Deciding Between GRE 500, GRE 800 & Uniden 396 --- Help Please!

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FirePix1075

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Hi,

I live in Baltimore County, MD, which is getting ready to launch its digital public safety radio system.

I am in the market for a portable digital scanner and am looking at three models:

GRE 500
GRE 800
Uniden 396

Can anyone advise what the differences are between these models?
Which come pre-programmed with frequencies?
Given that our system is just coming online, would the pre-programmed unit come with Baltimore County frequencies?
Which model has the "name" / ID of the frequency being broadcast shown on the screen as channels are scanned?

I understand that digital scanning is vastly different than analog Truck Tracking. What other accessories are needed with a digital scanner - I've seen memory cards, cables, CDs, etc.

Thanks in advance!
 

KD0OTK

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The PSR-800 has the DB pre-loaded. The frequencies/TGID's for your area will be be available if and when someone submits them to the RR DB. You won't need much for accessories, maybe an antenna cut for 800mhz if the system comes in weaker.
 

gewecke

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The pro-197 is the same, and cheaper than the psr-500. This was my choice and I'm still not sorry a year later. :)
You wouldn't be sorry,as long as you can master the programming technique.

73,
n9zas
 

ka3jjz

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While that's true, there's a difference that should not be overlooked - the GRE radios come with their own USB serial cable, the RS models don't - so you have to buy that seperatly

We have a number of articles in our wiki that fully describe these radios, as well as guides for programming them; the GRE radios use an object oriented approach, the Uniden radios use Dynamic Memory Architecture or DMA. There are also Easier to Read programming guides for the 500/197 and the 396XT. Reading through these will help in making your decision.

BCD396XT - The RadioReference Wiki

PSR-500 - The RadioReference Wiki

PSR-800 - The RadioReference Wiki

Programming Your Uniden Scanner - The RadioReference Wiki

Programming Your GRE Scanner - The RadioReference Wiki

You would also need to buy the USB cable for the Uniden as an additional expense - but unlike the GRE models, there are a number of off the shelf USB cables that have been known to work. The last 2 articles listed here has an additional article on making this connection and how to use Device Manager to see how the drivers are loaded.

My concern with GRE radios lies in their well-documented tendency to overload in (at least some) high density RF environments. The 396XT seems somewhat less prone to this. If you are going to working in the City, it will be a concern regardless of the model. You might be better off with buying an 800 mhz stubby to use when/if you are in that area - this would effectively attenuate signals from other bands and concentrate on 800 alone.

In addition, there is no freeware for the GRE/RS radios, but there is for the Uniden. Links for the appropriate software (and some have user guides posted in the wiki) are also in the programming articles. This too should play a role in your decision. Baltimore county, last I heard, will be migrating from its current system at the end of the month, so updating your radio is going to be important. If you buy the 197/500 or 396XT you can purchase a premium subscription so you can download data from our database once it's updated. I don't believe such a subscription is needed for the 800.

We have dedicated Uniden and GRE forums for more general questions about these scanners. I would read through these and the information already supplied to make an informed decision

best regards..Mike
 

ka3jjz

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In addition, since Baltimore city underwent a rather significant change in their system, scanning it is very much a hit and miss proposition - some areas it scans easily, others it can't be heard at all. We have an article in our wiki - and an extensive thread - on the problems that City scanner listeners have, and why...

Receiving the Baltimore city P25 system - the RR Wiki

best regards..Mike

All the scanners seem to have some problems with the City system - you should also expect this.
 

ocguard

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It is my opinion that the GRE/RS products have far superior P25 decode quality out of the box. I owned the 396 when it came out and it was ok with tweaking and firmware upgrades. Then I upgraded to the 396xt when it came out and HATED it. I traded one-for-one the 396xt for a Pro-106 (same as GRE500) and never looked back.

Also the GRE/RS models do TRUE multi-site monitoring in roam mode. The uniden models have a cheap, less effective manner of doing this.

I have never tried the GRE 800, but income tax return season might change that.
 

JoeyC

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If you want a radio you can customize buy the 396 or the PSR500.
If you want a box that picks up public service channels based on whats in the database here, is easy to load up, but cumbersome to navigate, buy the PSR800. Nice gimmick toy, but I may be putting my 800 up for sale soon.
 

JoeyC

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I don't have a 396xt but I DO have a 996XT and a PSR-500. They are both excellent scanners!
 

troymail

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Simple programming with ability to custom program? GRE PSR-800

Manual programming? GRE PSR-500

Expect less new features/upgrades/firmware changes with the 500 as it is several years old - PSR-800 is only 1 year old and I believe more able to handle updates if/when them come.

I haven't used my 396 in years (not since the PSR-500 came out)

Even before all of this I was greatly impressed with the digital decode/quality of the Radio Shack PRO-96 (which was made by GRE).
 

ocguard

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If you want a radio you can customize buy the 396 or the PSR500.
If you want a box that picks up public service channels based on whats in the database here, is easy to load up, but cumbersome to navigate, buy the PSR800. Nice gimmick toy, but I may be putting my 800 up for sale soon.
It's a gimmick toy unless you live near a P25 Phase II system; then it's a necessity.
 

troymail

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It's a gimmick toy unless you live near a P25 Phase II system; then it's a necessity.
I assume you mean the PSR-800....

Not so -- it doesn't do Phase II P25 (yet) - at least not that I am aware of.

It does do X2-TDMA (Prince George and Loudon Counties).

It's not really a toy -- I think the intent was to make a radio for people who want to listen but were intimidated by the programming. This radio simplifies that. Personally I think it's great to be able to travel or be somewhere and program the local systems with a couple of button pushes! With my previous radios, including my 500, I have to spend time "preparing" for a trip (I still do sometimes but I don't have to).

Having said that, I too wouldn't mind seeing a PSR800 with PSR500 features (I miss the ease of enabling scanlists with buttons on the keypad too)...but I've gotten over that... My 500 isn't being used much these days either... my two PSR800s are running 24/7.

Given things to be wanting or concerned about -- my bigger concern is the new reduced power systems and modulation schemes -- that (and the increased use of encryption) are a much greater concern than lots of buttons and infrequently used "features" - after all, it's about being able to listen, isn't it?

Everyone has different needs and opinions - everyone's use is different.
 

rwier

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I am in the market for a portable digital scanner and am looking at three models:

GRE 500
GRE 800
Uniden 396

Can anyone advise what the differences are between these models?
.....................................................................
FirePix, I'l help you if you help me.

I'm about to make a road trip from Phoenix, AZ, to Atlanta, Georgia. I need to buy a new car. Should I buy a Chevy, a Ford, a Chrysler, or a foreign job?

I know this is a radio forum and not a auto forum, but do you see a problem????

We are already up to 15+ responses here, and taken together, they resemble (to me) a SNL skit, lol. It's like watching Abbot and Costello, or the Three Stooges, lol.
 

troymail

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Everyone has different needs and opinions - everyone's use is different.
I agree. Hey wait, I'm talking to myself (again) :lol:

I guess I'm saying I agree with rwier --

Then again, we're basing everything on all of our collective experiences with listening to systems that are already online/active- Baltimore County "sounds like" it will be more like the Baltimore City system (transition) with the exception that Baltimore County will have two zones vs the single simulcast that the city has. While it's not likely, we may see yet another "new" thing appear on the BCounty system that scanners (no scanners) handle very well.

Given that -- and that the switch over is in the next couple of weeks, from my experience, you may actually want to wait (I know it's hard!) until the system is live and get reports/feedback from users who are already listening with different radios -- and then based on that feedback, make your final decision. Otherwise, you could (could) end up being very unhappy with the decision you made.

Ultimately, as rwier said -- once you buy the car it's you that needs to be happy with the choice you made (isn't it nice to actually have choices!).
 
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