If you love the world of radio communications and would like to always have access to it, an SDR dongle is exactly what you must buy. Easy to carry and highly functional, this stick is quite affordable. Also, there are many options on the market for you to choose from.
Before we get into the details, you must understand that the best dongle for your Software Defined Radio kit depends on your requirements. They may seem the same but differ quite largely based on connectors, temperature effect, and their chipset.
Best SDR Dongle
Here, we give you detailed SDR dongle reviews of some of the best dongles available online:
1) NooElec NESDR Nano 2+ SDR Dongle
NooElec NESDR Nano 2+ is among the top RTL SDR dongle models out there. It works seamlessly with Android as well as iOS applications. You can also use it for remote installations.
Let’s take a look at some of its features:
- It is extremely small in size – a square that measures less than 1-inch!
- It has the RTL2832U interface.
- It comes with the R820T2 tuner that is far more sensitive than the previous model.
- The dongle comes with remote control and a telescopic antenna.
- It works perfectly between the frequencies 25 MHz and 1750 MHz without any issues in the range.
- It has better phase noise than the Nano model.
- You can also pair it with the Ham It Upconverter. However, this is not included with the device.
- The connector type is female MCX on the SDR and its male counterpart on the antenna.
- The brand gives you a guarantee of 2 years with full technical support.
- A few users have complained that this device might be a little too fragile for them, but we think that at its price, it is an amazing purchase.
2) FlightAware Pro Stick USB ADS-B Receiver
Easily affordable, the FlightAware Pro Stick is a very popular RTL SDR dongle. It is a 20dB integrated amplifier using which you can increase the ADSB range according to your preferences.
Let’s dig deeper and assess its features:
- You need FlightAware ADS-B filter in order to use this receiver.
- It has R820T2 RTL2832U chips.
- It is supported by PiAware, which you can install and start using within minutes. Users have reported that the setup is pretty easy.
- It is USB powered.
- It does not include an antenna.
- It has a female SMA connector.
- For those who are looking to decode ADSB signals, you won’t get a better option than this one!
- It covers up to 1090 MHz.
3) NooElec NESDR Mini Dongle for SDR
Tuned specifically for SDR, the NooElec NESDR Mini 2+ is known for its accuracy. It is a total redesign that suits the RF power supply. It also has better capacitors and inductors, the brand claims.
Here are a few of its standout features:
- It is a GPS-rated 0.5 PPM TCXO crystal device.
- The company says that the power consumption is less and the noise floor is quite low as well.
- It comes with a good telescopic antenna.
- The package also includes a magnetic suction mount base and a female SMA adapter. You can use the adapter to connect SMA adapters with ease.
- A cheap, yet effective model, the NooElec Mini is a good option for learning SDR. You can work with satellite images, fire scanning, Abs-B, amateur radio, and much more with this little gem.
- It has the R820T2 tuner that is a significant improvement over the R820T tuner.
- It is actually built with European standards and may not work impeccably for North American digital TV.
- You can use it for FM in narrowband, AM, digital signals, and SSB.
- It works well on Windows, Linux, and iOS.
- There is also an advanced version of this model, the Mini 2+. You could check that out for better features.
4) RTL SDR Blog
Whether it is radio scanning, public safety radio, air traffic control, trunked radio, weather balloons, or radio astronomy, the RTL SDR blog is the perfect choice for you. It has numerous applications that make it a real catch at its price.
We have listed out its features for you:
- The package includes a dongle with a multi-purpose antenna set. The entire package is easily portable. The dongle is 1 PPM TCXO HF Bias Tee SMA V3. The dipole antenna set comes with telescopic antennae, an extension cable, a suction cup mount, and a flex tripod mount.
- It has a better component tolerance when compared to generic brands.
- It has the R820T2 tuner.
- It comes with a shielded case made out of aluminum, which has a thermal pad. This pad ensures the passive cooling of the device.
- You can use it to tune between 500 kHz and 1.8 GHz.
- If you are a beginner and are looking for a good kit to get going, this should definitely make your shortlist.
- The extension cable that the kit comes with allows you to place it anywhere so that reception is not compromised.
- The kit comes with a guide that will help you use it optimally.
- Keep in mind that this may not be the best choice for Mac users because a few iOS applications may not work with this device.
5) AVerMedia AVerTV Volar Hybrid Q SDR Dongle
One of the more popular devices, AVerMedia AverTV supports Windows and Android among others. You can easily watch analog TV on your desktop and listen to FM whenever you want!
Here are a few of its features:
- You can record your favorite shows thanks to its DVR support.
- You need the LiveTV app to use it on Android.
- It comes with a mini-antenna.
- It has the Picture In Picture function along with Time Shift and Smart Channel Grouping.
- It has an intuitive user interface that gives you a great user experience.
- It comes with an installation CD and an installation guide that will help you through the setup process.
- The brand offers a 2-year warranty.
6) NooElec NESDR Smart XTR SDR
If you are looking for a premium SDR, you won’t go wrong with this one. NooElec rarely disappoints, and with this one it has struck gold! The NESDR Smart SDR has multiple attractive features that will surely compel you to check it out. If you don’t believe us, please keep reading!
- It has an excellent, protective silver brushed aluminum enclosure.
- It is a new, premium SDR dongle that has extended tuning range. It, of course, surpasses its predecessors.
- The phase noise is just 0.5 PPM TCXO, which is extremely low and awesome!
- It has a custom heatsink, RF-suitable voltage regulators, and 2 silicone pads.
- The dongle has a female connector.
- It has been designed such that it reduces USB port occlusion with the utmost ease.
- Using the dongle, you will be able to run multiple devices together as long as they are compliant. In fact, you can even run Raspberry Pi! How cool is that?
- Its frequency capability ranges from 65 to 2300 MHz. Plus, you can extend this frequency or lower it using Ham It Up (sold separately).
- The dongle comes with a 2-year product warranty.
- One very important thing that you must keep in mind is that you should not use the NooElec NESDR dongle for ADS-B. There are other options for this.
7) NooElec NESDR Nano 3
It is tiny but don’t misunderstands it potential due to its size. It packs a punch! It is ideal for those who love small things that do big magic. Here’s are other reasons why this should be yours pronto:
- It has an aluminum enclosure and a custom heatsink.
- If you hate that other devices block USB ports, you will adore this one. It eliminates this problem completely and fits the port perfectly, leaving the rest for easy usage. In fact, it measures just 17 x 8 x 20 mm.
- It also has silicon pads. These, along with the aluminum enclosure, promise to keep the heat where it is supposed to be without allowing it to stray.
- The SDR dongle comes with an articulating SMA connector as well. This particular item gives you more flexibility when it comes to connections. You can connect to male MCX and male SMA without buying anything else.
- It has a 0.5 PPM TCXO (temperature-controlled crystal oscillator) that minimizes jittering and drift without compromising on the signal.
- It is compatible with a wide range of SDR packages such as Raspberry Pi, Mac, Android, Matlab, SDR Touch, and CubicSDR.
- It offers a tuning range of 25 to 1700 MHz. The dongle also offers USB interface functionality and basic demodulation thanks to its RTL2832U IC.
- The manufacturers want you to note that the enclosure may get hot when used for a long period of time. Don’t worry about it. It is normal. The only thing to remember is not to touch it when it gets so hot.
- You also get a full 2-year warranty with the SDR dongle.
Now that you have all the best RTL SDR dongle reviews right here, we think it will be easier for you to make a choice. If you are still confused or have any other dongles in mind, please feel free to share it with us through comments. Any feedback is highly appreciated!