Evaluation Criteria

To evaluate their effectiveness, Fors’ Speed Measurement Labs test radar/laser detectors in the following categories:

  • Radar Reception
  • Laser Reception
  • Laser Countermeasures
  • Long Range Testing
  • Radar Detector Detector Testing
  • POP Testing
  • Red Light Camera Locations
  • SWS, Safety Alert, Strobe Alert
  • Over The Hill Testing

In the past we have assigned numerical values that compare the detectors to each other in each category but have deviated from that for this year’s evaluation. As X band guns continue to fall out of favor, we’ve eliminated that as a major criteria. (Honolulu, Hawaii, has no radar guns—only laser, K and Ka band deployment is almost universal but laser is gaining favor as it allows officers to target a specific vehicle and with integrated cameras, makes the citation almost impossible to contest.)

Speaking of police officers, what makes the SML annual test in El Paso, Texas, each summer the gold standard in radar detector tests is that almost every manufacturer participates and that all the speed measurement devices are manned by law enforcement personnel. These officers are properly trained and certified for each of the radar and laser guns used in the test, and deploy the radar and laser guns as they do every day. SML acts as an observer and sanctions the test. This ensures that the results are fair, impartial and unbiased. SML does not sell the products it tests.

After a battery of tests held over a three-day period, here’s a recap of the results covering a wide variety of units. The prices listed are the manufacturer’s suggested retail price. You may be able to find them at a lower price in retail stores or from authorized resellers on the Internet.

(For a full review of the extensive testing process, visit the SML website at speedzones.com.)

Whistler XTR-690SE - $230

Radar/Laser Detector

Pros:

  • Very good balance between sensitivity and selectivity
  • Offers the best overall performance in an under $200 detector
  • Cons:

  • Not to be compared to detectors costing two to four times its modest cost
  • Whistler
    800.531.0004
    whistlergroup.com

    Cobra XRS 9970 G - $390

    Radar/Laser/Safety Camera Detector

    Pros:

  • Good balance between performance and cost
  • Touch screen is an innovative feature
  • Cons:

  • Slightly less sensitive compared to higher-priced units
  • Take it or leave it styling
  • Cobra
    773.889.3087
    cobra.com

    Escort Passport Solo S3 - $350

    Radar/Laser Detector

    Pros:

  • Battery operated, cordless design
  • Easy to mount high, improving sensitivity
  • Cons:

  • Less overall sensitivity compared to the top-tier units
  • Keep a spare battery in the glove compartment
  • Escort
    800.964.3138
    escortradar.com

    Beltronics STI Magnum - $500

    Radar/Laser Detector

    Pros:

  • Virtually invisible to all (RDDs)
  • Compatibility with Escort Live (optional)
  • Available integrated laser jammer (optional)
  • Cons:

  • Slightly less sensitive compared to Valentine One, especially to the rear
  • Beltronics
    866.468.0322
    beltronics.com

    $500

    Escort Passport 9500ix - $500

    Radar/Laser Detector

    Pros:

  • Built-in GPS capability, access to threat database
  • Programmable features include compatibility with Escort Live (optional)
  • Available integrated laser jammer (optional)
  • Cons:

  • Slightly less radar sensitivity to the rear compared to Valentine One
  • Escort
    800.964.3138
    escortradar.com

    $500

    Valentine One - $500

    Radar/Laser Detector

    Pros:

  • Extreme sensitivity mated with exceptional selectivity, filtering false signals
  • Front and rear detection capabilities
  • Directional arrows locate the threat
  • Best laser sensitivity

    Cons:

  • Larger size relative to other top-tier units
  • No integrated laser jamming capability
  • Valentine One
    800.331.3030
    valentine1.com

    Escort Passport iQ - $650

    Radar/Laser Detector with integrated GPS Navigation

    Pros:

  • Integrates radar/laser detection with GPS navigation
  • Good sensitivity, falling just short of top-performing units
  • Visual indication of red light camera threats
  • Cons:

  • No integrated real-time traffic updates unlike OEM units
  • Escort
    800.964.3138
    escortradar.com

    Beltronics STiR Plus$1,300

    Remote Radar/Laser Detector

    Pros:

  • Good overall levels of sensitivity
  • Integrated laser jamming capability
  • All components are concealed, the Stealth fighter of radar/laser detectors
  • Can’t be seen or stolen

    Cons:

  • Installation generally requires professional installation, higher overall cost
  • Sensitivity lower by 5 percent because of lower antenna position, generally falls short of the best dash-top detectors
  • Beltronics
    866.468.0322
    beltronics.com

    Blinder M27 X-Treme - $500

    Laser Jammer

    Pros:

  • Simply the best defense against laser guns
  • Upgradable as new laser guns are introduced
  • Provides parking assist as a bonus
  • Cons:

  • Cost is over and above a radar/laser detector
  • Installation generally requires professional installation
  • Blinder
    866.622.7219
    blinderxtreme.com

    Escort Live

    Escort Live, introduced with great fanfare at the 2011 SEMA Show is an exciting development in the escalating war between law enforcement and those drivers wishing to reach their destination sooner, and reducing the chance of receiving a costly citation.

    While there has been a pullback in the deployment in fixed speed cameras, Carl Fors believes that they will be less of a factor in the coming years but they will still remain a threat. Using a specially designed cigarette lighter plug (a hard-wire version is promised in 2012) your Bluetooth-equipped iPhone or Android smartphone can be used to augment the alerts provided by many Beltronics and Escort high-end radar/laser detectors. Constantly updated threats are delivered to your phone in real time.

    As of press time, the rate to access this feature is around $80, but is expected to rise as more units reach end users. The system depends on other Escort Live users to report encountered threats to the central database. Billed as social networking for drivers, Escort Live promises to be another important tool in the constant battle between police enforcement and drivers who want to avoid costly citations.

    For more information and instructional videos, visit escortradar.com/escort-live/.

    By D.h. Lecter
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