Listening to a police scanner can keep you updated with information. This information includes the mundane events in your locality, the situation of roads, weather, and even some emergency information. Everyone from professionals to hobbyists relies on police scanners for staying updated on information. If you are considering the purchase of the best police scanner on the market, you’ll find answers in this article.
Top 11 Police Scanners (Including Apps) In 2019
- Whistler TRX-1 Handheld Digital Scanner Radio
- Whistler TRX-2 Desktop Digital Scanner
- Uniden HomePatrol-2
- Uniden BCD436HP HomePatrol Series Digital Handheld Scanner
- Uniden BCD996P2 Digital Mobile TrunkTracker V Scanner
- Uniden Bearcat BC125AT Handheld Scanner
- Uniden BCD536HP HomePatrol Series Digital Scanner
- Whistler WS1065 Desktop Digital Scanner
Best Police Scanners Smartphone Apps
Police Scanner Types
Handheld Police Scanners
These are the most popular scanners purchased. They have the convenience of being light and portable compared to other types. It helps that most modern handheld scanners don’t compromise much in terms of range and quality as compared to other police scanners.
Mobile/Base Police Scanner
Mobile scanners can be installed in the dashboard of a vehicle – much like the conventional audio player. Base scanners can be placed at home or in an office. Both of these unit types can be plugged directly into a power source and do not need batteries. As compared to handheld scanners, they are heavier and generally stay wherever installed.
Key Features For The Best Police Scanner
Number Of Channels Available
The number of channels available decides how many you can listen to. Most of the basic versions come with 10-20 channels. These may end up limiting your options. It’s better to invest in a system that can access more channels. Before you buy one, it’s best to know the number of channels you expect yourself to follow.
Lists Or Banks
Police scanners often save or categorize available channels into categories called Banks. Each of these banks contains a list of number of channels from related categories. For example, you may have categories for fire or police.
Obviously, you’d want a scanner with a decent range. Keep in mind, the range can vary with local conditions. Open areas will offer a wider range, while areas with forests, and especially cities with tall buildings can reduce the range significantly.
Emergency Systems Connectivity
If emergency services feature as a major concern in your purchase of a police scanner, pick one that can easily connect to emergency systems. Some scanners have automatic features that connect to the local Specific Area Message Encoding (S.A.M.E.) system. Similarly, a quick connection to local weather systems is a big plus.
This is a simple measure of how quickly your scanner can scan through each channel. As a consumer, your interest in this speed depends on the number of channels you follow. Those with a small number of channels, like up to 10 channels, may find slower speeds acceptable. However, if you have several dozen channels, look for something that can go faster. Picking one that goes 50-100 channels per second should be useful.
Many government agencies use trunked radio systems. If that is true for any of the local agencies that you want to follow, pick a police scanner with trunk tracking.
Most Smartphones can function as police scanners with the right app installed. Suitable apps are available for Android and iOS. Using an app usually frees you from the problem of having extra hardware or devices to carry. Plus, smartphone apps are easier to manage.
Rise Of The Digital Police Scanner
Analog scanners have been the choice for decades, but now it is the digital police scanner that calls the shots. Digital systems usually have better reception and sound quality. They also tend to have better and more useful features and can be overall more convenient to use. Since a lot of communication is moving to digital systems, digital police scanners can be considered more useful.
Most mobile phones cannot receive radio transmissions and frequency necessary for police scanners. Generally, the apps work by transmitting information from a scanner to a computer server, which then transmits it online. Be certain that the app covers the area and channels of your interest.
Legality Of Police Scanners
Police scanners are legal in all states. However, some states have limitations on their use. For example, scanners should not be used for criminal activity. Some states also prohibit the use of a scanner while driving.
Please note, none of the information here is legal advice. You should check with local authorities to ensure that the intended use of your police scanner is legal.
Top Police Scanner Reviews
1. Whistler TRX-1 Handheld Digital Scanner Radio
Whistler TRX-1 Handheld Digital Scanner Radio is one of the better regarded handheld police scanners. The feature-rich handset uses simple zip code programming and is pre-loaded with relevant options for USA and Canada.
Its internal memory is fairly spacious, but it can be extended with memory cards. The cards can store additional zip codes, or they can be used to record audio from the TRX-1. So that it always stays up-to-date, the radio can install updates downloaded via the internet.
Whistler TRX-1 is capable of listening to Digital Phase I and Phase II channels, LTR, DMR, and more. The adaptive digital trunking scanner can also pick up AM, FM, analog as well as digital signals. Encrypted channels are skipped for better user experience.
It has a fast scan speed, and voice quality is very good. A micro USB port can be used to charge the device. The fly in the ointment is the poorly managed software that’s annoyingly buggy.
- Good value
- Fast scanning
- Downloadable RadioReference database
- Good sound quality
- Expandable storage (microSD)
- Annoyingly buggy software
- Poor aesthetics
- Overly complicated alphanumeric display
2. Whistler TRX-2 Desktop Digital Scanner
Though it likes to sit on a desktop, the Whistler TRX-2 is every bit a sibling to the Whistler TRX-1 we see on this list. It slightly differs in features but matches up with its sibling on several fronts. TRX-2 uses the same zip programming, with preloaded databases for USA and Canada.
An included SD card can be used to extend the memory and record audio. The desktop setup weighs 2.1 pounds and runs off the conventional 110V AC for home use. For car use, the standard 12V DC is sufficient. Much like the TRX-1, the TRX-2 includes a dedicated SKYWARN button to hook directly into weather forecasts.
It can work through several channels, has a bright and clear screen, SAME alerts, flexible antenna, multi-system trunking, three-levels of power, and a lot more. Basically, being a larger and heavier unit allows it to pack in more features. While the internet updates are useful, the software continues to be glitchy and poses problems for the programmable aspect of this device.
- Good value
- Frequent updates over the internet
- Great sound quality
- Glitchy software
- Can be difficult to setup/use
3. Uniden HomePatrol-2
Uniden HomePatrol-2 digital police scanner is an easy to set up, and quick to function device. All you have to do is enter your zip code, and it will pick up police, fire, EMS, aircraft, weather, and other channels.
Strictly speaking, this is not a portable device. It is intended as a mobile/base scanner. However, weighing just 1.1 pounds, it is fairly portable and can be carried around easily. It won’t be as convenient as a handheld police scanner, but it can come in handy in a pinch.
Controls are largely handled by a touchscreen that covers most of the front of the scanner. When using it at home, the included tilt stand can be used to setup the scanner at a convenient angle. Features include playback, record, and instant replay.
This scanner can pick up all non-proprietary transmission over APCO-25 Phase I and Phase II digital, Motorola, EDACS, LTR. Some analog frequencies can be accessed as well. As a rechargeable device, the Uniden HomePatrol-2 makes use of NiMH batteries that last about 5-6 hours on a full charge.
Interestingly, a USB cable is included for charging, but AC or DC adapters are not included. There’s not even a DC 5V power adapter like those that work with your phone. I think that’s just poor packaging for a device at this price range.
- Easy to setup
- Good touchscreen controls
- Fairly portable
- Good voice clarity
- Questionable value for money
- Included software can be buggy
4. Uniden BCD436HP HomePatrol Series Digital Handheld Scanner
Feature-rich and easy to use, the Uniden BCD436HP is a formidable handheld scanner. Ideally, it is supposed to work as a plug-and-play scanner. You simply enter the zip code (USA or Canada), and picks up frequencies for police, aircraft, fire, EMS, etc for your location. Practically, you may have to put in a little more work to get it up and running.
This scanner is GPS compatible. If you have the accessories available, it should be able to pick up relevant channels and frequencies for your location. Power comes from three rechargeable AA batteries (included in the box). The display is clear and makes it fairly convenient to manage the device.
Uniden BCD436HP can pick up several analog and digital frequencies – there isn’t much to be desired in this department. Additional programming and customization can be done by using Sentinel software provided by the manufacturer.
- Good sound quality
- Fairly durable
- Battery life leaves much to be desired
- Device must be switched off to recharge batteries
5. Uniden BCD996P2 Digital Mobile TrunkTracker V Scanner
Uniden BCD996P2 is an excellent base/mobile scanner that handles most hobbyist requirements effectively. It features quick access to S.A.M.E. weather alerts and NOAA for convenience. It covers digital and analog signals, including support for the APCO Project 25 Phase II.
The device enables access to 25,000 channels. Its advanced dynamic memory system makes sure the user is never short of channels to choose. Other features include GPS compatibility, excellent sound quality, and an intuitive user interface.
- Excellent voice quality
- Good user interface
- Value for money
- Average material/casing quality
- Can be difficult to program
6. Uniden Bearcat BC125AT Handheld Scanner
Uniden Bearcat BC125AT is another excellent handheld scanner from Uniden. A cost-effective device in the $100 range, has enough features and value to be considered a viable pick. But yes, expect it to be a bareboned device compared to some full-featured police scanners on this list.
This is an analog scanner, so usage could be limited. Many transmissions have moved to digital, so there is a good chance this won’t be able to access several services. Be sure the BC125AT can access your local frequencies before you purchase it.
As for the device, it can work over 40,000 frequencies and has 500 Alpha-Tagged Channels organized into 10 storage banks for easier access. It comes with rechargeable NiMH batteries.
- Good value for money
- Durable construction
- Good sound quality
- Analog only
- User interface could be better
- Programming for initial use can be tedious
7. Uniden BCD536HP HomePatrol Series Digital Scanner
Uniden BCD536HP is a police scanner that has kept up with the times. This mobile police scanner is in some ways a twin to the handheld Uniden BCD536HP that is also featured on this list. Using it requires simply entering the zip code. The scanner does the rest, picking up suitable frequencies and channels for your location.
It includes a WiFi option that connects with a smartphone app. As long as your phone is in range, the app can listen to all communication going through the police scanner. The display is crisp and the keypad makes controls easy and intuitive.
- Easy to use
- Can connect with smartphone via app over WiFi
- Excellent sound quality
- Good build quality
- App available only for iOS
- The stock antenna isn’t the best available, and should preferably be replaced
8. Whistler WS1065 Desktop Digital Scanner
Whistler WS1065 is a police scanner with good features and great value. To start small, the backlight and its bright and dim settings are pretty good. It really makes a lot of difference! It offers both audio and visual (different colored lights) alerts, which can be easily programmed.
While some programming can be done manually, it is best handled by using software. Unfortunately, this is also where the Whistler WS1065 lacks. Programming the device can be tough and frustrating. Although where its “real” job is concerned, this police scanner works fantastically. It is quick to scan through frequencies available, and works beautifully with digital systems.
- Good value for money
- Good sound quality
- Can be tough to program
- Controls can get confusing
What Is The Best Police Scanner App?
1. Police Scanner ⁺ (App)
This very popular and highly rated iOS app can give you access to police and fire scanners “around the world”. While it does include several countries, the most popular usage is for the USA.
A great advantage with apps is that you can listen to events in an area without being physically present at the location. The app allows a convenient search for feeds, can continue to play audio in the background and makes it convenient to access top 100 live feeds.
2. 5-0 Radio Police Scanner
Offering a wide collection, this police scanner app lets you listen to police, firefighter, aircraft, railroad, emergency, news, and ham radios. 5-0 Radio Police Scanner (iOS) offers coverage of several cities/countries and allows users to chat. If you prefer to listen to the scanner on a different device, like the computer, this app makes it possible to share/email the link to your current feed.
Feeds can be played in the background, and a “Feeds with Active Alerts” feature makes it possible to see active and interesting activity over specific feeds.
3. Scanner Radio – Fire and Police Scanner
Scanner Radio – Fire and Police Scanner offers access to public safety, air traffic, railroad, marine, etc frequencies. You can simply set the app to work for your location or explore areas around you. Several scanners are available across different locations. You can even set it to view the top 50 scanners with most listeners.
Police Scanner FAQs
Is it legal to listen to a police scanner?
Yes, owning and operating a police scanner is legal in the USA. There are some limitations in different jurisdictions. Some states do not allow the use of a police scanner if you are driving a car. These states are Florida, Indiana, Kentucky, New York, and Minnesota. Several states also make it a crime to use police scanners to aid in criminal activity. It is best to check your local jurisdiction for exact laws.
Which police scanner app is best?
For iOS, 5-0 Radio Police Scanner is the best app to use. The best police scanner app on Android is Scanner Radio – Fire and Police Scanner.
What is the best police scanner for home use?
Whistler TRX-2 is the best police scanner for home use in my opinion. It is closely followed by Uniden HomePatrol-2.
Can police scan your license plate?
Police can use License Plates readers to scan License plates. Many of these are quite efficient at their job.
What are police scanners used for?
Police scanners are used to monitor radio transmission activity. Police scanners can also be tuned to listen to other services like Fire, weather, aircrafts, maritime, EMS, and many other resources.
What does trunking mean on a scanner?
The modern trunked radio system involves communication over specific channels. This computer-controlled network automatically connects users to the requested channel.
Picking The Right Police Scanner
Considering the functions you need is an important first step to choosing the best police scanner. Digital scanners are the best in functions, but app based scanners have great advantages as well. Analog scanners are on their way out, and should be avoided. This list includes the most popular scanners available today, and can help you narrow down your choices.