FTM-400 vs. ID-5100 – A couple of months side by side

After finally getting some time to use the FTM-400 along side the ID-5100, I thought it was time to contrast the two. I believe that (after looking around and doing some research) these are probably the best mobiles on the market at the moment – the offer digital capabilities – the open standard of D-Star vs. the proprietary System Fusion, APRS/DPRS respectively, on top of just being solid sounding FM rigs that would make any everyday user happy. There are a few points that I would like to put down for each rig however, as they both do have their quirks that make each one something that different people may want to consider.

Pros – Yaesu FTM-400

  • Color TFT display makes reading in the sunlight much, and is easier on the eyes at night
  • Menus are probably the most straightforward of a Yaesu radio I’ve ever used
  • Full APRS Functionality
  • Relatively simple navigation in DX mode
  • YSF Compatible
  • Sturdy built
  • Decent Microphone Controls
  • Temperature Swings do not seem to affect the display

I’m actually hard pressed to find what I would deem a con about this radio. While I said that the Menus are the most straightforward of a Yaesu I’ve ever used, while that is a compliment to the relative simplicity of the rig, there are a few quirks that I’m not too crazy about – remembering that tone control is in “signaling” and not a separate tone control menu. Again, this isn’t a big deal, it’s just an odd thing to remember, but I’m sure anyone can get the hang of this eventually.

To draw a comparison of this radio to the Icom ID-5100, I actually think that overall the FTM-400 is a just a better radio. The ID-5100 offers D-Star which is a much more capable, narrower bandwidth mode that offers much more flexibility in your radio options. The menu simplicity, near repeater functionality, etc. make the functions of the ID-5100 far superior to that of the FTM-400. With that said though, the display, and the overall build quality of the FTM-400 is what pushes it ahead.

Pros – Icom ID-5100

  • Black and White display is less distracting while driving
  • Simplicity of menu navigation – almost the exact same going from an IC-7100, to an ID-5100, to an ID-51A, or an ID-31A. I would liken Icom’s line to the Apple of Ham Radio, when you pick up any other iPhone, you’re going to have an almost exact same experience between devices, the same goes for the Icom line of D-Star ready radios.
  • D-Star ready
  • DPRS – while not the same as APRS in the slightest when it comes to the beaconing and messaging features, if you’re an exclusive, or predominantly D-Star user, this is a very nice feature

However I have a few cons with the ID-5100:

  • Display difficult to read in sunlight – full brightness helps, but still just difficult compared to most mobiles
  • Display now displays grid marks after having been left in the car through a WNY Winter (while admittedly I did not receive the FMT-400, and we’ll have to see what another winter does to it)
  • Speaker is quiet on digital – this is more of a comment on the mode though, as DMR and Fusion do not seem to have the same Audio Level issues

All in all they’re both great radios for a similar price point, the ID-5100 is a bit cheaper, however they’re within $75-100 of each other depending on rebates and sales you may catch. If you want something D-Star ready, trust me, you can live with the shortcomings of the display, because the rest of the radio capabilities far out match that of the FTM-400, however if D-Star isn’t the top of your priorities when looking, and you really just want a quality radio with a small form factor that will give you many options to nicely mount in your car, the FTM-400 is the way to go.

4 Comments

  1. Nice article. I’m stuck right now trying to decide between the Yaesu 300, 400 or the Icom 5100. I don’t really have any digital in my area. I think D* is superior on paper but don’t really have any real world experience with either. Prices are definitely crazy between the three. 🙂

    How has your Yaesu faired over the years in the summer heat and winter cold? Would you still prefer the Yaesu over the Icom? Just curious. 🙂

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    1. I love both radios, and still have them both mounted in my car to date. I find myself using both for different purposes – I believe that if you’re going to get involved with a digital mode, than I highly recommend the 5100 and getting some hands on experience with D-Star! It’s a very simple. straight forward radio, and the touch controls make interfacing with the D-Star Functions even easier.

      If you’re not really sure about digital at all, and like the added benefit of APRS, I’d recommend the FTM-400. I personally have not gotten a chance to try out the 300, however looking at it on paper I find it hard to recommend. To me the only added benefit it has over the 400 is built in Bluetooth, so if that matters for you that could be a deciding factor I guess. The downsizing of the display alone was a bit of a letdown for me. The display on the 400 is just large enough that the touch screen really makes sense, and it’s easy to read, even in direct sunlight, but if you’re looking for something more compact, than the 300 could be it for you.

      I’ve never had any issues with either in the heat or cold (being in WNY, we definitely get all four seasons!) with the Yaesu, but what I will say is that the 5100 can get a little laggy in the cold when it first is powered on, but that’s to be expected with any device when you leave it out in the cold all the time. It’s really up to what modes you’ll want to play around with, or if you are just looking to add a quality mobile!

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    2. Oh, and on the note of prices, watching for deals at the right time is very helpful too. The ID-5100 I got at a steal of a price at the Dayton Hamfest from Main Trading: https://www.mtcradio.com/

      The FTM-400 was a little bit of a story – I had an item sent back to HRO for repair that had needed to be shipped internationally – it was lost, and they gave me a credit for a little more than the product was worth for the hassle.

      I would also suggest looking on QRZ Swapmeet, as well as just checking out local hamfests for a good deal!

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  2. Thank you for the info. I bit the bullet on the ID-5100a. Really liking it so far! I see another in my future as well.

    I talked to one of the local county EMCOMM guys at Field Day. He has 2x ID-5100a units in his truck and one in each of his personal vehicles as well.

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