Radar Detector Buying Guide
A radar detector is basically a device that is fitted inside a car in order to alert the driver of incoming radar beams that measure the speed of the car and issue a ticket accordingly. Of late, there have been an increasing number of choices for the same. Let's take a look at all the highlighted features of separate manufacturers, and what they mean for someone looking to buy one for his/her car.
Digital POP radar alert: Radars are rarely used in POP mode, and a majority of detectors that have the provision of detecting the POP mode have the same deactivated, since the device would show a high number of false alarms due to the same. This feature is not as useful unless you drive in a POP-mode radar-activated area.
Digital Signal Processing: This feature uses the power of the microchip to increase detection range and also helps restrict the chances of false alarms. It is a rather common feature these days in all radar detectors.
Dual antenna: An additional forward-facing radar antenna has a positive impact on the range at which the detector can spot a radar. However, owing to the significant amount of added expenses of this provision, it is available only in higher end models.
Multi Sensor Laser Protection: Although one infrared-frequency detector diode is sufficient to detect an incoming laser, two would certainly be more effective for the same , particularly when the beam is off to a particular side. However, the downside is that laser alerts generally go off very late for the driver to make adjustments in his speed.
Tech Display: This feature displays the frequency of a radar signal, which allows an instant intimation and analysis of a Ka-band alert, but only if you know which frequencies of the former are used by police radar, since Ka is also used by other manufacturers like Cobra.
SpeedCheck: This is a handy feature for drivers who don't have a habit of monitoring their speed, as this alert displays your speed before alerting in case there is an alert or not, so there are both pros and cons to this facility.
TotalShield: The BEL STi Driver was created as the sole undetectable radar detector at the time of its launch, which basically means that your detector is invisible to detectors of the equipment, although other models have come up in the recent times that feature the same facility. These kind of detectors are also GPS-enabled in a majority of the cases, which also protects the driver from speed cameras and red lights.
15-Band protection: This is basically a useless feature, since there are only 3 radar bands used in the US – Ka, X and K. Among the remaining 12 bands, only Ku is a radar frequency, but there has never been any radar manufactured in the country for the same.
Full Color ExtremeBright DataGrafix II Display: Although many drivers would love to have a color display in their cars, you can bet every penny you would spent on these detectors that they are going to be as much of a distraction as can be, both in daylight as well as at night.
Intellimute Pro: The manufacturer claims this to be a feature that makes your detector invisible to detector-detectors, but the problem is in the manner in which this happens – it shuts off! Hence, while the driver is sure that his detector is not detected, he is vulnerable to all kinds of threats during that time period.
Safety Alert: This feature, designed to warn drivers of approaching railroad crossings, emergency vehicles, and road hazards, is an innovative concept that could have been useful but for two shortcomings. First, Safety Alert transmitters required for this to function properly are very rare, to say the least (some even say they don't exist any more). Second, even if you do manage to get your hands on one of the properly functioning models, there would hardly be a few meters of distance before you are alerted of any obstacle.
Spectre Undetectable: Cobra advertises this feature in two ways. First is in the for of radar detectors being undetectable by Spectre I, which is an obsolete device that stopped being put into use years ago. Second, some models claim to alert drivers of the Spectre I/IV+ detector, but that too, is from approximately 15-20 feet away, at best.
Strobe Alert: This feature is also supposed to warn drivers in case of approaching emergency vehicles, but it only works if the vehicle is coming from the front, and is only a few feet away! In short, another useless feature.
Autosensitivity mode: This is aimed at identifying threats from other radar beam sources, and uses Digital Signal Processing (DSP) and a microchip to compare the electronic signature of a radar signal with identified sources of false alarms, which gradually reduces the latter. A very useful feature by all means.
ExpertMeter: It often happens that two microwave signals are simultaneously existing, which created confusion for the detector. The conventional approach in such a situation is to have levels of importance, laser at the highest, and Ka, K and X in decreasing order following. However, only the more critical of these frequencies is displayed, which does not allow the driver to have any idea about the other threat. The ExpertMeter displays up to nine signals at a time to allow the driver to know what kind of threats he faces in the area. This is another very useful feature.
Spec Display: Similar to BEL's SpeedCheck feature mentioned earlier.
Ultra-Bright Matrix Display: The most important feature of a radar detector is its ability to display information properly, since without that, it's just another gadget in your car. Often, what looks really great in a brochure turns out to be an on-road disaster. It is thus necessary that the detector have a display that can be easily read and interpreted. Matrix displays, because of the fact that they give high resolution picture quality, are certainly on the expensive side, but are worth the amount you spend. Escort provides these displays in two colors, Blue and Red, with the former being more expensive, yet the better seller.
Ka Max: This feature is for accurate and improved Ka-band sensitivity. A very handy one for all drivers.
Laser Signature ID: This feature displays Pulses Per Second (PPS). Quite innovative, but is not much of any use.
Radar Signature ID: This feature displays all the known Ka gun frequencies, and is easier to understand compared to other manufacturers, as BEL and Escort display a 5-digit frequency, while Whistler gives you detailed information regarding whether or not the signal is coming from your neighborhood/vicinity.
Three Filter Modes: This feature basically has an additional set of filters to screen the incoming signals for false alerts. Considering the number of issues drivers have with the latter, this is a must-have for your radar detector.
Total Band Protection: This refers to provision of selective band deactivation in a radar detector. For instance, if you are not concerned about one particular band, you can simply shut it off. This feature, like the above one, is extremely useful in minimizing false alarms.