I ordered a Uniden BCD436HP and it arrived last week. After playing with it for a week, I thought I’d pass on a few initial thoughts/observations about the radio. Since I also have a BCD396T, BCD396XT, and HP-1 Home Patrol, I’m including comparisons where applicable. So far I’ve been able to scan the Glynn County TRS (Analog Type II), SEGARRN (P25), and Department of the Army/Fort Stewart-Hunter AAF TRS (P25) as well as various digital and analog conventional frequencies. I’ve monitored a little bit of aviation and MilAir with it but I still want to do some more on it before making any judgments in those areas.
- The radio is larger than the BCD396T/BCD396XT but not by much; the size differential is primarily down to the larger display. The size is really not enough to make a difference when carrying it on your hip. It’s just as thin at the 396 is, just a bit longer and wider. For those of us who remember the earliest hand held scanners – it’s not that big.
- The larger display presents a lot more information in a more readable format than the screen on the BCD396T/BCD396XT does. You can see what system you’re monitoring, what department or group you’re monitoring, and the channel you’re monitoring plus talkgroup number and UID information without the display cycling through multiple screens. My only complaint here is that it doesn’t show the frequency when a talkgroup is displayed even though there seems to be room to do so (although this is something that would only bother a minority of hobbyists).
- If you have used or are familiar with the BCD396T/BCD396XT or Home Patrol scanners, you will be able to easily navigate the BCD436HP. It operates via menus in much the same way the Home Patrol does but since it doesn’t have the Home Patrol’s touch screen, you can activate and deactivate systems and departments via the 396’s system of quick keys. The 436 also has an extra row of keys along the bottom for System, Department and Channel which take the place of the touch screen for selecting holding on systems, departments, and channels. While there are some differences, you’ll quickly adapt to them and be on your way. I find that I can easily switch back and forth between the three without confusion.
- So far, reception seems to be on a par with the BCD396T/BCD396XT and Home Patrol scanners but before I pass any judgement I want to spend more time comparing how they do side-by-side.
- I like that the BCD436HP charges through the same USB port that it used for programming and control. My only question is this: why does it use a USB mini plug instead of a USB micro plug? Using a micro would keep you from having to keep track of different types of cables, most phones and other devices are now using the micro plug. It seems that amateur radio and scanner gear stays a step behind in terms of cabling and connectors.
- Battery life seems to be less than the BCD396T/BCD396XT but that is to be expected with the larger and more complex display; after a full charge, the battery will last 6-7 hours of intermittent use over the course of several days. If you are going to use this radio for all day carry or for an event, I would strongly recommend carrying spare AA batteries (it uses 3 at a time) or perhaps consider a USB power supply such as a Go Puck.
- The BCD436HP’s audio through the external speaker doesn’t seem to be as strong as the audio through the external speaker on either my BCD396T or BCD396XT. I don’t have any complaints on the audio through the headphone jack.
- While monitoring the Glynn County TRS (Type II analog) side by side with the BCD396XT I noticed that the 436 wasn’t always displaying UIDs when the 396 did. Both radios were using the stock duck antenna and seemed to be receiving the system at the same signal strength. Otherwise, it monitored the system just fine. I haven’t noticed it happen while monitoring P25 systems.
I’ve been using ARC536PRO from Butel to program favorite lists into the BCD436HP and so far I’ve been very happy with it. When I first downloaded the software (right after it was released) I noticed there was a problem with it accepting frequencies between 54-107 MHz. While that probably wouldn’t cause an issue for most scanner enthusiasts, it definitely can if you are a MilCom scanning enthusiast. I sent Butel and email and quickly received a response that there was a new version coming out that day that fixed that issue. After downloading the new version, everything has worked fine. After using Butel software with everything from a BC780 up to the current 436, I definitely recommend Butel’s software for programming, control, and logging.
After getting to use the radio some more and gaining more experience I plan on updating this post with more observations and information. One of the things I’m interested in is how well it handles P25 audio when when in areas where simulcast sites coverage areas overlap; so far I’ve not had the chance to test that. That will be something that those in the Savannah area (SEGARRN simulcast sites in Chatham County) would need to take into consideration. Stay tuned…