A brief look at the new Uniden SDS100 Bearcat

So a few weeks ago being the impatient sort of chap I am I purchased one of the new Uniden SDS100 Bearcat scanners.

Now I’m going to tempt fate a little bit here, even though I have a sneaking and strong suspicion that Australia and New Zealand will eventually see their own local release of this radio through Uniden Australia & New Zealand, as stated in the opening sentence I’m impatient. Some would argue I have the patience level of a footy team visiting a house of ill repute on their end of season trip.

I didn’t want to wait around 6 – 24 months until some direction is set and then hopefully delivered upon for Australian and New Zealand scanner owners. Bit like what has happened with the DMR / NXDN / EDACS ProVoice upgrade path for the UBCD436-PT and UBCD536-PT series units, which looks like it is finally be happening with the appearance of the upgrade options now appearing in the menu with the latest firmware release for those units and upgrade option link appearing on the Uniden Australia website: https://uniden.com.au/product/scanner-upgrade/ (HOORAY!)

As with my Whistler TX-1 unit I again made my purchase through Zip Scanners from the United States. Yet again they did not fail me! Thanks Zip Scanners.

It’s a bit of a nerve-racking thing ordering radio gear from overseas, you kind of imagine your new purchase being kicked around the freight entities depot, picked up by some employee annoyed they haven’t had a pay rise or their first coffee of the morning and thrown several feet in to the rear of a truck, in which the box ends up sitting under that 80kg weight set Neville Nerd has ordered online to gain those muscles so people don’t kick sand in his face, or pick on him for being in to scanners perhaps?

Click on image for a larger view.

Waiting for those online delivery status updates as it passes through multiple processing points. Seeing that first scan point denoting arrival in Australia and then more scans of the delivery label as it again passes a multitude of processing points.

Waiting for that delivery driver ready to offer a hug when they hand over that box, tears welling up…I think you see what I’m getting at.

Anyhow, my item arrived safely and was well packaged with air cushioning packs inside the box. Zip Scanners obviously knows how some people can be until they have their first coffee also.

I’m sure most of you will have seen the ‘Unboxing the Uniden SDS100’ videos that numerous US owners have put on YouTube so I’ll not be boring you with those details.

Nor will I be going over the ‘how to connect to Sentinel software’, ‘how to turn on your radio’, etc. Those have been well covered elsewhere.

The radio has a real comfortable feel to it when holding it and defiantly has a lighter feel to it than my Whistler. The other positive I believe regarding the SDS100 body was how the body of the unit tapers inwards towards the bottom of the unit. That is in all probability the biggest factor in achieving the comfortable feel when holding the unit.

There has been some criticism of the tapered design in that it makes the unit more unstable when standing on a desk or table as the base is not as broad. The reality is any unit is subject to a fall or topple when standing on its base and takes a bump and whilst there may be some merit in the belief if that is a deal breaker for you I feel you’re really grasping at straw to find things to add to your ‘complaints list’. The unit is stable enough.

The other factor to remember with this is that the base of the radio may have a slightly varied and broader footprint when Uniden releases the new battery pack and redesigned battery cover in the future to cater for an increase in battery run time.

As for the display, Wow! Nice work Uniden.

Side by side comparison of the ‘Detailed’ (Left) and ‘Simple’ (Right) display modes available on the Uniden SDS100. Click on image for a larger view.

The display has a simple and a more detailed option that can be selected with both available in a factory default colour scheme, black text with white background or white text on black background able to be selected.

For those who really want to smarten up their display you can create your own custom colour scheme as well. The display brightness is also adjustable.

Without rambling on about what can be displayed on the screen I’ve supplied images on the right that gives a pretty good idea of what is available.

Regarding the matter of battery run time, I haven’t had need to complain really. I know Uniden weren’t too keen on the current supplied battery run time and whilst it would be nice to have a longer run time, again. Also, as mentioned above Uniden have plans to replace the battery in future production runs and will also be supplying a free upgraded battery to those who already own early production models.

The above is a very commendable course of action in my opinion.

As an example of battery run time I had the following results this morning for my battery with the following settings;

Volume Level: 3 (Comfortable enough in my office, need to hear my radios as matter of priority)
Display Option: Simple Mode (Colour)
Backlight:  10 seconds on Squelch
Dimmer: 40%
Keypad lights: Disabled
Monitoring: P25 Trunking Network used by emergency services on ID Scan and a DMR MotoTRBO Trunking Network on ID SEARCH used by commercial entities.

Turning the unit on at approximately 0730Hrs and with both networks being very busy I received my low battery warning at 1208Hrs with the unit shutting itself off at approximately 1223Hrs. So in this instance I’m a tad under 5Hrs of run time. Not brilliant, but not a deal breaker for me.

Click on image for a larger view.

The other thing to remember is that with this unit you can actually scan and charge at the same time, despite what the initial manual said. The scanner will automatically stop charging once the battery voltage reaches 4.2v and charge current drops below 100mA.

So no, you won’t cook, fry, BBQ or overcharge the battery.

I’ll be doing another run time test in the future whereby I scan conventional VHF analogue frequencies for the duration. I guess by such an exercise I’m looking to see if run time differs between different network types and if the unit is working harder as it processes digital communications in comparison to analogue. Ideally I’d need a busy VHF analogue system to check against. I already have one in mind but it might not be on par usage wise with systems I used today.

The Uniden SDS100 is touted as being the first scanner released based on Software Defined Radio (SDR). For those of you that have dabbled in the SDR before with your dongles and the like you’ll be aware of what this means, for those unaware perhaps this will help: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Software-defined_radio

Once out of the box and all the required components attached I undertook all the first steps required and got busy making this unit work locally. Firstly I loaded up an MMR Network file and it worked flawlessly.

The MMR Network is a P25 UHF Trunking system with frequencies in the 420-430MHz and 467-469MHz range. It consists of both, Intelligent Site Repeaters (ISR) and Linear Simulcast Modulation (LSM) repeaters. It also consists of Bi-Directional Amplifiers (BDA) with a rebroadcast to 503MHz segment frequencies for in building and venue coverage at various locations. The system also encompasses a range of conventional P25 frequencies.

Regular readers of Radio Reference would be well aware how evil LSM systems are, apparently. They must be as there are a multitude of threads and posts telling us such, right?

Look, don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying there aren’t issues on some LSM systems but I really have tired of the amount of threads regarding LSM reception. Put it all in one thread and be done with it, just like the great debate on encryption.

Given I mainly monitor the MMR Network from a 3 site LSM system I’ve never suffered any of the reported issues many in the US complain about whilst using my Uniden UBCD996T, UBCD396T, UBCD396XT models in addition to my Whistler TRX-1. Maybe I’ve just been lucky?

As mentioned previously the Uniden SDS100 has handled the MMR Network just great, just as it has the RMR Network which is the VHF equivalent of the MMR, although the RMR Network doesn’t have any LSM sites associated to it as of yet and I’m not sure if any are planned.

The Uniden SDS100 has not had any issues monitoring my local P25 Trunk Network. Click on image for a larger view.

Obviously with greater use and more listening some issues may arise but since obtaining the unit I have come across no reported issues with a P25 Trunking system whilst using the SDS100.

My home location is approximately 7Kms west of the Melbourne CBD. Whilst using the stock antenna inside, I noted that despite it being a bit scratchy on receipt of a signal on a VHF conventional analogue system I was monitoring located some 105Kms away it still sounded ‘cleaner and more structured’ than my other units under the same circumstances.

I’m thinking this may be due to the SDR and I/Q based method of tuning instead of having to rely on the more usual and common hardware based facets your ‘traditional’ scanners have relied on, let’s remember though, I’m no engineer just a scanning enthusiast.

Whilst in the VHF band I did observe a bit of breakthrough from adjacent analogue frequencies up around the 166-168MHz segment of the band. However that was during search limit based scanning and as such without the use of tones, NAC’s, Colour Codes and the like. This also was from my home location on the stock antenna.

The interesting thing here is also the fact that most, if not all, of the breakthrough from adjacent frequencies was data from MPT1327 based systems. I also noted it at one stage up around the 507MHz area when monitoring a tramways voice channel on a frequency that does not use any CTCSS or similar. What I could hear breaking through in this instance appeared to be coming from a nearby frequency used for tramways Automatic Vehicle Monitoring data.

I have not gone in to a more detailed review of the matter as of yet and as such it should be noted that it simply could be RF overload from nearby systems and is not at all unusual in scanners depending on the environment of use and nearby RF based circumstances and turning on the attenuator may solve the matter. Ever taken your scanner on to the roof of one of Melbourne’s highest buildings? I have and without adequate shielding it can be a nightmare.

Up above I used the term ‘I/Q’. For those curious I suggest you have a read of the following link, it provides some interesting information on what ‘I/Q’ is about and what it is and in turn how this new SDR scanner is providing what you’re hearing.

https://electronics.stackexchange.com/questions/39796/can-somebody-explain-what-iq-quadrature-means-in-terms-of-sdr

I have only just recently purchased the DMR upgrade for this unit so will refrain at this stage on commenting on it, although I will mention the process to purchase the upgrade is still a chore for those who don’t have a US issued Credit Card. At the very least offer PayPal for overseas purchasers of your offerings.

The SDS100 appears to be gearing up to be an even more flexible offering than 436 and 536 series. Although it’s very early days yet and there is still lots to test with this unit under varying conditions and system types I’m happy so far.

As I type Uniden are still working on firmware upgrades to address some issues that have come to light under some circumstances but at least the foundation is set and I hope they can continue to build on this release.

Another thing that should be mentioned is some users are reporting their units are getting hot and suggesting things such as a small fan be installed, heat dissipation vents and the like.

Go ahead and do that and see how your current IP67 dust and water resistance rating fairs. Then try and deal with the noise a fan might introduce to some of those internals inside your scanner. See where I’m going with this?

Click on image for a larger view.

My unit has not run overly warm or hot at all as of yet, whilst I did feel a slight degree of warmth after a few hours of working hard on systems and functionality tests it was minimal to say the least.

For those who use SDR and dongles you’ll know how warm those things can get after a few solid hours of playing around, but the SDS100 came nowhere near such heat levels, so I’m not sure what to make of that matter yet. We need to remember these new units intercept signals and process them differently to what your traditional scanners have. Computers and such will run warm after a good session of processing commands, the new SDS100 is no different, it is in essence a little computer and processor in there nowadays bringing you your listening delights.

Earlier I mentioned about my suspicions regarding Uniden Australia jumping on board and releasing a local version of the unit. It’s purely speculation on my part and I just feel they’ll soon be looking to offer something new so they can put the old UBCD396XT to bed, although that is still a great scanner. They may also look towards a bit of streamlining their model offerings by removing some units that are several generations old now and not lending themselves to the upgrade paths that more current units are offering.

Also given whilst they had some involvement with the UBCD436-PT and UBCD536-PT series it was minimal when compared to previous marketing and sale levels given the licence agreements held elsewhere, so perhaps they’ll look to bring some of that back directly.

People need to realise and accept this is a new way of scanning interlaced with an old ideology and delivery capsule. They need to stop expecting their scanner to work the same way as a commercial two-way radio, realise that there are some limitations and in supporting the manufactures then further inroads can be made. In return manufactures need to keep on delivering and finding solutions to any issues raised of substance.

I really believe the SDS100 has further potential, I know there is still more to do with this unit by Uniden but I can’t help but feel they’re on the right path so far with the Uniden SDS100 Bearcat.

 



Categories: Hobby Chat, MMR Network, RMR Network, Uniden, Whistler

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  1. Uniden Australia Scanner Upgrade Program – Vicradio Zone

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