Beltronics RX65 S7 Review

Review: Beltronics RX65 (S7 antenna)

Article written by Sui (radardetectorforum.org member)

 

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Introduction and Features

The RX65 S7 offers detection of police radar bands including X, K, Ka, and Ku. It also offers LIDAR (laser) detection. All bands essentially are implemented the same way in this unit – that is to say that the display style and implementation in functionality are uniform. All bands also can be individually enabled or disabled, and in the case of Ka band it can be set up to operate in the full 2.6gHz sweep of that particular band (international mode) or set up to scan only the frequencies employed by radar guns used in the United States (USA mode).

Ideally any RX65 (S7 or M4 versions) should only have Ku band and international Ka mode enabled if these radar detectors are being used in Europe. Otherwise Ku should be disabled and USA mode used for Ka if the radar detector being used is in the USA.

Three methods are offered for implementation of sensitivity and filtering. The user can specifically put the RX65 in Highway, City or AutoScan modes. AutoScan is as it implies – the DSP chip inside the detector scans the conditions in the current environment to determine the level of sensitivity for all bands. Highway mode is used for maximum sensitivity of all bands. City mode on the other hand reduces sensitivity in for X band for heavy urban areas, and there are three levels of X-band reduction offered (standard, lo-X and no-X).

Of the two modes (AutoScan and City) that are offered for combating falsing in urban areas, I personally find AutoScan to be a lot more effective since there are about as many K-band falses now as there are in X-band.

The RX65 S7 offers three signal strength display modes. The first is the conventional bar graphing from left to right and bars in increased height as the signal gets stronger. Secondly there is a technical display which will display the actual frequency of the threat (you do not get a graphical or numerical signal strength in this mode; you have to rely on the audio warning to determine the signal strength). Lastly, there is the multi threat display, which will display up to three of the strongest threats (one of each for X, K and Ka if being used in the USA). Signal strengths are represented visually in single digital numerical format – IE if you have a strong Ka signal and a moderate K signal and a weak X signal it would appear as “Ka9 K5 X1” and so on. It will not show multiple signals on the same band like the Valentine V1 does (sorry, no door sensor counting!).

Laser threats override all other threats regardless of display mode, which is typical in all modern detectors.

Consequently, this device is also compatible with Escorts ZR3 and ZR4 laser jamming systems. In actual use the radar detector will display “front shifting” or “rear shifting” when the ZR3/4′s jamming system is activated.

The RX65 S7 also offers POP and SWS modes. Neither of these features should even be enabled as there is virtually no activity on POP unless you live in Nevada, and SWS messaging never caught on and is essentially a useless feature at this point.

There are 4 levels of brightness in its display and the RX65 S7 has a fully adjustable volume control. Auto muting is also offered and although not user definable it will reduce the volume in a ratio related to your adjusted volume level. A mute/volume button is also offered in the standard issue smart cord (cigarette plug adapter) and there are buttons for mute and volume on the radar detector itself.

The unit has a male voice radar/laser band announcement option which can be enabled or disabled.

The RX65 S7 offers several “Pilot” modes (which is just a fancy way of saying what is displayed on the display when there is no threat present). There are three choices which include displaying the full word of the sensitivity modes (Highway, AutoScan or City), a single letter (H A, or C) or the unit will display your vehicle’s battery voltage. It will also audibly alert you to poor vehicle battery voltage levels if it drops below 10.5 or above 16 volts, respectively.

Lastly, the RX65 S7 sports a bright red LED display.

 

Differences Between The S7 and M4 Versions

I have seen a lot of speculation lately about the differences between the original RX65 S7 and the current M4 version. Here are the main differences between the two units:

In actual functionality and programming, the S7 and M4 version’s user interface is virtually identical, save two extra options.

In the band mod submenu in the M4 version of the RX65, there is an option for TSR, which is a newer filter that has been introduced to eliminate the short-burst alerts created by drones found on the highway (these drones do not actually measure speed or act as speed cameras but rather are monitoring and reporting data to local authorities for traffic flow of a freeway in congested areas).

Otherwise, if you have used an S7 version of the RX65, you will find you do not have to refer to the manual to set up and operate your M4 version.

One other additional feature that the M4 provides is that it is compatible with the new Escort Live software app for smart phones to work in unison with the RX65 and provide a GUI interface for the detector – the original S7 did not and will not have this feature available.

Also the M4 version is available in both red and blue LED displays whereas the original S7 only offered the red display.

In terms of actual performances and behavior, however, there are some differences that the user needs to be aware of. Most importantly, the reactivity time of the two units is VASTLY different, with the original S7 being much faster than the revised M4 version. The reason for this is the USA mode in the M4 does NOT disable RDR, which significantly reduces the reactivity time of the RX65 to instant on shots – so much so that the new version will miss a lot of instant shots that have duration of 500ms or less. The bottom line here is if you live in an area where law enforcement heavily employs the I/O technique in measuring the speed of a vehicle, the M4 version will put you at a disadvantage because it often will MISS the I/O shot completely and not alert the driver.

Actual detection range on the two versions also differs slightly although the differences are not as drastic. The S7 version holds the advantage in off axis performance and rivals higher end units such as the Valentine V1 while the M4 version holds a slight advantage in overall range in a straight up encounter (and again rivals a V1’s overall range, especially on Ka band). If your main threat is constant on, it’s hard to go wrong with either unit – but you might want to consider the tactics of your local law enforcement agencies – do they tend to stay on the side of the road (on axis) or do they hide off the road a little bit (off axis)? This may or may not prompt the user to go with a certain version as a result.

In respect to LIDAR encounters, the M4 version has improved laser sensitivity over the S7 version, but the functionality of laser detection remains identical.

Lastly the stability of the two platforms also needs to be considered – clearly the M4 version is more stable when it comes to overall reliability as the S7 design was somewhat prone to malfunctioning, especially in more extreme heat/sunny conditions because of the more complicated physical design of the horn. It should also be noted here that heat and sun is bad for virtually all radar detectors and that the user should take proper measures in protecting them from sun and heat exposure – especially when the vehicle is parked and not running.

 

Driving with the RX65 S7

In short, this is really a question of “What’s not to like here?” The RX65 S7 was once the flagship radar detector for Beltronics, and was regarded as one of the very best radar detectors ever made at the time. Although this title has since been stripped, this unit continues to hold its own and is an extremely fierce competitor in today’s market when one considers the price to feature and performance ratio in the current market.

Strengths

The overall sensitivity of this unit on all bands is nothing short of fantastic. It is very difficult to break down performance on individual band levels because it simply performs very well in C/O on-axis or off-axis conditions, most notably the latter. I have had instances where the RX65 S7 has picked up off axis radar threats a block down AND a block over, through buildings and other obstacles from an LEO’s K-band constant on gun (this suggests this unit is very sensitive to reflected signals since line of sight applies to police radar bands). The results for off-axis Ka encounters are very similar as is X-band (please note I can only measure X-band performance on falses generated by door sensors at my local retailers). Aft detection also works very well (although results will vary depending on the vehicle you drive and where you have your radar detector mounted) and I personally have been parked off to the opposite side of the road and faced completely in the opposite direction and still have managed to detect LEO’s approaching several blocks away (another case of reflected signals off buildings and other objects). When the LEO is sitting off the side of the road and/or positioned behind a curve I regularly still get warning times of 45 seconds and sometimes more.

Straight up the detection range on both K and Ka band from legitimate threats has provided very adequate warning time as well – on average I get warning times of 90-120 seconds (around 1.5 to 2.5 miles) out on open straight road. I often have gotten warning times of 45 seconds when an LEO is hidden in a small valley that I am approaching, and in some cases with straight road and hills between my vehicle and the source I have managed warning times of 80 seconds or more (see video below).

In cases of I/O encounters, which in my area and surrounding areas I get hit with regularly, again the RX65 S7 is very adept at catching these warnings because of the lightning fast reactivity time in USA mode.

The technical display is also a gem. Now while one should not regard the reported frequencies as being 100% accurate it makes it a lot easier to determine if the source is a real threat or just a false. I also have noticed that certain agencies tune their radar guns to certain frequencies on both K and Ka-bands, and this further simplifies the process of determining whether the relative frequency shown is a real threat or not. The simple rule for this is go by the documented range of police bands versus the frequency displayed, and then take the appropriate action to eliminate the possibility of getting a speeding ticket.

The ramping qualities of the RX65 S7 are extremely linear. In fact it could quite possibly have the mellowest ramp up of all radar detectors. In the case of constant on encounters, it will not scream bloody murder when a threat is a mile and a half away, but instead render a very gradual (almost lazy) ramp up in signal strength. The real time reporting of the way the signal is affected (by hills, curves, and other vehicles passing in front of the source, etc.) is also quite accurate, and – as it should be.

Ironically, as low key as the ramp up for constant on encounters can be, the behavior of this unit in the case of an instant on threat is completely the opposite – especially if the threat is a strong signal source. The RX65 S7 almost literally reaches up and slaps you in the face – screaming out a solid tone warning (as opposed to the broken tone that one gets with constant on, even at full strength). If the I/O threat is Ka band, and the source is strong – the display will also flash on and off several times. It is very unmistakable when it happens. The benefit of this drastically different behavior for I/O should be obvious – it becomes ridiculously easy to distinct between legitimate C/O and I/O threats without any real guesswork involved. In the real world it can be the reaction time to an I/O shot that makes the absolute difference between getting a save and getting a traffic citation – and the faster your radar detector reacts, the faster YOU react. I cannot say enough about the value of the way this is implemented in the RX65 S7.

The multiple threat display and the way the RX65 deals with multiple threats in either technical or standard display modes is also very useful – I have had instances where I was operating in multi-threat mode in an area known to have cruisers equipped with both K and Ka radar guns, and have encountered two cruisers right next to each other with one using K and the other Ka. This display mode makes it a bit easier to identify this type of circumstance.

Furthermore, even if this is happening and you are not using the multi threat display, RX65 S7 behaves in a manner that still makes it relatively easy to identify that you are indeed dealing with two real threats instead of one real threat and a door sensor – Stronger signals will take priority when displaying one threat at a time and will force the weaker door sensors (or other false sources) to sit in the background. However if it’s a case of two real sources with similar signal strengths the RX65 will alternate between the two in warning priority. It will show the Ka threat and then flip to the K-band threat, and then flip back to the Ka threat and so on. I have had this happen in technical display mode where I first thought the RX65 was malfunctioning and as it turned out, I found a group of 5 LEO’s about 1.5 miles further down the road using both K and Ka bands.

The display itself is also really nice – and I have to say this is the first red LED display that I have used that doesn’t get completely washed out on bright sunny days. The four levels of brightness gives the user enough options to be as easily read – or as easily stealthy at night depending on one’s desire. The audio quality of this unit is quite clean – even when set at relatively low levels I can still blast music pretty loud and the alert tones cut through well enough for me to still hear it as opposed to making me jump because I have the volume set really loud so I can hear the warning over the music. And for those annoying falses when I am in heavy traffic in a congested area and have left my detector in highway mode, I can easily reach the mute button on the cord and not have to lean forward to change the city/highway mode – and the false warnings stay muted as long as the same frequency is being read by the RX65.

And speaking of AutoScan/city modes – even though the RX65 S7 does not have the TSR filter like its new M4 sibling, it still does a pretty good job of quieting it down in such conditions – the last time I had to go through Houston TX, it (autoscan mode) did a decent job of keeping it quiet unless there was a real threat present.

Weaknesses

As many nice things I have to say about the RX65 S7, there are a couple of things I find a bit lacking in this unit.

First off – the supplied power cord. It’s just too short and has too much tension. Now while high tension goes a long way to keep the unit from wobbling when you’re driving, it is very easy to have the unit fly out of your hands when either latching or de-latching it from the windshield mount. This has happened to me a couple of times, and I’ve been lucky that the unit never hit anything that could possibly damage it from the impact. Just be weary of this when you are mounting the unit with the stock cord and it is stretched out some. Fortunately Belscort does offer a hardwire kit and/or a longer cords that come in the coiled or non coiled variety.

I am not a big fan of the laser functionality or sensitivity of this particular radar detector. I have to say this is the RX65 S7’s biggest suck factor. For starters, the Whistler unit I have flatly outperformed this unit when I conducted a side by side laser sensitivity test. Furthermore, the RX65 S7 tends to give laser alerts in places where infrared wouldn’t seem to be present – it doesn’t happen with mine very often but it can be annoying.

Also the fact that it does not identify the pulse rate of the laser source generally makes it a total crapshoot in guessing whether you were just hit by real lidar gun or not when you have no visual confirmation of an LEO shooting you with it. Overall the laser detection feature is not very useful, and the alert tone for it – especially when encountering several falses by airports and so forth – is extremely irritating to the ears. Since laser alerts also trump every other kind of alert regardless, it can be very distracting when dealing with a real radar threat.

Videos of Beltronics RX65 S7 In Action

    • Impressive off-axis encounter with the Beltronics RX65 S7. Was coming downhill and around a curve. The LEO was approaching off to the right on another road which mostly approaches the road I was on at about a 45 degree angle with a slight turn to 90 degrees about 75 yards before the intersection with the traffic light.

 

    • Good range Ka-band C/O encounter on 33.8 – LEO was on opposite side of the freeway with a customer pulled over and there was a concrete barrier between me and the source. Also, the RX65 first detected this behind a hill that I cross over about halfway into the encounter.

 

Conclusion

For a design that has been around for nearly a decade, I think the best way to describe this is the RX65 S7’s value could be sort of likened to a classic car that holds its own. More specifically, it has held up very well in comparison to the newer technology, and in some cases is still better than a lot of the newer (and more expensive) radar detectors in many ways. If I had to make a model to model comparison of what the RX65 S7 is most similar to – I would have to say it is a Valentine V1 with similar reactivity time, slightly less overall sensitivity and minus the arrows.

It is very difficult to fault anything in this unit when one considers the current price point of $199 from the Escort’s eBay store. Having said this, I will also state this is just not a case of bang for the buck – it’s also about the feature set AND performance. I can absolutely recommend it to anyone who needs a very good overall radar detector.

In short – hands down, the Beltronics RX65 S7 is likely the best radar detector available for under $350.00, in terms of features, detection range and reactivity time. This thing simply gets the job done, and the beauty of that is the fact it does it very well.

The manual for this detector from the manufacturer can be found here: http://www.beltronics.com/manuals/rx65manual.pdf