Monday, December 7, 2020

Teardown: Alinco DJ-MD5XTG (2nd Generation DMR)


What can I cay, I have always liked Alinco products going back to my first ever HT, the credit card sized Alinco DJ-C1T.  

Much has happened in  the world of amateur radio since and Alinco continues to do interesting things via its latest DMR handheld offering, the DJ-MD5XTG. 

This article details from the inside out, what makes this model different than its predecessor. 

Alinco had different DJ-MD5 radios?

Let me first start out and dispel a rumor I created that the latest Alinco DJ-MD5XTG would support the 220 MHz band. It does not or at least officially, which makes the band coverage on par with the popular Anytone AT-D878UV, available from vendors such as Bridgecom.

At the time of this article, the second generation Alinco DMR DJ-MD5XTG is available in the United States by DX Engineering.

When purchasing an Alinco DJ-MD5 series radio, there are now three versions that have been created and the most basic DJ-MD5T is discontinued. The major difference between it and the Alinco DJ-MD5TGP is the inclusion of GPS functionality.

 If you are looking to sell your original DJ-MD5 series radio to offset the cost in buying the new radio or are looking for a deal, please think about some of the following based on the teardown of the new DJ-MD5XTG.

The major differences

I did the hard work so you do not have to by doing a basic tear down of the DJ-MD5XTG and comparing it to the DJ-MD5TGP, which I also tore down back in November 2018. The below non-RF major component  table will help guide us along. 

Both versions main PCB interestingly both show that they are both considered revision 2.0, but with different date of manufacture codes.

1st Point: You get a faster MCU with more memory

Really the only major difference is that the Alinco DJ-MD5XTG upgrades to a 1024k flash and 96k SRAM memory configuration which is identical to that of the Anytone AT-D878UV.  

The older Alinco DJ-MD5TGP and DJ-MD5T (Without GPS) has the 512K flash and 64K SRAM memory configuration. The GD32F3030 (VGT6) is what is found inside the latest Alinco DMR radio.

The extra memory, like in the competing Anytone radio, allows for Alinco to support a few new features in the software which we will talk about later such as roaming and analog transmission of AX.25 based APRS. There is also a GPS/Baidou toggle, weather alert and few other changes.

Alinco DJ-MD5XTG MCU HVDN

If you have really good eyesight, you may notice what appears to be sloppy soldering on the MCU, but this is intentional. 

Alinco has bridged the shown pins on purpose, just like as found in the earlier Alinco DJ-MD5 radio as well as the Anytone AT-D878UV and the earlier AT-868UV. 

I just want to point this out that there is no bad workmanship inside this radio, especially since many find it easy to question construction capabilities of radios made today to save costs because of frugal or entry level customers.

The Alinco DJ-MD5TGP is indeed a high quality product and assembled/manufactured in Japan and not China like most, not all Alinco communications equipment.

However, the absolutely useless instruction manual which is little more than an instruction guide on how to attach the belt clip, connect the battery, screw in the antenna and turn on the radio along with some basic operation instructions is indeed printed in China, so take that for whatever value you want to place on that.

For what the manual is, it is rather well made and laid out, but just lacks any major value.

2nd Point:  Newer versions of other major components

Beyond the MCU (Micro Controller Unit), the baseband vocoder which helps your radio become a DMR radio, has a new production code and but is identical to the 2018 version of the SCT3258TD. 

Everything else is the same too and the only other differences which have not yet been thoroughly  tested  on the the main PCB are some slight changes in the RF front end and filtering compared to the older radio.  The below photo shows the main PCB along with the two RF shields removed on the DJ-MD5XTG.

3rd Point: What does the FCC have to say?

The Alinco DJ-MD5XTG does carry the FCCID of  PH3DJ-MD5, which is the same as its predecessor, so we may see an update on the FCC website in the coming months, but it does not seem like it may mean much from an RF perspective. Here is the Alinco DJ-MD5XTG fully disassembled.


What attracted me to the Alinco DJ-MD5TGP back in 2018 are the same reasons as the DJ-MD5XTG.

Starting with how to program the Alinco with the Computer Programming Software (CPS) is that you use a common USB micro cable used with smart phones instead of a dedicated cable like that of the Anytone and other radios like the TYT, Radioddity, Lanch HG-UV98, Baofeng and Ailunce radios that have been covered across past HVDN articles plus the much higher end Kenwood TH-D74.

This may be a benefit to some people if you have a habit of misplacing things and need an instant replacement. It is also worth noting that while the Kenwood D74 can be programmed wirelessly via Bluetooth, it can also use a standard USB micro cable as well.

Another reason I like the Alinco over the Anytone is that it is a perfect radio for taking hiking. The speaker/microphone connection uses a 3.5mm jack for the speaker/headphone function and the smaller 2.5mm jack for the microphone. 

While this is now considered opposite of what used to the standard, this lets me use a regular pair of wired 3.5mm stereo headphones or earbuds with the Alinco should I wish to listen to communications or music privately.  While its common to have Bluetooth earbuds these days, sometimes a wired version is helpful to have since they do not require rechargeable batteries!

One thing I did learn with the original Alinco MD-5TGP is that using a speaker microphone seems like a burden, even with the nicely made Alinco EMS-76.  

Alinco and its resellers caution every user to only use this microphone with this new DMR radio, but if you have an older microphone wired the same as the EMS-76, it will work just fine. 

Just avoid trying any of the speaker microphones meant for other radios as they will damage your radio due to incompatible wiring.

I say a speaker mic might be a waste since the microphone is nearly the same size as the radio itself. Instead, while hiking as an example, I just clip the radio upside down on my pack strap such as pictured below while visiting Red Hill Tower last September as part of the Catskill Fire Tower Five Challenge.


The Anytone AT-D878UV still offers Bluetooth capability for remote PTT and for pairing to external audio devices.  It would be nice to see bluetooth added in the future to the Alinco DJ-MD5 series, but battery life may then become an issue.

My personal opinion is that I do not see this as any shortcoming. Please also be aware that the SMA-J style antenna connector is used on the DJ-MD5XTG like its predecessors, so this is NOT the same as what is used on the Kenwood D74 for comparison.

Software:  This needs another article or three, maybe four?

There are some new features found in the Alinco DJ-MD5XTG which will really make it appeal to those that enjoy an active converged lifestyle and some future articles will cover:

  • What is roaming and do you really need it?
  • Analog APRS:  This is the original, not the new APRS or D-APRS
  • GPS: How do you set it up and actually use it
  • Proof is in the programming:  Basic US Alinco DJ-MD5XTG code plug
  • Talking about the band options in the Alinco DJ-MD5XTG

Keep an eye on the HVDN Notebook for future articles all December long about the Alinco DJ-MD5XTG or bookmark this handy link. https://hvdnnotebook.blogspot.com/search/label/Alinco%20DJ-MD5XTG 

3 comments:

  1. Thanks, Steve. I've been searching for info on the MD5TGP versus the newer MD5XT radios comparison. Seems as though the MD5XT is a bit of an upgrade. I'm glad Alinco thought to boost the available flash/RAM and added analog APRS features. It's a step in the enhancement direction, especially since were heading towards passing the 200,000 registered DMR users soon. We appreciate your time with this article. 73! Patrick K3NYJ

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  2. Steve, will this receive APRS, or is it TX only? I saw Anytone just announced a new version of the 878 that will RX, but this and the Lanch are more in my price range. If this will receive, I'd be interested in a comparison to the Lanch as far as how well it works. The deciding factor sounds like it would be whether you prioritize bluetooth or DMR between the Lanch and the Alinco. I'm sure the Alinco has good build quality though.

    Still not much info out there about this radio, so looking forward to your answer and future articles.

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  3. I just bought the DJ-MD5XTG as my starter radio mainly for the APRS and perceived reliability of Alinco. Took me a bit of research on youtube to get it set up and make my first QSO. There's not too much information out there on this device - so thanks for creating this and other posts - helped with my purchase decision. I created a playlist of the videos I found useful (mainly from K3NYJ Patrick). Link to them below:
    https://youtube.com/playlist?list=PLtm1vx16b2RdLpWvbScJ-rFA7yX17bdCn
    -bouree

    ReplyDelete

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