Squirrel's MAX360c - The Most Expensive, Dissapointingly Good Detector

SquirrelMaster

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@SquirrelMaster thanks for taking the time to write this up, I really enjoyed it as a non-EE guy and hope you continue with these style reviews.

Will you be speculating more on the cause of the lockup issue in another post? I don't follow why the FPGA's externally stored bitstream (that I presume is only read at startup?) would be the cause of the lockups.
I hope to continue doing these reviews!

I definitely will go into more detail on what I think is causing the lockup once I do a bit more testing to confirm my theory. At this point, I can reliably get the unit to crash but need to narrow down exactly why it does that.

I may have not expressed myself very well. I don't believe the issue is in the fpga's external flash storage. I believe it's in the storage that the main mcu uses for the defender database/lockouts.

I'll make a thread about this soon enough.
 

Brainstorm69

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I hope to continue doing these reviews!

I definitely will go into more detail on what I think is causing the lockup once I do a bit more testing to confirm my theory. At this point, I can reliably get the unit to crash but need to narrow down exactly why it does that.

I may have not expressed myself very well. I don't believe the issue is in the fpga's external flash storage. I believe it's in the storage that the main mcu uses for the defender database/lockouts.

I'll make a thread about this soon enough.
Can you tell us how you reliably get the unit to crash? That would be interesting information.
 

OBeerWANKenobi

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Good Job Squirrel!

I liked the part where you typed words that were mostly correct. :razz:

Hey, do you smell toast?


On a serious note, too bad Escort couldn't get someone good with FPGA on this thing and really make it shine.
 

DrHow

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@SquirrelMaster, you indicated your were drunk while writing this up. well, I want to be drinking with you while you do your review magic. You mentioned lazy.. Really? Being snockered you execute very well. When do you consider yourself not lazy? would love to see those results. :)

thank you for investing your time in us. Sure, you were curious on your own. Yet, you decided to invest the time to show us.

Thank you for largely non biased look at the device, software, and company.
 

SquirrelMaster

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@SquirrelMaster, you indicated your were drunk while writing this up. well, I want to be drinking with you while you do your review magic. You mentioned lazy.. Really? Being snockered you execute very well. When do you consider yourself not lazy? would love to see those results. :)

thank you for investing your time in us. Sure, you were curious on your own. Yet, you decided to invest the time to show us.

Thank you for largely non biased look at the device, software, and company.
I'm glad you liked the review!

I try to be non biased and factual.
 

EscortRadar

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SquirrelMaster,

You wouldn't happen to be using a Bushnell gun to test for sleeping would you? If so, MAX 360c is filtering it out as a non-police radar source. This applies to all MAX detectors.

On the other hand, if you are using the latest firmware (v1.10) with police radar and can recreate it sleeping, we are certainly interested in how you are doing this. You can post here in the thread or email me directly at [email protected]

Pretty thorough breakdown. Glad to hear you are happy with the hardware.
I think our software will impress you when we release MultaRadar detection which will be soon (days to weeks). Its going through final testing now.
 

Vortex

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You wouldn't happen to be using a Bushnell gun to test for sleeping would you? If so, MAX 360c is filtering it out as a non-police radar source. This applies to all MAX detectors.
Are you sure? I just tried it with my Max 360c and Bushnell and the detector alerts normally. Same thing with the original 360.
 

DrHow

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Are you sure? I just tried it with my Max 360c and Bushnell and the detector alerts normally. Same thing with the original 360.
@Vortex .... Bushnell will alert most the time. I took it with me on almost 3,000mil trip. Used it to see if 360c was not sleeping. Would test it on routine timing. However, always on the move, never a shot at a lockout. Did normal IO triggers, and fast triggers. Left on for many second, and others was short.

I did not have a sheet of paper to make official count. With that said, I did several tests where in 20-25 or so triggers of one sort or another, one time or two, it would show it was asleep. Not locked up with weird display. Quiet. I tested rebooting, and letting it sit, testing back to back in a few minutes after the silence. when it went silent, no combination of trigger pulls, or steady being turn on would set alert. All within about 30-45 seconds. Either a reboot, or letting it sit for short period of time, it would recover.

ALSO, since I was testing it so much over long period, I tested in noisy door opener areas where no lockouts (had not driven there before), and it would go off once in awhile while Bushnell would not. Also, stumbled into Ka band and other times did testing when known Ka C/O was coming up (or had already alerted). I did not experience a total Ka sleep. I don’t know for sure how the false areas were when I saw it sleep most of the time. Couple of times it would ignore the Bushnell, and yet door openers worked.

I did make posts that I thought mine was finally sleeping, after the last FW update. I had small issues with the latest update. More BSM punch through, and the laser issue got worse With my iPhone. Anyway, I was told that I should have used my Falcon HR instead. That the Bushnell will cause issues with ER products and others. This was told to me by RDF members I have deep respect for. I felt bad I added to the report chaos and said so,


since then, I have been using the Falcon HR K and Stalker II 34.7. So far, no sleeping. The Bushnell is back in the work bench cabinet.

I had many Hours added up of combined testing over that trip With the Bushnell.

Hope this helps. I am not defending ER directly. I am saying, for me, don’t use the Bushnell for any testing of sleeping. I am not discounting their advice too.


Thanks
 

DocTJ

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I hit a pothole so bad that my seatbelts pretensioned and the damn detector stayed on the windshield
lmao
Going into the settings and turning off K band doesn't actually turn off K band wtf. All you are doing is turning K-band WIDE off.
sounds like an apple product. Click to turn wifi off... wifi disconnect...umm no ... off please.

I learned A LOT here, thank you for taking the time to write this up.
 

Alexandero

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Thanks @SquirrelMaster for this amazing review. I have just bought an escort max360c intl and am hoping for good results :)
 

XDA

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Are some of you old enough to remember the Dick Van Dyke Show? I think they run/ran it on like Nick at Nite, maybe you younger folks got to see it.
One episode is a flashback where Rob ( Dick Van Dyke) is in the Army & he and Laura (Mary Tyler Moore) are about to get married. Rob goes for a ride in an Army Jeep and it breaks down. He pops the hood in an attempt to diagnose the problem. He then stands back, looks under the hood, and says, "Yep. There it is. An engine."
That's me with this electronics stuff. So, does a 360c work?
Screen Shot 2019-11-14 at 6.40.29 PM.png
 

Alexandero

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Are some of you old enough to remember the Dick Van Dyke Show? I think they run/ran it on like Nick at Nite, maybe you younger folks got to see it.
One episode is a flashback where Rob ( Dick Van Dyke) is in the Army & he and Laura (Mary Tyler Moore) are about to get married. Rob goes for a ride in an Army Jeep and it breaks down. He pops the hood in an attempt to diagnose the problem. He then stands back, looks under the hood, and says, "Yep. There it is. An engine."
That's me with this electronics stuff. So, does a 360c work?
View attachment 134261

To answer that question youd probably have to define the meaning of the word "work".
For example, it may work absolutely normal 99 times out of 100, but 1 time out of 100 it will fail due to the well reported lockup/sleep issue. (arbitrary numbers just to make a point)
It would be even worse if it was that 1 time out of 100 that you really needed a save from a LEO

In this regard, would you trust a tool that you know isnt 100%?
 

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Looking for a good review on the MAX360c's performance? Well you came to the wrong spot. Range/filtering/performance? Nope, look elsewhere.

View attachment 133193
View attachment 133199
View attachment 133200

Mounting Solution
Alright so first of all, lets get the mount out of the way. The suction cup is badass. Even unlatched, it takes a chisel to peel it off of my windshield. Also the way they mount the M1 camera to the same mount is nice. Makes for a convenient, compact unit. That being said, I have heard a lot of people have had their mounts break/disintegrate. Unfortunately, I cannot seem to have luck with the angle. The mount has teeth that lock into place and therefore the angle is incremented in some values; not true full rotation. This means that on some of my cars it either is pointing up in the sky like a cobra or aimed at my hood. Funny enough, the only car that I can properly level it on is the one I drive the least.

The magnet mounting solution is badass. I was very skeptical at first since my car is quite stiff and bouncy. The way it is designed, there is a very powerful magnet but also a small shelf that sticks out and helps set and hold the detector. I hit a pothole so bad that my seatbelts pretensioned and the damn detector stayed on the windshield. There is NO movement to it. However, when I do want to take it off, it takes almost no effort.

Basically, this is one of the best mounting solutions I have seen.

Interface
Mixed feelings here. First, lets talk about the visual/exterior. I like the shape of the detector and how it looks compared to the older max series. Just a personal preference. I also really like the arrows. They are big and easy to see. Don't mind their placement around the front. It's nice to see that the buttons are backlit. Makes trying to press stuff in the dark easy. Also its great that their brightness is also controlled by the onboard ambient light sensor.

One issue I have with the exterior of the detector is the build quality. Yes the plastic feels nice and the colors are good but holding it in the hand, the clamshell doesn't sit snugly. The thing creaks and cracks when you squeeze it. It feels "chinsy" and not very skookum.

I am not a fan of the menu. The menu on the detector is convoluted and stupid. Going into the settings and turning off K band doesn't actually turn off K band wtf. All you are doing is turning K-band WIDE off. You then have to go in and disable the individual segments. Furthermore, none of the stupid settings are intuitive. Sure I aren't the smartest ball out there , but I had to read the manufacturer's opinion to figure out what half the shit was for (specifically the different sound options and the 50 fricken threat display options). There is also a lot to scroll through and god forbid you slack off for 0.3657 seconds because it boots you out of the menu very quickly for inactivity.


Features
Okay so here is where this thing really shines. There are so many features to the detector. As mentioned before, I like the addition of the ambient light sensor. Its a nice little thing that just makes it feel more premium when the buttons and display are always at a proper brightness.

The wireless communications are a key selling point to this detector. The wifi being the important bit as it's (and $100) what sets it apart from the next model down. How useful are they? That's really up to you. I like that I can set the detector up over Bluetooth from the app. I did have some issues with a few settings not sticking when applied from the app but worked fine when set on the detector. Aside from changing settings, you can connect to escort live for live crowd sourced alerts on the detector and for automatic reporting back to the cloud. I don't use this functionality but for testing it seemed to work. For WiFi, that is a nice feature to have solely for automatic firmware and database updates. In the end, the wireless features; Bluetooth and wifi are nice. Not thrilling, but nice.

I like how they have implemented the power saving feature. My 12v plug is constant on and I have it set to stay on even when the car shuts everything else off. It sits on 24/7. I can leave this detector plugged in and not worry about starting my car in a couple of days. It works on two different stages; temporary power down and shut off (if enabled/set time). Basically you can be parked and the detector will go into low power mode after ~10 minutes. Then when you start driving before your set max timeout is reached, it turns back on to normal use. If it reaches your set timeout, it shuts off completely.


"Performance"
These are just some observations I have made about a few actual radar/laser related things. (This is a radar detector after all :p )

First is the laser detection. I am running this in a car with LIDAR collision avoidance. So far it has falsed maybe 3 times to my car and once to my phone but that was because I pointed my phone's laser autofocus sensor directly at it. It seems to be able to detect laser and filter out most of it but not all. Compared to the V1 which did not shut up about laser at all until I shut my car off and the R7 which can't be bothered to alert to laser, this falls somewhere in the middle but edging closer to the R7.

K band filtering and arrows are quite neat on this. I have a test that I do called "The Gauntlet". I turn off all K filtering and throw the detector in a car with BSM, RCTA, Adaptive Cruise, and Forward Collision Avoidance. I then take it on a road with 5 speed signs. The max360c was the only detector that survived and gave 100% correct info on the speed signs while ignoring my car's pollution. For reference, the V1's arrows were okay but it ended up going crazy on the bogey counter and the R7 correctly counted the bogeys but the arrows were all over the place. The max360c not only correctly counted the bogeys but also identified and tracked them properly showing good arrow information. I was quite impressed.


Internals
This is my favorite part. Keep in mind, it'll be a basic overview of the insides. It is a bit techy but not writing a dissertation or anything here.

View attachment 133194
Pulling apart the case greets us with the above sight. This detector is a very beautiful piece of hardware. We can see most of the important components here. It's nice that they put the most powerful components on the very bottom so that the detector itself would act as an insulator against the heat of the windshield. The speaker is also mounted down here. Its a pretty nice unit and has some nice insulation on it to seal the bottom and prevent vibration.


View attachment 133196
Here is the most important part; the FPGA. This is the heart of escort's filtering. What is an FPGA? It stands for Field Programmable Gate Array. Basically it is hardware that you can rearrange by software! Imagine a circuit that you can change by uploading a new firmware. No need to redesign a board or change components. It doesn't emulate hardware gates; it's made up of them! What is the benefit of an FPGA in this scenario? Besides the ability to change your horn backend hardware just by changing some code, it is also incredibly fast. I'll go more in depth on why an FPGA is awesome to use in a future review but just understand that it has the ability to do so much, and because it is essentially hardware and not software, everything happens very quickly and simultaneously.

So if this is so amazing, why doesn't every radar detector use one of these? Well many reasons that mainly stem to cost. First, one of these at single unit price is ~$60 for just the chip. Compare that to a MCU which is around $2-3 and a DSP which is around $8-9 (These prices do vary based on features and whatnot but I am mainly trying to make a point here). Aside from the component cost, you need talented engineers that can design an FPGA correctly. These people are not cheap at all. Trust me. Finding someone who can program hardware (!) in an HDL well is difficult. That raises the cost a lot. Also, you still need a DSP (Digital Signal Processing) designer on top of the FPGA designer......

The max360c uses a spartan6 fpga. It is a bit old (2011?) but still a badass unit. Datasheet Hopefully I don't have to point it out in the above pic... It is the one with "Xilinx Spartan-6" written on it.... The FPGA does the filtering in the MAX360c.

Note two of the many voltage regulators on the right of the FPGA. These devices use sometimes 3 or more different voltages so we need a few buck converters to supply the different rails.

To the left of the FPGA we have a MT47H32M16 (labeled 7UH17). Datasheet This IC is a 512Mbx16 DRAM. It is the FPGA's ram that it uses for sampling the signal. Because the FPGA works like hardware gates, everything (kind of) happens simultaneously so it needs some RAM to store the detected signal in and then process it after as a chunk. Note how the wires (traces) going between the FPGA and the DRAM are all squiggly and weird. No this isn't because their engineers were as drunk as I am while typing this up. That is a way to make all of the traces the same length to each other. The reason to do this is for high speed communications. You want the propagation time (time it takes the signal to get to the end of the trace) to be the same for every signal between the two devices. This is not very important in low speed applications but in very high speed communications, it is critical.

Here is also a good area to briefly mention how the detector processes the signal. It basically stores the signal in memory and then takes it and runs it through an FFT. That FFT converts the signal from time domain to frequency domain and then the detector "analyzes" it. Not much actual DSPing going on. Won't go too much further into this here.


View attachment 133195
Up here above what we were just talking about, we have a MXIC labeled IC which is actually a MX68GL1G0F Datasheet This is a 128Mbx8 sector or 1Gb Flash memory IC. This is the higher performance version from their product line. Nice to see that. This probably houses the defender database as well as any user marked locations. This is also where I think the lockup/freezing issues stem from. More on that later.


Hey wanna see something cool? Of course you do. Remember when those Radenso guys (and one gal) said balls?

View attachment 133197

Look under those ICs. You can see tiny solder balls. These IC packages are called BGA (or Ball Grid Array). This is a way to get a lot of connections to an IC. It makes for an efficient way to make a dense output.

I do wish escort had used some epoxy or infill under the ICs to prevent issues down the line due to thermal stress and vibrations (this thing sits on a car's windshield.) But beggars can't be choosers.


View attachment 133198

The only other interesting thing on this side of the board is the wireless communications module. It is a Sterling LWB 450-0152 Link Funny enough, it's part of LAIRD, the same company that makes antennas that many scanner users on here use for CHP. This is a pretty cool and powerful little module that was WiFi 2.4GHz, Bluetooth 2.1, and Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) 4.2 on it. The main heart of the wireless communications is based on a Broadcom chipset. Overall a good device.

Now we flip the detector over aaannddddd:

View attachment 133201
Here is the top daughter board. This houses the GPS and buttons. You can see from this perspective the ambient light sensor on the top above the buttons. That sees through two tiny little slits on top of the case. Then we have below that all of the button membranes with little brown spots next to each one. Those brown spots are actually LEDs that light up the buttons in the dark. Very nice to see that each button has its own LED and not a common LED with a diffuser. Finally to the right of the buttons (from this perspective) we can see the two LEDs that shine onto the upper "forward" arrow on the front bezel.

The only other things here really are some voltage regulators and passives for the LEDs (underside), the GPS antenna, and the GPS modem (underside).The GPS antenna is PHAT. It is one of the bigger antennas I have seen in a device. Love to see it here; so much surface area to slurp up those sweet GPS signals and maintain a lock. This is paired with a Telit JN3 GPS modem (underneath). There is also a capacitor to maintain a gps lock when the device is off to help with gps cold starts. (makes them warm? starts). Here is the datasheet for the GPS module: Datasheet This is also the module with FLASH memory in it. Overall its a very good module and escort went for an upgraded sku. I'd argue this is the best GPS setup in a detector. Would find it hard to imagine this thing ever struggling with GPS.


Here is a picture of the underside of the horn and (behind that) the gps/buttons board. That's all I have to say for this picture. Note the two connectors (black one on the green board and white one on the horn blue board)
View attachment 133204


Here is our underside of the very first board we looked at. By the way, there are three fricking microcontrollers here!. See those little orange capacitors above that black chip? Right underneath them is the FPGA.
View attachment 133203


There are three microcontrollers here; the main mcu, a freescale/NXP arm cortex M4 and a STM32F411 M4. The third one I'll go into later. I believe that the STM32 (Datasheet) next to the metal can on the bottom left is paired up with a DAC in the upper left that it controls to generate the sounds and voice alerts which it then sends to the speaker and headphone jack.

The two small square ICs to the right of the DAC and under the power jack are a Voltage regulator (Datasheet) and a mosfet. This is one of the few regulators that takes the input 12 volts and creates a usable voltage rail on the detector.

The Big Black IC you see is the main MCU. It links everything together and handles all of the UI stuff. It is a NXP MK20DX256VLQ10. (Datasheet). Its a pretty okay microcontroller. Runs at 100MHz, supports DSP instructions, etc. Not too much more for me to say here about it. Its okay. Its got a great personality. You can see to the right of it there is a small square IC. That is flash memory (Datasheet) to probably store all of the settings that the user can change/set in the menu.

Remember that FPGA we talked about earlier? Well those devices are dumb. They can't remember what to do. XILINX FPGAs require the bitstream (their instructions to wire their internal circuitry) to be stored on an external flash storage medium. Well if you look on the bottom right of the board above, there are tow more small ICs. The one in the very right corner is the flash storage that stores the FPGA's bitstream (probably encrypted) and the other IC to the left with more pins is that third microcontroller that is used to set up/control the FPGA. Here is its datasheet.

Finally, the last IC on the board (right above that white connector that goes to the horn ;) ) is a ADC10040. (Datasheet) This is a 10 Bit 40MSPS Analog to Digital Converter. Basically what this means is that this device takes an analog signal (presumably from the horn?) and samples it 40 MILLION times a second (kind of) and spits out a number with 10 bits of resolution. 10 bits of resolution gets you an integer range between 0 and 1023. This then probably feeds into the fpga or the main MCU. Haven't actually looked into it too much.


Final Thoughts
The hardware is absolutely beautiful and it is obvious whoever designed it cared and tool pride in his work. Unfortunately, escort shafted him by screwing up and not being able to deliver someone who knew how to program and set up an FPGA properly. The software/firmware is what is holding this detector back the most.

Two things I said in the title I'd like to clarify: 1) The most expensive and 2) Disappointingly Good

Lets start with why I think it is the most expensive detector out there (even more than some remote mounts).

There is no trust with this detector. For me to have it on the windshield, I need my STIR+ to also be running. I am sure everyone is familiar with the issues that the max360 platform is having (lockups and sleeping). If I cannot trust this detector to save me and need to buy another detector or a radar gun just to make sure I am protected, its no better than a cobra. For me to rely on this detector, I would need to spend more money on a backup one or a radar testing gun; hence most expensive detector.

Now for the disappointingly good part. I have my complaints with how this detector is made. The hardware is very wonderful but the software sucks because they couldn't get a good FPGA designer to utilize that hardware. Consider where this detector falls when compared to other detectors out there. It's overall a pretty good detector with decent filtering and decent performance. Unfortunately, it is at ~5% of what it could be whereas its competitors are ~85% of what their hardware can let them do (Pulling numbers out of my ass to make a point). It is just disappointing to see how much potential it has and how underutilized the hardware is.


Overall, I do really like this detector and If they ever solve the lockup/freezing and if I can start trusting it, its a solid unit.
Outstanding review. Thanks for sharing.
 

InsipidMonkey

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ALEXTWIN

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Sorry but not an EE
more of just a chemistry guy
with all that great hardware why does the R7 outshine the Max on distance
 

SquirrelMaster

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Sorry but not an EE
more of just a chemistry guy
with all that great hardware why does the R7 outshine the Max on distance
The r7s horn is designed to be sensitive. The detector itself was designed to be very sensitive in comparison with other modern day detectors.

The max was designed to be quiet; to be able to filter out junk. That was their main focus, not to squeeze out every last dB and make it as sensitive as possible but with "good enough" filtering.
 

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