September, 2015

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Uniden LRD950 Review

UnidenLRD950

 

Introduction

Several years have passed since Uniden tapered its production of high performance radar detectors. A few of our members here owned some of these early models, like the Uniden LRD 6299SW, which had above-average detection performance. After a long break over the past few years, Uniden has finally returned to making premium detectors by introducing three new detectors, including the Uniden LRD950. This new detector is much more advanced than its predecessors from the late 1990 and early 2000 timeframe. An immediate glance of the LRD950’s screen indicates it is ready to seek and find speed traps as well as  provide the driver important information about their surroundings. The purpose of the following article is to highlight the LRD950’s basic features, discuss the performance of its radar and laser detection, discuss the filtering features and Red Light Camera (RLC) notification system, and provide readers our recommendation to either purchase it or stay away from it.

 


 

Specifications

Radar and LIDAR (laser) Detection

    • X-band
    • K-band
    • Ka-band
    • Laser

Radar Receiver Type : Double conversion, superheterodyne, self-contained antenna

LIDAR Infrared Receiver Type : Pulsed Laser signal receiver at 800 – 1100 nm LIDAR receiver 

Global Positioning System (GPS) Receiver : Built-in GPS receiver

Spectre Undetectable : Spectre I and IV Undetectable (NOTE : our observations showed that this detector “leaks” and can be detected by other radar detectors, therefore the company’s claims need further investigation)

Dimensions

    • Length : 4.53″ (110.00 mm)
    • Width : 2.72″ (69.00 mm)
    • Height : 1.16″ (29.50 mm)
    • Weight: 6 ounces (170 grams)

Power Requirement

    • Dash accessory outlet : 12V DC coiled power cord (included), with RJ45 connection

Firmware & Red Light Camera Updates

    • Standard USB cord (included)
    • Uniden LRD950 Updater program : software downloaded from the Uniden website
      • Requires Windows Operating System (no availability for Apple OS users at this time)

 

Features

Display : Organic Light-emitting diode (OLED) alphanumeric in light blue

    • Alert Screen
      • Radar : signal strength (1-5), signal type, and signal frequency
      • LIDAR
      • Red Light Camera (RLC) Alerts: photo-enforced areas
    • Additional information
      • Vehicle Speed (mph or kmh), Compass (8-points), Vehicle Voltage, Altitude, Time (GPS based)

User Preference Settings

    • City / Highway detection modes
      • In City Mode, the LRD950 disables the detection of X-band, whereas in Highway Mode, the X-band detection is enabled
    • Selectable radar bands
      • X-band
      • K-band
      • Ka-band
      • Ka-band : POP detection
    • False threat filtering
      • Traffic Sensor Filter (TSF High and Low) : mode filters K-band noise emitted from traffic monitoring sensors on highways
    • Tone / Voice
      • Voice alerts state the band
      • Auto Mute : reduces volume of alert to level 1 after 3 seconds
    • Display Settings
      • Bright, Dim, and Dark
    • Factory Default

 

Included and Optional Accessories

LRD950 - 12V DC Power Adapter with RJ45 connection

Uniden LRD950 – 12V DC Power Adapter with RJ45 connection

LRD950 - Windshield mounting bracket

Uniden LRD950 – Windshield mounting bracket

 

Overview of the Uniden LRD950

Since the Uniden’s LRD950 release in June 2015, our popular radar detector tester on this forum, “Vortex,” has had the opportunity to thoroughly use a brand new LRD950 in everyday driving conditions and determine its strengths and weaknesses. Beyond discussing this detector’s exterior aesthetics or its firmware, this article will discuss how the Uniden LRD950 performs in long-range radar detection, radar detection sensitivity, and false alert mitigation. These are perhaps the three most important features for any radar detector, since they provide the greatest situational awareness to a driver in order to provide a spirited, yet safe driving experience.

Size and Weight Comparison J

Uniden LRD950 (below) - it is shorter than the Passport Max and about as wide as the Beltronics RX65

Uniden LRD950 (below) – it is slightly longer but less wide, and 0.4 oz lighter than a Valentine One

As depicted in the picture above, the Uniden LRD950 is generally the same size and weight as the top radar detectors. Its weight scores well since it will not cause uncontrollable bouncing on the windshield mount, potentially causing it to fall on the dash while driving. Other detectors like the Escort Redline (10.2 ounces) and the Escort Passport Max (9.6 ounces) are now shipped with the Stickycup Windshield Mount, since the traditional windshield mounts poorly held these detectors onto the windshield.

Display and Aesthetics K

Uniden LRD950 - Front (showing Speed, GPS Time, and Detection Highway Mode (H)

Uniden LRD950Front (showing Speed, GPS Time, and Detection Highway Mode “H”)

Uniden LRD950 - Left Side (showing USB Port for firmware and RLC updates)

Uniden LRD950Left Side (showing USB Port for firmware and RLC updates)

Uniden LRD950 - Right Side (showing audio port, and RJ45 power connection port)

Uniden LRD950Right Side (showing audio port, and RJ45 power connection port)

The Uniden LRD950 scored 3 of 5 stars, due mainly to its display of signal strengths. This detector alerts users to radar by lighting five, small dots between the “MUTE/DIM” and “MARK” buttons, shown on the picture to the left. As easily shown in this picture, identifying a lit dot is incredibly challenging because the visible differences between lighted dots is almost non-existent unless the detector is seen in a dark or shadowed area. Moreover, the following picture shows the difficulty in this identification during a semi-cloudy day, which would imply that on a sunny day, identifying the strength of an alert with a quick glance would be extremely challenging and leave the driver to estimate the proximity of the threat by the detector’s audio alerts. All other notifications, such as the speed, time, and frequency of received alerts, are easily discernible, due to the high quality of the OLED screen. Our reviewer also found the silver, plastic “Uniden” logo on top of the detector to cause distracting glares on the windshield. Videos throughout this article easily show this glare on the windshield, as well as some glare caused by the shiny silver paneling on the detector. This minor observation did not factor into our given rating in this category, since it would not affect some users who decide to mount the detector near the visor. Nevertheless, the poor design of the dotted signal strength indicator cost this detector 2 negative points, since we feel that a quick glance at a detector to view the strength of a threat is very important.

Radar Detection Performance J

The Uniden LRD950 scored very favorably in this category, which encompasses measuring the detector’s range for alerting to threats, sensitivity to the faintest signals, and the detector’s features for mitigating false alerts. In early July 2015, another veteran forum member, “hiddencam,” conducted controlled testing on several radar detectors, including “Vortex’s” Uniden LRD950, which was a loaned detector from another forum member named “joehemi.” This detector scored very well against 2 of 3 Ka-bands, and also scored very well against detecting K-band radar. Beginning on the first chart below, our tester discovered an almost below average detection range for the Uniden LRD950 against the Ka-band 33.8 GHz. When the unit was tested with the POP setting enabled, the test demonstrated a very small improvement of 18 feet in detection. Against the very popular 34.7 GHz Ka-band, the Uniden LRD950 did an outstanding job of detecting the radar gun a little less than a mile away! Given the fact that this detector does not have a “band segmentation” feature, which is common to the Valentine One, Escort Redline, and Radenso Pro detectors, the measured detection range clearly puts this detector in our long-range detection category. The LRD950 had slightly above-average measurements with regards to detecting the Ka-band 35.5 GHz. As seen in the third chart, the LRD950 had a longer detection range against this Ka-band (35.5 GHz) than the Escort Passport Max. Lastly, the Uniden LRD950 scored exceptionally well against the K-band radar gun used on the test course, beating some of the crown holders like the Radenso Pro, the Valentine One (version 3.872), the Beltronics RX65, and the Escort Redline and Passport Max. This detector certainly has the potential and room for improvement against all these radar guns. For enthusiasts, we would like to share an interesting observation our member, Nine_C1, found between the RF boards on the Uniden LRD950 and Radenso Pro. In this post, one can see similarities between these RF boards, so given this and the observed detection capability of the Radenso Pro in the charts below, perhaps Uniden will enhance the firmware for the LRD950 on par, or better than the Radenso Pro. Only time will tell, but this ball is in Uniden’s court, and we hope they will listen to our voice on this forum, like other manufacturers have in the past, and go for the goal.

Ka-Band and K-Band Test Results

Ka-band 33.8 GHz (distances in feet)

Ka-band 33.8 GHz (distances in feet)

Ka-band 34.7 GHz (distances in feet)

Ka-band 34.7 GHz (distances in feet)

Ka-band 35.5 GHz (distances in feet)

Ka-band 35.5 GHz (distances in feet)

K-band (distances in feet)

K-band (distances in feet)

POP Detection and Instant On (I/O) – A test of Sensitivity

With respect to radar detection sensitivity, the Uniden’s LRD950 Ka-band POP detection is well above average, and scored better than the Radenso Pro in our most recent review. When it was tested against a MPH Bee III radar unit utilizing POP, the Uniden LRD950 detected about 70% of the test shots. Although POP radar is legal, a speed enforcement official is still required by law to use the radar in a constant ON mode to fully justify the targeted vehicle’s speed, because POP is only ON for a fraction of a second and therefore cannot allow the official to accurately log the speed over time. In 2004, very few radars could detect POP radar bursts, however, advancements in radar technology by the top radar detector manufacturers have made POP detection reliable and even allow users to turn POP detection ON or OFF. The video below shows “Vortex” test firing a MPH Bee III radar against the Uniden LRD950 with POP enabled:

Additionally, “Vortex” conducted a short test against the detector’s ability to alert against radar bursts from moving “Instant On” (I/O) shots. These types of instances occur when speed enforcement officials keep their radar guns OFF while driving on the highway and then quickly turn them ON to get a vehicle’s speed in an effort to remain inconspicuous by minimizing their presence due to radar noise. In the video below, the LRD950 demonstrated excellent sensitivity to I/O:

 

False Alert MitigationJ

The Uniden LRD950 has two false alert mitigating features: K-band Filter, and GPS-based Location Lockouts. Unlike other radar detector companies that have designated names to features that ignore radar sources from traffic monitoring systems, or from new vehicles equipped with blind-spot monitoring systems (BSMs), Uniden has simply decided to drop the designator and call this mitigating feature “K Band Filter.” This feature does not perform the same function as Valentine One’s Traffic Monitor Filter (TMF) or Escort’s Traffic Sensor Rejection (TSR) by eliminating false alerts from these traffic systems on highways. It simply minimizes the false alerts from other K-band radar sources like those found in newer vehicles with Blind Spot Monitors, in the same manner as Escort’s Radar Detector Rejection (RDR) setting. The single most interesting difference between the Uniden’s K Band Filter and the filters previously mentioned in other brands is this filter does not adversely affect the performance detection of the radar detector. Throughout our forums for the various radar detectors, some users will mention how they have disabled their detector’s TMF or RDR setting. This is due to the fact that enabling this feature on Valentine One or Escort detectors causes a decrease in K-band detection. Readers should take note of this observation by looking at the customized settings of Escort and Valentine One detectors in the charts listed above (next to the names of the detectors, TMF or RDR is shown as ON or OFF).

K Band Filter

The Uniden LRD950 can either have K-Band Filter ON or OFF, and this setting is adjusted using the MENU system. When enabled, this filter counters radar signals from traffic monitoring systems or blind-spot monitoring systems. Most importantly, enabling this feature does not degrade this detector’s K-band detection range. As mentioned above, this feature does not filter TSM sources, so if drivers live in areas where these systems are used, they will find this K Band Filter useless.

GPS Lockouts

This detector offers a feature enabling the radar detector to ignore a radar source based on user input. Like a similar lockout feature found on the Escort Passport Max 2 which is done either manually or automatically, the Uniden LRD950’s GPS lockout feature is done manually. This feature allows drivers to manually lockout a false source along their driving route so that the detector will not alert them every time they drive near it. Based on Vortex’s video below, the detector’s lock-out area is approximately 0.2 – 0.3 mile radius (322m – 482m), and it does a really good job at locking-out the false K-band sources from the Target grocery store and potentially other automatic doors from the same plaza. For comparison purposes, Escort’s GPS Lockout feature has a 0.5 mile (2,640 feet) radius, which some users think is too large and capable of locking-out a real threat. This detector has a maximum of 100 allowable storage locations for lock-outs. Other detectors, like the Valentine One or detectors from Escort, do not have a maximum limit. A combination of a small lock-out radius and maximum allocated storage locations can be an issue for some users who live in densely populated urban areas. Considering most false alert sources require a minimum of 2 lock-outs, as seen in the video, storing 50 places around town seems easily attainable. The video also showed a potential problem where a legitimate radar source, such as a K-band radar gun, is masked when the detector is in a lock-out area. This problem is present among other detectors using similar GPS-based lock-out features, therefore, readers should pay careful attention driving in areas with Lock-Out locations when there is a high chance a speed enforcement official may be present.

Additionally, the Uniden LRD950 offers a feature called Quiet Ride to minimize false alerts. This feature works in combination with the built-in GPS module allowing users to set a speed range wherein received radar alerts are muted. This feature, which is available on the Valentine One (SAVVY) or Escort’s detectors (Cruise Alert), works as intended, and there have been no known cases of users having issues with it.

 

Laser Detection  J

The Uniden LRD950 scored very well in the Laser Detection category. Most notably, we were impressed how it was able to detect a few of the elusive laser guns such as the Laser Atlanta Dragon Ally and the Dragon Eye Compact. Readers should be aware that the detection of LIDAR (laser) does not imply the option of braking quickly in order to defeat the ability of a speed enforcement official from determining the intended vehicle’s speed. Unlike speed measurements acquired from radar guns, laser guns are very precise from distances of 2,000 feet and can acquire a vehicle’s speed in approximately 0.3 seconds. Also, laser guns do not discharge excess signals capable of detection from far distances like those from radar guns. The majority of the time, when radar / laser detectors, alert to laser, the speed enforcement official has already acquired your vehicle’s speed. With active laser countermeasures, such as the Anti-Laser Priority (ALP) or the Stinger, these laser threats can be neutralized allowing drivers the ability to safely reduce their speed and causing the laser gun operator to find an easier target and meet ticket quotas. In terms of laser detection protection, it is possible for drivers of sensitive laser detectors like the LRD950 to detect “laser scatter,” which means their car was nearby a target of a surrounding laser gun. In such a scenario, the driver has that added situational awareness and can adapt to the road conditions as necessary.

 

Configuring Settings and Updates K

The Uniden LRD950 received 3 of 5 stars in this category due to two reasons. The first reason is due to the fact that the software required for updating the detector is only available on Windows Operating Systems. At the time this article was written, there has been no official information from Uniden indicating the intent to have their Firmware Update Manager available for use on Apple OS X computers. Makers of the Radenso Pro have a similar firmware update program, however, their representative on our forum has stated the company intends to have an Apple OS version of this software available soon. The second reason for scoring the LRD950 low in this category rests on the fact that Uniden has not released an update to their Speed Camera or Red Light Camera database since the detector’s release in the fall of 2014. Viewers can review the first video posted at the beginning of this article and notice on frame 29:50 how the current database version is “DB Ver: 14/10/29,” which is currently short of 11 months old. Additionally, in the video posted in the GPS Lockouts section of this article, readers can see how the LRD950 alerted “Vortex” to a Red Light Camera on frame 31:35 that was no longer at the approaching street intersection. We find this shortfall in updates unacceptable, and buyers should have a minimum of quarterly updates to their database as a result of changing statuses of these types of cameras on highways and streets.

In terms of user friendliness for changing the detector’s settings, such as the volume or brightness, or changing the detector’s Highway or City detection modes, the Uniden LRD950 scored well due to simple steps needed to make changes quickly. Additionally, the display alerts were easy to learn and relate to specific radar bands, since each radar band has a clear and distinct tone along with an easy-to-read display showing the received band and frequency.

 

Summary J (Long Range Category)

Overall, we rate the new Uniden LRD950 very favorably, due to its long range detection for Ka-band and K-band, sensitivity, and above average scores in laser detection and false alert mitigation features. At a starting price of around $220.00, this detector is capable of detecting the 34.7 GHz Ka-band radar gun at distances rivaled by other detectors costing at least $400.00. This detector would have scored higher in the category of long-range detection if it would have demonstrated better range for detecting other Ka-band radar guns like 33.8 GHz and 35.5 GHz. Although these latter two bands are not as common throughout the United States, the 33.8 GHz Ka-band radar gun is used in places like Washington. This detector also showed great long range detection against K-band radar guns, and from the K-band distance chart presented in this article, the Uniden LRD950 nearly tied with the Escort Redline by 3 feet. In the sensitivity category, we observed the Uniden LRD950 to be a solid performer with a 70% detection rate against the Ka-band POP radar, and alerting consistently to a moving, Instant On (I/O) radar gun. This detector also has a decent Lock-Out feature, however, its onboard storage capacity of only 100 locations is small when considering that some lock-out locations require a minimum of 2 storage locations. One major drawback we found with this detector was a failure of the company to provide adequate updates to the detector’s firmware, and Speed and Red Light Camera database. Buyers purchasing this detector, will be disappointed knowing the latest firmware on their brand new detector is almost 1 year old. The last database update from Uniden was their first update released on October 2014. Additionally, this detector’s firmware can only be updated with Uniden’s software, available for free on their official site; however, this software is only available on Windows OS computers, and the company has not provided any information signifying their intent to make an Apple OS X version available. Putting these two major shortfalls aside, we feel confident Uniden will update its firmware this fall of 2015 that will improve the its Ka-band detection as well as the K Band Filter to also detect and ignore false sources from TSMs. This detector definitely has the potential to become much better at detection and false alert mitigation, but at the offering price of $220.00 and its great detection performance, it certainly is a great detector for buyers who need a solid performer in this price range.

 


 

Notes

  • Special Thanks
    • Vortex – for conducting very thorough reviews and a tutorial of the Uniden LRD950 in order to show our readers and enthusiasts the pros and cons of this detector
    • joehemi – for loaning Vortex the Uniden LRD950 early this summer to do the video reviews you saw in this article
    • Hiddencam and contributors to the Uniden LRD950 Testing Event – for setting up the test course for the Uniden LRD950, and coordinating with several members to gather radar guns and radar detectors for true and unbiased testing comparisons
    • Preferred Vendor (BestRadarDetectors aka “BRD”) – for providing a loaner detector to Vortex for testing, and coordinating with other members for testing
    • Loyal members of our forum who have provided detailed information concerning the Uniden LRD950 on our site to inform the community and identify problem areas requiring improvement
  • Information and Discussion
    • Want to learn more about the Uniden LRD950 or discuss it with some of our members? Click here to view the Uniden forum on our site!
  • Ready to buy a Uniden LRD950?