The Uniden HomePatrol-2 is a great scanner that impressed me with its rich feature set and ease of use.
For those that are unfamiliar with radio scanners, they are often referred to as police scanners. These devices allow users to listen to two-way radio communication. For the most part, these devices are perfectly legal to own in the United States and in Canada, but be sure to check on your local laws before purchasing one.
Radio technology is very complex and I am not going to fully explain everything that this scanner does or all the terminology you will see, but check back for a post that goes through and explains these terms and technologies.
This scanner covers most of the common radio modes that are used, including APCO P25, EDACS, LTR, AM, and FM. This is one of the few scanners currently on the market that is able to decode APCO P25 Phase II, a relatively new digital standard that municipalities and departments are quickly adopting.
This radio is capable of listening to all sorts of radio traffic, including aviation, rail, police, fire, federal, state, amateur, business, and public works.
One of the biggest problems with radio scanners until recently is that they took a long time to program and they also required additional software and cables. On a previous scanner I owned, I actually spent 7 hours programming it. Uniden has done away with third party software and has included software and standard mini USB cable to charge and program the radio. Programming took about 5 minutes including software installation.
This scanner uses the all familiar RadioReference.com, a popular scanner and radio enthusiasts frequency database and forum, to organize and categorize all the frequencies and channels that you may want to listen to. The database is organized and maintained by its community. The database on the radio was updated with a few mouse clicks on my PC without the need for additional cables or complicated software.
The user interface was very different from any scanner I had used previously. This unit has a full touch color display and only two physical buttons, a volume rocker and a power button. Other notable physical features included an SMA antenna connector, a Micro SD card slot, a GPS connection, line out, and a headphone jack.
Setting the scanner up was very easy. I installed the batteries, connected the antenna, powered the scanner on, and then let the scanner tell me what to do, the on screen instructions were easy to follow. The setup procedure had me connect the scanner to my PC to update the database, enter in my name and contact info for the splash screen, and enter my zip code to select appropriate channels and radio systems to listen to.
Uniden, by default, enables EMS, Law, Fire, and mixed dispatch systems. Once the basic setup has taken the user into scanning mode. Everything is basically taken care of. I like to tweak my settings and listen to as much as possible. One of the big advantages of having a scanner is that you can listen to traffic that is not permitted for streaming on most police scanner phone applications, this includes SWAT and other very interesting traffic that often gets very busy when POTUS (The President of the United States) comes to town. With many systems switching to digital radio technology this scanner could be the right solution to listening to what is happening in your neck of the woods.
Recording functionality is built into the scanner. It is activated with the press of the record button, replayed recordings reflect the channel that had the traffic on screen, and unit information metadata, so you get more than just audio.
Reception on the device is based on location and environmental conditions. I have never been a fan of stock antenna. This one worked well outside, but inside the Geek House reception was very poor. An external outside antenna will improve scanner performance and allow you to hear conversations and radio traffic much more clearly. If you are looking for alternative antenna a discone is a good place to get started.
Please note that this scanner will NOT decrypt encrypted radio transmissions. Not all digital communication channels are encrypted, but some are. Just because the channel is listed on the Radio Reference database does not mean you will be able to listen to it.
Radio scanners and two way radio technologies have become complex recently. Uniden has done a great job of simplifying these concepts so that an in-depth understanding of the technology is not needed to enjoy its features. I was pleased with how easy it was to use and update. I consider myself a serious radio enthusiast and found that some of the control and manipulation over the database that I used to have over other scanners I have owned in the past was missing. I found it difficult to add frequencies and channels that were not listed in the Radio Reference database. I would recommend this scanner to someone who is looking for a base station in a home, or someone who wants easy operation, without dealing with the intricacies of modern two-way radio communication systems. It would make a great first scanner for those interested in knowing what is going on around them.
- Easy to use
- Nice user interface
- Everything needed is included in the box
- Screen was slow to respond sometimes
- Lacks full control for power users
The Uniden HomePatrol-2 is available from Amazon for $479.95