Receiver Review: Bearcat 210 XLT

I bought one of these used for $10 at the Puyallup Hamfest last March, and it’s been a great addition to my lineup of receivers. I use it to monitor a couple local ham repeaters from the main living room so I won’t miss a call if I’m not in the radio room. For that purpose, it’s a steal of a deal at $10.

It is over 20 years old. Which means:

  • Don’t assume one you see for sale works. I looked at two at the Hamfest, plugging in and trying both. Good idea, as the one I passed on had some glitches.
  • No trunking; that technology was in its infancy a quarter-century ago.
  • No digital modes like P25. Same story as above.
  • “Only” 40 memory channels in 2 banks, not hundreds in dozens of banks.
  • No tone or digital squelch, carrier squelch only. Not a terribly big deal, as carrier squelch will still work in such situations.
  • “Wide band” FM only; it way predates the recent narrowbanding mandate. Not a big deal, just turn up the volume to compensate. Plus the ham repeaters I monitor still all use wide band.

It’s not all bad news, though. It has some nice features:

  • A simple user interface. It doesn’t have many features, and there’s basically a dedicated key or control for each one. I didn’t need to use a manual to figure out how to use it; it’s that self-explanatory.
  • A built-in power supply, a big plus if you leave it powered on for extended periods (as one tends to do with a scanner).
  • A nice bright vacuum-fluorescent display that’s easy to read in dim conditions.
  • Decent audio. I can easily hear it anywhere in the main part of the house.

It’s a scanner, not a general-purpose communications receiver. There’s no tuning knob or S-meter. It receives FM only in most of its range, and AM only in the air bands. Not a big deal for me, as I bought it to scan FM, and it works just fine for this purpose.

I even sometimes eavesdrop on the local police and fire services with it, because I’m in one of those areas that’s never adopted either trunking or digital technology for its public service communications.

All in all, if you can live with their limitations, those old scanners can, as mentioned earlier, be a steal of a deal.

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