10 Best Police Scanners to Buy in 2017
Police scanners are an interesting piece of electronic equipments that make it possible for any interested person to listen in on a variety of radio conversations around a given geographical area. Although commonly referred to as police scanners, these radio devices aid in much more than simply listening to police broadcasts. You can use police scanners to listen to emergency services, beach and air-traffic control, as well as weather services.
Why You Need to Buy a Police Scanner
There are many possible reasons for you to buy a police scanner, and this depends on where you are, what you like to do, as well as your future plans. Following are some of the best reasons for buying a police scanner.
#1. Staying Ahead of Local News
With a police scanner, you can very easily get up to date information on certain happenings in any city or town. These include crime, emergency situations, rescue operations and much more. Being tuned-in allows you to witness news-worthy events live before they become news.
Simply listening to radio transmissions can as well be quite entertaining. As a situation that you are following unfolds, the tension or curiosity to know what is happening can keep you occupied for quite some time.
#3. Disaster Information
In severe weather situations, or periods of natural disaster, people will rely on radio broadcasts as a means of getting up to the minute information on the happenings. By listening in to the communication of certain agencies, you can get first hand accounts of the situation.
Playing around with electronic devices, including police scanners, is a hobby for certain technology enthusiasts. This normally includes the ability to make modifications to the equipment, and to add features that a store-bought device will definitely lack.
10 Best Police Scanners - Reviews
10. Uniden HomePatrol-Series BCD436HP Digital Handheld Scanner
Editor's Rating: (4.1 / 5) (3.5 / 5)
The Uniden BCD436HP is a handheld scanner and the first or our portable police scanners reviews. It is the first to feature HomePatrol-1's ease of use in a compact and handheld police scanner. It features an extra large but monochrome display in which you can clearly and quickly see all the functions, modes and features, right in your hand. For such a small-looking device anyway, the BCD436HP comes with plenty of features.
There is a favorites-list for quick access of your favorite channels. There are also quick keys that help to to better navigate the scanners system to get what you want. Other features include the Specific Area Message Encoding (S.A.M.E) weather alert, plus analog and digital trunking capabilities, Close Call RF Capture, which will automatically detect and tune into any nearby transmission, even without the frequency being programmed into a channel.
This scanner can also be externally powered, but it won't charge while in operation. It must be switched off before it can charge. It features APCO-25 Phase I and Phase II, CTCSS/DCS rapid decoding, Sentinel computer software to use in keeping the scanner's firmware and database up to date. It can receive many types of trunked channels, including Motorola Type I and Type II, Motorola Type II Smartzone, VOC, Smartnet, and many others. If you want to scan as much as possible with a handheld device, then this is it.
9. Uniden BC75XLT Amateur Radio & Public Safety Scanner
Editor's Rating: (3.6 / 5)
Continuing with our police scanner reviews, Uniden's BC75XLT is much lighter in features and capabilities than the previous BCD436HP digital scanner. It does not come with all the fancy digital features and format tracking capabilities of the BCD436HP, but it still goes a long way. It can be used to monitor the police and the fire departments for starters.
It can also be used to monitor NOAA weather transmissions, paramedics and rescue teams, as well as amateur radio transmissions and marine communications. You will even be able to monitor certain business or industrial transmissions, and many other opportunities. Surely it is an entry level device, but there is still a lot of fun, information and excitement to be derived from it, making it one of the best handheld police scanner for beginners.
Uniden's BC75XLT is design to receive conventional transmissions on conventional frequencies, which include 25-54Mhz, 108-174Mhz and 406-512Mhz. It features Uniden's Close Call Capture technology, which automatically searches for and tunes in to local signals. It has 300 memory positions, divided up into 10 banks of 30 channels each, and also features a PC programming port, for use with the free software that it comes delivered with.
8. Uniden 500-Channel BC365CRS Radio Scanner with Clock & Weather Alert
Editor's Rating: (4 / 5)
Uniden's BC365CRS is a multi-functional device with scanning capabilities, AM/FM clock radio with alarm snooze function and a convenient desktop-style design. It will easily integrate into your bedside table or any other table. The buttons and dials are well placed for you comfort and easy selection, and it has a large and bright LCD display for feedback and monitoring.
The BC365CRS is fitted with 500 channels, divided into 10 different memory banks. You can also save up to 30 FM radio stations for our ease of use. The system is also narrow-band compliant, for purer and clearer signal processing. It receives AM signals between 530-1700Khz and 25-54Mhz. It receives FM signals between 88-108Mhz, 108-174Mhz, 225-380Mhz and 406-512Mhz.
You can easily enter frequencies and also store them on this device. It does not handle analog and digital trunking, but it is great for listening in on the fire and police departments, the railroad, marine and amateur radio operators, and many more plain analog broadcasts. Its desktop design also allows it to easily function as a scanner, as a radio, and as an alarm clock.
7. Whistler WS1025 Desktop Analog Scanner
Editor's Rating: (4.3 / 5)
Whistler WS1025 is a digital system that is design to exclusively scan analog signals. It comes in a desktop form just like the previous Uniden BC365CRS, but it feature an antenna on top that gives it a very lovely retro-look. The rest of the scanner is also retro-looking, as were it a product from the 1960s or 1970's.
Behind all that anyway, is a computer programmable device. It features a 200-channel memory, split up into 10 banks. Its liquid crystal display has a back-light, and it can do weather alerts. There are enough buttons on its control panel for programming, like to set priority channels that the scanner will check more often, locking out a channel to exclude it from the standard scan runs, and finding new channels.
Being PC programmable, it enables its user to backup data in the computer, or to update the scanner's database, as well as to program it directly from the computer. The Whistler WS1025 can additionally be used as an FM radio, for which it would look and sound absolutely fabulous.
6. Uniden 300-Channel BC355N Base Mobile Scanner
Editor's Rating: (3.7 / 5)
The Uniden BC355N is a base/mobile scanner with a 300-channel memory space and lots of other features. You can easily use this at home or mounted in a vehicle for mobile use. It has a large and back-lit liquid crystal display, plus plenty of buttons and knobs for a better user experience. If you mount it in your vehicle, adding an external antenna will give you quite a wide range.
Uniden pre-programmed this scanner with a service search for fire, police, marine, weather and emergency services. You simply do a search in your locality, and save the frequencies. It also comes with the Close call RF capture technology for automatically picking up strong signals and storing their frequency.
Lockouts are available and any frequency you find boring or are simply not interested in, can be locked-out and therefore excluded from the search list. Lockouts can also be temporary, and program lock feature for priority scanning is also available. It receives conventional channels on conventional frequency ranges like 25-54Mhz, 108-174Mhz, 225-380Mhz, 406-512Mhz and 806-956Mhz.
5. Uniden BearTracker BCT15X Mobile Scanner with GPS
Editor's Rating: (3.7 / 5)
The Uniden BCT15X BearTracker is the ultimate mobile scanner for use in your car, or any other vehicle of choice. It comes loaded with features that make it ideal for use on the go. It is designed in a mobile form factor that makes it easily integrated into most dashboards or other vehicle compartments.
It features Uniden's 'Close Call' technology for automatic tune-ins, and TrunkTracker-III technology for monitoring trunked two-way radio action from Motorola, EDACS and LTR devices. It also features Location-Based scanning which you have to activate by connecting a GPS receiver to the scanner. It will then automatically scan pre-programmed frequencies based on your location.
There are 9,000 memory locations available on the device, including other features like priority ID scans on trunked systems, Alpha tagging, Public safety scanner, and the package comes with documentation and a CD-ROM with Uniden's software, for operating the scanner. It is the best police scanner for mobile people.
4. Whistler WS1040 Digital Handheld Police Scanner
Editor's Rating: (3.8 / 5)
Whistler's handheld WS1040 is a digital radio scanner with impressive features. It comes with a 4-directional touchpad, enough buttons for programming, and a back-lit liquid crystal display. The menu-items each provide contextual help in order to aid in the better programming of the device.
It provides instant access to storm spotter frequencies, enabling you to get up-to-date weather information long before it hits the news. Its memory allocation is also dynamic and not tied to memory banks like in older scanners. The WS1040 will store up to 1,800 frequencies, and it lets you to arrange and group them as you wish.
Whistler's Object Oriented Programming method is also available in the WS1040 and helps to speed-up and simplify the programming process. It can handle most formats up to the P-25 Phase I digital format, making it a great handheld digital police scanner for those interested in digital scanning. There is also a virtual scanner mode for storing up to 21 different frequency list configurations.
3. Whistler WS1065 Digital Desktop Scanner
Editor's Rating: (3.9 / 5)
As the last Whistler in our digital police scanner reviews, the WS1065 is practically a desktop version of the above WS1040 handheld model. It offers the same 1,800 memory locations, 21 configuration backups, SKYWARM Storm Spotter, scan lists and AGC low audio level compensation.
The major difference between this WS1065 and the WS1040 is the form factor. This one can either be used on a table-top or mounted for mobile use. In addition, it can have an external antenna attached to it for better signal reception. It is PC programmable as well, and comes with a high-speed USB interface.
2. Uniden Digital BCD996P2 Base / Mobile Scanner
Editor's Rating: (4 / 5)
Uniden's BCD996P2 is a fully loaded base/mobile police scanner for car mounting or for the home. It comes in a modern looking and quite trendy design. There is an LCD monitor with a blue-lit background. The buttons are curvy and all fit-in in a stylish way. In fact, the BCD996P2 looks as trendy as any modern stereo player.
It is also loaded with functions and capabilities. This scanner will pickup nearly all types of signals in the air, including APCO-25 Phase I and Phase II signals, Motorola, LTR and EDACS signals, as well. There is Uniden's 'Close call' technology for automatic pickup of nearby stations, and 100 Quick-Key system access functionality.
Uniden BCD996P2 comes with up to 25,000 dynamically allocated memory positions for storing channel frequencies. It's also GPS compatible, which makes it able to do Location-Based Scanning, making it the best police scanner for on-the-road professionals. It comes with TrunkTracker-V to catch up with communications on a wide variety of trunked digital formats.
1. Uniden BCD536HP HomePatrol Digital Scanner
Editor's Rating: (4.1 / 5)
The last product in our police scanner reviews is Uniden's BCD536HP, which features HomePatrol programming, making it the easiest to program mobile scanner from Uniden. It is a digital scanner and comes with WiFi connectivity. You can use a computer program or a smartphone app to connect directly to the scanner and operate it.
It features a favorite's list, 4Gb of memory, Motorola, LTR and EDACS trunking, back-lit LCD and keypads, channel volume offset, USB connectivity, fire tone-out alert, and much more. There are also S.A.M.E weather alerts, and you can use it to practically scan all scanable communications channels, including amateur radio, marine and rail operations, public safety and auto races. It is probably the best digital police scanner for serious professionals.
Types of Police Scanners
There are two ways to group police scanners. The first is by its physical form, while the second is by its format.
Police scanners can be classified into three types based on their physical form. These include the handheld, the base and the mobile type.
#1. Handheld Scanners
As the name implies, handheld scanners are made small enough to be held in the hand. Their advantage over the other models is that they are very compact and portable. They will normally run on batteries, but often have options to be plugged into a household electricity socket or a vehicle charging system. It can withstand power outages well and is the best police scanner for emergency situations, but it usually has less power and features than the other types.
#2. Desktop Scanners
Base scanners are designed to be stationary, like on a desktop or other fixed spot. Since they are fixed, they can have external antennas, which makes them more powerful and able to receive signals from a wider area. Power supply is usually through the wall outlet, and this makes them quite unportable.
#3. Base / Mobile Scanners
These are designed to be either stationary or mounted in vehicles. The mobile type will usually have its controls on the front-side and can be connected to an external antenna that is attached to the vehicle. This makes them more powerful than the handheld variety, because they usually have better sound, range and reception.
Police scanners can also be grouped by the format of radio transmissions that they are able to pickup. There are currently five formats, which include analog, trunked, digital Phase I, digital Phase II and encrypted. It is usually a felony in most places to try to use a scanner to listen to encrypted radio transmissions, so we will just focus on the other four.
#1. Analog Scanners
Analog signals are the original radio transmission signals before every other thing came around. An analog signal is just like simple FM or AM radio and really has nothing fancy going on.
#2. Trunked Scanners
Trunking was developed in order to improve the efficiency of frequency use. Instead of having users clogging certain frequencies, trunking creates groups of users who share a group ID. The users radio will then only pickup transmissions that are meant for that group, and it can be on any frequency. Most trunked scanners can also pickup analog signals, and digital signals can be trunked too.
#3. Digital Phase I Scanners
Digital scanners can pickup transmission information that has been broken down into bits of digital information. There are certain advantages of digital transmissions over analog radio, and this Phase I refers to digital transmissions that do not employ the APCO-25 Phase II encoding. Most Phase I scanners can also pickup trunked and analog signals.
#4. Digital Phase II Scanners
Digital Phase II scanners are those which can listen to APCO-25 Phase II encoded transmissions. APCO-25 refers to the Association of Public Safety Communications Officials Project-25, which is a national standard for digital communications. Most Phase II scanners can also pickup Phase II, trunked and analog signals.
What to Look for When Buying Police Scanners
In order to make the best purchase decision possible, you have to understand the important features of a police scanner. Only with this knowledge will you know which make and model is best for you.
#1. Decide on Type
This is obviously the first decision you should make, and it depends solely on what exactly you plan on doing. You have to know if you want a base or a mobile, or handheld scanner. Secondly, you should decide on format, but considering that everything is moving towards digital, especially to Phase II scanners, there should be less reason for you to choose anything else, except for the price.
#2. Memory Locations
Older scanners had 100 or less memory locations, then came scanners with up to 1,000 and more memory locations. The latest technology though simply uses a large memory space to store channel locations.
#3. Scan Rate
The scan rate of a police scanner refers to the number of channels that it can monitor in a second. Slower devices can scan about 20 memory locations or less, while more powerful units do much better.
#4. Frequency Range
Different scanners cover different frequency ranges. Some low end scanners with about a 100-channel memory might cover a frequency range from 25-512Mhz, while more advanced devices will cover up to 900Mhz, with other devices reaching up to 1,300Mhz. This simply means that the scanner you purchase, will determine the total number of channels that you can monitor.
This refers to how precise the scanner can be in isolating a channel, without picking up interference from other channels of frequencies.
This one is simple. You have to be sure that the Police scanner that you want, is within your budget.
#7. Extra Features
Asides from the above listed features, there could be something specific that you are interested in. In such a case, you will have to adjust and make your decisions based on the availability or non-availability of that feature.