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Reviews Categories | Receivers: Scanners | Uniden BCD396XT Help


Reviews Summary for Uniden BCD396XT
Uniden BCD396XT Reviews: 17 Average rating: 3.9/5 MSRP: $549.95
Description: Compact APCO 25 Handheld Scanner

The BCD396XT comes equipped with Uniden exclusive features like Advanced Dynamic Memory System, Close Call RF™ Capture Technology, and GPS compatibility.

This is a conventional/trunking/digital scanner.
Product is in production.
More info: http://uniden.com/products/productdetail.cfm?product=BCD396XT
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N8PMG Rating: 4/5 Mar 7, 2014 19:05 Send this review to a friend
Good reception, simulcast sometimes a problem  Time owned: more than 12 months
I like the size and keypad, but it is the most frustrating of my three digital scanners to program. The quick key system is logical, but once you program the scanner, it is more difficult to keep track of what system and talk groups are assigned to a quick key. I have used scanners since the day of crystals, and the V scanner folder concept is still the easiest to keep track of your systems.
 
VK3JED Rating: 5/5 Apr 16, 2013 00:21 Send this review to a friend
Great scanner, steep learning curve.  Time owned: more than 12 months
Bought my BCD396XT 2 years ago, before it was available locally, to have an up to date scanner, and in anticipation of our fire service frequencies being converted to P25 in the clear.

As others have said, this scanner is a completely different beast to traditional bank based scanners. I recommend new users to look online for third party manuals and join the Yahoo group for interactive support from other users. Also recommended is programming software. I use Freescan, which works well with this scanner, and maintain my frequency lists and mode settings with it. Using the computer to manage the scanner is by far the easiest way to program and configure it.

Using Freescan, the fire service VHF frequencies for the entire state, as well as amateur, CB (27 MHz and UHF) and other frequencies of interest were programmed into the scanner. As recommended by online sources, I programmed each service as a "system" (they are all conventional) and assigned a quick key to each of these systems, so I could turn each one on and off as needed. Even with the stock rubber duck, performance on VHF and UHF are reasonable. However, using a 160 MHz mobile whip in the car yields excellent receive perfomance on the fire frequencies (which are around 160 MHz here). UHF CB reception on 477 MHz is good with this antenna as well. As expected, some intermods are evident with the higher performance antenna, but they are not too objectionable for the most part, except in a couple of locations, where trunking control channels break through. I have been able to consistently hear repeaters up to 100km away, including 2 or 3 belonging to the network in our region (and simulcasting the same dispatch traffic).

The Close Call feature works well, and is useful for identifying frequencies of unknown nearby users. While out walking, I successfully identified the frequency in use at a public event, as well as catching a passing motorist on UHF CB (who drove right past!). However, I normally leave Close Call turned off, because it tends to lock into nearby trunking control channels, which are annoying to listen to.

So far, I've only used the BCD396XT on analog FM services both 25 and 12.5 kHz spacing, as the fire service hasn't yet converted their infrastructure to digital. I'm yet to determine the unit's P25 performance, but have kept the firmware up to date for the latest bug fixes and performance enhancements. Speaking of which, firmware updating is a painless procedure, which involves downloading the updater software from Uniden, running it and connecting the scanner using the data cable, and telling the software to install the update.

Overall, I'd recommend this scanner for the advanced scanner user looking for more features. New users need to do a bit of study and possibly enlist the help of a more experienced user to get started. While I can't vouch for its P25 performance (yet!), reports are that it works well on P25, especially with the latest firmware. Similarly, I can't comment on trunking performance, as the only trunking system here of interest is MPT-1327, which is not supported (but can be tracked using third party software). For me, the BCD396XT has become an invaluable piece of equipment for monitoring fire frequencies as a volunteer firefighter.
 
KG4RUL Rating: 5/5 Mar 9, 2013 20:50 Send this review to a friend
PHD Required to Program it!  Time owned: 6 to 12 months
I received one of these devices from our County EPD. I needed to add some Amateur frequencies to it so I broke out the supplied programming cable, downloaded the software and took a look at how the supplier had programmed it. After I picked my self up, dazed and broken, from the floor, I realized I needed help. To that end I purchased a manual entitle "Easier to Read Uniden XT Scanner Manuals". Ninety Eight Pages of "easier to read" manual. This is like learning a new language without the benefit of hearing it spoken. A great performing unit but, NOT a scanner for a beginner or even a moderately experienced user!
 
W8DMC Rating: 4/5 Mar 9, 2013 15:12 Send this review to a friend
Class Required  Time owned: 3 to 6 months
I'll admit, its been years since I have owned a Scanner, with that said a person could do well just providing a class on the newer designed scanners, such as this one, however, it will be a six month course! Very techincial to say the least. The CD Manual is useless, On-line articles are actually much better. However, after some time in research and reading, you will find your way to the multitude of options and you might just semi understand the bloody thing. But don't thing you will turn on an listen to local chatter!
 
KC0OVF Rating: 5/5 Dec 7, 2012 08:45 Send this review to a friend
Great Scanner  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
I recently received a BCD396XT scanner as a gift and I'm very happy with it.

Free-Scan includes integration with the RadioReference.com databases making programming it very easy. Although automated access to the databases does require a $15 per 6 months membership. If you wish to save the money, you can view the frequencies and manually program it all yourself, but what can I say... I'm lazy when it comes to hundreds of frequencies and talk groups.

Once programmed it seems to hear a lot more in the local Colorado area than I could on my previous scanner (a Radio Shack Pro-92). Add in the ability to handle digital trunking and there's even more to hear.

Also I like the fact that you can change the back-light color based on what signal is received. For example, I have configured 'blue' for law enforcement, 'red' for fire and 'magenta' for medical. Close-Calls are 'yellow'. Helps me decide if I want to continue to listen to the intercepted conversation or move on to looking for a new one.

The BCD396XT only uses 3 AA batteries compared to the Pro-92's 6. All together, the BCD396XT weighs almost half what the Pro-92 does so it's easier to integrate into my daily carry.
 
KC8YKQ Rating: 5/5 Jul 2, 2012 17:09 Send this review to a friend
Great scanner  Time owned: more than 12 months
I have owned my 396XT for over two years, and have found it to be a versatile scanner. Since I already owned a BCD996T, I was used to Uniden's system-based programming. If there is a downside to this radio, it is that it isn't especially user-friendly for beginners with this programming format. However, this radio can be programmed without too much difficulty using free software like Freescan.
 
AE5WW Rating: 5/5 May 2, 2012 01:45 Send this review to a friend
I never knew Uniden BCD396XT scanning could be so much fun!  Time owned: more than 12 months
I've owned the BCD396XT for a little over 2 years now and it has done nothing except perform!

I purchased it used via ebay auction.

The original batteries were replaced with 2500 mAh NiMH batteries.

I downloaded the BCD396XT_Complete_Reference.pdf document from Uniden's web site.

I installed the latest firmware from Uniden to get the latest features, address some P25 audio issues, enable compatibility with re-banded trunking systems, and then did a reset.(erasing preprogrammed systems)

Then I sat down for hours and started programming the scanner for Greater Austin/Travis Regional Radio System (GATRRS) for Williamson and Travis counties in Texas.

I've manually programmed the GRE equivalent prior to owning this scanner and find the learning curve on each to be similar and the page flipping through downloaded and printed manuals equally tedious. The steep learning curve appears to be a fact of life if you plan to program your own digital trunking scanner and get involved in the intricacies of switching between different systems, sites and scan groups. However once you have learned the basics, the time to add a new system and/or talk groups is greatly reduced. I guess the days of programming in a single frequency for a radio system are gone... though you can still do that with this scanner.

In any case, I can enable and lock out systems and system sites using the keypad, and enable and lock out talk groups using the function key with the keypad for local operation. It has the capability of using a GPS to determine distance to the transmitting tower and to enable or lockout systems and sites based on distance to the particular tower; a great feature if you're in a trunked system with multiple transmitting towers in different locations. Wish that feature existed for mobile amateur rigs.

I've enjoyed using the BCD396XT to locate and map other trunked systems when i travel, and the close call feature is a lot of fun in airports and other high security high traffic areas. I also use the feature to scan a given frequency range and store the results in memory for later review.

The supplied antenna is sufficient in most cases unless you're way out in the boondocks, however if you choose to go to a higher gain antenna and are in an urban area, you may want to consider an antenna dedicated to a specific band rather than a broad band antenna to prevent desence caused nearby transmissions on other frequency bands.

I later purchased the programming software and it certainly makes it easy to modify and add systems quickly, however, regular exercise in doing things manually makes it easy to program in the field. Additionally the software allows me to remotely control the scanner from a computer as well as record the audio. It even organizes the audio files by system, site, group and time of day. A pretty cool feature if you want to come back at the end of the day and see what's happened in a "reader's digest condensed format": only the audio is recorded and none of the silence. On an active channel there may be a couple hours of audio files in a day, on other lesser used channels (talk groups) there might only be a hand full of exchanges... A great way to discover new undocumented talkgroups in a radio system.

I've read differing accounts regarding battery charging for the BCD396XT. This device has a programmable timer for charging; 1 to 14 hours. It pays no attention to charge level, if you take it off of charge and put it back on charge 5 minutes later, it starts the full charge cycle. Once the charge cycle completes, it does seem to float at a very safe trickle as long as it is left charging. My recommendation for determining the correct charge cycle length for your particular set of batteries is to allow your radio to fully discharge( by running the radio turned on until the battery is depleted) and recharge on the 14 hour cycle 3 or 4 times. Then discharge fully again and recharge while monitoring the battery temperature every hour. The hour you feel the battery temperature spike is the hour you should program it to stop charging. This will be perfect if you nearly or fully discharge the batteries each time you remove it from charging. However if you only use it a few hours and return it to the charger, you may want to reduce the charging time accordingly.

In closing there are way too many features to go into here, but I will say that there is not much left out of the BCD396XT in terms of features and capabilities. Based on the issues/complaints/frustrations other reviewers have mentioned, reading the complete reference fully would be useful. For those persons who like to communicate electronically with hardware, the Complete Reference mentioned at the beginning of this review also contains the full command reference for communicating with and controlling the radio via serial interface.

My only precaution for anyone considering this scanner for listening to P25 systems is to check radio reference dot com to see if the talk groups of interest to you on your local P25 system are encrypted, if so, you won't get much enjoyment.
 
VK2KIT Rating: 4/5 Apr 18, 2012 05:34 Send this review to a friend
Long term user review  Time owned: more than 12 months
Ok, so I have had this scanner for a while now and it is time to point out some of the pro's & cons that may or may not have been mentioned in my first review:

Pro's

* Best frequency coverage of any digital, trunk tracking scanner anywhere! Covers pretty much everything, including FM broadcast, between 25Mhz and 1.3Ghz. No other trunk tracker comes close!
* More than adequate memory/channel/object capacity for the vast majority of users. Most users would struggle to fill up 25,000 channels/objects.
* Good P25 decoding (latest firmware installed) with low BER on most non simulcast systems, even at very low signal strengths.
* Excellent tracking on P25 trunk networks.
* Despite what some have said, the programming is not that bad as long as you have access to some free online resources such as radioreference.com and you are prepared to learn some new tricks.
Freescan is a fantastic free programmer too.
* Pretty good battery life as long as you use good quality AA NiMh cells. I get a full day out of my Turnigy LSD cells.
* Full keypad offering immediate access to enable or disable scan groups/lists and direct frequency entry etc (I'm sorry, but I just can't like the minimalist PSR-800 style user interface).
* Excellent steel, button style belt clip and die-cast aluminum rear shell design. Really solid and works well holding the scanner in a good quality mic clip in the vehicle when the plastic belt clip is removed.
* Good quality case materials. Surprisingly, the case, display and rubber buttons look almost as good after twelve months of heavy use as it did when new and I don't even have a soft case for my 396xt..

Now the Cons, (well, after nearly 12 months of use, I really only have one major complaint about this scanner):

* The really annoying low level digital/dsp audio artifacts (squeals, clicks and pops) from the speaker and earphone socket, every time the mute opens on FM or P25, regardless of signal strength. Not as noticeable when the volume is set to >50%, but at low volume settings or when an external amplified speaker is used, these noises are downright annoying and really detract from what would otherwise be an excellent product.
I would have no qualms about giving this scanner a 5 out of 5 if it weren't for this problem.

 
AA1MN Rating: 1/5 Jan 23, 2012 08:03 Send this review to a friend
Good Grief  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
I'm glad to see I'm not the only one who's had experience with scanners previous to owning this one that has found programming it frustrating.

As it is, I've owned a vintage 70's Regency crystal controlled unit and a Realistic programable unit vintage 1980's. Each of these units were easy to use and the user's manuals thorough, easy to understand and well written in a practical manner.

None of this can be said for Uniden's BCD360XT unit which seems to have gone to the extreme in cramming so much technology in to it that it is geared more for a person with a computer or engineering degree to enjoy. Not owning a computer at the moment the included CD was useless to me and, from my understanding of reviews by some others, not of much use to begin with. Thus, I approached both Uniden and Scanner Master in an effort to obtain an owner's manual hard copy and was initially told by both companies it was impossible to obtain one! Huh, strange to say the least since previous units have provided hard copy user's guides.

Finally, after a second call to Scanner Master I was informed that a user's/owner's manual did in fact exist in hard copy form. While providing in depth information, it is laid out in such a fashion that it is necessary to skip back and forth from one page to another to figure out what one wants to do. This is because the instructions are haphardly formatted rather than beginning with the simple formatting to the more complex.

While I don't claim to be the sharpest tool in the shed it would seem reaonable that since I'm not the only one who has had the above difficulties with this unit that Uniden might wish to take steps to address these issues.

Still, once I was able to achieve - after much frustration - what I wanted, the unit did prove satisfactory.

 
KD0OMN Rating: 1/5 Jan 13, 2012 13:18 Send this review to a friend
Fair to Poor  Time owned: 6 to 12 months
I have owned scanners since the crystal days.

This scanner looked great but..........

Programming must be done by a computer whiz at uniden radios.

Antenna is circuit board mounted so when you sit
down accidentally on radio the radio and ckt board breaks.

User Manual and Software belongs in trash, in translating chinese to japanese to english failed miserably

This radio EATS batteries, keep it in charger.

Side buttons easily hit causing foul ups.

Squelch set too high by factory, interrmittant reception until adjusted by user (how).

Antenna with radio is worthless. Buy a radioshk 20-283 for great reception boost.

On-line manual by a 3rd party is only manual that works with this radio. Stock manual worthless.

Other than above, this is a good radio.
 
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