2018 Scanner Radio Holiday Buyer’s Guide

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The 2018 Holiday Season starts this week

Here are the scanners that I would recommend this year


The list:

Analog Scanners

My choice for an analog scanner is the Uniden BC125AT.   (The UK Flavor is the UBC125XLT and the Australian Version is the UBC126AT).

This is a 500 Channel handheld radio that supports alpha tags, PL/DPL, and software programming.   This is the only radio in this category to support all three with as many channels.

If you are looking to pair this with computer software, I recommend BuTel ARC125

Purchase Links (these are affiliate links)

BC125AT – Scanner Master | Amazon
UBC125XLT – Amazon
UBC126AT – Amazon

“Analog” trunking Scanners

There is only a single radio in this category at this time, the Uniden BCT15X.

This is a great radio and I've been using one for years to monitor Motorola, EDACS, and LTR Trunk systems, as well as the local conventional channels.   This radio does not support P25.

With 9,000 memory locations, you will have to struggle to max out the memory in this scanner

Purchase Links (these are affiliate links)

BCT15X – Scanner Master | Amazon

 

P25 “Digital” trunking scanners

I recommend investing in a scanner that supports Phase 2 P25.   I won't suggest a radio that only does Phase 1, because there isn't a noticeable difference in pricing between the two.

At this tier, I recommend the BCD325P2 handheld or the BCD996P2 desktop/mobile version.  These radios will do P25 Phase 1, Phase 2, and X2-TDMA, as well as Motorola, EDACS, and LTR trunking.

You may purchase an upgrade to allow you to monitor DMR and Provoice.

The Australian version of the BCD325P2 is the UBCD325P2

Purchase Links (these are affiliate links)

BCD325P2 – Scanner Master | Amazon
BCD996P2 – Scanner Master | Amazon
UBCD325P2 – Amazon

Advanced Digital Trunked Scanners

I am recommending the TRX-1 and TRX-2 by Whistler because not only do they support Phase 1 and Phase 2 P25 out of the box, but it also supports NXDN, DMR (Mototrbo), and Hytera XPT right out of the box.   There are no upgrade fees associated with these added scanning protocols, unlike the Uniden counterparts.

Just like the advanced Uniden counterparts – these radios have a micro-sd card and pull all their data from teh Radio Reference database and use the included software to

The TRX-2 is the only radio on the market to include a detachable faceplate.

I recently picked up a TRX-1 and I’m starting to learn how it works and programs.  I’m having a hard time transitioning from Uniden programming to Whistler’s EZ-Scan program.

TRX-1 – Scanner Master | Amazon
TRX-2 – Scanner Master | Amazon

 

The BCD436HP is a nice handheld radio.  The BCD536HP is the mobile/base version of the 436.  I’ve had mine since it was released in 2013 and it is built on the Uniden Home Patrol Platform.

There are paid upgrades to NXDN, DMR, and Provoice (for those who need it)

I find that the Uniden BCD436HP is my go-to scanner, for the most part.   I’ve upgraded mine for both DMR and NXDN.

The BCD536Hp is about $100 more than the 436 and it includes WiFi connectivity, which has become quite a pain point for many 536 owners because Uniden promised a piece of software that would work with the 536, and they failed for a very long time to deliver.   Uniden eventually released Siren for the iOS, but never released an Android version which really annoyed a lot of loyal Uniden users.

The European version of the 436Hp is the UNIDEN UBC-D3600XLT and it includes NXDN

BCD436HP – Scanner Master | Amazon
BCD536HP – Scanner Master | Amazon
UBC-D3600XLT – Amazon

USB Dongles

These are really cool devices.  I’ve been playing around with RTL dongles for years, but until recently, I don’t think they were ready for the those just getting into the SDR scene.

I recently picked up a Nooelec USB Dongle for about $30 on Amazon and it came as a complete kit, with the magmount base and 3 different antennas.   This SDR Dongle has an SMA connector which is really nice to have. My previous SDR Dongles I had only had MCX antenna connector and were plastic, which meant they held in the heat.    They were also prone to frequency drifts as the unit came up to temp.

The Nooelec devices are thinner and made out of aluminum.  They also have a built in TXO so they frequency is right on.  I’ve seen no issues with drifting on my two Nooelect SDR dongles and didn’t need to adjust my frequency offsets – which was always a challenge on my earlier dongles.   For $30, these are a great way to get into SDR

Nooelec SDR Dongle – Amazon

Uniden SDS100.   This is Uniden’s newest scanner radio.  It retails at this time for a whopping $650, but this is the only radio on the market that has an IQ receiver in it (which by the way is the same thing the $30 dongles use) and it is the only handheld scanner radio with a nice color display.

The SDS100 is an upgrade to the BCD436HP and also uses the Uniden Sentinel software and Radio Reference database.   In order to receive NXDN, DMR, and Provoice, you will need to pay for additional software upgrades. This radio will work very well in simulcast situations due to the IQ scanner.   To learn more about simulcast, take a listen to session 18 and for my first look at the sds100, you can listen to session 25 (there is also a facebook live video of my unboxing and very first reactions on my youtube channel)

Uniden SDS-100 – Scanner Master | Amazon

 

Unication G5

Many have purchased the Uniden G4 and G5 because of how well it works in a simulcat environment.   This is because it also uses software to put the P25 signal back together again. You need to remember, this is a pager first, not a scanner.   But – that hasn’t stopped many from buying them.

The G5 is now the same price as the G4 (until dec 21) which means it is $100 off.  This is why I suggest the G5 instead of the G4. The G5 also supports either VHF or UHF in addition to the 700/800rx depending on what version of the G5 you purchase.

Unication G5 – East Coast Pagers

 

 

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Links and Sources from this session:

Scanner School Resources Page

 

(Some of the above links are affiliate links.  Scanner School may earn a small fee, at no additional cost to you, if you use these links to make a purchase.  This is a great way to help support Scanner School.)

Bonus Material:

Are you looking for your first scanner radio?

Download our new e-guide, “5 Thinks You Need to Know Before Buying Your First Scanner”.   This free PDF is about 30 pages long and has 5 things you should look for, plus a few extra bonus items to make sure you make an educated purchase.

 

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