Amazon.com: Customer Reviews: Uniden Bearcat 500 Channel Alpha Numeric Hand Held Radio Scanner with CTCSS and DCS (BC125AT)
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on December 8, 2012
I'm a little stunned by the bad reviews. I couldn't disagree more. This is a great scanner. For the roughly 100 bucks, you really get a lot.

It's handheld, which means it travels nicely. It's great for road trips and can keep you in the loop on weather, accidents, and umm, "other" police activities. It scans CB, FRS/GMRS/MURS and HAM bands which covers pretty much all of the individual use bands. The first two (CB, FRS/GMRS/MURS) are pretty useful on trips too.

It's rechargeable, and uses standard AA Ni-MH batteries (included) and you can recharge the batteries right in the scanner from a USB port. You can charge while it's on. Also, just in case it matters, you can run it directly from the USB port without any batteries installed at all! Of course, in a pinch you can always use regular non-rechargeable AA batteries which are pretty much the most common batteries in America. There's a switch inside the battery compartment to tell the scanner what kind of batteries you have so that it won't try to recharge regular batteries. (I know, too much time on batteries but I can't help it. A scanner's no good if you can't turn it on!)

There are some nice storage features for storing "found" stations and you can program them in manually too, if you know the frequency. You can name all the stations as well. Additionally, there's are banks of per-programmed frequencies for different uses (fire, police, CB, etc.) to allow you to get started right away. (If you're looking for frequencies just google "scanner frequencies" and the city or area you live in. Pretty simple...)

But really, it's connecting to the PC that has me won over. *All* of the settings can be accessed through the PC software available from the website. (The website also includes the *manual* <ahem>, drivers, and firmware updates. The software isn't all that sexy to be sure, but it's plenty functional! It's a lot easier to use than typing into the scanner itself. It allows you to save different configurations in separate files so you can have, for instance, a file for Topeka, and another one for Miami. Again, a really nice feature if you're on the road and have a laptop.

Cons:
You can't actually control the scanning itself from the computer. Not a big deal but the function might be kinda cool. My biggest complaint is that there is not a standing battery indicator. You only get notification when the batteries get low, but you have no idea when that might be. It's just a minor annoyance... maybe it'll get fixed in a firmware update?

Overall, totally useful.
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on September 29, 2013
I have been using scanner-type radios for more than 40 years -- I am a newspaper editor whose job requires them. I have also been a ham radio operator since 1958.
While I own even a Uniden Homepatrol -- arguably the top of the line, I consider the BC125AT to be the most remarkable value of any radio of this type I have ever seen. The quality of this unit, its performance, the ability to configure it many ways, the scores of features, and the FREE programming software make this an excellent value.
WHAT I ESPECIALLY LIKED:
* Low price: You get an awful lot for $119 (or whatever the current price is).
* Free programming software: It's no-frills, but it does everything I want, include setting tone codes and text tags, without all the fuss of using the keypad and "scroll control." Setting up the drivers confused me a bit, but Uniden's help service responded within two days with very detailed instructions -- that worked. Virtually every other scanner that's programmable requires one to purchase software to program it. This feature alone is a substantial value.
* The volume: Many lower-end scanners do not push out much sound. This one is as loud as I would ever need, even in noisy circumstances, such as a fire scene or parade.
* Ability to find channels: This unit has several ways of finding active frequencies in your community, including "Close Call" detection for finding nearby activity and scanning predetermined regions of the spectrum (Marine, Air, railroad, ham, etc.) to find more distance channels by checking thousands of channels that have been preprogrammed in.
* CTCSS and DCS squelch: Most people may not care about this, but if you have a distant police department using the same frequency as the local police department, and you're using an external antenna, programming in the squelch code will prevent you from hearing the interference from the distant department. You hear only station you have provided a code for on that frequency (codes can be gotten from Radioreference.com or you can scan for them using the radio).
* Adjustability: The unit is very configurable, right down to the contrast on the screen. You will need to study the manual, but you will be rewarded doing so.
* Manual: It's extensive, it's clear, and it's pocket size. Best of it, it exists! So many things today come without manuals -- you have to download information or read it on a screen. This has a REAL manual, and it is really useful. And it's not written in broken English!
* The build: It's sturdy, well-designed. It would be nice if it could be a bit smaller, like some newer transceivers, but it's certainly not chunky like Radio Shack and Uniden scanners of the recent past.
* USB rechargeable: The unit uses standard AA nicads (included) that can be charged in the radio with a USB cable (included). Not included is a five-volt USB power supply "brick." However, everyone has those already; they come with cell phones and other gear. Just plug the charger cable into one of these transformer blocks -- or into your computer. Smart move by Uniden because you don't have to pay the added cost of transformer you already have. The unit can also use standard alkaline AAs -- making it very flexible.
* Frequency range: It's got just about every frequency range you would want, including CB.
WHAT I DON'T LIKE:
* One rotary control: One knob, called a scroll control, is used to change channels and to program, adjust volume and adjust squelch. The priority use is channel changing (and other functions requiring scrolling). To me it should be volume first. In the many situations in which I use a scanner, I am always turning up or down the volume. I need quick access; with this unit, you have to push and hold down while turning to adjust volume. One learns to do that, but it's still cumbersome. I believe that volume adjustment is the most frequently used purpose of a rheostat-type control. Even better would be TWO rotary controls, one for volume/squelch and one for channel changing, etc. There is room on the top for a second control.
* No digital: Well, for $119, I guess you can't expect digital coverage. (Fortunately for me, most of my local services are still analog.) But it still irks me that when you can walk into a supermarket and buy a throw-away cell phone for $10, you have to pay nearly $500 for a digital portable scanner. That $10 phone is a digital two-way radio transceiver. It's not only a scanner receiver, it's a multichannel transmitter, too! It's time for technology and price to catch up with radio scanners.
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on May 23, 2012
I have a GRE PSR-310 scanner that I like, a lot. However this Bearcat came with a programming cable and free programming software is available from Uniden, Sure it's missing the 800MHZ band, trunking and stores fewer channels, but for the price this thing can't be beat, sensitivity is on par with the GRE and volume and sound quality is ALMOST as good, however this Uniden is less than half the size, and much, much lighter, yet feels a tad more solid than the GRE.

I know I'm comparing apples and oranges here, but again, for the price, you'll be hard pressed to find a better scanner. I slightly prefer GRE's "Object Oriented Scanning" due to the flexibility it affords frequency setups, but I'll find myself using this Uniden a lot more because of the form factor and the included programming software/cable.

Now I have to go spend another $60 on a cable and software on the GRE so I can program the thing via my PC.

Uniden, you have spoiled me.
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on June 29, 2012
Well so far so good! this is my first scanner and i think it's going well. I read the instructions jumped on radio reference and loaded it up. It seems to work great and i'm having alot of fun being nosy. Very easy to program and the scanner is picking up towns that are about 17 miles away. thanks!
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on December 20, 2012
I got a BC72XLT a couple years ago, and never regretted that purchase. I saw the features of this radio and decided it was worth the upgrade. I think it's definitely worth it for someone looking for a few more features.

Alpha Tags - so you know what you're listening to, you don't have to memorize what frequencies are
USB programming - MUCH easier to program new frequencies. You can also back up everything to a file, so you can change the entire setup of the banks really quickly. Nice if you go on vacation, because you can enter all the new frequencies on the computer, back up the old setup and apply the new setup. When you get back, it takes less than a minute to put the old setup back on.
USB charging - you don't need a special AC charger for the radio, it can charge from a computer or USB charger. If you plan on using it at home or in one place a lot, I would definitely suggest getting a USB charger (maybe with a mini USB plug already on it). This helps to get it away from the computer, which can cause interference. It comes with 2 rechargeable AA batteries, which seem to last maybe 8 hours on a charge. Backlight and frequent transmissions could reduce this, but I have been very happy with battery life.
Military Frequencies - one of the main things that convinced me to get this radio. I have to admit I haven't heard anything except the UHF from airport towers, but I will be around more UHF traffic soon and I expect to get a lot more from this.
Better Programming - you can set delay specifically to each channel. You can also set a temporary lockout, which only locks a channel out until you turn off the radio. Useful for localized interference.
Backlight Options - you can set the backlight to come on only with squelch, so it is off until it picks up a signal.
DND Mode - this stands for "do not disturb." This means that the "close call" or priority modes will only do their checks when scanning. Once it picks up a channel, it will not interrupt the channel to do those checks. This is really nice, because even the short pauses to do those checks can make you miss key information in a transmission.
Close Call memory - you can store the frequencies found in close call mode to a small bank for later review or scanning.
Large banks - 50 channels in each bank. Sometimes I have to combine smaller categories into one bank, but overall it is good to have plenty of space in a bank. Also good to have more frequencies overall.
Dedicated Weather Function - Fn-3 accesses weather radio modes, nice to have when there is bad weather. There is also a weather function to scan weather radio in the background for alerts.
Easier service search - When in service search mode, each service is treated like a bank and can be turned on or off. This is much more intuitive and lets you only choose the ones you are interested in. These are: Police, Fire/Emergency, Ham, Marine, Railroad, Civil Air, Military Air, CB Radio, FRS/GMRS/MURS (handheld civil radios), and Racing. You can also set custom ranges.

There are other features, but these are the ones I found most useful.
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on January 5, 2014
I briefly received this product before promptly returning it. It is hard to tell in the description, but this product DOES NOT support trunking or the 800mHz range of frequencies. In rural areas where each channel has its own frequency, this isn't a problem. However I live in the city of Seattle where all of the public safety (Police, Fire, etc.) services use trunking on the 868.175mHz band. Therefore this product didn't work for me and I had to return it.

In the brief time I had using this product, I had a great experience. The scanner is well-built and feels solid in my hand. The controls are easy to learn and I was able to quickly lock-onto police and fire radio channels in rural counties that use dedicated frequencies. I didn't program any channels into the scanner, but I did install and take a glance at the (WINDOWS-ONLY) programming software that was online from Uniden for the scanner. The unit even comes with RECHARGEABLE NiMH AA batteries, a USB charging/programming cable and a wrist strap, and the scanner has a sturdy belt clip on it to boot.

The product arrived very quickly. However, the only complaint that I have is with the shipper (Abetterwaytobuy) because the product box was severely damaged in one corner. The product itself was delivered in excellent condition, though.

The takeaway: If you don't care about being able to scan trunked (800mHz range) channels, this is the scanner for you! It's high quality across the board. If you need to scan trunked channels, though (check RadioReference.com for your local area), you'll need to get a scanner with trunking capability.
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on September 8, 2014
A potentially great airshow scanner which has one major shortcoming - It has frequency coverage clipped at 380 mhz, military air band goes up to 400. That is more than 1/10th of the entire military aviation band.
Why Uniden did this is beyond me, there are quite a few active freqs in this range including some used by the blue angels. For that reason alone I'd be hard pressed to recommend it to anyone serious about mil air. In fact thats the only bad thing I have to say about it, this would be a 5 star were it not for that 1 major omission.
Has a good form factor, looks nice, attractive display and alpha tagging is nice. Easy to program, can't understand the reviews here stating its super hard. I programmed most of the freqs via software which was super simple, then in 2 minutes I learned how to do it manually, programming in the field comes in handy sometimes.
Reception is decent, audio is crisp but a little weak, which is expected from a handheld used at an airshow, which is why I use an external speaker with all my handhelds. I've heard rumors that a firmware update might restore the missing 380-400, in which case I'd certainly revise my opinion and rating.
Not holding my breath though, as it sits I consider this scanner hobbled.

edit: Just found out the Aussie version of this very same scanner is not hobbled and has the entire UHF military air band
http://uniden.com.au/AUSTRALIA/p_ubc126at_index.asp If I had known that I would have sought this export version, even paying a bit more.
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on May 21, 2014
This a great basic radio for the price. For a little over 100 dollars you get all the bells and whistles of a more sophisticated model. I'll call this a basic radio because it's not digital, non-trunking and goes up only to 512MHz. But it's all I needed for now, and it does the job I want.
I work at my local airport so I use it to listen to VHF-Air and the UHF airline terminal operations channels just to keep up on what's happening. I listen at home and at work.
The feature I most like is being able to name your frequencies with alpha tagging. No more guessing.
Another good feature is being able to charge and/or use your radio through the supplied USB cable. Dead rechargeable batteries aren't a reason anymore not to listen, at least when you're near a computer.
So yes, I recommend this radio to anyone who likes to listen to VHF air, VHF Lo-Hi and UHF up to 512MHz. There's a lot of non digital frequencies out there to be heard.
Don't let some of the low ratings here deceive you, they're all because some people had some trouble programming the radio.
I'll admit it's not the easiest thing in the world (even for a scanner buff like me) but read the manual, keep calm and within the first hour out of the box with some dedication, you should be able to start listening and even program your favorite frequencies. Don't let the "All channels locked" warning scare you. It just means you haven't programmed anything yet. Use the Search button to start listening right out of the box. It took me about 30 min to an hour to get acquainted with how this radio works. After a week I mastered it.
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on September 20, 2014
This is without a doubt the best analog scanner available. If you don't need digital or trunking, then this is the scanner for you. On the description page, Amazon states that there is a newer model of this scanner - the BC75XLT - DON'T BUY IT. For only a few extra dollars you get much, much more with the BC125AT. I know this because I bought the BC75XLT first, and it is a good scanner with great reception but it has none of the extra features that you get with the BC125AT. Just being able to put up to a 16 digit name tag on each channel is worth the few dollars more. Another great feature is being able to have the backlight come on when you receive traffic, so you can easily see what channel you are listening to. Also if you need them, you get an extra 200 channels with the BC125AT model. There are a lot more extra features with the BC125AT that make the few extra dollars well worth it. Also DO NOT pay any attention to the reviews that say this scanner is difficult to program. These people probably have trouble changing a light bulb. This scanner is so easy to program manually that there is no need to use a computer. While the original antenna does a pretty good job, if you are looking for a nice upgrade, try a Diamond RH77CA. It is flexible and 15" in length and does help quite a bit.
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on December 29, 2013
Before purchasing this scanner I read all the reviews online. I also went to the Uniden site, downloaded a pdf of the manual and read it before the scanner arrived. To save yourself time you may want to read the 9/29/13 Amazon review by Jack Sanders. I found it most helpful. To simplify setup I used alkaline batteries as well as the Service Search Mode (see Manual page 48) which allows you to search through 10 pre-programmed banks to receive all the frequencies allocated to police, ham, marine, railroad civil air, military air, CB radio, racing and other services.

I live about 30 miles from a major metropolitan airport and a military base. When first using the scanner I was able to hear hams on the local repeaters, ships in the bay, military and civilian aircraft, CB radios about 15 miles away and other local radio services. The audio is very clear and the signals were quite strong using just the small antenna that comes with the scanner.

I have not yet attempted to program the scanner with my PC because I am quite satisfied using the pre-programmed service banks. This is an excellent scanner for the price and a good choice for anyone interested in getting into the radio scanning hobby. While it is true that you can use a tablet or smartphone APP to access radio services across the globe, there is still a thrill for me to "capture" a radio transmission from a passing train, aircraft or ship.

As a final tip, there are some excellent YouTube reviews of this product if you type the search words "Bearcat Uniden BC125AT."
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