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Railfan Technology > Uniden Bearcat SDS100 Review.

Date: 03/03/19 18:02
Uniden Bearcat SDS100 Review.
Author: tinytrains

Uniden Bearcat SDS100 Digital Trunking Scanner.

Other than its ability to receive NXDN tranmissions, with a $60 license upgrade, this is NOT a peice of railfan technology.
The SDS100 is a wonderful tool for listening to the new digital trunked systems being used by many cities for police and fire. By selecting the system you want to monitor in the Sentinel software database (Windows only), and loading it into the readio, it will instantly start tracking and receiving these complex systems. Sensitivity on the police bands seems to be very good. Forget trying to manually enter a trunked system. The color dispaly give lots of details about the transmission. It is great for police and fire, IF your department has not decided to encrypt thier transmissions.

As for railfanning, do not waste your $650. The thing is quite deaf on the VHF bands, Every 2m HT I own works better than this radio on the 161 MHz band. As I pointed out earlier, with an upgrade, you can get NXDN transmissions the railroads are experimenting with, but if they are in the 161 MHz band, it will be hard to pick them up. I have not bought the NXDN license to find out as there is very little in use near me.

Just thougth I would share,
Scott, AB6YS

Scott Schifer
Torrance, CA
TinyTrains Website

Date: 03/04/19 06:15
Re: Uniden Bearcat SDS100 Review.
Author: WW

This illustrates the classic downfall of most scanners--the desire to be the "everything to everybody" radio.  To do that, the radio is necessarily complex to operate and must make very significant compromises in reception sensitivity and selectivity. The SDS 100 also costs as much as many commercial NXDN digital radios that will likely run circles around it in reception performance.  In short, the conclusion in the above post that the SDS 100 is a poor choice for a railfanning radio is spot-on. 

Unless one wants the flexibility of having an NXDN-capable radio for that point somewhere in the future when the railroads cut over to NXDN, about the best all-around portable scanner that I've found is the "lowly" Uniden BC-125AT, which can often be bought for around $100.  As I've posted before about it, be sure to buy the optional leather (?) case for it--I don't think that the radio case itself would protect the radio very well if it was dropped onto a hard surface. 

Date: 03/04/19 19:34
Re: Uniden Bearcat SDS100 Review.
Author: DMC

I couldn't agree more.  Don't go for all the hype on the SDS100.  There are a lot of better scanners for railfan's for a lot less money.  Take your pick.  My favorite is a uniden BCD396XT which has  been around for awhile and is still selling on e-bay for around $200.  The newer radios shoot for the 700-800 trunk systems and don't seem to do very well down on the 160mhz VHS hi band, where most rail radio comunication are and well stay for a long time.  

Date: 03/05/19 12:36
Re: Uniden Bearcat SDS100 Review.
Author: Rick2582

Thanks for the review.  I've had some inquiries about the radio from railfans but hadn't seen the radio to test it.  Pretty spendy.

Date: 03/06/19 05:49
Re: Uniden Bearcat SDS100 Review.
Author: NKP715

I have to echo the positive comments about the BC-125.  I primarily
use a Yaesu FT-270 for portable (have a base unit in the vehicle),
but the BC-125, with an upgraded antenna, is probably 75% as good.
It does have the advantage of being easier to program.  BUT, keep
in mind the stock antenna that comes with the BC-125 provides
very poor performance, IMHO.

Date: 03/06/19 16:28
Re: Uniden Bearcat SDS100 Review.
Author: WW

In my testing with a good aftermarket antenna on both, the BC-125AT performed just behind my Vertex VX-170 (the immediate predocessor of the Yaesu FT-270, but very similar) in most categories.  That said, neither performed as well as the both analog and NXDN portables that I have from Kenwood and Icom.  But, those commercial models cost between 3 and 6 times as much as the BC-125AT--that's the tradeoff.  The BC-125AT does absolutely need a good aftermarket antenna tuned to the 160 mHz-162 mHz area of the radio spectrum to take its performance from mediocre to pretty good.

Date: 03/07/19 09:29
Re: Uniden Bearcat SDS100 Review.
Author: GP40X

WW - Which Kenwood/Icom radios do you compare our trusty VX-170s to? This may give me an option if "old trusty" ever breaks. Thanks.

Date: 03/07/19 16:15
Re: Uniden Bearcat SDS100 Review.
Author: WW

Icom  IC-F3161DT.  The IC-F3261DT is the newer version--similar innards as the 3161, somewhat louder audio and is waterproof.  Both models in pretty wide use by the railroads. (One note--though the 3161 and 3261 are very similar, they use different programming cables--a lot aftermarket programming cable sellers do not mention this in their advertising.)

Kenwood NX-200.  The railroads mostly use the NX-210--same innards as the NX-200, but with larger keys on the keypad.  NX-210 in wide railroad use.

In overall performance, the Icoms and Kenwoods are fairly close together.  I give a slight edge to the Kenwood, but the Kenwoods will generally have a higher street price than the Icoms.  Both the Icom and Kenwood models listed here have specific railroad firmware versions available.  I strongly DO NOT recommend railfans to purchase them.  The railroad firmware versions take special programming software that is not readily available--most Kenwood and Icom dealers don't even have it.  Buying a used railroad firmware model is especially dicey, since there is a strong possibility that it was obtained illegally from a railroad source.  Finally, the transmit function generally can not be disabled on the railroad firmware models, thus making transmitting on the railroad channels by accident a strong possibility.  For railfan use, there is simply no real good reason to purchase a railroad firmware model.

Any of the Icom and Kenwood models listed here will best the VX-170 in performance on analog.  The VX-170 won't do NXDN, of course, and the VX-170 will not tune the splinter analog channels that the railroads may use if they so choose.  The VX-170 is basically a 15 year+ old design and is showing its age.  The FT-270 is the later version of the VX-170, but is essentially the same radio, with all of the limitations of the VX-170 for railfanning.  In that respect, the VX-170/FT-270 is inferior the the Uniden BC-125AT scanner because the BC-125AT will tune those splinter analog channels.

Edited 5 time(s). Last edit at 03/07/19 16:27 by WW.

Date: 03/07/19 17:24
Re: Uniden Bearcat SDS100 Review.
Author: GP40X

WW - Great info. How many versions of the Kenwood NX-210 are there and which one do you use? Thanks.


Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 03/07/19 17:30 by GP40X.

Date: 03/07/19 17:37
Re: Uniden Bearcat SDS100 Review.
Author: mojaveflyer

Being one who has an interest in aircraft as well as railroads, I've dealt with the same issues. I've never been fond of Uniden radios but the BC125AT is my go to radio for most walks out away from the car. If you don't need the digital capability the 125AT does very well. 

I've played with scanners for 30+ years and always seemed to  prefer the brands other than Uniden. I've had a number of Regency, GRE and most recently have the Whistler TRX-1 handheld and the  TRX-2  mobile radios. I found the Whistlers had very poor reception on the high VHF brands, both railroad and aircraft. In the last 6 months I found that Whistler has made a number of firmware improvements that has greatly enhanced the reception of the new Whistler radios. Whistler offers a no cost NXDN upgrade for their radios and it seems to work although it does have trouble following the NXDN trunked radio system in use the at  Transportation Test Center in Pueblo. 

I use the BC125AT and the GRE PSR-500 handheld and the PSR-600 mobile radios. They both receive the railroad and aircraft bands decently and have the capability of receiving many digital systems, good for  monitoring the RTD Rail system in Denver which operates on the Colorado DTRS system. These radios also have the capability to hear the land mobile radios at some of the local  airports where I also hang out at to hear the Crash Fire response crews and the airport operations units. Whistler has reintroduced the old GRE radios as the WS-1040 handheld and the WS-1065 mobile.  I use Butel software to program the GRE radios and it's also compatible with the 1040 and 1065 Whistler radios as well. 

By the way, in Denver every Sunday evening at 8 pm local  time, we have an on the air meeting on the amateur repeaters of 145.46 MHz in Boulder (also covers Denver) and the 145.16 MHz in Colorado Springs. Much of the conversations center around public safety monitoring (and the coming encryption on many systems) but I'm there most every week for the aircraft and railroad questions...

Just my $0.02 worth...

James Nelson
Thornton, CO

Date: 03/07/19 20:24
Re: Uniden Bearcat SDS100 Review.
Author: WW

GP40X Wrote:
> WW - Great info. How many versions of the Kenwood
> NX-210 are there and which one do you use?
> Thanks.
> Lane

I don't own an NX-210.  I do own an NX-200-K2.  The reason that the railroads use the NX-210 (and it was supposedly designed specifically for the railroads) is that it has large keys on the keypad that are easier to use when wearing gloves, etc. Otherwise, it is essentially identical to an NX-200.  The main differences among the various iterations of the Icom radio models is whether  they have a full keypad or not. For example, the IC-F3161D does not have a full keypad, the IC-F3161DT does.

To clarify my earlier post, the Kenwood and Icom models of their respective radios with railroad firmware are essentially the same hardware platform; it is the firmware installed in them that is different.

I frequently get asked which brand of radio--Icom or Kenwood--that I like best.  My short answer is that there are things that I like and dislike about both brands.  It sort comes down to a matter of personal choice and price.  The railroads apparently share this point of view--both Icom and Kenwood sell a lot of radios to the railroads.

By the way, I posted about this on this forum about 4 years ago, and not much has changed since then, except that Icom and Kenwood are still essentially the only companies producing and selling mobile and portable NXDN-capable VHF two-way radios--the Chinese, et al have not gotten into the US market, so fas as I know..

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 03/07/19 20:44 by WW.

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