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Wednesday, November 07, 2018

Review: Alinco DJ-MD5T Series DMR Radio

This is the third official article on HVDN about the new Alinco DJ-MD5T series dual band DMR/analog handheld radio, but is the first actual review of this interesting communications tool.

Alinco DMR dual band radio MD-5TGP HVDN
The Alinco DJ-MD5TGP  was released
for sale in the United States in November 2018


Responsibility: Users & Vendors

DMR started life as an open standard digital voice mode for commercial use in 2005 and started to see early amateur radio adoption in 2009 through surplus commercial equipment.

Since 2012, use of DMR in amateur radio has been increasing quickly and starting in 2016 really took off compared to other standards in use by the amateur radio community.


how many DMR repeaters are there?

Adoption of DMR has been largely attributed to low priced Chinese origin radios since DMR is an open standard and expensive intellectual property licenses were not needed, like the offerings from other vendors.
Amateur radio communities around the world generally like to expand the capability of existing equipment and radios such as the TYT MD-380 proved an interesting platform for experimentation.
While DMR equipment to date has offered features more appropriate to commercial users such as wide frequency coverage, amateur radio operators have generally been responsible to only use this equipment within amateur radio spectrum.

IMPACT: Recently in the United States, federal trade restrictions have impacted the ability for certain vendors to sell product legally due to source of geographic origin and frequency capability.

While no one country or vendor is to blame, global demand has created a great opportunity for a responsible vendor looking to sell DMR equipment to the amateur radio community.

Overview:  Alinco DJ-MD5T Series

The DJ-MD5T series radios now offered by Alinco is actually its second DMR offering marketed to the amateur radio community.  Model DJ-MD40 was released as a UHF only option in 2015 but saw little adoption because it was priced much higher than the popular TYT MD-380 or Connect System CS-750.

Alinco is now the first well known Japanese amateur radio vendor to offer a dual band DMR radio with the DJ-MD5 series.

Key Detail: There are two versions of the DJ-MD5.  DJ-MD5TGP includes a built in GPS and the DJ-MD5T does not include GPS capability.

For a price difference of less than $30, the GPS version may be the better option for most users to purchase for future resale value and application expansion. Do yourself a favor and do not cheap out.

Alinco MD-5 Series: Key Specifications 
  • Configurable VHF/UHF Band Coverage
  • Analog FM & Digital DMR Tier I and II
  • Four RF Output Levels (5/2.5/1/0.2 W)
  • 4,000 Channels (Configurable between 250 Zones of up to 250 channels each)
  • 10,000 Talk Groups
  • 160,000 Digital Contacts
  • 2.32 (L) x 4.65 (H) x 1.57" (W/T)
Alinco MD-5 Series:  Key Features
  • 1.7" OLED Color Display
  •  VFO/Memory Mode
  • FM Broadcast Reception (87-108)
  • Repeater Offset Storage
  • Path/Distance to Contact Location
  • Text Messaging
  • Auto Power Off
  • Volume Min/Max Settings
Alinco MD-5TGP Review

With the Alinco DJ-MD5TGP now available for official purchase in early November, lets start off with talking about its configurable band coverage as illustrated below.  The model setting is configured through software and is not keypad programmable. This is a first for DMR radios.  Prior to this, only programmed channels can be "transmit disabled". Alinco allows entire areas of spectrum to be disabled for transmit capability.

There are 13 band configurations and option 11 should be what most amateur radio operators should focus on to remain compliant with amateur licensing and to prevent accidental "out of band" transmission.

Alinco CPS DMR
Alinco DJ-MD5TGP programming software allows
one of thirteen profiles to be used depending on country or
operator specific legal preferences

RF Power Output

Users of the various hot spot devices such as those built on MMDVM and Pi-Star combinations or the latest OpenSpot2 may appreciate the 1/4 watt RF output setting as one of the four possible power options.

Major Benefit: Alinco DJ-MD5 battery life is greatly extended by using low power as to be expected with a hotspot.

Memory Configuration

There is ample storage for DMR specific information and is easy to understand compared to some other DMR radios and appropriate programming software. Common terms:
Digital Contact(s):  Sometimes referred to as the "User Database", this is where up to 160,000 user details with DMR ID, call-sign, name and location are entered.  
Loading the entire database of just parts of it help identify who is speaking just like a caller ID function on telephones.  
A great tool for gaining access to the DMR user database can be found at http://amateurradio.digital/
Talk Groups:  A separate area for the storage of up to 10,000 talk groups allows all the "official 1,170+ Brandmeister talk groups to be stored. 
It is possible to also store the same talk group number with different names to accommodate locally numbers talk groups that are not accessible over networks like Brandmeister, NEDECN, Phoenix, etc 
Channels:   Storage of frequency, repeater shift, analog/digital mode, time slot, talk group, channel name, color code, encode/decode tones, power setting, scan lists, group lists and more are done on a per channel basis.  4,000 channels can be created and stored.
Zones:  Multiple channels can be organized into a zone of up to 250 channels. 
Common examples would be for channels for a specific repeater with different talk groups,  simplex channels and local non-amateur communications such as first responder, rail, and marine communications.  Scan lists can be created much like how a scanning radio such as those made by Uniden and Whistler to not miss communications.
Display Feedback

The color display is easily readable in most lighting conditions and shows all important information.  Navigation for settings shown is done through two soft buttons under the display labeled in green and red.  An up and down arrow key performs further navigation functions along.

DMR display Alinco dual band
Vibrant display as found on the new Alinco DMR handheld radio

The keypad can be used to send DTMF tones or access different functions found in the menu.   Shortcuts or "hotkeys" can also be created to access frequently used functions.

Entry of most parameters of this FCC type accepted radio can be performed by the keypad, including a memory or VFO mode that allows the user to change frequencies to allow for monitoring and tactical changes easily.

The speaker is of a ported design and is above and below the keypad. The microphone is below the green button and above the "1" button. A menu in the radio and software can increase/decrease gain based on user preference.


There is no major need for an instruction manual for this radio as much of the configuration should be enabled in the included software which is easy to follow and understand.
Help and description menus are part of the software to help better understand certain functions. 
Here are few of the more interesting and fun features I think makes this radio a good option for beginner or experienced users.

Alinco MD-5 Series Advanced & Fun Features

A good amateur  radio should be easy to use for access to  information and communication and the Alinco MD-5 is no exception.

Reception in the United States of the National Weather Broadcast system found between 162-163 MHz is possible with the MD-5 and also the FM broadcast band from 87-108 MHz for music, news and more.

Cool Feature: The built in GPS will show location coordinates of the user and also the distance and direction to another DMR user. This function works "radio to radio" and also via Brandmeister based on either the self entered coordinates of a users hotspot or actual location.

A general complaint with many DMR radios with GPS has been no clear way to use it. The Alinco is the first radio aside from the Anytone D868 that has made attempts at this in order to compete with some of the benefits of APRS enabled radios.

Non-Voice Communication

The Alinco DJ-MD5 allows the user to send manually created or preprogrammed text messages while in DMR mode.  This is partially dependent on how each user programs each radio, but it is possible to have voice and text at the same time on the same frequency because of the TDMA based DMR mode time slot functionality.
Cool: How to send text and location data over DMR with TYT MD-380
Text messaging does not work over analog FM, so please consider this when considering the purchase of this or other DMR radios.  Text messaging is part of the ETSI standard that DMR is based on. There is no such standard for analog communications unless one is talking about AX.25 based APRS.

Other Functions

One of the best features of any radio is the ability for it to turn off after a period of in-activity.  Alinco offers this along with a power save function to cycle the receiver on and off to save battery.


The volume setting is unique with Alinco in that the user can create listener profiles to have maximum or minimum volume levels set to avoid ear damage or even by accidentally turning the volume all the way off and missing a potential call.

Alinco DJ-MD5TGP features
The Alinco DJ-MD5T offers interesting features like , but does not
include a "mosquito repellant" function as found on older analog Alinco radios
such as the DJ-195, SJ-S446 and others.


Every few years Alinco offers a radio with some rather interesting features, such as a "mosquito repellent" or "theft protection" feature like "digital monitor".

The MD-5 offers a menu called digital fun that has something very interesting called digital monitor.

Alinco hudson valley digital network programming

This function lets the user in DMR mode allow either one or both time slots to be monitored at the same time.  A function like this can be helpful if the user does not know what time slot certain communications is supposed to take place on

A built in voice recorder allows both digital and analog voice recording for up to 14 hours. Other DMR radios only offer recording on DMR mode.  The Alinco not only allows received audio, but also what is spoken into the microphone.

Super Nice Feature: This may be interesting for those interested in satellite operation and recording of contacts for later playback

As illustrated, there is a lot of functionality this radio is capable of and should become pretty popular.

Any secrets?

The Anytone D868/D878 and BTECH 6X2 are very similar to the Alinco MD-5. Many of the software functions and operation of the radio are roughly about the same.

This will be the topic of a tear down of the MD-5 in the coming weeks, so please look for that on the HVDN Notebook by making use of the tag cloud feature for any content that covers the Alinco MD-5

Overall Verdict


  • Build quality is excellent and the keypad numbering does not seem like it will wear off easily. 
  • Audio quality for signal reception is pretty good and does not seem to struggle at maximum volume.
  • Owners of other DMR radios should be able to learn the Alinco function set pretty easily
  • Code plugs from other manufacturers will either partially or completely work with the Alinco MD-5
  • Battery life is excellent and audio accessories are plentiful 
There will be much more to say about the Alinco MD-5 for sure and it will be interesting if Icom, Yaesu and Kenwood come out with something to compete with Alinco.

Thanks for reading. Ask some questions and share your own comments, if you dare.  

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