Help with Christmas present

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galorfindel

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Nov 12, 2011
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Hello all. I know absolutely nothing about police scanners but I am thinking of getting one for a Christmas present for someone. We live in Austin, Texas and am wondering what my options are and where I should look to get the best deal.

Thanks in advance for the help!
 

RodStrong

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Nov 11, 2007
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First you need to decide how the person might use the scanner. This should help you decide if you should get a portable scanner (that can be carried around), or a desktop scanner (that is not as portable and is more fashioned to be on a desk or installed in a car). If you simply can't anticipate how the person would use the scanner, you probably should just get a portable.

Second, you should (if you can) pick the right scanner based on what the person would be interested in listening to. The newest, most modern scanners (that can pick up most radio systems) can easily get into the $500 range, which can be pretty expensive for some. If the person only might want to listen to something simple like the local mall security, a jobsite, or more "primitive" radio systems, you might be able to find them a scanner for a fraction of that cost. If you are not sure what they might want to listen to, and want to get the person the most modern scanner out there, you will need to spend several hundred dollars. Assuming this is the case, I will move on to my recommendation.

Without getting into a "Ford vs. Chevy" argument (there are a few brands and pretty much all are adequate, but people are often loyal to one brand and will blindly steer you towards it), I would recommend you consider Radio Shack scanners, as they are nearly always lower priced (sometimes significantly lower priced) than comparable Unidens, and for the general user, do pretty much the same as the rest when programmed correctly.

Here is a link to a portable, currently $359 with half off on a programming cable until 11/19 PRO-106 39,000-Channel Digital Handheld Scanner - RadioShack.com

and the desktop, currently $349 with half off on a programming cable until 11/19 PRO-106 39,000-Channel Digital Handheld Scanner - RadioShack.com

Based on history, I would expect both models to go on a bigger sale between now and xmas, but whether you want to skip this current sale and hope for a better one in the coming weeks is up to you.

If you can answer my question about whether the need is portable or desktop, and if there is a specific thing your gift recipient may want the scanner to listen to, let the forum here know, and they will likely be able to help you zero in on something a bit better than I could, or help you eliminate certain models that may not work well for your gift recipient's needs.

Either way, good luck, and I hope your gift recipient enjoys his/her scanner for Christmas.
 

texasemt13

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To listen to Austin Fire, Austin PD, TCSO, A-TCEMS and 99% of the county (smaller municipalities) will require a digital scanner that can receive "P25" communications (a digital standard). Texas DPS as well as many other agencies use P25 digital communications in this area, and it is becoming more prevalent.

If the person that the present is for is not in Travis County, just advise us the area they would be listening to and we can recommend the scanner that is right for them.
 

emd001

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Oct 28, 2007
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Conroe, Texas
Like everyone else here has said, you will need a digital receiver. The Uniden 396xt is a great handheld scanner that is very easy to carry around, or use in the house, or use in the truck. Great scanner for all around use.
 

hiegtx

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QUOTE=galorfindel;1642441]Hello all. I know absolutely nothing about police scanners but I am thinking of getting one for a Christmas present for someone. We live in Austin, Texas and am wondering what my options are and where I should look to get the best deal. Thanks in advance for the help![/QUOTE]
Welcome to the Texas Forum. As you can see from some of the other comments, there are a lot of options. As far as the ‘best deal’, a number of the dealers will be having sales both in connection with “Black Friday”, and also for the Christmas shopping season. First, try to narrow down what sort of scanner you would like to get, then once that decision is done, shop for the best deal.
To listen to Austin Fire, Austin PD, TCSO, A-TCEMS and 99% of the county (smaller municipalities) will require a digital scanner that can receive "P25" communications (a digital standard). Texas DPS as well as many other agencies use P25 digital communications in this area, and it is becoming more prevalent. If the person that the present is for is not in Travis County, just advise us the area they would be listening to and we can recommend the scanner that is right for them.
Absolutely. For Austin, and indeed for most of the major metro areas, I would certainly recommend a digital scanner. As texasemt has indicated, most of the radio traffic in the Austin/Travis County area, plus some of the surrounding counties, is on a digital system. More specifically, on this one (anything underlined in blue is a link):
Greater Austin/Travis Regional Radio System (GATRRS) Trunking System, Austin, Texas - Scanner Frequencies
First you need to decide how the person might use the scanner. This should help you decide if you should get a portable scanner (that can be carried around), or a desktop scanner (that is not as portable and is more fashioned to be on a desk or installed in a car). If you simply can't anticipate how the person would use the scanner, you probably should just get a portable. .
A portable, or ‘handheld’, scanner generally has most, if not all, of the features of a base/mobile unit. I generally lean toward this type since I can carry the scanner with me from room to room, in my vehicle, outside, wherever I go. Also, a handheld will keep working during a power failure, as long as you have batteries. All the current models take AA size batteries; I have multiple sets of rechargeables, and in a pinch, can use regular AA alkalines.

The base/mobile scanners, on the other hand, may have slightly better audio, due to a larger speaker. For some models (the Uniden scanners) the display and control knobs are a little bigger. These are made to either sit on a desk or table, or be mounted in a vehicle using a bracket that comes with them.

The Radio Shack scanners are due to go on sale on Black Friday (see this thread). However, Radio Shack does not include the ac adapter or the pc interface cable with the Pro-106 (extra cost items). For the Pro-197 (the base mobile), you do get the ac adapter, but still no pc cable. The cable is required to do firmware updates, and for programming the scanner via a computer.
GRE makes the Pro-106 & Pro-197 for Radio Shack. The corresponding GRE models are the PSR-500 and PSR-600. The only differences between the 106 & the 500 are cosmetic- a different front panel layout. However, GRE includes both the pc cable and ac adapter with the PSR-500, and the cable (and adapter) with the PSR-600. There are several software packages available.

Both OHI063 and emd001 mentioned Uniden’s BCD396XT. That’s a handheld scanner. I have a couple of those & like them. The base/mobile sibling to that is the BCD996XT. There is also software available for these, including one freeware program (FreeScan).

However, your very first comment, “I know absolutely nothing about police scanners but I am thinking of getting one for a Christmas present for someone” concerns me. Starting this early is definitely a great idea. I don’t know how familiar your gift recipient is with scanners, but there is something of a learning curve involved with any of the units mentioned so far. They need to be programmed for the area. If neither you, nor the proud new owner, are familiar with one of these scanners, then frustration could set in, at least until something is loaded, and the scanner is ‘talking’.

There are a couple of ways to make sure that does not happen. One would be to order the scanner from a dealer and have them program it. That would not be my choice, due to the price they charge, and the limitations of what gets loaded. The second way would be, once you decide on a scanner, ask if someone in your recipient’s area will share a programming file. All of the software programs offer a 30-day free trial. If you download and install, say Win500 (for either a Pro-106 or PSR-500), and have the pc cable, you could load a programming file emailed to you. I’ve emailed ‘starter’ files for the DFW metro area to a number of people. For the Uniden scanners, I use FreeScan. If giving a handheld scanner from the above suggestions, be sure the batteries are charged before the big morning.

Or, there’s another possibility. Instead of the scanners above, consider either the PSR-800 or Uniden Home Patrol-1 (HP-1). Both of these scanners come with a micro-SD card, containing the frequency database from this website. You select what types of agencies and systems you want to listen to, and tell it your location, and it loads the information from the database. You would need to connect to a pc a week or so before Christmas, to let the scanner download the latest updates. This would also be a good time to charge the batteries, if needed. But once the happy listener unwraps the box and turns the scanner on, all they need to do is follow a few simple steps to be up and listening in a few minutes.

On the HP-1, you enter your location via a touchscreen keyboard, using either the city name or zip code. The PSR-800, from what I understand, you make your choices through an iPod style menu tree. I own an HP-1, and it’s really a surprisingly sensitive scanner. The PSR-800 has also gotten very good reviews in the forums.

Once you’ve gotten the answers to some of the questions listed by the various members responding to your post, let us know which way you’re leaning, and what area. Then we can give you whatever additional information you might need.
 
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