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Which Radar Detector Should I Buy?
Choosing a radar detector can seem like a daunting task. There are many different options out there and countless websites telling you which one is the best; however the reality is there isn’t a “best radar detector.” Before making a purchase it is important to consider the main environments where you drive, the type of feature set you think you would like, the types of threats (radar bands used as well as the presence of other types of traps) in your area, as well as your driving style.
If you drive mainly on curvy and hilly roads you will want to focus your search on detectors that have good off-axis performance. If most of your travels are in a city where false alerts are prevalent, consider detectors that offer GPS based filtering to automatically mute those falses. If you normally only drive 10mph over the speed limit you may not need a detector with top dollar performance. If you live in an area where radar detectors are illegal your options may be limited to detectors from Escort and Beltronics which use the M3 platform, since they are stealth to radar detector detectors (RDDs) like the Spectre unit used in Virginia.
Since 2013, there have been some major advancements in radar detectors. Perhaps the biggest improvement in performance has been band segmentation, otherwise abbreviated as “BS.” Basically, this feature, which was traditionally found only in the Beltronics STi-R Plus, allowed users to fine-tune their detectors to scan for certain Ka-bands. This tuning option improved early detection dramatically, since detectors would spend less filtering on a wide array of signals, and therefore only scan for specific, and known threats. Another advancement has been in the form of additional accessories like the V1Connection and the custom app called YaV1 for the Valentine radar. The V1Connection is a Bluetooth module that allows users to also setup band segmentation on their Valentine radar detectors. The YaV1 app, which utilizes the V1Connection module, is a similar in function and has been very popular among members here.
A new detector has risen this past year, and the Escort Max has proved to be great detector; however, we have not tested it. It has gone through some upgrades following it’s introduction, however, those upgrades have greatly improved it’s settings and have shown the detector to be sensitive and provide timely alerts to the common K and Ka bands.
We are not going to try and tell you exactly which radar detector (rd) is the perfect match for you, but we can point you in the right direction. After reading this you should have a few specific models in mind and then I would suggest going on the forum to read reviews of those models by individuals who have used them, watching real world performance videos, and asking the members of our community any questions you may have.
While you may have encountered many different brands of radar detectors when looking online, only four are worth considering for purchase: Escort, Beltronics, Valentine Research, and Whistler. Anything else is garbage. Don’t waste your time. It is also important to know that Escort, Beltronics, and Whistler make multiple models of RDs, but oftentimes they are built from the same antenna design. In addition, Beltronics is a subsidiary of Escort, so a model by Beltronics may be physically the same as another model from Escort, but the Beltronics model will contain a few different features and a different personality. Click here for a better explanation and pictorials of the following platforms.
Escort / Beltronics
- S7 Antenna – This is an older antenna design, but it is preferred by many as a good performing budget RD especially when it comes to off axis detection. This antenna isn’t used in any of the detectors sold on the Escort or Beltronics websites, but they can still be purchased in refurbished form from their Escort Radar eBay Store.
- M5 Antenna – This is the newest antenna from Escort, only found in the Max. Its shape is substantially similar to that of the M4, giving it less off-axis sensitivity than the M3. Its “back-end” is different than that of the M4, in that it is “all-digital” with a faster chip set, allowing for superb reactivity.
- M4 Antenna – This is a newer antenna design that Escort and Beltronics use in most of their current detectors. It offers better on axis sensitivity than the S7 but weaker off axis performance.
- M3 Antenna – This is the generally the consensus top-performing antenna from Beltronics and Escort. Originally designed by Beltronics engineers, the M3 is the only platform that is completely stealth to all radar detector detectors including the Spectre Elite. In addition it offers amazing sensitivity to radar both on and off axis. It is found in the following Beltronics detectors (STi-R Plus, STi Magnum) and in the following Escort detectors (9500ci, Redline). This setup is actually two antennas housed in the case.
- V1 Dual Antenna – Valentine Research only makes one detector – the Valentine One. It employs a dual antenna design which includes a smaller antenna pointing towards the rear of the vehicle. This allows for the unique feature of arrows pointing to the direction of the radar threat, (forward, backwards, to the side). The V1 offers great on axis sensitivity but can suffer from average off-axis Ka performance, especially with 35.5 GHz.
- SE Antenna – The newer Whistler SE series of radar detectors use this antenna and have identical performance but different features depending on the model type. They offer some unique features at a low price point with decent performance against Ka band. They do not offer the same level of performance against X and K bands, but if you live in an area where Ka is your threat and need a budget detector, the Whistler SE series is worth considering. While they may not be as sensitive as higher dollar detectors, they do boast a very high reactivity rivaling even the V1.
Radar Detector Listing
The following is a list of common detectors with good reviews. Detectors in the table that are highlighted in yellow have been recently tested by us and those results can be seen in the links below the table. Please click here for the last radar detector test conducted by ECCTG.
|Radar Detector Listing|
|Price||Manufacturer / Model||Picture||Information|
|$100-$150||Whistler 68SE||This unit uses the same antenna design as the more expensive SE models from Whistler, but lacks a few features such as the Ka Max (which boosts Ka performance) and frequency display. Review|
|$150-$200||Whistler Z27R||The Z-lineup has replaced the XTR models that are no longer sold by the manufacturer. The high performance Z-27R detects all new lasers used in the United States and offers Traffic Flow Signal Rejection (TFSR). This detector is currently sold new.|
|Beltronics V6||This is an entry-level detector like the Pro 100 and a good choice for the economical driver. It is not as new as the Pro 100, so it may not be as updated to detect newer LIDAR guns.|
|Beltronics Pro 100||It features six times the sensitivity of imported detectors, POP detection, and recognizes the latest assortment of LIDAR guns.|
|$200-$250||Whistler CR85||The high performance CR85 detects all new lasers used in the United States and features Ka Max Mode, and features a blue OLED Text Display.|
|Beltronics RX65||This is a great detector and in my personal opinion the best budget RD out there. Earlier models used the S7 antenna which has good off axis performance and these units had the feature “USA Mode.” When in this mode, the RX65 scans a smaller portion of the Ka band, specifically for the frequencies used in the USA, and it also cuts out some of the Ka filtering. This results in a nice boost in performance making this detector comparable to more expensive units. One disadvantage to this detector is its susceptibility to calibration problems. Later units used the M4 antenna, which reduced some of its off-axis sensitivity and falsing. Only the M4 units are compatible with Escort Live. Review 1, Review 2, Review 3|
|$300-$350||Beltronics Pro 300||This detector compares to the Escort 8500X50 at a slightly reduced cost. It has selectable features such as Selectable bands (allows users to turn off certain bands), TSR, POP alert, and SWS alert.|
|Escort Passport 8500 X50 Black||Here we have an increase in performance from the Vector 995 by the addition of a better lens, as well as the option of a blue display and Escort’s threat alert mode.|
|$400-$500||Beltronics Pro 500||This radar detector includes a GPS chip that allows the detector to have a built in database of location-based threats such as speed cameras, red light cameras, and well known speed trap locations. The database can be updated by plugging the RD into a computer. In addition the detector allows you to lock out false alerts on X and K band based on your location so that when you drive by that false again the detector will automatically mute. Also a plano convex lens boosts its performance when compared to the previously mentioned M4s.|
|Escort 9500ix||Similar to the Pro 500 but with an Escort flavor and a new feature called “Autolearn.” Instead of just manually locking out false alerts, Autolearn will automatically lock out a false alert after you have driven by it 2-4 times.|
|Escort SmartRadar||Escort’s only radar detector that functions like a remote mounted unit. It mounts on the windshield, preferably behind the rearview mirror, and uses a remote display for programming its customizations and providing the user all threat information like all of Escort’s detectors.|
|Escort Redline||Here we have the most sensitive windshield mount available. The M3 antenna gives the Redline not only stealth from RDDs but also amazing sensitivity on all bands and great performance when it comes to off axis encounters. This detector can be very chatty in the city, but “Auto Mode” does quiet it down some. The main downside to this detector is its overly aggressive Ka audio ramp-up. This detector now has band segmentation making it very sensitive to Ka and K bands based on how the user chooses to filter frequencies!|
|Escort Redline XR||WARNING – DO NOT BUY THIS DETECTOR! This detector is sold by radartest.com and is not a unit sold by Escort Incorporated online or in retail stores. It is a Redline detector that radartest.com has simply configured in less than 1 minute and charged $100 to the customer. Look here and save yourself $100 – the video is titled “Redline BS and RDR Settings.” Our Moderator has also posted a video to show users how to customize their factory Redline into a “Redline XR.”|
|Beltronics STi Magnum||This is the original M3 antenna design and while it is not as sensitive as the Redline the STi Magnum may be preferred by some for two key reasons. Since it is less sensitive it is not nearly as chatty in the city and it has almost perfect rampup on all bands.|
|Valentine 1||This is probably the most famous of all the RDs. The Valentine One has been a top performer for many years and offers the unique features of the bogey counter and arrows. These features give the driver an extra level of situational awareness, and can help when trying to decide if a signal is actually a threat or not. The increase in sensitivity on X and K band when compared to all the other RDs previously discussed can make the V1 very chatty if you drive through the city frequently but it does have some programming features to help quiet it down. The ability to turn off Ka filtering by setting “Ka Guard” to off may make Ka falses intolerable for some, but others who live in more rural environments may welcome the performance boost on Ka. The V1 is well known for his high reactivity which may appeal to those driving through certain areas such as Texas. This detector can now be equipped with the V1Connection allowing it unprecedented sensitivity to Ka and K bands!|
|$550||Escort Passport Max||This is Escort’s newest radar detector, and the first to used the M5 antenna, which creates what Escort calls High Definition (HD) radar detection performance. The windshield mounted detector has a OLED color display for providing users clear visuals of all alerts. The company states that the radar detection screens bands to a higher level than previous detectors in order to provide more accurate alerts for threats while minimizing false alerts. Review|
|$800||Escort 8500ci Plus||Remote Mounted Unit – Escort’s most recently released remote detector takes the M4 antenna, mounts it in the bumper, and adds the GPS features akin to the 9500ix. I honestly think the price point is a tad high, but if this is what your looking for its available.|
|$1200||Beltronics STi-R Plus||Remote Mounted Unit – Now it’s time for one of my personal favorites. The STi-R Plus uses the stealth M3 antenna platform, coupled with the GPS features from the 9500ix (Autolearn), but also uses a few exclusive features: Ka Band Segmentation and RDR-off. Our initial testing seems to indicate that the STi-R Plus might be slightly less sensitive than the original STi-R or the 9500CI; however, band segmentation and RDR-off more than make up for that by giving the STi-R Plus a high level of reactivity unsurpassed by any other detector.|
|$1600||Escort 9500ci||Remote Mounted Unit – Escort’s version of the M3 remote unit. For $400 more you get a slight increase in sensitivity, the Escort voices and tones, and a set of ZR4 LIDAR shifters, but you lose band segmentation and RDR-off. The main reason for the cost increase is the included ZR4s LIDAR shifters; however, the performance of these jammers pale by comparison to Laser Interceptor, AntiLaser Priority, or Blinder products.|
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