Digital Police Scanner Reviews

Updated June 1, 2020

If you like to stay informed about everything going on in your community, you may want to invest in a digital police scanner. Digital police scanners can pick up radio communications from your local law enforcement, fire, and weather tracking services.

Many people buy police scanners because they find it interesting to listen to these communications. A reliable digital frequency scanner can also be very helpful for journalists or first responders who want to stay informed for professional reasons. These digital police scanner reviews can help you choose the right one for your needs.

Best Digital Police Scanners

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1 Uniden HomePatrol 2 TrunkTracker Digital Scanner (1) Uniden HomePatrol 2 Digital Police Scanner
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2 Whistler TRX-2 Desktop Digital Scanner Whistler TRX-2 Digital Police Scanner
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3 Uniden_BCD996P2 Digital Mobile TrunkTracker Uniden BCD996P2 Digital Police Scanner
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4 Whistler WS1065 Desktop Digital Scanner
Best For Low Budgets
Whistler WS1065 Digital Police Scanner
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5
Best For Higher Budgets
5Uniden BCD536HP Digital Police Scanner
Uniden_BCD536HP Home Patrol Mobile Scanner
Best For Higher Budgets
Uniden BCD536HP Digital Police Scanner
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6 WS1040 Handheld Digital Scanner Radio
Best Overall
Whistler WS1040 Digital Police Scanner
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1. Uniden HomePatrol 2 Digital Police Scanner

Highlights
  • Modern full colour digital display
  • Features intuitive functions including automatic scanning with just your ZIP Code
  • Digital system compatible with both digital and analog signals
  • Portable mode via included rechargeable batteries, with plugged in mode via USB
  • Allows recording of transmissions via microSD card

Uniden is a well-established brand for police scanners with a reputation of producing feature-packed digital systems. The HomePatrol 2 digital scanner is one of the most robust police scanners in this list, delivering a strong suite of compatibilities with both digital and analogue signals. It also allows for uncomplicated operation via the full color digital display.

Using the HomePatrol 2 is a fairly straightforward affair, and even those who don’t have much experience in handling police scanners will find it easy to tune in to frequencies. Being digital capable, it can receive all non-encrypted frequencies from non-proprietary radio systems, even the Specific Area Message Encoding (S.A.M.E.) frequencies often used by emergency services such as public safety, weather, and more. 

The Uniden HomePatrol 2 also takes standard AA batteries, which means that even if the rechargeable batteries that come with your unit run out of juice, you can easily replace it with standard batteries from your hardware stores.

Specifications

Range:
20 miles radius from manually-set location (30 miles if using automatic location)
Channels:
Motorola Type I 800, Motorola Type II 800, 900, UHF, VHF, EDACS Wide and Narrow, LTR, APCO P25 Phases I and II, analog signals
Battery Type:
4x AA batteries
Warranty:
Three-year limited warranty

Pros

  • Easy touchscreen operation with intuitive controls
  • Quick operation and identification of available channels via location
  • Optional GPS receiver available for automatic coverage tracking
  • Mobile and vehicle mount modes available

Cons

  • Might be too high-end for amateur/beginner use
  • Requires supplementary accessories for other functions such as GPS and operation while charging

2. Whistler TRX-2 Digital Police Scanner

Highlights
  • Robust and traditional police scanner design
  • Utilizes Object-oriented scanning
  • Quick location-based frequency scanning
  • Wide compatibility with digital and analog channels
  • Upgradeable firmware and database libraries

Whistler is another company famous for developing quality digital police radio scanners. Their offering is a base/mobile model called TRX-2, a unit that comes in a much more robust construction. It supports most digital and analogue signals, including P25 Phases I and II, X2-TDMA, EDACS wide and narrow, and many others.

This police scanner is more suitable for stationary or mobile vehicle use. The TRX-2 also has a built-in BNC antenna, but can use external antennas to extend the range of the scanner. This flexibility enables the Whistler TRX-2 to cover a wider range of channels in a much bigger radius.

Specifications

Channels:
Supports AM and FM bands, FM-Motorola, LTR, CTCSS, DCS, NAC on P25, EDACS wide and narrow, P25-Phase I, X2-TDMA, P25-Phase II, DMR, MotoTRBO Tier II
Warranty:
12 months

Pros

  • Good set of accessories out of the box, including SD Cards, AC adapters for home/office and DC cable for vehicle use
  • Simplified user interface to take advantage of Object Oriented Scanning feature
  • Wide channel range and compatibility with many digital channels

Cons

  • Not suitable for handheld use
  • Steep learning curve to program frequencies and channels

3. Uniden BCD996P2 Digital Police Scanner

Highlights
  • This scanner can pick up both digital and analog transmissions, including transmissions from APCO 25 Phase 1 and 2, X2-TDMA, Motorola, EDACS, and LTR systems.
  • It supports up to 25,000 channels, with an RF capture feature that automatically scans for new channels nearby. The scanner also has a memory feature, which keeps your settings from the previous use. 
  • This device comes with optional GPS connectivity, which you can use to pick up local channels.
  • This Uniden scanner has access to NOAA weather services as well as SAME weather alerts.

This is a very reliable digital radio scanner from Uniden. It has 25,000 channels to capture a broad range of local police, fire, and military radio transmissions. It picks up both analog and digital transmissions from a wide range of channel types, so you won’t miss any important broadcasts. This device also has an advanced memory system, so it will automatically return to your previous preferences with each use. 

Uniden’s “Close Call RF Capture” feature automatically tunes in to channels around you, and you can adjust this using GPS location-based scanning as needed. This can also help you tune in for important location-based alerts, like severe weather warnings. This device also lets you tag specific channels with numerical tags, so you can return to them quickly without any hassle.

It comes with a wide range of accessories, including a mounting bracket, a three-wire harness, AC power adapter, car power cord, and USB cable, among other things. The bright, backlit display is easy to read, even in areas with low light. The backlight changes colors when there is new activity on the scanner.

Specifications

Range:
Varies depending on location, automatically connects to as many nearby channels as possible
Channels:
25,000 channels
Battery Type:
1 Lithium ion battery
Warranty:
1 year

Pros

  • This scanner is capable of picking up a very wide range of channels, as it has both digital and analog capability.
  • It can receive clear audio from as far as 30 miles away, often much farther - something that can be difficult to find in an analog police scanner.
  • Clear display alerts will conveniently alert you to new scanner activity.
  • Scanner experts will find it easy to program their desired channels and easily return to them as desired.

Cons

  • The scanner can be difficult to set up, particularly for those who don’t have much previous experience with these devices.
  • This scanner cannot access encrypted channels.

4. Whistler WS1065 Digital Police Scanner

Highlights
  • This device scans a wide range of digital radio types, including P25, Motorola, LTR, and EDACS. You can scan and organize channels to suit your preferences, with the ability to pick up both talkgroup and individual calls. 
  • This scanner has a menu driven programming system, which provides on-screen help text to simplify the process. It can also be programmed from a PC. 
  • A digital AGC feature automatically improves audio quality by compensating for low audio levels. 
  • This device uses the Skywarn storm spotter function, which gives you easy access to a range of storm watch channels.
Best For Low Budgets
Whistler WS1065 Desktop Digital Scanner

This reliable digital frequency scanner from Whistler has a slew of handy features to make your scanning experience easy and painless. This device does require some previous scanning experience to program initially. However, once you have gone through the initial setup and programming process, it is very easy to manage your channels. 

When programming the system, this digital scanner radio does actually provide some help text to guide you through the process. You can easily reorganize your scanner as needed, as it allows free-form memory usage. This device also makes it easy to create groups of scanned items, and will remember your channel preferences for ongoing use. 

This device provides very clear audio, as it has a digital AGC feature to compensate for the low audio levels that are often found on digital radio frequencies. It also comes with Skywarn Storm Spotter, which has pre-programmed access to storm watch networks. You can program alarms as well as color-changing LED lights to alert you when a specific channel is experiencing new activity. You can also set the device to check your favorite priority channel every two seconds, so you never miss important activity.

Specifications

Channels:
1,800

Pros

  • This scanner is very easy to program for anyone who already has some experience with police scanners.
  • Users can easily customize their scanner, organizing channels into groups and setting priority channels. Convenient light and sound notifications clearly indicate new activity on your channel.
  • This device has excellent audio quality for most channels.
  • Color-coded alerts and priority settings ensure that you don’t miss important messages.

Cons

  • Additional software is required for any programming beyond basic channels.
  • The programming process can be frustrating for beginners.

5. Uniden BCD536HP Digital Police Scanner

Highlights
  • Pre-programmed with radio channel database
  • Allows location scanning through ZIP code and GPS coordinates
  • Requires little to no user programming
  • S.A.M.E. compatible
Best For Higher Budgets
Uniden_BCD536HP Home Patrol Mobile Scanner

Uniden is back again with its BCD536HP base unit, part of their HomePatrol Series police scanners. This particular product is a base/mobile model which is more suitable for use onboard vehicles and at home, and as such require a power outlet nearby or a DC socket in a vehicle.

The BCD536HP exceeds expectations with a balanced affair of high-end features and user-friendly reliability. There is no need to program the scanner aside from inputting your location to let the BCD536HP scan for relevant channels to save. This makes the product a good fit for people who need a police scanner for work, but have not yet had much experience in programming radios.

Specifications

Range:
20 miles
Channels:
Motorola Type I 800, Motorola Type II 800, 900, UHF, VHF, EDACS Wide and Narrow, LTR, APCO P25 Phases I and II, analog signals
Warranty:
One year warranty

Pros

  • Features Wi-Fi connectivity for remote home and vehicle operation
  • Wide digital and analogue signal compatibility including majority of emergency, disaster, and police channels
  • Automatically configures listenable channels based on location
  • Good feature set and user-friendliness

Cons

  • Product is quite dated, although still has good support
  • Base/mobile model cannot be taken out without a power source

6. Whistler WS1040 Digital Police Scanner

Highlights
  • Larger handheld unit with good audio
  • Skywarn Storm Spotter provides early storm reports 
  • Automatic Adaptive Digital Tracking helps adjust transmission so radio receives signals clearly
  • Free-form memory
Best Overall
WS1040 Handheld Digital Scanner Radio

The Whistler WS1040 is a handheld ham radio with Object Oriented programming that makes it easy to use. Packed with various features, this is a good choice for users who want more versatility at an affordable price. The WS1040 is mobile and convenient, with the ability to tap into almost any frequency. The radio also comes with detailed programming instructions and several resources available online.

Specifications

Range:
Up to 50 miles
Channels:
Up to 1,800 scannable objects
Battery Type:
AA batteries with holders for regular alkaline and rechargeable batteries, AC power supply, DC power supply
Battery Life:
Usually 2-3 days, depending on batteries used and unit usage. Yellow recharging shell allows user to use rechargeable batteries
Warranty:
1 year from date of purchase

Pros

  • A large keypad gives easier access to various functions
  • More efficient battery usage and life
  • Multi-functional radio at affordable cost
  • Backlit LCD allows radio to be used in the dark

Cons

  • Only compatible with PC
  • Storage case is quite bulky

Digital Police Scanner Buying Guide

Types 

When choosing a police scanner, you’ll first need to decide what type you want. There are many different types of police scanners available, ranging from small handheld devices that are appropriate for beginners, all the way up to advanced desktop models. 

Handheld Police Scanner

If you are looking for a scanner that is portable, a digital handheld scanner will likely be the best option for you. A handheld scanner usually doesn’t have as much range as a desktop scanner, but they are typically easy to use and therefore a good option for beginners. 

Desktop Police Scanner

Desktop police scanners are a good investment for those who already have experience with a handheld scanner and want to upgrade their capabilities. These scanners usually have the best audio quality and can pick up a very broad range of channels. 

GPS Compatibility

GPS compatibility is a very helpful feature to have on your digital radio scanner. Scanners that are GPS compatible typically are able to pick up a wider range of channels, particularly if you are using the scanner while in a moving car. GPS compatibility helps the scanner update your location more quickly for better accuracy. 

Phase 1 or Phase 2

When looking at your scanner, you will need to decide what type of signal you’ll want to use to connect to local radio channels. If you’re going to be using a digital signal, you will choose between the phase 1 and phase 2 channels. Phase 2 scanners are the most popular, because they use the most modern technology and allow you to hear more detail in the audio. However, phase 1 scanners can still be very effective, and many scanners allow you to connect to both phase 1 and phase 2. 

Trunk Tracking

If you are planning on investing in a more advanced scanner, you may want to consider an option that provides trunk tracking. Trunking police scanners have the capability to scan your channels for individual communications and isolate them. This means that digital trunking police scanners can help you hear conversations in more detail, so you won’t miss anything. 

Digital Police Scanner Frequencies

It’s important to make sure that the frequencies on the digital police scanner that you’re using can pick up all the communications you are interested in. You’ll need to find out whether local police and fire departments in your area use analog or digital communications, so you can make sure to purchase an effective scanner. 

Channels

Another key feature to look at is the number of channels your scanner offers. A higher channel capacity allows you to save more of the channels you find for future reference, which can help you stay on top of what’s going on more effectively. 

Software

You will also want to consider any software you need to program the scanner, as well as its ease of use. Not all scanners require you to use a software – some smaller handheld scanners can be programmed manually on the device. However, a computer software makes it much easier to program and organize your channels. 

Search

It’s important that your scanner has a robust search feature to pick up new channels in the area. When shopping, you should look at the scanner’s search function to see how effectively it can pick up new channels. 

Digital Police Scanner Range

The range of your police scanner is another important feature to consider. If you’re only trying to pick up transmissions in your neighborhood, you won’t need a scanner with a particularly long range. However, if you travel often and need to cover more ground, you’ll want a scanner that can pick up transmissions from miles away.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: How to Listen to Digital Police Radio?
A:

Setting up your digital police radio can have a little bit of a learning curve, but once you master the programming process, it’s simple to find nearby channels. Most new digital police scanners will pick up police radio automatically once they are set up and calibrated.

Q: Where Can I Buy a Digital Police Scanner?
A:

There are many different brands that sell police scanner digital options online. Uniden is one of the most popular brands for scanners, and Whistler also has many options.

Although there are many different places to buy police scanners online, we recommend buying directly from Amazon. You can qualify for free two day shipping and they have a very generous 30 day return policy.

Our Verdict

A reliable digital police scanner is a great way to stay up to date with everything that is going on in your area. You can monitor your local police and fire department communications, and keep up with storm warnings as well. We recommend these advanced digital police scanners to help you stay informed about your area.