Deciding between a desktop or handheld radio scanner can be a tough choice but thankfully the latest technology makes things a little easier. It used to be that handheld scanners were pretty limited in respect of the search functions and modes they offered.

This made building the same functions that are featured on a base unit into a handheld of a reasonable size a big ask. Miniaturization has solved the problems of having the same circuitry in both desktop and handheld scanners with the only battle left being the ability to layout out the controls in a manner that makes it possible for the average human to use easily.

With radio scanners like the latest mobile/desktop Uniden BDC536HP model (pictured below) having a whole host of functions on the base unit it takes being a little creative, some organized menus and multifunction buttons to put the same amount of electronics in something less half the size.

Uniden BDC536HP radio scanner

Uniden BDC536HP Radio Scanner

Handheld Scanner Limitations


A handheld in it natural state doesn’t have the best audio quality but given the general small size of the built in speaker this can’t really be helped. Fixing this problem is easy enough at home by wiring the output to an audio device that will give much clearer sound.

Most modern stereos have at least some sort of input and it may just be a matter of making a cable to do the job. A typical setup may involved a cable with a 3.5mm jack plug on one end and left/right phono connectors on the other.

Power Source

Unless your on the ball with keeping a spare set of rechargeable batteries on stand by, long term use of a handheld at home could get expensive. There’s always the option to use a mains adapter and although most new scanner come with one included this is not true of many used radios up for sale.

Considering the price tag of a top shelf scanner these days adding a mains adapter is not going to add much to the overall cost.

Desktop Scanner Limitations

Portable Use

Right at the top has to be the lack of easy portability when dealing with a desktop scanner. This doesn’t mean you can’t power them from batteries (if they have the option) it just they aren’t designed to be used while carried around.

Saying that the mobile type of scanner is designed to take up less space than a full blown desktop version, making them more likely for portable use.

The type of scanners that can only be powered from the mains have a design that makes them unsuitable for fitting in a vehicle never mind for carrying around.

Where There’s A will

If your comfortable dealing with the small control panel on a handheld there’s no reason that with a bit of installation it can’t be used a home. Get a proper antenna setup, wire the audio up to a stereo if your not going to use headphones and do yourself a favor by fixing the scanner down.

This makes it possible to use the radio one handed without the whole thing sliding about everywhere 🙂

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