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SDS200 Comparison Test - Phoenix

KR7CQ

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Joined
May 20, 2013
Messages
972
Location
Phoenix
#1
After nearly a week with the SDS200 I finally had the time to find out what this thing is made of. I staged a series of comparison tests versus some other very capable, yet older and sometimes much older scanners, as well as my trusted Unication G4. To keep things fair all scanners were hooked up with identical jumpers, to the same Diamond Discone, with a 30' feed point, through a Stridsberg multicoupler, assuring that the same signal level reached all scanners, ideal for comparisons like this. The Unication G4 did battle sporting only it's stubby antenna.

The results:

Simulcast vs. the Unication G4. Parity. No other previous scanner was able to decode my home simulcast, RWC Simulcast G, properly (major bummer). Here you will see that the SDS200 does it just as well as the Unication G4 for five solid, unedited minutes, in HD video. The Unication reigns supreme no more.


UHF vs. the Realistic PRO-2006: As expected the PRO-2006 (my best UHF scanner) wins, but the SDS200 turns in a respectable and acceptable performance, better than some other digital scanners that I have tested (which will go unnamed here).


VHF comparison. Using both MURS from a local Walmart 1.25 miles away, and a few other VHF signals, we see that as with UHF, the SDS200 cannot match the BC780XLT (my best VHF scanner), but again turns in a respectable and acceptable performance.


AM Airband: While the SDS200 generally picks up the same signals that the BC780XLT picks up, there is more white noise with the SDS, and that's the main thing I'm illustrating in this video. If you can pick what is being said out of the white noise, you will see that they basically receive the same signals most of the time, and it's just that the BC780XLT does so with less noise. Again, this is respectable and acceptable, considering that the BC780XLT is one of the best airband scanners ever made.


Milair comparison: This test surprised me the most, as the SDS200 unexpectedly seemed to outperform the BC780XLT here. Caveat: This is a brief test, and I have doubts that further testing will confirm this situation, but for now things are looking good for the SDS200 with milair frequencies. A pleasant surprise for sure.


800 MHz smartzone comparison: The least exciting comparison, but that's not a bad thing. The SDS200 paced my dedicated smartzone scanner (WS1065) effortlessly. Note that the SDS100 with duck antenna did not fare well with this system, so this is a happy though undramatic result. This is an important system for me (Maricopa County Sheriff's Office). Other modern scanners like the 536 struggle on this ancient system regardless of antenna, for whatever unknown reason, so good reception of this system with the SDS200 checks one more important box for me.

SDS200 VS WS1065 Smartzone P25 Digital

And finally for those curious a quick look at the antenna / multicoupler setup.

My Setup

Bottom line: Overall, though no match for the best analog scanners in that arena, the SDS200 will still now easily assume the throne as king of all scanners in my view, due to it's wide-ranging capabilities, and it's ground-breaking simulcast reception, all while maintaining respectable analog capability, and surprisingly good milair reception.

**Additional: The infamous SDS200 "noise" is present but it isn't loud enough to be a bother. The keypad lighting is dim but acceptable in low light. There are no symptoms of screen flickering or other display anomalies. Audio has more treble on analog frequencies, with less bass tone than is heard with digital frequencies, but the difference is acceptable and the overall sound quality is good. Build quality seems very solid. As always the Uniden menu system is a joy to use, with plenty of options. Networking works very well and I use Proscan to stream to my computers without issue. The front facing LAN jack is less of an issue than I expected thanks to the 90 degree cable that I purchased.

All things considered, I honestly have no major criticisms of this scanner to share.
 
Joined
Mar 29, 2006
Messages
213
#6
Nice job on the comparisons. One comment I have is that I though my 780XLT was sensitive but my 536 is better at UHF/VHF Analog.
 
Joined
Jun 22, 2007
Messages
969
#7
After nearly a week with the SDS200 I finally had the time to find out what this thing is made of. I staged a series of comparison tests versus some other very capable, yet older and sometimes much older scanners, as well as my trusted Unication G4. To keep things fair all scanners were hooked up with identical jumpers, to the same Diamond Discone, with a 30' feed point, through a Stridsberg multicoupler, assuring that the same signal level reached all scanners, ideal for comparisons like this. The Unication G4 did battle sporting only it's stubby antenna.

The results:

Simulcast vs. the Unication G4. Parity. No other previous scanner was able to decode my home simulcast, RWC Simulcast G, properly (major bummer). Here you will see that the SDS200 does it just as well as the Unication G4 for five solid, unedited minutes, in HD video. The Unication reigns supreme no more.


UHF vs. the Realistic PRO-2006: As expected the PRO-2006 (my best UHF scanner) wins, but the SDS200 turns in a respectable and acceptable performance, better than some other digital scanners that I have tested (which will go unnamed here).


VHF comparison. Using both MURS from a local Walmart 1.25 miles away, and a few other VHF signals, we see that as with UHF, the SDS200 cannot match the BC780XLT (my best VHF scanner), but again turns in a respectable and acceptable performance.


AM Airband: While the SDS200 generally picks up the same signals that the BC780XLT picks up, there is more white noise with the SDS, and that's the main thing I'm illustrating in this video. If you can pick what is being said out of the white noise, you will see that they basically receive the same signals most of the time, and it's just that the BC780XLT does so with less noise. Again, this is respectable and acceptable, considering that the BC780XLT is one of the best airband scanners ever made.


Milair comparison: This test surprised me the most, as the SDS200 unexpectedly seemed to outperform the BC780XLT here. Caveat: This is a brief test, and I have doubts that further testing will confirm this situation, but for now things are looking good for the SDS200 with milair frequencies. A pleasant surprise for sure.


800 MHz smartzone comparison: The least exciting comparison, but that's not a bad thing. The SDS200 paced my dedicated smartzone scanner (WS1065) effortlessly. Note that the SDS100 with duck antenna did not fare well with this system, so this is a happy though undramatic result. This is an important system for me (Maricopa County Sheriff's Office). Other modern scanners like the 536 struggle on this ancient system regardless of antenna, for whatever unknown reason, so good reception of this system with the SDS200 checks one more important box for me.

SDS200 VS WS1065 Smartzone P25 Digital

And finally for those curious a quick look at the antenna / multicoupler setup.

My Setup

Bottom line: Overall, though no match for the best analog scanners in that arena, the SDS200 will still now easily assume the throne as king of all scanners in my view, due to it's wide-ranging capabilities, and it's ground-breaking simulcast reception, all while maintaining respectable analog capability, and surprisingly good milair reception.

**Additional: The infamous SDS200 "noise" is present but it isn't loud enough to be a bother. The keypad lighting is dim but acceptable in low light. There are no symptoms of screen flickering or other display anomalies. Audio has more treble on analog frequencies, with less bass tone than is heard with digital frequencies, but the difference is acceptable and the overall sound quality is good. Build quality seems very solid. As always the Uniden menu system is a joy to use, with plenty of options. Networking works very well and I use Proscan to stream to my computers without issue. The front facing LAN jack is less of an issue than I expected thanks to the 90 degree cable that I purchased.

All things considered, I honestly have no major criticisms of this scanner to share.
So what happens when you take the 200 off the external discone antenna and put it on an internal ant is it still on par with the g4 stubby ant??
 
Last edited:

Nasby

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Messages
2,316
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Ohio
#8
So would you say the SDS200 has better reception overall than the SDS100?
 

KR7CQ

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Messages
972
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Phoenix
#9
Thanks all, I did what I could for the moment.

I did successfully use the filter setting a few times, moving from "global" to off completely, and that solved the nagging issues I was having with two stubborn P25 systems. The difference was night and day. Oddly enough these were standard P25 systems, not simulcast systems. I do need to try more things with filters. That's a good point and I will do that and report any improvement that I can make there. I am sure that further improvement is possible with more experimentation, and a good place to start would be with the VHF civilian air band, where white noise on the SDS200 is an issue that could use improvement...not sure if filters could help with something like that but I'll poke around.

My 536 in this location on my antenna, head to head, definitely doesn't beat the 780 on VHF or the 2006 on UHF, that's why it's on a nightstand with a screw on factory antenna (536). But I know that everyone's situation is unique and mileage varies.

I have not tested the SDS200 with the factory-supplied BNC antenna at home, so I can't answer how it would do head to head with the G4 with only attached antennas. I did try to see how many systems the SDS200 would pick up at work compared to the G4 with that factory-supplied antenna and there was no comparison there. The G4 picked up more distant systems. Still, what I need out of the SDS200 in my particular case, is a base scanner that gets what I need in all bands with all system types, and therefore, for me, this is a big success. There is nothing like the SDS200. That doesn't mean that my G4 will be looking for a new home, it still has a place. It is the only handheld device short of a professional radio that will receive my home RWC Simulcast sitting inside of my own home (with factory antenna), unless the SDS200 is drastically better there compared to the SDS100. I will check to find out soon.

Reception better than the SDS100? Yes, a bit in places. The SDS200 has less issues with "interference" in the same places that knocked the SDS100 out of the game with local simulcast by struggling to switch from the control to the voice channel. UPman speculated that this could be partly because of the metal case on the SDS200 providing a better RF shield, and that makes sense. UPman also stated that the SDS200 has a few hardware differences compared to the SDS100. Therefore I'm not surprised to see a little difference. I definitely see a bit less intermod on UHF with the SDS200 compared to what I saw on the SDS100.
 
Joined
Sep 8, 2006
Messages
3,051
Location
Stockholm, Sweden
#11
Your findings seem to agree with what the different scanners are capable of.

The 780 have tracking filters in the 108-175MHz range that are narrow filters that follow the frequency it monitors. It uses normal scanner filters in the mil-air band and other ranges as most other scanners.

BCD536HP have a good sensitivity in all bands but no special filters.

Pro-2006 are a vintage scanner that have worse sensitivity than modern scanners, 0,5uV compared to 0,3uV for the BCD536, but can handle strong signals better than most modern scanners.
https://forums.radioreference.com/threads/whistler-scanners-sensitivity-shootout.343764/

It seems as if you have a hight level of interference that will de-sense scanners. Your Pro2006 receives better than the 536 in the 400Mhz range. As a discone antenna are most effecient at its lowest frequency, around 100Mhz, and drops off in gain at higher frequencies but keeps its SWR low over its whole frequency range, it could be FM broadcast signals that are too strong. My Stridsberg MCA204M doesn't like strong broadscast signals and will de-sense if I turn up a preamplifier 6dB. It doesn't help to attenuate the signal, or use a FM trap filter, between 204 and scanners. If I put the FM broadcast filter between preamp and 204 I can crank up the signal 15dB without the Stridsberg being de-sensed. I would suggest that you try a FM broadcast filter inserted before the Stridsberg multicoupler. I wouldn't suggest the Stridsberg FM notch filter if you still want to receive airband frequencies. https://forums.radioreference.com/threads/fm-notch-filter-worthwhile.378136/page-2

/Ubbe
 

KR7CQ

Member
Premium Subscriber
Joined
May 20, 2013
Messages
972
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Phoenix
#12
Your findings seem to agree with what the different scanners are capable of.

The 780 have tracking filters in the 108-175MHz range that are narrow filters that follow the frequency it monitors. It uses normal scanner filters in the mil-air band and other ranges as most other scanners.

BCD536HP have a good sensitivity in all bands but no special filters.

Pro-2006 are a vintage scanner that have worse sensitivity than modern scanners, 0,5uV compared to 0,3uV for the BCD536, but can handle strong signals better than most modern scanners.
https://forums.radioreference.com/threads/whistler-scanners-sensitivity-shootout.343764/

It seems as if you have a hight level of interference that will de-sense scanners. Your Pro2006 receives better than the 536 in the 400Mhz range. As a discone antenna are most effecient at its lowest frequency, around 100Mhz, and drops off in gain at higher frequencies but keeps its SWR low over its whole frequency range, it could be FM broadcast signals that are too strong. My Stridsberg MCA204M doesn't like strong broadscast signals and will de-sense if I turn up a preamplifier 6dB. It doesn't help to attenuate the signal, or use a FM trap filter, between 204 and scanners. If I put the FM broadcast filter between preamp and 204 I can crank up the signal 15dB without the Stridsberg being de-sensed. I would suggest that you try a FM broadcast filter inserted before the Stridsberg multicoupler. I wouldn't suggest the Stridsberg FM notch filter if you still want to receive airband frequencies. https://forums.radioreference.com/threads/fm-notch-filter-worthwhile.378136/page-2

/Ubbe
That all makes sense. It's funny that I still use a 1990 scanner (PRO-2006), but it's just been put head-to-head so many times with everything I could throw at it and nothing beats it on UHF, at least in my particular circumstance. I can turn the squelch way down and pick up the slightest sniff of signal, without any intermod issues. Even back in the early 90s when Phoenix PD was still doing tactical work on handhelds with UHF simplex with very limited range, this was the go-to scanner and could pull the weakest signals out of the mud. I know the specs say otherwise, but it's a champ to this day, in my location. Of course location and individual situation are always key, and hearing the Morse code station identifiers every so many minutes can be a bit tiresome in this day and age.

After further testing I can say that the SDS200 does have a bit of an intermod issue on UHF, but it's not bad enough to be a real problem. Random noises pop up here and there on the UHF band, and CSQ monitoring is a noisy experience, but overall it's still acceptable, all things considered.

****I did a bit of testing of the SDS200 with stock antenna vs. the G4 and as expected the G4 still picks up the more distant simulcasts that don't even register on the SDS200. Even with the rooftop antenna on the SDS200, I can't receive certain simulcasts regardless of settings that the G4 can pick up with the stubby duck antenna, just sitting on a table. Again, this is perfectly acceptable for me, because the SDS200 is able to monitor all of the things that I consider priorities once hooked up to the rooftop antenna, and it can receive so many things that the G4 can't receive, so bottom line, I'm thrilled. A good example is the RWC Simulcast H. This is a system for an east valley city (Scottsdale), and I'm in the west valley. The SDS200 can't pick that simulcast up no matter what I do, and that's reasonable as the towers are pretty far away. However, the G4 picks it up with the its stubby antenna, literally lying on the floor in my house (I actually checked to see). There are a few other distant simulcasts where the result is the same. Oddly, the SDS200 picks up one simulcast that is quite far away, about 40 miles away, the Topaz TRS in the far east valley.

The key to the SDS200's greatness for me is that it's a base scanner, made to sit in my cabinet and be hooked up to a rooftop antenna, allowing me to hear all that I need to hear, and to me that's what this is all about in the end right? Neither the SDS100 or the SDS200 can pick up my home police department (Glendale) / my home simulcast, sitting in my home. The rooftop antenna is absolutely essential here. I do feel that the metal case and hardware updates also probably help to give the SDS200 an overall performance edge from what I've seen so far.
 

werinshades

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#13
Thank you for the report. I'll be heading your way next month for Sox/Cubs Spring Training game at Camelback and this will be the first year the SDS100 will be tagging along. I'm uploading the database info so I'll be all set upon arrival. I'm aware your first SDS100 was problematic and it appears it is working better now. Hoping for hot weather by then!
 
Joined
Mar 29, 2006
Messages
213
#14
The G4 is still supreme. I easily cary it in my pocket or on my belt any place. Small. Sounds awesome. Perfect for LSM. Nothing compares in the consumer arena.
 

KR7CQ

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#15
The G4 is still supreme. I easily cary it in my pocket or on my belt any place. Small. Sounds awesome. Perfect for LSM. Nothing compares in the consumer arena.
For the purposes of carrying something around in the pocket and working anywhere, all while having excellent reception on distant simulcasts, I will agree that there is no other option for simulcast at that price point.

In my case I was referring to the fact that the G4 was the only game in town in my location for simulcast, for many frustrating years, and that this has now changed thanks to the SDS200.

I love my G4 and it has earned a permanent spot in my collection, but there is no substitute for a scanner at home in my case, where I enjoy scanning all at the same time: P25 simulcast, 800 MHz SmartZone, VHF public safety, VHF civilian air band, UHF, Milair, Rail, and the ham bands from 6 meters to the 23 centimeter band. For me this is the first scanner that has been able to accomplish all of that so I have to give major kudos. While I wish the SDS200 had all the same chops on simulcast as the G4, if it did, and could still do all of those other things I mentioned, I'm pretty sure it would cost a lot more than $700, just my guess. Not that I wouldn't pay more, because I would, but Uniden has obviously made a calculated decision on what their market will bear in terms of pricing. And to be fair, if the G4 worked as well as a Motorola public safety radio and didn't get wiped out within 200-300 feet of a 700 MHz cell cite (which it does), then it would cost a heck of a lot more as well, but then Unication obviously made their own decision on what their market could bear as well. It's all relative.
 

KR7CQ

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#17
So it doesn't work as well as Unication or any old radio but people like it because it has more variety?
It's not a specialized device like the G4, so working as well as the G4 on simulcast while also receiving in all of the bands and with all of the protocols the SDS200 does is a pretty tall order for $700 don't ya think? I wish there was such a device, but there isn't such an animal yet, and if there ever is I could imagine a price at least twice as high as that of the SDS200. Now, if that imaginary device also had professional radio performance in all of those bands, I would expect it to cost thousands, if we want to go farther down that road. There is a balance of price vs. performance at work here, and it's determined by what the market will bear.

It works as well or better than plenty of "old radios"...just not as well as two of the all time greats like this PR-2006 and BC780XLT. I have done comparison testing with these "old scanners" against plenty of newer scanners and those other newer scanners couldn't match that performance either. Yes I know some will differ, but this is my individual experience in my situation, as always YMMV.

So to nutshell this, yes, I'm thrilled to be able to receive everything I want to hear as a scanner hobbyist, at once, in one device, and $700 is fair in my view. And yes, I like it because of everything that it brings to the table despite the fact that it doesn't do everything with the highest level of perfection. It's a compromise, but one I'm quite happy with.

Sorry to diverge here, but I could also ask a question like "so you are happy with the G4 despite the fact that it's doesn't work as well as a Motorola public safety radio, just because it costs a fraction as much?". See what I mean? Life is full of compromises....just like the G4/5....a great device that falls flat within 200-300 feet of a 700 MHz cell site (unlike professional radios), and which makes all sorts of weird and annoying noises from time to time, or which occasionally plays non-encrypted transmissions as if they were encrypted, or which occasionally STILL starts with an annoying error message (well-known issue)...yet people like me still love them for what they are. Make sense?
 
Last edited:

KR7CQ

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#18
Got the Proscan server going tonight using a spare laptop (low energy usage). I decided to simply use Chrome on my phone for full control of my SDS200 from anywhere. The audio is great. I just had to tinker with the display / metadata delay to get it synced with the audio, but after getting that dialed in things worked perfectly. Here's a picture of my SDS200 being controlled by my iphone XS Max . Now I can scan with total stealth using my bluetooth earbuds, accessing my home setup, from anywhere. (y)

Phone Control small.jpg
 

N9JIG

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Dec 14, 2001
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3,915
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Far NW Valley
#19
Here is the way I look at the whole SDSx00 vs. Unication thing, this is how I explain things to my customers torn between them:

Look at the Unication (G4/G5) as an Indy car and the SDSx00 as a pickup truck. The Unication does one thing, and does it really well, picking up digital simulcast stuff. The Indy car does one thing and does it very well too, but you aren't going to take it to Costco on Saturday and bring home a pallet of BacoBits.

The SDSx00 works almost as well as the Unication on digital systems but allows you the flexibility to do other stuff as well for a similar price point and easier programming.

I have a Unication G5 as well as both the SDS100 and SDS200 in the Phoenix area and all 3 seem to work great on the local P25 systems. There are areas in the Valley that I cannot hear the RWC on any of my older scanners from Uniden, Whistler, GRE or RS due to simulcast interference but all these areas work just fine on the Unication and SDS's.

The Unication is a compact single purpose radio that works great on digital P25 systems. I use my G5 for railfanning as well since it handles VHF analog and is small enough for my pocket. Due to the small size I can bring it anywhere but it needs to be preprogrammed for anywhere I go since it lacks ANY field programming ability and is limited in scope as to what I can do with it. It does me no good when I want to listen to stuff on the road or something on UHF etc.

The SDS100 on the other hand works almost as well on the digital simulcast stuff but I can also use it for almost anything else due to the easy programming and versatility. It is quite a bit larger so lacks the stealthiness of the Unication and the battery doesn't last as long but the simulcast performance is almost as good.

Neither radio is perfect, that is why I have both. If I had to choose only one I would have to go with the SDS as it does almost everything. If all I needed to listen to was a select group of channels in a digital trunked system then I would have chosen the Unication.
 
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