Hand Held Scanner OR Desktop - Which to Choose?

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AIRMAN
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Hand Held Scanner OR Desktop - Which to Choose?

Post by AIRMAN »

Many of you here have already past this mark, but there may be a few members here who need to weigh the pros and cons of Handheld (HH) and Desktop (DT) scanning receivers before shelling out their hard earned money.

I have been monitoring UHF/VHF & HF since the 1970’s and I have owned quite a few receivers in my time.

In this age of miniaturization we are getting products that do the same job and more inside a smaller and smaller box. That being said, the HH scanning receivers of today seem to be the most popular because they can be carried and used in public places or at events such as air shows and sporting events. They are getting so small, some are beginning to look like mobile phones. HH scanners available today come with a supplied antenna either with a BNC connector or SMA as in the case of Icom. The BNC connector enables the owner to attach an antenna other than the supplied one which may work better on lower bands like VHF or even HF in some cases. One can get an adapter for SMA/BNC, but it can contribute to signal deterioration in some cases. HH scanners are powered by batteries which require recharging. The AA cell NimH are the standard power supply. Some of the latest HH models however have lithium powered cells which can last for up to 12 hrs on low power mode, but they do cost more.

Here are my pros and cons of HH scanners:

SOME POSITIVES OF HH
Portability. A great advantage if you are moving from place to place.
Can be operated covertly in a public areas if you use HH with innocuous earbuds like Apple Ipod phones
Will not be affected by power outages (unless have no back up batteries)
Greater variety of HH to choose from than Desktop models


SOME NEGATIVES OF HH
HH can suffer overloads from larger antennas. They are basically limited to the telescopic for improved performance on the lower frequencies.
Speaker output is limited. With HH, it is better to use external speaker/s if using the unit at home as a base station. Most HH earphone sockets are mono, so you need a stereo/mono adapter to get the sound to both speakers or earphones.
ICOM models like the IC-R5 which have no keypad and can represent a hard learning curve for the novice. Uniden HH are simple to use by comparison.


Desktop Scanning Receivers (DT) receive signals from greater distances, especially if connected to an outside antenna. They are ideal for the person who wishes to monitor from a fixed place like a radio shack, den or a bedroom. Most desktop units work from the house electricity via a supplied transformer. They can also operate fine mounted in a vehicle with a supplied cigarette socket plug and wire. Some base models are top of the line and cost several thousand dollars. The performance of these models such as AOR and ICOM require top grade connectors, co-axials and a good antenna in order to get the best out of them.

SOME POSITIVES OF DESKTOPS
Good signal to noise reception
UHF, VHF and HFSSB available to monitor.
DX reception (depending on antenna)
Will operate on superior antenna types such as log period and discone and roof mounted whips.
Easy to set up with ancillary equipment such as speakers
Larger easier to read dial and controls often illuminated for low light conditions


SOME NEGATIVES OF DESKTOPS
Not portable - can’t be carried about like a HH
Unless you have an independent power supply, they cannot be used if there’s a power outage or severe WX conditions.

Summary
For anyone contemplating buying their very first scanner, it is best to stick to a budget priced HH, however the cheapest scanner I’ve seen recently is from an online supplier that sell for just over $100 brand new, but is it a DESKTOP.

Recommendations from the years I have monitored:

BEST DESKTOPS
ICOM IC-R8500 (For the guy who has everything)
AOR AR-ONE
UNIDEN UBCT9 (best value DT for money)

BEST HAND HELDS
Uniden UBC396XT
AOR - Mini -U
ICOM IC-RX7

Best budget buy
Uniden UBC73XLT HH

Cheers

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rochedalescan
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Re: HAND HELD SCANNER OR DESKTOP WHICH TO CHOOSE?

Post by rochedalescan »

Thats a great guide, thanks airman.
I have made this a sticky.
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Mathew
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Re: Hand Held Scanner OR Desktop - Which to Choose?

Post by Mathew »

Very good work!
I've just changed the topic title, it was a little too 'out there', before.


Cheers,
Mat
Uniden 396T + RH-96, Uniden BCT8, Puxing 888 UHF

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AIRMAN
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Re: Hand Held Scanner OR Desktop - Which to Choose?

Post by AIRMAN »

Mathew wrote:Very good work!
I've just changed the topic title, it was a little too 'out there', before.


Cheers,
Mat
Don't quite understand what you mean 'out there'??

Who are you to change without consulting? :sc

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Mathew
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Re: Hand Held Scanner OR Desktop - Which to Choose?

Post by Mathew »

Relax? All I did was change it from capitals to non-capitals? It's extremely hard to read capitals at the best of times.
Change if back if you want.
Uniden 396T + RH-96, Uniden BCT8, Puxing 888 UHF

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Stretch
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Re: Hand Held Scanner OR Desktop - Which to Choose?

Post by Stretch »

Forget the title. That is a bloody brilliant guide.

Thanks for your effort AIRMAN.

P.S. He just loves capitals.
Mitch Rogers

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AIRMAN
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Re: Hand Held Scanner OR Desktop - Which to Choose?

Post by AIRMAN »

Stretch wrote:Forget the title. That is a bloody brilliant guide.

Thanks for your effort AIRMAN.

P.S. He just loves capitals.
Yeah OK Stretch.

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Stretch
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Re: Hand Held Scanner OR Desktop - Which to Choose?

Post by Stretch »

AIRMAN wrote:
Stretch wrote:Forget the title. That is a bloody brilliant guide.

Thanks for your effort AIRMAN.

P.S. He just loves capitals.
Yeah OK Stretch.
:lol: :) :P
Mitch Rogers

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robb
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Re: Hand Held Scanner OR Desktop - Which to Choose?

Post by robb »

WHAT A GREAT ARTICLE! Okay I won't use caps too much. But I do wonder why the Icom RX7 has been givenm such praise? I have one and it does suffer bad RX issues and is basically dead on the airband? I love it for the reason it's good for 70-79mhz and fine for UHF but it still has issues.
Happy scanning,

Uniden UBCD996 + 396T, UBC9000XLT, Icom IC-RX7, Yaesu FT-60.

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AIRMAN
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Re: Hand Held Scanner OR Desktop - Which to Choose?

Post by AIRMAN »

robb wrote:WHAT A GREAT ARTICLE! Okay I won't use caps too much. But I do wonder why the Icom RX7 has been givenm such praise? I have one and it does suffer bad RX issues and is basically dead on the airband? I love it for the reason it's good for 70-79mhz and fine for UHF but it still has issues.
Robb, my Icom IC-RX7 is not as good on the Airband as my UBCT9 but it is good in many other aspects. The supplied antenna isn't really good for VHF reception as it is too short. I bought a telescopic antenna and a SMA/BNC adapter and there was signal deterioration with this set up so I did not really achieve a better result. In metro and urban areas it excels but out here in the rural zone it isn't as good. Big antennas and desktops rule here.

I'm considering getting a new UBC996T. It means me selling both the RX7 and the UBCT9 to get there but it may be worth the wait. No more HH for me as I seldom go out with them

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bodyguard
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Re: Hand Held Scanner OR Desktop - Which to Choose?

Post by bodyguard »

Great Info Airman,
instead of explaining things to people I can direct them to this page :pr
Cheers
BG


UBC9000XLT, UBCT8, BCT15X, UBC92XLT, Kenwood R-5000, PSR-410 , KG-UVD1P

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Re: Hand Held Scanner OR Desktop - Which to Choose?

Post by carmelof »

I use the Icom-RX7 to monitor the airbands does an excellent job when i am at melbourne airport with a Diamond-RH771/Watson-W881 Super Gainer and when i am at home use the Icom-AH7000 discone.The antenna & cable are the most important tools in radios or u will not get anywhere at all.

Regards Lino.

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AIRMAN
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Re: Hand Held Scanner OR Desktop - Which to Choose?

Post by AIRMAN »

carmelof wrote:I use the Icom-RX7 to monitor the airbands does an excellent job when i am at melbourne airport with a Diamond-RH771/Watson-W881 Super Gainer and when i am at home use the Icom-AH7000 discone.The antenna & cable are the most important tools in radios or u will not get anywhere at all.

Regards Lino.
I absolutely agree Lino. Tell me, where did you get the WATSON antenna? I have heard they are pretty good and I might get one.

Cheers
Airman.

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Mathew
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Re: Hand Held Scanner OR Desktop - Which to Choose?

Post by Mathew »

AIRMAN wrote:
carmelof wrote:I use the Icom-RX7 to monitor the airbands does an excellent job when i am at melbourne airport with a Diamond-RH771/Watson-W881 Super Gainer and when i am at home use the Icom-AH7000 discone.The antenna & cable are the most important tools in radios or u will not get anywhere at all.

Regards Lino.
I absolutely agree Lino. Tell me, where did you get the WATSON antenna? I have heard they are pretty good and I might get one.

Cheers
Airman.
Ohhhh I was looking at one last night too!
http://www.durhamradio.com/watson-wsma8 ... anada.html

Been struggling to find a all around good portable antenna, but this looks alright.

Review anybody?
Uniden 396T + RH-96, Uniden BCT8, Puxing 888 UHF

Stoney
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Re: Hand Held Scanner OR Desktop - Which to Choose?

Post by Stoney »

Yes, thanks for that guide.

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vk4jaz
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Re: Hand Held Scanner OR Desktop - Which to Choose?

Post by vk4jaz »

I am a bit late getting onboard with this excellent article. And it is where I am at in my scanning journey (if you exclude the late '60s when I used an old navy AR88 for listening around the bands). I am leaning towards an entry level HH.
Thanks for the clarity.
Radio enthusiast, ham radio operator and electronics tinkerer.

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