Monday, December 5, 2011

Uniden BR330T

Review written 07/02/06

BR330T and Box
If you are shopping for an analog scanner, this is definitely the scanner to have. Lots of features and an all around great scanner make this a sure winner. It also makes the perfect addition to your "shack," if you already have digital. Either way you can't go wrong with this scanner!
After going around and around with myself, I finally got my Uniden BR330T. I debated on either the Pro-97 or BR330T for months before actually buying the Pro-97 first. I had never owned a GRE (Radio Shack) brand scanner, so since I had the BCD396T, I figured I'd try the Pro-97. After buying the Pro-97 then selling it about 2 months later, I bought the BR330T! I bought my BR330T from Glenn at What a great guy to deal with. I highly recommend dealing with him!
In the box:
I received my BR330T nicely boxed as Uniden always packages their items very well. What was in the box?
  • Uniden BR330T
  • Scanner Antenna
  • SMA/BNC Adapter
  • 3 - 2300 mAh AA rechargeable batteries
  • AC Adapter
  • PC Programming Cable
  • Wrist Strap
  • Belt Clip
  • Owner's Manual and other literature
The construction of this scanner is great. It is small in size which is a great plus if you want to carry it with you. It has a very rugged feel to it when you hold it, partly because of the rubber grips on the sides. The buttons and VFO knob are all very well constructed and very responsive to the touch. It has the exact same button layout as the BCD396T. The only major differences on the exterior between the BR330T and the BCD396T are the obvious backlight color, and the BR330T has a NASCAR logo whereas the BCD396T says UNIDEN. Trunktracker III is written above the LCD and Uniden below the keys. The BCD396T has nothing written above the LCD and has Trunktracker IV below the keys. The BR330T also has "race" printed on the 0 key where as the 396 does not. I like the color and layout of the scanner. It looks more like a professional radio than a scanner (except for that NASCAR logo, which I could have done without).
Backlight: The LCD backlight isn't as yellow as is shown on the box. The box and most dealer photos are very misleading. It is actually more of an orange color. However, I find that the backlight is adequate and is plenty bright at night. I would have liked it to be a bit brighter in the daylight, but it works well enough.

BR330T vs BCD396T
Audio: Audio is very loud on the BR330T. You can turn it up without distortion and it has good audio quality. Trunking, conventional, MilAir, airband, etc. all sound superb! Going mobile with the BR330T? I have found that the audio is plenty loud enough for using it in the car.
Features, features, features: This scanner is jam packed with more features than you'll find in any other hand held scanner on the market (excluding the digital BCD396T). Some of the features worth mentioning include:
  • 2500 channels Wideband Frequency Coverage (.1 MHz to 1300 MHz excluding cellular)
  • Trunk Tracker III technology allows trunking of Motorola (analog only), LTR, and EDACS systems
  • Dynamic Memory
  • Menu Driven Design
  • Close Call (Close Call with scan, Close Call Only, Close Call Auto Store)
  • Adjustable Key Beep (auto, off, 1 - 15 audio level settings)
  • Audio AGC
  • Attenuator
  • Adjustable Modulation per channel (Auto, AM, FM, NFM, WFM)
  • Adjustable Step per channel/search range (Auto, 5.0 kHz, 6.25 kHz, 7.5 kHz, 8.33 kHz, 9.0 kHz, 10.0 kHz, 12.5 kHz, 15.0 kHz, 20.0 kHz, 25.0 kHz, 50.0 kHz, 100.0 kHz)
  • Backlight - adjustable time (10 sec, 30 sec, Squelch, Keypress, Infinite)
  • LCD - adjustable contrast
  • Battery Save Feature
  • Internal Bar Antenna
  • PC Programmable and Controllable (Programming Software available from Uniden (approximately $29) and Butel (approximately $40)
  • CTCSS / DCS Capable - You can search, and instantly decode, both CTCSS/DCS at the same time. You can lockout unwanted CTCSS/DCS tones (very useful to me)! Up to 5 seconds delay time on the 330T (this can be applied on programmed frequencies, searches, etc.)
  • Fire Tone Out (I don't use this, but I can see where it would be useful in larger cities)
  • Race Track Operation
  • 10 custom search ranges (Control Channel Only, auto store, can edit the names of searches, edit delay times, set modulation, data skip, step, search with scan)
  • 13 Service Searches including AM and FM radio
  • Search with Scan (Meaning you can search custom or Service Searches and scan your programmed memory at the same time)
  • Priority Channels - any number of channels can be "Priority" (although too many kind of defeats the purpose of "priority")
  • Priority Plus - allows you to only scan your priority channels!
  • System Hold - you can make the scanner pause on the "system" on every scan cycle up to 255 seconds (not the you need that long) but if you are mainly interested in a certain agency, you could have the scanner scan that system 10 seconds and the rest set at 0. It would "hold" on that system for 10 extra seconds before checking the other systems. Set all systems to 0, and you get lightening fast scan speed
  • Individual Channel Alerts (choose any of 9 alerts per channel with individual sound levels)
  • SAME Weather Alert, Weather Scan and Weather Alert Priority
  • Small size
  • An actual belt clip you can use. (swivels)
  • User Upgradable firmware
  • Accessories Included!!! (AC Adapter, PC Cable, wrist strap, belt clip, antenna, etc.) with the 330

BR330T Backlight
Receive is very good on the 330. I use an extendable antenna which works great for VHF-High, Airband, MilAir, HF, and more. I have connected the 330 to my Scantenna which is up at 30'. It is getting along great! It isn't overloading like my Pro-2055/Pro-97. I can see now that with my BCT15 coming, vthe Pro-2055's days are numbered in my shack.
Military Air reception is very acceptable. I have numerous Civilian and Military Air frequencies programmed into the scanner. I am scanning the civ and Mil Air freqs with both the extendable antenna and the Scantenna and it hasn't scanned around a full cycle without stopping on something!
When listening to local 800 Trunked systems, I use the BR330T with an 800 MHz Radio Shack antenna and it works great. 800 MHz reception is a little better on the BR330T than it was on the Pro-97, in my opinion. On weak 800 MHz signals from Trunked Systems, the Pro-97 wouldn't even try to track, it would simply keep going, unless you manually held on a channel. The BR330T decodes them effortlessly, even on very weak signals. In this area, I prefer the BR330T by far!
Shortwave reception seems adequate considering the size of this scanner. It is about equal to the Yaesu VR-120 using an extendable antenna. The VR-120 may be slightly better in this area. AM radio stinks, period. It just isn't very good for AM radio, even with the internal bar antenna. Don't expect the BR330T to pull in the weak signals as a base HF rig would do, but it works fair for me on shortwave. It would have been great if SSB could have been included with this scanner, but I am mainly a broadcast AM/Shortwave listener so this suits me fine.
I have heard some people say that these scanners are too complicated. I just don't agree. I think they make perfect sense. The buttons are well placed and everything functions as it should. I don't know of any bugs in this model. I find it easy to operate, in fact I think it is easier than the Pro-97, but that's just me. I find it very simple to lock/unlock systems or to turn on/off features that I want to use. The 99 quick keys make it a pleasure to use with multiple programmed systems. Once you grasp the idea of Dynamic Memory, it is simple really.
Programming software definitely helps, but only because you have 2500 channels of storage room and can actually look at a screen and see everything you have at once.
CTCSS/DCS search is instant and accurate. I like the fact that I can lockout an annoying CTCSS/DCS tone if I need to. CTCSS/DCS is a great tool to prevent interference and to only hear the agencies you want to hear.
You can charge the included batteries inside the scanner using the supplied AC adapter. Make sure the switch inside the battery compartment is in the NiMH position. If using standard Alkaline batteries, select alkaline. Basically all the switch does is prevent you from trying to charge alkaline batteries. I don't like charging batteries inside the scanner, because if a battery is faulty or burst while charging, it will likely ruin the scanner. So spend $30 to prevent a $250 to $270 accident. I opted for an Energizer 15 minute charger. They are about $30 at Wal-Mart and Target and include 4 2500 mAh batteries.
Race Track Operation isn't just for NASCAR racing. It can work with other motor sports as well. The BR330T comes preprogrammed with several racing systems including several NASCAR Series', Indy Cars, and more. I have set up a racing system with some local PD and FD agencies. It works very well doing this. You can use this to view both the frequency and alpha tag simultaneously. I use it as a priority type system, with only agencies of immediate importance.
Dynamic Memory: Dynamic Memory is the greatest scanner innovation since they moved from crystals to programmable! This allows you to divide up your memory how you want it. No more wasting memory! I love dynamic memory! For instance, you are not limited to only 10 banks, meaning you could only have 10 trunking systems. You can have as many trunking systems, conventional systems, racing systems, etc. as memory allows...and there is plenty of memory! I usually set my scanner up by county. You can assign every system to a "quick key" so that you can easily turn on/off each system quickly. Then, inside that system, you can have groups of frequencies assigned to their own quick keys. This is how I typically set up a conventional system:System:
  • Bradley County - System Quick Key 1
    • Group 1: Law Enforcement - Group Quick Key 1
      • Warren Police
      • Bradley County SO
    • Group 2: Fire/Rescue - Group Quick Key 2
      • Warren Fire
      • Bradley County Fire
      • Bradley County Rescue
    • Group 3: EMS - Group Quick Key 3
      • Bradley Co EMS
      • Ambulance Service
    • Group 4: Miscellaneous - Group Quick Key 4
      • Bradley County Roads
      • Warren Streets
      • Warren Water
      • Animal Control

BR330T Top View
The next system can be set up almost exactly the same, except you change the System Quick Key and enter the agencies in the groups. This allows you to have the entire county under 1 key. Then using the Group Quick Keys you can turn on/off groups within that system. So if you only want to hear fire, you turn off the others, etc. It is awesome! You never know what you were missing until you have it! I have everything from Little Rock, AR - south programmed into my scanner including every county, trunked system, and several parishes in Louisiana down to and including Monroe and Ouachita Parish Sheriff's TRS. I have almost every county to the east of Little Rock to the state line and to the west of Little Rock to the state line, then south. A ton of frequencies. Also more than I can count military air, civilian air, and other miscellaneous frequencies in the scanner and still have only used 70% of the memory. That is simply amazing! My BCD396T has every county in Arkansas, Northern Louisiana, Eastern Oklahoma and every trunked radio system in that area and it has 87% of it's memory used.
Programming Software: I used ARC330 Demo to program my BR330T. I intend on purchasing the full version at a later date. Or I may go with UASD330. I haven't decided yet. Both are very good software programs. ARC330 has features that UASD doesn't like the web import feature you can use with to help program your scanner (requires subscription to ARC330 also has a duplicate frequency find or find and remove either by group or by system. ARC also allows you to have an overview of your system quick keys. UASD330 does not allow this. ARC has several other features over UASD. You can download a free Demo copy of each and decide for yourself which is right for you.
Battery Life: Battery life on the BR330T is a tiny bit better than the BCD396T. Probably due to the lack of digital decoding in the BR330T. I usually get about 8 to 10 hours on a set of 3 batteries. The stock batteries, 2300 mAh, usually last about 7 to 8 hours. The Energizer 2500 mAh batteries I typically use last between 9 and 10 hours. I am using the backlight 100% of the time. Without the backlight I am certain you could improve battery life by at least 1 hour, possibly more. As a side note; I do have some Duracell 2500 mAh batteries, but they drain noticeably faster than the Energizer brand. These observations are during light to moderate radio traffic in my area. Yours may differ.
A short comparison of the BR330T and Pro-97:
I think (from my experiences so far) that the BR330T receives equally as well, if not better due to the lack of overloading, as the Pro-97. Of course, I don't use the stock antennas on either. I use band specific antennas for monitoring (duckie/portable antennas). The Pro-97 seemed to be greatly affected by interference (as does the 2055). Also if I connected the 97 to my Scantenna, it was near useless without a global attenuator. The BR330T and Pro-97 seem to have about equal battery life (even though the 97 uses 4 batteries). In my opinion, the BR330T is the better scanner, however, this is just my opinion and hundreds will argue the opposite. I just like the dynamic memory, and other features offered by the 330. The BR330T costs about $100 more than the Pro-97 from most dealers, but you are getting much more of a scanner.

BR330T Top View - No Antenna
One thing I do like on the 97 is the analog squelch. The Pro-97's backlight is also brighter but the 330's is adequate. The Pro-97 is a good scanner, I can't deny that. However, the BR330T feels more rugged whereas the Pro-97 feels really cheap. I never used the Pro-97 other than on a desk because the belt clip looked and felt like it could break at any time. It sounds like I am bashing the 97, but I'm not. The 97 is a great scanner, I just prefer the Uniden BR330T over the Pro-97.
I am more than happy with my BR330T and BCD396T combo. I should have bought the BR330T when I bought the Pro-97/Pro-2055 combo, but I had to try out the GRE side of life. They are great scanners, no doubt, but the BR330T seems has some great features. Mainly, it is the dynamic memory and not overloading is what I like most about Uniden scanners.

Rear View - No Belt Clip
There are a few dislikes I have with the BR330T. I don't like that the 0 system quick key is missing. On my BCD396T I have quick keys 0 - 99 available. On the BR330T, you have 1-99. The 0 key on thh BR330T is reserved for Race Track Operation. I would have liked the backlight to be a bit brighter, but it is acceptable. As with my BCD396T, I would like to be able to see both the frequency and alpha tag at the same time. I have gotten used to this by having the BCD396T, still it is a small gripe I have. I'm not a fan of the SMA antenna connection, but they do give you the BNC/SMA adapter. I have grown to adjust to the SMA adapter. I could do without the NASCAR logo, but I understand why it is there and if by promoting these scanners through NASCAR gives Uniden more money to develop new scanners, then I am okay with it. Whatever they have to do to keep coming out with these great scanners!
I honestly don't like having to push down the VFO knob to turn the volume up or use the Function + VFO to adjust the squelch. I would have liked to be able to simply turn the knob to adjust each. Having to hold down the function button to use some of the features is also a little awkward at times, especially in the vehicle going 60 mph. It would have been nice to have the function key "stick" for x seconds so you could have 1 handed operation.\
Fire Tone Out would obviously be more useful if you could somehow search for Tone A and Tone B. Also if it would check each set of Tone Outs simultaneously regardless if it has the same RF frequency or not. But this is a matter or opinion, and not really something that I can gripe too much about. FTO works great, I just don't use it that much. Other than that, I am happy with my BR330T. I hope to keep it in the "shack" for a long time.
The BR330T is a very capable scanner if you don't need and/or want digital. In fact, this is one of the best analog hand held scanner on the market, hands down. It operates almost exactly like the BCD396T. It receives very well and has great features. It makes the perfect companion to the BCD396T. It will also make a great primary scanner. This is the scanner to have if you are in the market for an analog trunking scanner. I can't say enough about the features of this scanner, receive capabilities, and the memory setup that is unmatched (except for other Uniden products of course). Heck, I was even excited to get this even though I have it's big brother, the BCD396T. It is a great scanner at a reasonable price for the technology you get.

BR330T Batteries and Belt Clip
This review is from my experiences with this scanner. I make no guarantees about the operations of this scanner or features in your area. Your experiences may, and likely will differ.