Now we are at the real end of this series of reviews. The top ten, where I take a look back over all the models I have tested and try to figure out the best. I’ve been thinking about this article since the beginning, and my short list has changed several times. On the market right now are a wide variety of models, enough to suit every consumer, so rather than simply listing off the most expensive and feature packed radar detectors I am going to be judging these builds on what I think makes a good radar detector. They have to be affordable, the have to have access to an app, they need to have a good feature set, and if at all possible they should look good. Granted, not a huge deal that last one, but it is the primary reason the GT-7 is on this list, so it matters to me it seems.
The core underlying hardware of radar detectors is essentially the same. There has only been a few advancements in the last few decades, which is why you’ll see the venerable Valentine One on this list alongside the ultra modern Max II HD. The real changes have been happening under the hood. Improved filtering algorithms and external integration are the order of the day, and I have made sure that every model in this top ten has at least one of those. A few of the older legacy models have less advanced filtering, and so are a little noisier over all, but so long as you expect that you can mitigate it.
You have to know the law before you buy a radar detector. By and large they are legal in the US. Only Virginia and Washington DC ban their use entirely. So long as you are not driving a commercial vehicle you are fine. In both California and Minnesota you will have to mount the builds somewhere other than the windshield.
Top 10 Radar Detectors 2017
So let’s get to the top ten. I have taken into account the price, the function, the aesthetics and the freebies, the more a model has to offer per dollar the higher I have ranked the thing.
10. Beltronics GT-7
This is on the surface a better model than the V6, and is broadly considered one of Beltronics best models, but I don’t think that’s true. The only reason the GT-7 is on this list is because I was too embarrassed to fill it with legacy Cobra builds alone. The core functions of the GT-7 are fine, it has good range, all the protection modes you could want and access to Beltronics excellent Smart coil cable. The mounting bracket is okay, far from the best, but it gets the job done. The issue is the lack of app integration. The V6 is an older build, and even it has access to the wonderful Escort Live app. It falls short, but it is also the prettiest radar detector on the market, That excellent HD screen and copper accent color is just amazing, no other radar detector looks as stylish as the GT-7.
This model is too expensive for me to recommend to everyone. The core feature set is great, and the addition of the smart coil cable is nice. The real selling point is the look, if you care more about form rather than function, and spending $400 sounds okay, then the GT-7 is the right model for you.
9. Beltronics V6
The V6 is an older build, so old in fact that finding one is nearly impossible. Not much of a surprise really, seen as it might be the most impressive build Beltronics ever released. The worst of the V series, and yet still amazing. The core feature set is fine, nothing magical to write home about. It doesn’t have the best range, and the inner city filtering leaves much to be desired, but it has access to the Escort Live app, and that is a real game changer. It increases the effective range of the build by a lot. Escort Live allows you to get updates from all other Escort Live users on the road, it has a real time updated map of the area, with all the false positives and hazard zones marked for you. So the fact that the filtering isn’t great is less of an issue, you can know for certain in most cities what signals are real alerts and what aren’t.
I mentioned that finding the V6 is difficult, it is a discontinued model, so you have to go hunting for a second hand one. The build quality is high enough that even second hand it should last a while. I found one for $75, which makes it the best value for money model that can use Escort Live.
8. Whistler XTR-540
Whistler are not a firm known for their cutting edge tech, and it holds true here. The reason the XTR-540 is on this list is due to the price. The XTR-540 is a little unimpressive when compared to even the V6, it has no app and it too is a legacy model, so the filtering could be better. But it has an ace up its sleeve. This is a cordless model, making it excellent for people who want to switch vehicle types on the fly. Mounting it to your helmet requires a different bracket, but they are pretty cheap nowadays. if you want to get a radar detector for your bike I recommend you don’t spend a fortune on it, my father is an avid biker, and he says that there is not one biker he knows that hasn’t been rear ended by an idiot.
The XTR-540 is a great little cordless model, in a sub $50 price range. I have seen this model go for as little as $39, and you are not going to find a better price than that on the market right now. Unless you go second hand, and even then you’d have to haggle. If you are looking for a cheap detector that will get he job done, and is perfect for vehicle changes then this is a great option.
7. Escort IX Long Range
Oh, we are hitting the Escort models, and while they are technically the bets on the market, the price puts them out of a lot of peoples reach. It cannot be denied that if you are looking for range there are really only two models to consider. The IX long and the Redline. Both are from Escort, and both share the core feature set, but the Redline is both more expensive, and has longer range. The on board filtering is excellent with the IX, and when we add int eh features of the Escort Live app we get a radar detector that is picking up signals from a few miles out and staying silent unless it is a real alert. Escort have the best mounting bracket in the business, a combination mag lock and sticky suction cup, so good in fact that a advise in all of my articles that you buy a comparable one.
This is a build for someone who needs range, but also a little more versatility beyond that. it’s good on the highway and good in the city, but it excels in neither. The price is very high, looking at around $499, but you are buying both a high end machine, and into the Escort family. They have the best customer support in the world of radar detectors, and their warranty is excellent, a rarity let me tell you.
6. Escort Redline
This is the beast of Escort. Not the most versatile, and far from the prettiest, but it more than makes up for that with it’s range. If you are driving long haul then this is the model for you. It has decent filtering for city work, and escort are always improving the software via updates, and when you combine it with Escort Live it will work well, but it’s when you are on the highway that this thing shines. You can expect near four miles of range in place, sometimes more. No other model can match it on the market right now, but it comes with a price. The price.
The Redline falls into the $550 price bracket. you can find it cheaper in a few places, but it is best to expect the worst and be surprised. It puts it out of a lot of peoples price points, but if you need the longest range on the market this is the model you need. I would like to point out that the Redline is an older build, so it is likely that Escort will be releasing an updated version, with a fancy new screen, at some point. They have already replaced their pocket builds, and have a new Passport model, so keep your eyes peeled. It should bring down the after market price of the Redline a bit.
5. Cobra SPX 900
For some reason Cobra were the only company that knew how to make older models look good. The use of big LEDs limits the aesthetic a little, but using a color other than red seems to make the model look a little more current. The SPX 900 is probably my favorite of Cobra’s legacy builds. You can still find a lot of them online right now, and they are all compatible with the iRadar app. Well, you have to buy a separate cable, but that is not expensive. It means that with a little tweaking you can get a model that functions near on par with the high end builds for a fraction of the cost. It takes some work, the high end builds are easy to use out of the box, but the older models require you to do a fair amount of set up to have them running smoothly on a day to day basis. All of my reviews on these kinds of builds talks about the things you will have to do though, so I got you covered.
The price range of the SPX 900 is around $50, give or take $10. It’s amazing that you can get an app integrated model for so cheap. Know that Cobra’s warranty isn’t the bets on the market, and this is a legacy model too, so you’ll have to rely on the third party who sold it to you. Best to look to Amazon, get their consumer protections at point of sale.
4. Valentine One
The Valentine One had to be one this list. It’s the old workhorse, a build so well designed that they have been selling it largely unchanged for over a decade, and it is still competitive. The focus of Valentine is out of the box utility. They have all the software protections you can imagine, against detector detectors, laser, pop, false positives, the works. They have an app too, but it is probably the least impressive on the market. Thankfully Valentine have an avid consumer base, and there are a number of third part alternatives to choose from, all extend the feature set of your build, allowing you to spend time fine tuning your experience. The Valentine one works well enough for the first time buyer, but I see it as more of a hobbyist build. If you have the time and the inclination the V1 is a rewarding purchase.
The price range is comparable to the upper mid rang Escort models, a little under $500. I feel that for the right consumer this is a good deal, but for most folk out there, the kind that want something simple out of the box there are better options.
3. Escort Max 360
This is technically the best radar detector on the market right now. The feature set is expansive, the after market support is unparalleled, and the price is commensurate. It is well out of range for most first time buyer, this is the model you dream of buying at some point, once you have your area mapped out in your head. The range is great both in the city and on the highway, the display is amazing, and for the first time you can be informed as to the direction of the incoming signals.Due to the signal bounce most detectors cannot do this, so I am impressed. It has a smart learning function, and it will shut off false positives without input from the driver. Combine it with Escort Live and the on board memory will update on the fly. This really is an amazing model, but I cannot get over the high price.
the Max 360 is in the $650 range. There are cheaper price out there, but not by much, expect to pay in excess of $600 no matter where you go. It’s well worth the asking price, the work that has gone into this build is impressive, it is literally unmatched in terms of features and ease of use.
2. Escort Passport Max
The original Max is still an amazing build, and it fits me to a tee. I tend to go for the second best in terms of overall. It might not have all the features of the 360, but there is enough here to satisfy, and day to day use of the Max is wonderful. The ranges are dependant on the conditions, like all radar detectors, but the inner city average is high, usually around 2 miles, and the filtering modes are still being updated by Escort. The Max has access to the older escort Defender system using a built in GPS system to keep a list of known hazard areas. The list is still being updated, even if it has been largely replaced with Escort Live, but it means that even thoguh without smart phones can know that any signals coming in are real ones. It also has auto learn software as standard, so anytime you mute a false positive that comes in it will remember it for you, and do so automatically. Finally, it is compatible with the Smart cable, an extension plug that allows you to mute on the fly, and switch modes without leaning over to the windshield. I think all models should have one of these, a little safe manual control is a good thing.
The only real downside is the price. It is an older model, so you can find it in the $300 price range. For a build that can be made to function exactly like a high end flagship radar detector that price is astounding. Literally one of the best priced models on the market. The only reason it isn’t umber one is down to cobra releasing a build that is cheaper with the similar features.
1. Cobra iRAD 900
This is no doubt a surprise to everyone. Cobra are not known for high end builds, but I feel that works in their favor. It means that the price is nice and low. The iRAD 900 is the best of the iRADs, a kind of cut down model that integrates with he iRadar app. Cobra have made a tiny little model here, small enough to fit in the palm of the hand, but big on features. The core features are here, decent range, good filtering and the usual protections. When we add in the utility of the app we have a model near as good as the Passport Max. The key thing here is that you cannot really use this build without the app. it has no screen, it means the price has been driven into the ground though. It is also cordless, and when combined with it’s small size and low price makes it great for helmet mounting. There is literally no other models on the market that can match the iRAD 900 in terms of versatility and price.
I’ve harped on about the price in that last paragraph, so let me tell you what it is. On average you can expect to pay $50 for the iRAD 900. For a model with this feature set that is amazing, no matter what you want out of your radar detector the iRAD 900 can deliver it. It might not be as easy to use out of the box as the Max range from Escort, but with a few tweaks we can have a world class radar detector for a tenth of the price.
Top Ten Radar Detectors 2017 Overview
So there is one other thing I want to talk about before we wrap up. A feature I didn’t mention, one that all of the models on this list have, and one that I really don’t have much faith in. The laser eye. All the firms are pushing it as the answer to evolving speed detection tech. I can see why, there needs to be an answer to the newer laser speed guns, but their utility is limited, due to how they work. With radar the beam is broad, and it bounces all over the place, spewing out for miles. Even the short burst pop radar, so you can pick it up miles out, and plan accordingly. LIDAR does not really work like that, so when the laser eye goes off odds are good it’s because you’ve been hit, or are within line of sight of someone who has been hit. There is an alternative, LIDAR jammers.
Do not buy a Radar jammer, they are illega, but LIDAR jammers are not covered by any legislation right now. They obfuscate your information for a short time, giving you a guaranteed chance to course correct before switching off. There has been some reports of people in the UK being arrested on obstruction of justice.
So for best coverage combining a radar detector with a LIDAR jammer is your best bet. I am very biased toward price. I like to get a bargain, and when I know that the high end builds are selling a name it makes me a little less inclined to like the models. Don’t get me wrong, the quality is there, and for the most part Escort and Valentine are charging fair prices, but it still rubs me the wrong way. Cobra legacy builds are my preference. they are both low in price and high in features, I could have filled this whole top ten with them, but they will not be on the market forever. Be sure to snap one up quick.