Purchasing a police scanner is no joke, especially when you need it for emergencies and safety reasons. Just picking out the first scanner you see on line can result in wasted money and a bad communication experience – which of course, is something you don’t want.
To help you out, here’s a list of the best police scanners we’ve personally tested and used through the years.
Table of Contents
- Top Police Scanners Reviews
- Buying Recommendations For Police Scanners
- The Best Police Scanner Of 2020 – Whistler TRX-1
Top Police Scanners Reviews
1. Whistler TRX 1 – Best Digital Police Scanner
- Object-Oriented Capabilities
- Scan sets
- Weather alerts
- Monitors Encrypted Channels
- Comes with various search modes
- Spectrum Sweeper (near-field search)
First in our list is the TRX 1 handheld police scanner. If you are looking for the best digital police scanner with tons of features, it’s one of the models you’re going to want. While this model has an expensive price tag, it offers better performance than most budget models.
We like that the TRX 1 digital scanner model can be used to monitor encrypted channels from agencies. But going back to basics, it can also tune into AM, FM, and digital radio frequencies as well. As such, you can listen to local police, fire, EMS, aircraft, or other local transmissions.
Another great feature is its micro-SD card compatibility – something that not all models have. The SD card has the ability to store over millions of objects, so you have a lot of available space in the unit if you’re using a 32 GB card. You can also save up to 200 configurations on the memory card, which saves you from the hassle of reprogramming the settings from scratch in manual mode.
This is also a multi-system adaptive trunking scanner. That means that it includes tech such as Motorolla P25 Phase I, Phase II, and DMR, X2-TDMA. This handheld scanner can also monitor a few trunking systems, so you can make use of that too.
Along with adaptive compatibility, this handheld police scanner also has an alarm clock feature and intuitive controls. The extensive list of system features have been received positively by consumers, which makes the TRX 1 the best police scanner around.
However, beginners shouldn’t take this if they’re looking for the right product to start with first. It’s one of the top models for more advanced users. We suggest that beginners either take a while to get used to every scanner feature in the unit or buy a cheaper police scanner model until you’re ready to use models like this. Click for our full review of the TRX 1.
- Crisp audio
- Programmable backlight
- Suited with Micro SD Card
- Small display can take a bit of time to get used to
- For amateur users rather than pros
- Steep price
2. Uniden HomePatrol-2 – (Alternative Good Police Scanner)
- Quick-recording & playback
- Instant replay
- Simple programming for finding channels
- Comes with S.A.M.E. Alerts
- Trunk Tracker V
The next model on our portable police scanners list is the Uniden HomePatrol-2 digital scanner. Using the HomePatrol USB cable, anybody with a device from the HomePatrol series can update their database at any time.
By typing in your area zip code, you can look for channels within a local area like fire, public safety agencies, and road conditions as well. This makes it easy for you to find transmissions within your vicinity.
For our in-depth review of this Uniden model and every feature, follow this link: Uniden homepatrol review.
Ease of Use
The Uniden HomePatrol-2 digital scanner gained its current reputation as a “simple program scanner.” Unlike competing base mobile radio scanners, the Uniden HomePatrol-2 is portable and simple to use. This Uniden mobile device is easy to install as well, making it perfect for beginners.
Its battery power lasts long, while the included USB cable makes it easy to fill the battery up again. In our tests, this Uniden unit lasted longer than others at this price point. However, you need to buy a separate GPS accessory for the GPS function to work.
If you want a tool for the documentation of the local transmissions you listen to, the Uniden HomePatrol 2 has a feature for that as well. A micro SD card is included in the model too, so you can keep your area-specific recordings for later.
A consumer noted that the Uniden HomePatrol model does not identify encrypted radio transmission. However, not all communication channels are encrypted. Just because a channel is on the reference database of the radio system doesn’t mean you can listen to it.
Some users also noted that there were some minor flaws in the HomePatrol scanner’s control system. For instance, the built-in antenna in this digital mobile scanner isn’t that good. But still, the Uniden HomePatrol-2 mobile radio device is a great option if you need a Uniden home scanner that’s easy to use and receptive enough to spot multiple traffic.
- Easy to use
- Offers intuitive user capability
- Comes with enhanced Scanners
- Good price
- Great Uniden device for newbies but lacks control for experts
- Display might sometimes respond a bit slow
3. Whistler TRX-2 Police Scanner
- Spectrum Sweeper
- Comes with removable magnetic head
- IF Discriminator Out
- Simple Zip Code Programming
- DCS and CTCSS audible detector
- Digital Scanning
The TRX-2 digital desktop scanner provides a different set of features than the TRX-1, but has the same excellence and range. The TRX-2 desktop model weighs 2.1 pounds and has a carrying handle, which acts as a small stand lift when placed on a flat surface at home. That means you don’t need external accessories to keep it upright.
There’s a weather button and SKYWARN button on this model to determine inclement conditions. As such, you can receive weather alerts hours before the news. If you live in a generally stormy area or you just want quick notifications, this base model will give you real-time weather reports to listen to.
This adaptable base mobile scanner supports Phase I, Phase II, DMR, Motorolla P25 Phase I, making it capable of finding unencrypted systems such as:
- Hytera XPT
- MotoTRBO “Connect” Plus
- MotoTRBO Capacity Plus
- MotoTRBO Linked Cap Plus
You can also associate with multiple channels with this quality scanner. It can browse up to 70 channels per second and reception is good too. And because it supports an SD card, you can store millions of channels on this one.
You can listen to police, EMS signals, fire, aircraft, road conditions, and others in your location. The main scanner bands are “low band” (25 to 88 MHz.), “high band” (108 to 174 MHz.), “UHF Aero” (225 to 406 MHz.), “UHF” (406 to 512 MHz.) and “800” (750 to 950 MHz.)
Consumers like how the TRX-2 is pre-programmed with a nationwide database. Like the Uniden HomePatrol-2, it allows you to enter a zip code and it will start surveying signals within the right area.
Another reason why consumers like this pre-programmed top scanner product is it does feature frequent radio updates so you’re informed of any emergency. It can also receive via NXDN after installing the device’s firmware.
- Get free radio updates
- Stores different functions with V Scanner
- User-created profiles
- The supplied USB cable shorter than is usually expected.
- Doesn’t have a sleep timer/automatic shut off.
4. Uniden Bearcat BC125AT Police Scanner
- 40,000 Frequency range
- Comes with a Do Not Disturb Mode
- Includes both Military & Civil Aircraft Bans
- Offers alpha tagging systems
- Well-placed buttons
- Easy search with direct access
The Uniden Bearcat BC125AT is a versatile handheld scanner that has a solid grip and over 40,000 frequencies to listen to. The main feature of the model is it allows you to organize 500 channels by location, department, area of interest, or any other form you’d prefer your channels. So, if you want to listen to many frequencies yet keep things organized, this is a great unit to consider.
Performance-wise, you’ll find that the Uniden Bearcat BC125AT portable police scanner is a highly effective yet simple-to-use device. As for the reception, the VHF-High can pick up signals from police stations. Thus, you can use this radio scanner model to listen to anything from a range of fire departments, air agencies, road conditions, and local transmissions in your area.
Other convenient features include the alpha tagging systems and close call capture technology. In our tests, both functions were reliable in terms of performance.
This radio scanner offers good audio as well. Cranking the volume to its highest, the handheld scanner causes some audio distortion, but not too much. If this is not an issue for you, the other features on this unit make up for the oversight.
The large screen of the Uniden device is one of its standout features, too. Not all models have a screen of this size, which makes the BC125AT a better choice if you want all the info at a glance. On-screen, you’d see the alpha tag, frequency range, mode, strength meter, number, and PL tone. The LCD even shows weather priority symbols if they’re activated.
However, we wish there’s a feature that allows you to dim the backlight in the device. While we find it easy to read and not too bright, we wish we could save power by dimming the display. It would be nice if it can find a way to switch off the backlight by just pressing a button.
Still, there’s a way to go around this. You can program the display to come on with keypress only, squelch only, or both.
Direct access is one of the main reasons why consumers buy it because the feature makes it easier to do a quick search especially in a local area or during an emergency.
For example, if you want to listen to the local cops on Channel 300. To directly go to it, click the Hold button, then the 300 buttons to find the channel. Your radio will now be on Ch.300 waiting for a transmission.
- Offers CTCSS/DCS features
- Weather Alerts
- 500 channels
- It only charges the batteries when the unit is off.
- Manual can be improved.
5. Uniden Bearcat BC75XLT Police Scanner
- 10 Programmable Search Range
- Close call RF Capture Technology
- Allows programming of 300 Channels
- PC desktop programming port & free software
- 2 AA alkaline or Simple cord-charging
- NOAA weather channels
The last model on our list is the Uniden BC75XLT, a handheld digital scanner type with a small and compact build. The size makes it portable for listening to transmissions even during disasters and extreme situations in a location.
With this great quality handheld police scanner around, you get the option of having up to 300 radio frequencies programmed into the scanner. This scanner programming allows seamless switching to tune into various events or road conditions after nearby transmissions are saved.
Close Call RF Capture Technology and NOAA Weather
This unit monitors the weather with a close call RF capture technology feature for long-range frequencies. With this, you get info much earlier than the current news.
New owners will find weather and close call transmissions in this handheld scanner helpful. Public health workers also need good reception to look for any close sign of any emergency in their local area. With RF capture, they can guide everybody in observing emergency precautions with their car, home, and family.
Customer reviews range from good to bad, with many wanting to recommend the handheld digital scanner and some finding it hard to operate. However, positive reviews outnumber the negatives.
Many consumers say that this product is easy to set up with mounting accessories. The power is reliable as well when linking to signals, even in a railroad vehicle or yard.
In most reviews, people like that the scanner works while events are in action, and programming is also easy. Monitoring of frequencies isn’t that necessary in operating the BC75XLT handheld police scanner because 300 channels can be stored in the memory.
However, one negative comment that prevails with some buyers is the poor construction of the BC75XLT.
- All-system compatible
- Long battery power
- Clear signal reception compared to other top models
- Use isn’t allowed while charging
- Bulky for some, especially on the base part
Buying Recommendations For Police Scanners
Still confused about which police scanner you need to purchase? Here are some buying tips to help you pick your new handheld or desktop scanner.
How Police Scanners Work
If you know one or two things about how AM/FM radio stations work, then you already know how scanning devices work as well. AM/FM sends broadcasts via radio waves, and so do cellphones, CB radio, and television.
A radio scanner allows you to communicate with UHF and VHF range. This range allows users to listen to conversations between sanitation workers, emergency workers, and even others within your community. If you’re not familiar with the police codes on scanners, check out this page.
Here are the most common uses of police scanners:
- Neighborhood watch
- Dispatch centers and patrols
- Corporate security workers
- School structure
- Radio hobbyists and home workers
Many different agencies use different frequencies, and various models and options cover a wide frequency range. With advanced scanners, you can search frequencies within your local agencies if you like to follow transmissions in your area or location.
Types of Radios
If your new handheld or desktop police scanner uses one frequency for each communication channel, it’s a conventional radio system. You can’t use conventional radio scanners to hear a trunking conversation, so skip this option if that’s what you’re after.
With trunk tracking, trunking, or trunked radios, a myriad of agencies can use a few frequencies. Trunked systems allow sharing frequencies in congested circumstances.
Analog and digital are the two modes you can get from scanners. Some support both analog and digital, but what’s the difference?
For one, most larger cities have switched from analog to digital. This new model type also has better quality and signal response compared to analog.
Analog is used by the most basic, inexpensive, and common models of scanners available. Analog scanners are usually found in smaller towns and rural communities.
What should you look for when shopping for ideal analog or digital police scanners? Here’s an overview that helps you pick the best, going way over than just quality accessories in devices.
How many channels do you need? Before, only 10 channels are available on devices. If 10 to 20 channels is enough, then you’re probably listening to only a few agencies in your local area.
Today, many handheld and desktop models offer a large number of channels, with some devices providing 300 channels or even 500 channels.
Lists & Banks
Lists and banks give you the power to organize many channels. For instance, you can pick and store different frequencies such as Police, Fire, Aircraft, and local transmissions. This lets you find channels more quickly.
If the police scanner has Dynamic Memory Allocation, you may also have Listed. This is also similar to banks, except that users have authority over what channels are on each list.
This tells you how quick devices can search throughout channels.
Trunked radio systems allow the device to get the right mode for any available frequency. This lets people override the selection if necessary.
This is a great feature if you want more supervision over banks. When using a fixed memory scanner, the banks have the same size. That means if all slots in the bank aren’t filled, it removes the remaining slots.
But if your handheld or desktop radio scanner features a dynamic memory system, you can customize the bank sizes so you can have room for smaller banks if you need them.
You want this if you live in a rural area or if you’re monitoring aircraft. Often this is going to depend on the antenna, so make sure to get a scanner with the reliable antenna installed, regardless if you’re using a handheld or base scanner. A good antenna may also be purchased as part of separate accessories.
Many excellent police scanners are better designed for crises than others. If you want or need a digital scanner that’s quick so you can listen to local weather or public safety transmissions during a disaster, consider the feature of automatic connections to a weather station like S.A.M.E.
This way, you have the ability to hear details before they hit the news.
The majority of what you can listen to from your police radio scanner is legal to hear. Some unavailable communications are encrypted or scrambled communication services.
Most prosecutions are attempts to disclose phone calls to mess with privacy or tamper with law enforcement. Listening is mostly legal unless you’re messing with the signal or information communicated. That’s when trouble with law enforcement starts. This situation can be compared to how radar detectors are legal in most states, while police laser jammers are not.
However, users who want to listen to emergencies such as vehicle accidents or home fires should not enter the emergency site. Listeners should also make sure not to block access to the district officials who might need the space.
The Best Police Scanner Of 2020 – Whistler TRX-1
For an overall high-quality device that can keep track of miscellaneous frequencies, go for the Whistler TRX-1. This portable handheld scanner is the best all-around device, whether you’re using it for personal purposes, inside a vehicle, or in public. It provides weather alerts, object-oriented capabilities, search modes, micro-SD compatibility, and more.
However, if it’s your first time using a scanner, take the Uniden Home Patrol 2 or the Whistler WS1040 as good alternatives. For other options not on this list, you may see our separate reviews for Uniden BCD536HP and Uniden SDS200.
Do you have any questions about buying leading police scanners?
Tell us in the comments below or explore more of our website.