The 8 Best Police Scanners to Buy in 2017

Stay informed with what's going on around you

With all the ways to track current events in your community in today’s connected society, few methods do it better than a police scanner for instant information. There’s a good chance most of those events won’t ever see the light of day or be the top story on the evening news, but a police scanner can help you stay in-the-know on the latest happenings. Add in first-hand knowledge of current weather and road conditions and there are multiple benefits to owning this still viable piece of technology. Two companies (Whistler and Uniden) are the leaders in the space, so read on to their differences and choose which one will work best for your needs. But before you buy, you might want to be sure the area you plan on using the police scanner doesn't have encrypted radios (or else you might hear some silence).

Featuring simple zip code programming with pre-loaded USA and Canada options, Whistler’s TRX-1 is setting the standard for the way other police scanners should work. With a dedicated SKYWARN and weather button, as well as the ability to listen to both Digital Phase I and Phase II channels, the TRX-1 is feature-rich and ready for action. The fully backlit alphanumeric keyboard includes easy-to-use options such as scan, pause, select, as well as full navigational controls.

The TRX-1 will pick up all AM, FM and digital frequencies, as well as capture analog signals to cover the full spread of unencrypted communications through which police stay in touch. Overall, the sweeper and actual scanning are very quick with voice quality that borders on excellent. The included microSD card space offers enough extra memory to continue loading in saved zip codes or recording the action as it happens, as well as charging off an easy-to-find miniUSB, which can easily be powered from any USB charger.

Not to be outdone by its sibling, the Whistler TRX-2 desktop digital scanner offers a different feature set than the TRX-1, but with nearly the same overall excellence. Featuring simple zip programming with pre-loaded USA and Canadian data on an included microSD card, there’s plenty to love right out of the box. Notably, there’s even more good news with easy software updating via a software download right in the comfort of your own home. The desktop-based design weighs 2.1 pounds, so it’s definitely not handheld even with the carrying handle, which also serves as a small stand lift when laid on a flat surface. Additionally, there’s a dedicated SKYWARN and weather button to announce inclement weather that aims to deliver the report well before your local news. With its slew of digital capabilities, the TRX-2 offers a range of channels, great range overall and a quality product well deserving of its price tag.

As a fully digital trunking (can scan and store individual talkgroups) scanner, the Whistler WS1080 offers full support for scanning of Motorola P25, Phase I and Phase II digital networks, plus X2-TDMA networks. The multifunction keypad makes it ideal for one-handed operation, and the included navigational pad is useful for selecting and saving networks of choice. Capable of storing 200 various scanner configurations, the WS1080 also allows recording by scannable objects that can be saved into a Windows-compatible file format for later playback. If there’s one bit of bad news with the WS1080, online reviews peg the battery life with four AAs to be fairly short, so keeping a steady supply around the house is a must if you’re listening in fairly frequently.

Featuring the ability to connect to public safety, military aircraft and racing scanner channels, Uniden’s BC75XLT is a terrific choice for analog scanner fans. The built-in search functionality is second-to-none and quickly identifies channels for police, fire, marine, air, weather and more, which makes the BC125AT a very much pickup-and-go analog scanner. The ability to save 300 channels into the scanner’s memory or 30 channels total in 10 separate banks allows easy scanning for current transmissions on each stored channel. Additionally, the inclusion of Close Call RF capture technology assists the BC75XLT in identifying and detecting nearby transmissions even if they aren’t pre-programmed into a channel. Powered by two AA batteries, the 14.4-ounce scanner is both lightweight and designed to fit in the hand with superb reception as long as you’re in a strong-signal area.

Released in 2014, Uniden’s BCD436P HomePatrol series digital handheld scanner is designed for the hardcore scanner crowd. With more than 4GB of memory for Close Call RF capture and enhanced dynamic memory with narrowband reception, the Uniden offers a complete system that’s more than comfortable in your hand. Additionally, GPS connectivity, an extra-large display and discovery modes all help this advanced handheld scanner jump right to the top of your Amazon wish list. The LCD backlit keypad illuminates both the keys and screen to help you make lists of your favorite frequencies for quick referencing. At just one pound, it’s slightly less heavy than carrying an iPad, but is far more comfortable for one-handed operation. One notable quirk is that the Uniden requires the unit to be turned off for the batteries to charge. 

Uniden’s BCD536HP scanner offers some of the easiest-to-program features available on a vehicle-based scanner. There’s even a WiFi option that allows you to use the exclusive Uniden siren app on your smartphone or tablet to access the scanner from anywhere in the home or vehicle. The LCD backlit keypad helps to illuminate the keypad and display, so you can quickly program your favorite frequencies. Included within the packaging are home and auto power cords, as well as a mounting bracket for inside the vehicle (plus instructions for appropriate wiring and installation). There’s no battery power to worry since this Uniden scanner runs entirely off the car battery. Additionally, the BCD536HP was one of the first Uniden scanners to incorporate the HomePatrol data, which allows the easy entering of a zip code and you're ready to listen in.

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While the focus of scanners is almost always concentrated on the utilitarian design of the handheld and car-ready hardware, there’s a new and most formidable entry in the market. The 5-0 Radio Police Scanner app available for the iPhone and Google’s Android software has had more than 25 million downloads. Users can listen to feeds in the background, including police/EMS/fire and military codes, as well as both aircraft and train feeds.

There’s even international coverage where available, so the app can detect your location and determine relevant feeds you’ll want to follow. Currently free on both the App Store and Google Play, there’s also a pro option that offers 50,000 more feeds. More »

With an easy to rest stand, the Uniden HomePatrol-2 digital scanner with a pre-programmed database is a highly functional scanner that’s perfect for any room in the house. Introducing specialized features such as quick record, playback and instant replay, the Uniden is a highly recommended digital scanner that can be up and running in three minutes or less. There’s no programming needed here, just enter your zip code and HomePatrol-2 will load all the recognized police, fire and EMS channels in the surrounding area.

Weighing just 1.1 pounds, the HomePatrol-2 can be easily moved from room to room in the house and, with the included tilt stand, there’s room to both watch and see the scanner in action. Additionally, the inclusion of a touch screen was an industry first introduction with the HomePatrol-2. Uniden also includes rechargeable batteries that last between five to six hours before needed to recharge, but there's also an AC adapter cable for recharging directly from a wall outlet. 

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