Stinger VIP Radar – Review
If we were to go through our list of tests conducted over the past five years in search of the detector with the longest range, we would most likely discover a tie between the Escort Redline or Beltronics STi-R (no longer in production). Undoubtably, these two detectors, when customized with band segmentation, are beasts at sniffing the faintest presence of K and Ka-Band radar. This dominance is no longer the case. The new Stinger VIP Radar is, with certainty and indisputable evidence, the King of long-range radar detection. Simply put, if you want absolute, raw, unleashed radar detection, the Stinger VIP is your choice – and this is not an exaggeration.
This radar detector does away with the conventional radar horn design found in typical radar detectors, and instead, utilizes a patch antenna. Patch antennas are not new technology, however, nobody in the past, until now, ever decided to use their extreme sensitivity and transmission abilities to detect radar sources used by law enforcement. Patch antenna technology is utilized heavily amongst advanced hobbyists in the radio-control airplane community. These hobbyists use patch antennas to ensure maximum transmission and reception to control their RC airplanes and helicopters over vast distances. In September 2015, our forum tester, “Vortex,” conducted a controlled test with several radar detectors, including the Stinger VIP Radar, Escort Redline, and Valentine One (V1). Based upon the results and footage from this test, and feedback from two other members (“jdong,” and “kasher1979”) who independently tested the system, the following article highlights the Stinger VIP Radar’s basic features, radar detection performance, and anti-false alert capabilities.
- K-band (including low power versions of K-band, and Safety Warning Systems (SWS))
Radar Receiver Type : Rectangular Microstrip (Patch) Antenna
Detector Type : Digital Signal Processing (DSP)
Global Positioning System (GPS) Receiver : External GPS antenna
Spectre Undetectable : Yes
- Length : 3.26″ (82.80 mm)
- Width : 0.27″ (6.86 mm)
- Height : 2.08″ (52.83 mm)
- Weight: 1.6 oz. (0.10 lbs.) (45.36 g)
- Length : 4.33″ (109.98 mm)
- Width : 0.47″ (11.94 mm)
- Height : 2.75″ (69.85 mm)
- Weight: 0.7 lbs. (0.19 lbs.) (85.05 g)
- Power Supply Cable : Two (2) cables included – 1 x Always ON power (13.8V DC), 1 x Switched ON with Radio Mute and Extra Accessory wiring
Firmware & Red Light Camera Updates
- Standard USB cord (extension) – this cable connects to the Computer Center and allows the user to route the cable to a convenient place in the cabin to use the Stinger VIP USB for updates
- Stinger VIP USB drive (included)
- Stinger Desktop : software downloaded from the official Stinger Radar USA website
- The software is compatible on Apple and Windows operating systems
Display : LED Touchscreen Display (~3.60 in. diagonal viewing area)
- Alert Screen (VIP Radar Package with Single Receiver) – The VIP Display can show two (2) types of alerts
- SpotList – Red Light Camera, Speed Trap, User-Added location
- Additional Information
- Vehicle Speed (mph or kmh), Vehicle Voltage
- Red Light Camera, Speed Light Camera, Speed Trap, Aircraft Patrol
- Alerts – user can export the alert log and send the data to Stinger VIP USA for analysis in order to improve detection and filtering abilities
User Preference Settings
- 3 Radar Detection Sensitivity Settings : Extra Quiet, Normal, Extra Distance
- Extra Quiet (“-1”) – least sensitive setting, false-alert mitigation maximized
- Normal (“0”) – neutral setting for sensitivity and false-alert filtering
- Extra Distance (“+1”) – maximum detection range (nothing escapes detection)
- Selectable radar bands
- K-band – All K-band and Low Power Source Radar (common in Europe and Australia)
- K-band – “Dynamic Sensitivity”
- K-band – “In Car Radar” filters out radar emitted from the owner’s vehicle (if vehicle is equipped with Blind Spot Monitoring technology)
- Ka-band – Segmented Option
- Ka-band : POP detection, Quick-Trigger
- Safety Warning Signals (SWS) – this K-Band is used by emergency vehicles (ambulances, some police cruisers, and construction vehicles)
- This feature can be enabled or disabled, and alerts the user to areas using VASCAR
- Units of Measurement
- English or Metric
- Language for Voice Alerts
- English or Spanish
- False Threat Filtering
- Dynamic Sensitivity : mode filters X and K-Band in a linear fashion dependent on speed (ie the slower the vehicle, the more filtering of false sources)
- Tone / Voice
- Volume for alerts : 0-100%
- Voice alert (female) – states type of signal and band (ie. “*Brap *Brap Radar, Ka”)
- Simple Sound (tones)
- Start-Up Sound
- Radio Mute (if connected to your radio, the Stinger VIP will mute your radio during alerts)
- Display Settings
- Brightness : 0-100%
- Auto Brightness
- Stinger “S” on display : color can be changed
- Stinger “S” on display : brightness can be changed (0-100%)
- Factory Default
Stinger VIP Radar – Feature Highlights
|Brief Description of Key Features on the Stinger VIP Radar|
|Color Touchscreen Display||Display with crisp colors and easy-to-read alerts|
|Spectrum Analyzer||Real-Time line graph of surrounding radar sources (band and frequency)|
|Ka-Band Segmentation||ON / OFF : 33.8 GHz, 34.1 GHz, 34.7 GHz, 35.5 GHz|
|K-Band Detection – Radar Guns||ON / OFF : All K-Band Sources and Low Power Sources|
|Ka-Band Scanning Mode||3 Settings – Regular, Quick-Trigger, and POP|
|Directional Alerts||Based on GPS and Front / Rear Patch Antenna Configuration – two antennas show front, back, and side alerts|
|Dynamic Sensitivity||ON / OFF : Alerts received at low speeds are filtered more than at high speeds|
|Speed Sense||ON / OFF, AUTO, 5-Settings : While under a preset speed, alert volumes and radar sensitivity can be customized|
|False List||ON / OFF : Alerts for user defined threat areas can be enabled or disabled|
|False Alert Lockouts||User can lockout false-alert sources based on GPS location|
|Alert Log||Stinger VIP CPU logs all encounters – allows users to submit data to Stinger VIP Headquarters|
|Mileage Log||Allows users to log their mileage|
|Spectre Undetectable||✓ Passive Patch Antenna Technology|
|Detachable Display Faceplate||✓ Secure your display from thieves or other drivers using the car|
The Stinger VIP Radar was designed with one thing as its priority – be a driver’s instrument to detect radar and quickly discriminate between true and false threats. This radar detector is equipped with the most sought after features, even for the demanding hobbyists in our community. For starters, it has Ka-Band segmentation, K-Band filtering for Low Power Sources, a real-time graph of incoming X, K, and Ka-Band sources, integrated Blind Spot Monitoring (BSM) filtering, and has the ability to filter an owner’s BSM on their vehicle. In addition to these conveniences, the Stinger VIP Radar also has the ability to log the owner’s mileage, and all received alerts. This last feature is important for users who may want to submit their alert log to Stinger’s headquarters for analysis so that the engineers can develop a firmware change that filters out problematic sources. In terms of audio and visual customization, users can change these settings very easily as they see fit.
Overview of the Stinger VIP Radar
The Stinger VIP Radar system is a one-of-a-kind unique radar detector. Its three biggest discriminators that separate it from all other radar detectors are: extreme radar detection range, patch antenna technology, and price. In the next section of this article, we will cover the Stinger VIP’s radar detection performance, however, the Stinger VIP’s patch antenna is directly related to this performance. All other premium radar detectors, use radar horns for detecting radar sources. Although this instrument (radar horn) has shown to be capable of detecting radar at long distances, patch antennas, by design are best suited for detecting high frequencies, such as those emitted by radar guns. For example, a larger and more refined radar horn will detect radar at further distances, but this size increase and machining tolerance is not practical for users in terms of installation. On the contrary, patch antennas, have a simple, thin design and their size is designed based on the required frequency received and transmitted. Fortunately, with regards to radar guns, the high frequency requirement for detection translates to a small antenna for a patch antenna, whereas a frequency like an AM Band would call for a large patch antenna. The Stinger VIP’s price of $2499.00 easily places it above any other price range for radar detectors. The only other premium radar detector that comes close to the Stinger VIP’s price, which also require an exterior installation, is the Beltronics STi-R Plus – it costs about $1299. Although the STi-R Plus satisfies most drivers, the Stinger VIP Radar’s detection performance, available features, reliability and quality easily justify the cost for drivers who absolutely need to detect the faintest radar blips. In fact, as readers will see shortly, our tester initially had a difficult time finding a base line for conducting a long-range test because the Stinger VIP continued to detect the radar gun at distances where all other premium radar detectors remained quiet. The Stinger VIP Radar also comes equipped with a touchscreen display, which frees users from having to buy or use a smartphone or tablet to use with their radar detector. Additionally, the real-time graphic display of incoming radar allows drivers to gather in-depth information about surrounding threats in order to make necessary decisions to their driving.
Display and Aesthetics / Size Stuff J
Display – 3 Alert Screens, and the Spectrum Analyzer
The Stinger VIP display presents alerts in a very easy to read format that provides important information about the threats. During a radar alert, for example, the display can show the received radar band, its frequency up to 4 decimal places, its strength, and direction. When a second patch antenna is installed in the rear of a vehicle, rear threats received will appear as a red wedge on the bottom portion of the circular pattern. Similarly, as a driver passes a stationary threat, like a police car parked on the side of the road and using radar, a red wedge will appear first, followed by two red side wedges, then finally by a red wedge on the bottom. The Stinger VIP Radar system also maintains situational awareness of Red Light Cameras, LASER cameras, and other fixed speed enforcement devices on the road, and will alert the driver with the “SPOT” screen. As the driver approaches the threat, the red dot will shift toward the center of the circular pattern, thus keeping the driver aware at all times of the threat’s location. The Spectrum Analyzer is another screen that provides users very important information about their surroundings. With this screen, a driver can identify multiple threats over the three radar bands.
In the two pictures shown below, we highlight the installation of the Stinger VIP Radar p antenna and the VIP Display. In the first picture, the patch antenna is shown mounted in a landscape manner in the center of the lower grille. Although this setup works, users will gain better reception when the antenna is mounted in a portrait (up-and-down, with the cord facing downward) manner. Secondly, users should not mount their antenna behind the plastic grille or behind trim that prevents the antenna from having a complete view of the road. Lastly, the installation of the VIP Display for that particular vehicle is a good location since the A-pillar provides some cover on the display to mitigate glare.
The Stinger VIP Radar is a custom installed radar detector. This means it involves an installation specific to the owner’s vehicle, instead of a radar detector that one simply takes out of the box, plugs into the cigarette lighter, mount on the windshield, and turn ON. This is worthy of mention because some interested buyers may feel apprehensive about removing paneling, drilling into plastic, routing wires through the vehicle’s firewall, and locating the correct fuses in the fusebox. Such anxiety is expected, however, buyers with a modest knowledge of basic vehicle upholstery, or experience routing new speakers, will have no issues installing the Stinger VIP Radar. With respect to the Stinger VIP’s components from an installer’s perspective, the Stinger VIP Radar comes equipped with the proper brackets for mounting the antenna and display mount, and the wiring lengths are sufficient for cars, trucks, and SUVs. It also comes equipped with a GPS “puck” and external amplified speaker, which can easily be placed in the windshield area and lower dash area respectively.
The patch antenna, housed in a hard, matte black plastic measuring 4.33″L x 0.47″W x 2.75″H, is about the size of an iPhone 3. Its small size, especially the thinness, allows for easy mounting on most vehicles. The included bracket has special bracing arms that clasp onto indentions on the antenna’s housing. These brackets also have a series of holes and can be bent, in order to allow installers with various ways to position and orient the antenna. Generally speaking, the Stinger VIP Radar antenna provides optimal performance when it is aligned in a portrait fashion with a clear view of the road ahead; however, due to the highly sensitive antenna, users can also mount the antenna behind their car’s front plastic bumper.
The display, measuring about 3.25″ long, is adequately sized for placement in most places on the dashboard. When considering the placement of the display on the dashboard, users should avoid areas of the dashboard that have a lot of sunlight exposure. Our users and testers noted that the display exhibits a lot of glare, so we recommend placing the display no higher than the midpoint-level of the dashboard or higher near the headliner in order to prevent graphical washout of the screen during the day. Lastly, the detachable faceplate is a great convenient feature for two reasons – security, and privacy. The display magnetically “sticks” to the mount, and establishes it power and system connectivity with its pins located on the back on the display. When a driver wants to secure their display, they simply turn the Stinger VIP OFF, and pull it off the mount. The ability to easily remove the small display from the mount also serves as a privacy feature when drivers are loaning their car to other people, such as valets or at service facilities like car wash centers, and service stations.
Radar Detection Performance J
This past September 2015, “Vortex,” one of our forum’s top radar detector tester, conducted a thorough test with a collection of mainly premium detectors to gauge their sensitivity against K and Ka-Band radar guns. Within this group, the Stinger VIP Radar easily dominated the competition across the K and K-Band spectrum. This is significant because the Stinger VIP Radar does not perform within the margins of the other detectors – it performs in a category of its own. For example, in past tests over the years, detectors like the Redline and Valentine One performed similarly against certain Ka-bands, like 35.5 GHz. However, the Stinger VIP Radar, when operating at Sensitivity +1, does not have any other premium radar detectors that consistently provide the same detection ranges or come close to it. The “hard course” put the detectors to a challenge, since the point of origin (“cop”) was slightly off-axis and pointed toward the apex of a curve in the road. This orientation is also difficult for detection since the radar gun was projecting the typical 60º cone of influence away from the onward approach of the incoming test vehicle, for the most part. Despite the challenging scenario, and irregardless of the radar gun chosen, or either of the two sensitivity settings on the Stinger Radar (0, +1), the Stinger VIP Radar was consistent and detecting the source at significant distances.
The data shown in these three charts illustrate the Stinger VIP Radar’s ability to detect either of the three Ka-Bands further than the competition. Again, this extreme detection range is due in part mainly to the patch antenna and reinforced with accurate filtering by the Stinger software. Readers should note that in each of the three cases, most premium radar detectors have strengths and weaknesses. For example, the majority of the competition in this test exhibit the same detection ability against the Ka-Band 35.5 GHz. Although this frequency is used throughout the United States, it is not very common, so most of the detector manufacturers do not place that much emphasis in designing their detectors to identify this signal at large distances. On the contrary, the Stinger VIP excels at detecting these three common bands, which we deem as significant in terms of long-range radar detection performance.
As was mentioned in the overview, one of the Stinger VIP’s four unique features is a patented software in the CPU that effectively negates, to a significant degree, K-Band signals emitted by Blind Spot Monitoring (BSM) and Collision Avoidance Systems (CAS), as well as stationary K-Band sources used in retail and warehouse alarm systems. Although other premium radar detectors are equipped with similar filtering software, the Stinger VIP’s software does not degrade the detector’s sensitivity. For instance, most premium radar detectors, such as those shown in the test with the exception of the Uniden detector, the “TSR” or “TMF” settings are manually disabled on the detector in order to improve K-Band sensitivity. This dependence relation is not characteristic of the Stinger VIP Radar, and this means drivers can “quiet” their Stinger VIP Radar without compromising detection range. Additionally, the Stinger VIP Radar is equipped with a setting that allows it to negate any CAS or BSM sources that may be part of their vehicle’s safety factory options.
In the K-Band testing, shown above, the Stinger VIP Radar performed remarkably well against the competition. Its K-Band detection range was about the same as the competition’s best range on Ka-Band radar, which translates to really incredible performance. In spite of the arduous test course and angle of approach to the radar source, the Stinger VIP Radar clearly alerted to the source in a manner that would offer a driver plenty of time and room to adjust vehicle speed, in the event that the scenario was “real world.” This impressive performance, with no degradation of K-Band sensitivity while filtering false sources, is noteworthy of what many enthusiasts years ago wished was a possibility.
False Alert Mitigation J
The Stinger VIP Radar has three false alert mitigating features: Blind Spot Monitor (BSM) / Collision Avoidance System (CAS) filter, Dynamic Sensitivity, and GPS-based Location Lockouts. All these features performed as intended, based on testing and owner feedback. These three methods delivered reliable false-alert protection in a consistent manner.
BSM / CAS Filter
The Stinger VIP Radar’s patented K-Band filtering system is operational all the time. This patented filtering does not degrade the detector’s sensitivity against K-Band sources used by speed enforcement agencies. For all intents and purposes, the filtering system is effective against most BAS/CSM sources, however, “Vortex” noted some instances in and around the Seattle, WA area where the Stinger VIP Radar alerted to vehicles equipped with these safety systems on the highways. Due to this evolving challenge of identifying every single BAS/CSM used currently, Stinger Radar USA chose to introduce a feature on the Stinger VIP Radar that allows users to export their alert logs. By submitting logs of these BAS/CSM encounters, users can assist Stinger Radar USA with developing a firmware update to eliminate these new frequencies.
The Dynamic Sensitivity feature on the Stinger VIP Radar provides K-Band false alert protection by linearly filtering the volume of received signals with respect to speed. Basically, this means that the Stinger VIP Radar will provide more false alert protection at slow speeds versus less alert protection at faster speeds, which intuitively is a great feature when drivers occasionally transition from busy city areas to rural highways. This feature did not exhibit any issues during testing, and will therefore be a highly sought feature with drivers living in busy urban areas.
GPS Lockouts (SPOT Alerts)
The Stinger VIP Radar comes equipped with a GPS receiver, which can be installed in the cabin of the vehicle with a clear view of the sky, that allows the user to manually lockout a false signal source (X-Band, K-Band, and Ka-Band). When a user is alerted to a radar threat, the Stinger VIP Radar provides an option of adding the threat source to an internal database called the “FalseList.” This action records the received threat in terms of band, frequency, and GPS location, and consequently will not alert the driver when they encounter the same source. The Stinger VIP Radar’s ability to measure signals to 4-decimal places ensures that only specific sources added to the FalseList are ignored and not potential threat sources from speed enforcement agencies operating near the vicinity. Additionally, the Stinger VIP Radar’s onboard GPS database, loaded with GPS locations of Red Light Cameras and other speed enforcement threats, is upgradeable.
Laser Detection J
Although this article was not intended to serve as a review of the Stinger VIP’s Laser detection and evasion added option, we will briefly mention it as an appetizer for a thorough review this coming month. If you pay close attention to the installation picture of the Mercedes shown earlier, you may have mistaken the Stinger Jammers in the grill as parking sensors. For readers new to the Stinger system, Stinger Radar USA also sells a laser (lidar) jammer (Front and Rear) to complement the radar detector, thus providing an All-In-One radar detector and laser jammer package. One of the greatest challenges to laser jammers over the past year was the introduction of variable pulse-rate (VPR) laser guns used sparsely across the United States, and profusely in Canada. Stinger Radar USA has been working diligently during this time to develop countermeasures against these specialized guns, and new evolving versions employing similar counter-jammer technology. Currently, the Stinger VIP Laser can effectively deter threats posed by several variants of these VPR laser guns as seen in the following testing video:
Updates and Customer Support J
The Stinger VIP Radar was designed with the capability to evolve to emerging threats and false-alert challenges. In addition to its capability of allowing users to update the database of Red Light Cameras and other speed enforcement devices (“Spot List”), the Stinger VIP Radar also receives updates to its firmware from the manufacturer. Users update their Stinger VIP Radar by using “Stinger Desktop” software, available free from their website for iOS or Windows OS systems. The program connects to Stinger Radar USA online and users then navigate thru some easy menus for downloading the firmware or a new Spot List database to their new Stinger VIP Flash Drive (included in the Stinger VIP Radar package). Since its introduction, the Stinger VIP Radar has undergone more than two firmware updates in order to refine the system’s detection performance and K-Band filtering. With the Stinger VIP Radar turned ON, users simply plug their Stinger VIP USB Flash Drive (containing the new firmware) into the USB cord of the Stinger VIP Radar. The system will detect the new firmware updates and prompt the user to confirm installation of the new firmware. Once the user confirms the update, the Stinger VIP Radar will begin the update process and then RESTART on its own. After it RESTARTS and the screen transitions to the Pilot Screen, the Stinger VIP USB Flash Drive can be disconnected.
Customer Support : One-On-One
Buyers of the Stinger VIP Radar system will enjoy the great customer support from the Stinger VIP Support Team. This team is readily available by phone or through email, and will assist users with any technical questions regarding the installation process, such as mounting questions, as well as answer any questions about the many customizable features on the Stinger VIP Radar unit. The team wants users to be completely satisfied with their Stinger VIP Radar system and has plenty of experience in the field of speed enforcement countermeasures.
Summary J (Raw and Extreme Detection)
Overall, there is one word that sums up our evaluation of the Stinger VIP Radar – WOW! The Stinger VIP Radar is not, by any means, “just another radar detector.” It truly is a high-performance instrument with an untempered focus of detecting speed enforcement radar, maximizing detection range for legitimate K-Band threats, and equipped with advanced software and geolocation for minimizing the occurrence of false-alerts. In testing, there was never any doubt or confusion regarding its extreme range in detecting the three most popular Ka-Band sources, as well as K-Band. Past tests with other premium detectors have sometimes shown anomalies occur in detection, such as very far detection or very little detection. The Stinger VIP Radar does not exhibit this wavering detection. Its consistent long-range detection is inherent to the system due to a very sensitive patch antenna and advanced filtering software with patented algorithms to maintain K-Band sensitivity while effectively negating false sources from BSM / CAS sources. The Stinger VIP Radar is categorized as a custom installed radar detector, requiring some basic knowledge about a vehicle’s electrical system and familiarization with dashboard panel removal. Stinger Radar USA recommends buyers to find professional car alarm/stereo installers for getting the system installed. The Owner’s Manual clearly outlines the best practice for installing the patch antenna, and illustrates how all the components connect to the VIP Computer and the correct power sources on the vehicle. The Stinger VIP Display is great at conveying all the necessary threats to the driver in easy-to-read graphics, and the display provides users with security and privacy due to its ability to detach easily from the mount. Our only critique of the display is the glare it reflects when it is mounted in high areas of the dashboard. As a result, we recommend users to carefully research where they would like to position their VIP Display in order to avoid having a washout effect of the graphics. In summary, the Stinger VIP Radar is the best radar detector currently available, in terms of radar detection and refined tools minimizing the effects of false-alert sources.
- Special Thanks
- Vortex – for conducting the September 2015 test that included the Stinger VIP Radar. Discussion of this test is found here.
- kasher1979 and jdong – for assisting in the writing of this article by validating information about the Stinger VIP Radar
- Loyal members of our forum who have provided additional testing, feedback, and support to other members on the Stinger VIP Radar’s features
- Information and Discussion
- Want to learn more about the Stinger VIP Radar or discuss it with some of our members? Click here to view the Stinger VIP Radar forum on our site.
- Ready to buy a Stinger VIP Radar?