Seems I’ve reached the end of this series of reviews fro the foreseeable future. There may be a few low end models left that I haven’t been able to check out, and for those of use looking for a bargain I will certainly do my best to find them all, but for the most part this is it. The Cr90 from Whistler marks the final radar detector review. I will be spending the next week or so going over my list, cross referencing performance and price and putting together a top ten. I have a good idea as to how that is going to go, and I am sad to say the the Cr90 does not seem to be a good candidate for said list. That isn’t to say that there isn’t a market for this, I am actually rather fond of this build, but in terms of function and price there may be better options elsewhere.
The Cr90 is one of several Cr models that Whistler have out there, and it is the most impressive of the bunch. The price is excellent, and when you combine that with the core functions we have a very well put together build, there are a number o key things missing, but in the sub $200 price range it is harder to ask for perfection. I plan to put together a short review on their entire range, if I can get my hands on the rest, or even detailed performance data on the builds I can’t get my hands on, so if you are looking for a radar detector in the bargain basement price range stay tuned.
One of the most interesting aspects of the Radar detector business is the fact that the core tech, the hardware, has changed very little in the last few decades. I mean, radar is radar and detecting radar obviously uses the same few pieces of gear, but I still found it weird. the price then is not reflective of the hardware, it is based on the software. The best companies have impressive algorithms, able to be programmed, or taught, able to integrate with other hardware, and distinguish on their own between real signals and false ones. The Cr90 has pretty good software, especially in this price bracket.
On to the review itself, as mentioned, there are a number of areas where the Cr90 falls short, but what is here is certainly worth considering for the right kind of consumer.
Whistler Cr90 Radar Detector Design and Build Quality
The Cr90 has me feeling a little conflicted. I can see the feature set, I know how great it runs, but I have spent the last few weeks looking at models that are simply better put together than this. It’s a bit of a conundrum. Do I look at this in a vacuum or do I compare it to all the other builds I have reviewed. I think the general consensus is to compare and contrast, but I feel like that diminishes what is on offer here. A light weight build, with a few high end features thrown in, all at an extremely affordable price. Try to bear that in mind while I am seemingly ripping in to it.
The first thing that will jump out at you is the look of this build. It is sublime. I know that a lot of builds are still stuck with the 1988 design aesthetic, and it is nice to see a build so sleek and ultra modern. The feel of the build is fine too, a little on the light side for me, but I know it will do the job. A stand out design decision is the display. It is by no means a high resolution screen, but they have cleverly gone with blue rather than red. So many firms stick with the old red LED look, making their build look like and 80s clock radio, but the blue here, along with a few blue accent lights on the body itself, combine to give us a clean aesthetic. Whistler have out done themselves in the design department.
The bracket is inconspicuous, which is nice, but the suction cups are a little lacking in they sticky department. I like the combo of vacuum cups and adhesive, so seeing that missing here was a bit of a disappointment. The default bracket is at least study enough for regular use, but I would advise you look into some third party options, it is a safe bet in general that they are higher quality. There is no smart cable with this build, you have to buy it separately, and I am not a fan of that. The Cr90 is cheap though, so throwing on the extra 20 bucks on their Intellicord, not a great name, is not much of a problem. It is safer to have the mute button close to hand, rather than leaning over to the windshield when you are hit with a false positive.
So the app, or in this case the lack of one. All the big names have a community update app that integrates with their models. It increases the utility of even their cheapest models a fair amount, and not seeing it here is a black mark. Straight up. Granted, it requires large sales volume, and maintenance work as well, but the added functions are so worth it. There are a few third party options you can try out, all running on the basic premise of other people updating the GPS with local information. Your mileage may vary here though, as unlike with the Escort app or the wonderful iRadar from Cobra, you are not guaranteed coverage. Not to mention the lack of Bluetooth means that the Cr90 cannot update the false positives lists itself.
The range is average, around a mile and a half of warning in the city. That increases and decreases depending on conditions, but for the most part this is adequate. When you add on an app you can increase the effective range, but again, without a dedicated service you are rolling the dice a bit.
There is one feature that is being pushed by all the radar detector firms out there, and I am here to tell you you can ignore it for the most part. That’s the LIDAR detection system. They work, let it never be said that the firms are lying about features, but the way they work leaves much to be desired, and I think it makes them a touch useless. LIDAR is not like radar. When a radar gun goes off it tends to spew waves in all directions, it is this that allows you top pick them up at range. When a LIDAR goes off it is a point to point system, hitting the vehicle and giving away the information. So when you get a warning, odds are good you’ve been hit, rendering said warning pointless. Now, it can in some circumstances pick up a refracted beam, but again, that’s from a vehicle in front or behind, not enough time. There are other options available, but I will go into them in the next section.
So overall what we are looking at here is a well built machine that is a little behind the times. Now, this is reflected in the price, so you are not dropping several hundred dollars on it, but I still feel like even a basic app would have elevated it enough for it to be an easy recommendation. As it stands there may not be enough here to sway you. The look of the build is not all that important, and it is only in that area that the Cr90 really excels. Minor league disappointment here, but certainly a market for this model.
Whistler Cr90 Radar Detector Legality and Pricing
No other product line I have reviewed has this section, the law regarding their use. So interesting to me, I got to look up laws and statues for a couple of countries to verify the legality of using radar detectors. I am sorry to say that if you are reading this outside the US then in all likelihood owning one illegal there. You need to be careful traveling north of the border too, as radar detectors are illegal in Canada as well. In the US proper there are only three places where you cannot have your detector active. Virginia, DC and US Military bases. There are also laws in California and Minnesota that lay down what can and cannot be on your windshield, under obstruction of vision laws, so be sure to have an alternative mounting position in mind if you need to head to either State. Finally, if you are driving a commercial vehicle you cannot use a detector at all.
Radar jammers are illegal all across the globe, for fairly obvious reasons, but LIDAR jammers are not. Remember when I talked about the relative uselessness of LIDAR detectors? This is where I present the alternative. LIDAR jammers work amazingly well, and if you enough time to course correct before deactivating them. For best coverage be sure to pair a radar detector with a LIDAR jammer. I have heard reports of some folk being taken up on obstruction of justice charges due to using a LIDAR jammer though, so at your own risk and all that.
And finally we reach the price. It is here that the Whistler models really shine on like crazy diamonds. Considering the core feature set to the Cr90 the fact that on average you are spending between $100 and $150 for one is astounding. I am a big fan of savings, and while I am not entirely convinced that there are any community apps out there to match the iRadar et al, throwing one on can make this low cost model feel near as good as the more expensive ones. It re contextualizes the whole review really, as there are plenty of positives on this list, which this being the icing on the cake.
And now the warranty. I review products for a living, and so have gotten pretty good and reading through warranties and spotting the traps. I am happy to say that the Whistler warranty is up to snuff. It is nothing to write home about, the usual restrictions apply, must be bought in the US, must have original serial number, be the original owner and within warranty period. Said period is a year by the way. Now, I always make the argument that any item used in a normal way that breaks before a year automatically counts as a factory fault, and thus should be covered. I have argued this many times when getting repairs for my electronics, and never have I been shot down. Steel yourself before calling, for the vast majority of us, we are in the right. Whistler have an out of warranty repair service too, but I cannot comment on the prices, as they are not available.
Remember, you can keep yourself fully covered by going with a licensed dealer, gaining whatever protection they offer, and through Amazon, adding all that consumer protection they provide. You have to be smart when buying products these days, pile on the peace of mind as it were.
This has been a bit of a triumph for the firm in this section. The warranty is well put together, and the price is on point. Nothing bad to say here.
Whistler Cr90 Radar Detector Conclusion
Who is this model for? I think it is aimed at the folk out there who want something that is, at its core, basic and easy to use, but with smart set up near as good as the big name brand flagships. I can see the use here, I can see the potential too, and at that price it is a steal. Certainly one to consider if flashy add ons don’t interest you, though I can almost make the argument that those flashy add ons are becoming stalwart core features these days. The Cr90 is a great intro model.