio stops on a QSO you don’t want to listen to or some local interference, you can temporarily lockout that memory channel. Unlike the Uniden scanners, however, the temporary lockout doesn’t last until you turn the radio off and back on, it’s timed – after 15 minutes, the radio resumes scanning that memory channel.
- DStar Memory – The radio has a separate DStar Memory that works with the onboard GPS to find the closest DStar repeaters to your location. Using the associated DStar menu, you can easily adjust which reflectors or repeater functions you want to use on them. This makes finding and using DStar repeaters in areas you’re not familiar with or just traveling through relatively easy. You’ll just have to make sure you check for updates to the DStar memories using the programming software.
- QSO Recorder – The QSO Recorder is a useful feature. You can use this function to record QSOs (just the receive audio or both the receive and transmit audio depending on how you have it set). During my North Georgia Road Trip, I wanted to keep track of which repeaters were active without having to worry about scratching down a notepad which ones I heard, so I set the QSO recorder to record the receive audio the radio picked up. After the trip, I was able to go back and review the recordings to see which ones had been active.
- Extended Receive – If you’re also a scanning/monitoring enthusiast, the ID-4100A has a useful extended receive range of 118-174 MHz and 230-550 MHz. It gives you the ability to receive/scan things such as VHF Airband, Marine VHF, and most of the UHF MilAir band along with VHF/UHF public safety frequencies. I just wish they would have included 225-230 MHz.
- Display – The ID-4100A’s display backlight is easily the radios biggest drawback; it’s truly inadequate. Even at its brightest setting, it’s still not sufficient enough to make the display easily readable in bright or direct sunlight conditions. Seeing the large frequency numbers isn’t the issue; the problem is being able to see the smaller memory channel names and icons that indicate the various settings. It’s a problem that I’ve never had with any other piece of amateur radio gear or scanner that I’ve used in a mobile application. While this sounds like it would an irritant, it’s not good for a mobile application – a mobile radio’s display should be easy to read so that everything’s visible with a quick glance, keeping your eyes on the road.
- Power Levels – The way the transmit power level settings work on the ID-4100A is somewhat odd and different from the way any other piece of amateur radio gear I’ve had before works. The ID-4100A doesn’t allow you to set power level by memory channel; instead, the power level sets by band. For example, if you change one 2 Meter memory channel from mid power to high power, it changes all of the 2 Meter memory channels from mid power to high power. One of the tenets of Amateur Radio is only using the transmit power you need to get the job done; it would be much easier to do that if you could set the power level by channel instead of by band. Overall, this issue is just a minor one, I wouldn’t consider it a deal-breaker if you were thinking about buying one.
- No Mobile Mounting Bracket – Don’t ask me what possesses Icom to sell a mobile radio without a mobile mounting bracket, but they do. If you order one of these for a mobile application, make sure you order a mounting bracket as well. I didn’t realize it didn’t come with one but luckily discovered it the same day I ordered the radio and was able to get a bracket ordered the same day.
The ID-4100A’s Pros definitely outweigh its cons and so far, I’ve truly enjoyed using the radio. It did a great job during my road trip through several parts of Georgia, allowing me to easily adjust what I was scanning so that I was scanning a manageable chunk of memory channels covering just where I was instead of a large chunk of memory channels covering everywhere I’d be traveling during the trip. It also kept up with what repeaters I was hearing, so I didn’t have to. With the exception of the display issue, it makes a good travel/mobile radio; a fix to the display issue would make it a great travel/mobile radio. Overall, I’m pleased with the purchase and glad I bought the ID-4100A.