2 years with the Stinger VIP - A longterm review

Discussion in 'Stinger' started by mikedotd, Feb 14, 2018.

  1. mikedotd

    mikedotd Arrow enthusiast Advanced User Premium Member

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    In early 2016 I decided to purchase a Stinger VIP with 1 front antenna to replace my Beltronics STiR-Plus. At the time car BSM systems were becoming more and more common and the custom installed radar detectors available like the Escort 9500ci and it's cousin the Beltronics STiR-Plus just couldn't filter them. If you drove on a busy highway you'd frequently get IO like K-band alerts, desensitizing you to K-band entirely.

    The Stinger VIP was the first custom installed RD that could begin to filter these BSM systems beyond using timing delays like TSR or lowered sensitivity like Auto on the Escort/Beltronics products. Not only was it able to actually filter out some BSM systems, but you could log radar encounters and send them into Stinger to help them improve their filtering. There were a few forum members who were openly working with Stinger to help develop the product for the US market, and the perception (at least to me) was that we finally had not just a radar detector product that might get a firmware update every couple years, but a platform that would be continually improved upon as the RD landscape evolved. Early testing showed it outperforming the mighty Redline. I had to have one. I thought this might be the last RD I need for many years to come.

    Once it arrived I did a temporary install with the VIP's patch antenna mounted on my passenger sunvisor and went out for a drive; I couldn't wait to try this thing out. My first Ka-band encounter that night was 33.8GHz while I also had my V1 running along side with custom sweeps, and the VIP DESTROYED it! What a great start!



    I like doing my own installs, and the VIP is one of the easiest to install requiring only a single cable between the engine bay and the interior cabin. Even if you want to add a rear antenna or laser jammers, you still only need that 1 cable going through the firewall. I wish other manufactures would follow their example.

    The interface to the VIP uses a touchscreen instead of physical buttons. This has some pluses and minuses. On the one hand it looks amazing and they can continually update the interface as time goes by. Stinger uses these relatively large displays (they have a 3.3" and 5.1" diagonal version) to communicate information with colors; Green means no signals detected, Yellow means a signal is being muted (falselist) either because it's learned that signal is a stationary false via GPS or is a BSM system, or Red which means it's alerting to the signal. If you have a rear antenna it will also provide directional information. There's also a cool spectrum analyzer display option that shows the frequencies being detected, but in practice it's tough to read while driving. The downside to the touchscreen is that trying to operate the VIP while driving is difficult because you can't feel what you're doing, you can only glance over and take a stab with your finger and hope it hits where you intended, as you're otherwise focused on driving. A lot of modern car radios have this problem now too. I now know my preference is to have physical buttons for controls. This interface is where things began to go down hill with me and the VIP.

    The original VD-10 display that it came with wasn't readable in direct sunlight and was later replaced by the VD-20. The VD-20 is VERY bright in direct sunlight, but it's not visible head on while wearing polarized sunglasses. If you can't see the screen, you can't adjust it's settings or see which frequency is being detected. With that said, the first week I had the product the auto-brightness feature didn't work properly. For me there was no happy medium brightness that I could use, I need the display at full brightness at day and very low brightness at night, otherwise I either can't read the screen or the interior of my car is lit up and blinding. I reported this issue to Stinger and they never came back with a solution. That was 2 years ago and I'm still having issues where the auto-brightness will stop working for weeks and then just start working again on it's own. When this last happened a couple weeks ago, I reported it to Stinger HQ and learned it was a known bug they still haven't addressed... after 2 years.

    The audio alerts are problematic too. X and Ka are a distinct sound, but K-band and laser are comparatively quiet. With the volume down so that X/Ka are reasonable you run the risk of missing a K/laser alert. Keep it high enough for K/laser and your ears will be bleeding every time you encounter Ka.

    On to the core of the product though, radar detection.

    The Stinger VIP uses the term "FalseList" when it mutes learned stationary radar signals (GPS lockouts) and when it's filtering BSM's. While others have reported problems with the GPS lockouts, these have worked well for me. The lockout radius aren't too big and I haven't had any situations where these stationary falses weren't learned, but I do occasionally see them alert due to weather related frequency drift, which I had also experienced with my Beltronics STiR-Plus.

    BSM filtering is good, but like many top tier RD's it will alert to BSM systems that it can't filter from many car lengths away. Sometimes the VIP will filter tougher BSM's like Acura/Honda, but then allow punch-throughs unlike other RD's that will either filter or not filter a signal. I've also experienced a 10 mile trip behind an Acura MDX that had my V1 alerting the entire time but the VIP completely filtered.

    Police radar detection on the other hand is unreliable. About 50% of the time I encounter police K-band the Stinger VIP will either alternate between alerting and treating the signal like a BSM and filter it, or filter it entirely. I've had this happen many, many times in areas that have no stationary falses, so it's not a GPS related issue. I've been sending Stinger HQ logs and video of these encounters for 2 years now, and it's still an issue. I've had to run 2 RD's because I can't trust the Stinger VIP to actually alert me to police K-band. As an enthusiast I've been OK with running 2 RD's, but I don't think this product is safe when run alone if K-band is a threat where you drive.



    Then there's Ka-band. The VIP is HOT on Ka, besting a Uniden R3 that I recently purchased both on and off-axis. But there's always a downside to the Stinger VIP, and in this case Ka-band is also auto-learned for GPS lockouts. So if you have regular speed traps that you encounter with a Ka radar source, the Stinger VIP will learn and mute them. There's no way to limit which bands are auto-learned, it's an all or nothing proposition. You can't turn off auto-learning either, only FalseList entirely with no option for manual only lockouts. I only just learned of this "feature" after 22 months of ownership while reporting it to Stinger as a bug and having them reply that auto-locking Ka-band is by design.



    2 years ago I purchased the Stinger VIP knowing it was still in development, but unfortunately it remains in the same state today with little improvements. I've sent logs and video to Stinger HQ in the Netherlands (where their engineers are located) regarding all of these issues (and more) as they happened, but as of v4.0.52UK and this date (2/14/2018) they all remain unaddressed. I don't know if Stinger is unwilling or just unable to fix these problems, but at this point I find I still can't trust the product to reliably alert me to radar, it's primary purpose. Making the situation even more frustrating is that the hardware is capable of being HOT but unreliable due to buggy software that COULD be fixed but so far has not.

    -------------------------------------

    Good
    * Radar antenna is HOT and has beat everything else I've owned, including the Uniden R3
    * Display's use of colors
    * Single cable between engine bay and interior cabin makes install of RD/Laser easy

    Bad
    * Police K band is often filtered like BSM's
    * Police Ka band is learned and locked out
    * 2 years and the VIP is still in a broken state of product development

    Ugly
    * Display is hard to read with polarized glasses
    * Audio alerts are quiet for K/Laser
    * Poor ramp-up
    * Touching the display often results in a double press, muting and unmuting the alert
    * Auto-brightness randomly stops working
    * Only a single radar frequency is displayed at a time unless you use the impractical spectrum analyzer mode
    * GPS and BSM filtering both display as "FalseList" with no differentiation

    TL;DR - The Stinger VIP was promising but Stinger has failed to make a reliable radar detector after more than 2 years of development. Maybe someday they'll finish it, but for now I would avoid it.
     
    Last edited: Feb 14, 2018
  2. PointerCone

    PointerCone M3 Kng Advanced User Premium Member

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    @mikedotd awesome write up and review. Its rare to see these long term write ups and they're great as it gives a real good feel for a unit. In our testing of @MnBadger unit a few years back, the Ka band sensitivity on the Stinger was hit and miss. Sometimes it would beat the Stir-O that I was running as well as @lugnuts and other times it was a slug. This was the same test where it totally ignored 35.5XX , which we later learned was a software bug that was subsequently resolved. I remember seeing OH WOW detections, maxing out an 11 mile course we had and others it was fair to middlin on 34.7 and 33.8. Made no sense to @lugnuts @MnBadger and I. Best described as an enigma. Remember too, he paid a LOT of $$ for his unit and install (>$7000) and was not a happy camper when a legacy $800 Stir-O was beating his Stinger dual. @RedRocket and @darkpenguin (DETC) was also eating up his lidar set up, so it was not a good day for a very expensive unit and install.

    Again, thanks for the long-term follow up, warts and all!!
     
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  3. milkman

    milkman Premium Member Advanced User Acceptus Premium Member

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    Very Nice Review! Thanks for sharing!
     
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  4. Vortex

    Vortex Making Videos Administrator Advanced User Premium Member

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    Excellent write-up! My experience matches yours.

    The main reason I don't power mine up anymore is because the BSM filtering isn't as effective as the competition nowadays (even when run in the most aggressive filtering options). My autolockouts don't work, but at least the manual lockouts do. Manually muting the detector sometimes doesn't work (a single press on screen to mute the alert is triggered as a double press for mute/unmute so I often have to press the screen a second time to mute the signal). The auto display brightness doesn't work either like you mentioned and so day-to-day, it seems like there's a lot of what feels like unnecessarily needing to mess around with the detector which gets old after a while.

    Like you I hope that Stinger gets these refinements buttoned down, but with how long it's taking, it makes me wonder if we'll ever see the VIP becomes everything we hoped it could be.
     
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  5. mikedotd

    mikedotd Arrow enthusiast Advanced User Premium Member

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    Thanks, I really want to see Stinger succeed, not just because I have some skin in the game as a customer but because I think their hardware is excellent and has all this potential that's just some firmware updates away from making it a great RD if they would just address the common issues.
     
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  6. dudeinnz

    dudeinnz NZCTG Advanced User Premium Member

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    Great review mate, I always used to tell myself that "when I grow up" I should get myself a stinger setup :D
     
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  7. GotWake

    GotWake Speed Kills Advanced User

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    Spot on to what I've experienced. The only reason I even run mine is for rear detection and I just have it on Ka band.
     
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  8. beingaware

    beingaware Premium Member Intermediate User Premium Member

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    I can beat you with 4 years with the VIP.

    It was fine for what it was meant for, KA and ultra low powered K band speed cameras until bsm + USA release made it almost useless for its core market.


    Yes many people have sent logs and nothing much has improved in some areas, unless you have something new and exciting that affects the Netherlands or has buzz works like MRC* they will ignore you.

    Stinger is a shadow of its former self in my opinion.

    2.x firmwares were amazing and even firmwares up to 3.0.18 just blew anything else out of the water for K band but since USA release it has really gone down hill.


    I'm in the same boat, I run 2 RDs because of stingers mess ups but who knows maybe they will pull their heads out of their backsides or at least admit the flaws and upgrade the hardware.


    Here is hoping.


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
     
    Last edited: Feb 16, 2018
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  9. M4rk

    M4rk *beeeeeeeeeep* General User Premium Member

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    And even If you have, it They don’t Experience it themselves. Nothing is being Done about it. But don’t feel too special; They ignore their Dutch customers Just as much as you Guys
     
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  10. dinkydi

    dinkydi Premium Member Advanced User Premium Member

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    No surprises there , just lost for words
     
    Last edited: Feb 15, 2018
  11. jdong

    jdong Premium Member Advanced User Premium Member

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    I'd like to publicly support and echo what has been said here. It's a really thorough and honest review and reflects my experience with the system as well.

    I have the utmost respect for Stinger's team — by far some of the most down-to-earth and knowledgeable folks I've talked with in the RD industry. They are innovative and bring original ideas to the table.

    However, in the end, it felt like they are biting off more than they could chew or something, because the product never had the polish and reliability that one would desire in a countermeasure, which is a shame. I still wouldn't change a thing — at the time that I bought it, it was a piece of excitement during some of the most boring times in CM history (where segmenting M3's was the last major improvement and the M3's inability to filter was starting to be problematic in most markets). Unfortunately, that era has passed, and these days there are a ton of options to choose from.

    To this day, I still feel the underlying hardware is great. If anything, it probably still has more horsepower than most of the other offerings on the market. So I still hold out hope that we get some awesome software updates to go along with it. However, for now, I'm not sure I'd recommend the Stinger VIP system to someone in the market today.
     
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  12. lugnuts

    lugnuts PSL lol Advanced User

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    What I don't understand is why not have firmware by region? have a US firmware, a Aussie firmware and a euro firmware.

    also does BSM not exist outside of the US? I would think its a global issue by now
     
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  13. beingaware

    beingaware Premium Member Intermediate User Premium Member

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    I thought they were Dutch and Netherlands but I guess they are only from NL?
     
  14. jdong

    jdong Premium Member Advanced User Premium Member

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    They already do have firmware by region. I believe AU/NZ is one, US/UK is another. But I think they're playing an overwhelming game of whac-a-mole where each configuration is maybe 25% of the way to perfection :)
     
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  15. OpenRoad

    OpenRoad Must go faster Advanced User Premium Member

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    Seems Stinger has been 'fading to black' of late. Good idea up front (hardware), but the implementation (software) seems to be problematic. Maybe they are sipping pina coladas in the Caribbean.
     
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  16. mikedotd

    mikedotd Arrow enthusiast Advanced User Premium Member

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    Tonight I had 2 police K-band encounters while running the VIP and Uniden R3.

    In this first video the R3 catches a whiff while I'm nearing the highway exit, picks it up again as I'm turning through the exit ramp and keeps alerting as you would expect. The Stinger VIP showed "falselist" instead like it was filtering a GPS lockout or BSM, never audibly alerting. There are no stationary falses in this location and both RD's have low speed muting set to 30MPH. The LEO is parked behind the car with it's flashers on the left side of the road. Skip to 13sec, for some reason the beginning of the video is black on youtube.


    An hour later I encountered another K-band unit at a 90 degree angle turning from the right and towards me. This time the Stinger VIP alerted a few seconds ahead of the R3.


    The Stinger VIP is the Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde of the RD world...
     
  17. PointerCone

    PointerCone M3 Kng Advanced User Premium Member

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    The hardware is fabulous, particularly the patch antennas. It's truly mil-spec stuff that's capable of beating anything out there. If the USAF and USN swears by it, I can too. As many have stated, it appears that firmware is the consistent unresolved issue.
     
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  18. Tallyho

    Tallyho Premium Member Advanced User Premium Member

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    From an enthusiast standpoint it's cool to know that there is still the possibility of improvements to the rd world. Clearly if another manufacturer wants to come to the table, there are still limits, refinements, and opportunities that haven't been exhausted yet, to encourage future growth.
     
  19. Jag42

    Jag42 TXCTG (Professional backyard tester) Advanced User Premium Member

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    Are you 100% positive there is no interference from running 2 rd's? Have you done individual testing? Thanks for the review.
     
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  20. beingaware

    beingaware Premium Member Intermediate User Premium Member

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    Yeah stinger techs could see the interference from my STIR that was 5ft away from the patch by just looking at the log files.

    So you have a point Jag42 re interference but I was told by Stinger that as long as the source is behind the patch it's fine.
     
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