Friday, September 30, 2022

Beltronics PRO200 Radar Detector Review – 2018 Update

I think at this point I have looked at, tested and compared every radar detector on the market. This last few months have been dedicated to Beltronics, and honestly, doing them last has not worked in their favor. They don’t offer as robust a service as other firms, and their prices are a little all over the place. Such a shame too, I like a nice healthy marketplace, with competitors doing their best to undercut each other and maximize the utility to the customer. Only one of their models has impressed me, the GT-7, but every one of their entry level builds has been lacking on too many fronts. The PRO200 is no different. A middling radar detector, able to do the job, but lacking in bells and whistles, in a price bracket a little above its station. What confused me most of all was the ream of good press it has. I guess my opinion comes from looking at the whole of the market and comparing all against all.

I love product reviews, when a new line comes to me I get to spend a week or two diving into the topic, learning not only the key players on the market, but how the product works, the tech behind it. I like the history of it all, and I feel it gives me a good insight into the business in question. Especially with regards to production costs, and what constitutes a good deal. With most other product lines I have reviewed there is decades of tech advancements and changes to take into account, and see who is out of date. This is not the case with the radar detector business. Don’t get me wrong, there have been some advances, and even new tech integration in the case of laser detectors, but on the whole, the tech has remained largely unchanged for the last few decades.

it makes sense, radar is radar after all, but it did make me pause a bit when I noticed some firms still charging mid nineties prices for a product that no doubt costs much less to produce now. So where are some of these inflated prices coming from? Well, branding is a big part of it, but the biggest part of it is the software. More and more companies in the radar detector market are spending money on their filtering software, and their app integration. Better filtering means less false positives, and better app integration allows your detector’s range to approach planet size. All those advances seem somewhat lost on Beltronics, who are still producing basic models with little in the way of app integration, thus making it that much easier for lower cost models from other firms to eat up their share of the market.

So let’s get to the review proper, starting with a look at the build itself. I tend to point out that the look of the build is not that important, but it can be useful to keep in mind, considering so many models are matched in terms of price and function.

Beltronics PRO200 Radar Detector Design and Build Quality

I am still confused by this. Beltronics have the best looking build on the market with the GT-7, so how then, do all of the other models I review from the company look like this? Asymmetrical clock radio bricks. Even the font layout is an eye sore, six fonts on the top of the build, six. Who thought that was a good idea? There are seven if you include that old style big LED display. All red dots. Sorry, this is beginning to sound disjointed, but I have never been so affected by the look of a build before. Anyway, the display does the job, same job it did thirty years ago, but the job nonetheless. In terms of feel this is actually pretty good. So while I feel it is lacking in the looks department, I think this will stand up to a fair few hits. I like the heft, and so far as I can tell some folk have had their Beltronics builds for years, so longevity isn’t going to be an issue.

The mounting bracket might be as old as the display. A combination of a click lock and regular suction cups. I would have liked to see the magnetic lack and the sticky suction cups, but I get that that will drive the price up a little. You can go third party, and while I was able to advise you do so with Beltronics cheaper builds, with this one I am not as comfortable recommending you spend money on add ons, once you commit to spending $200 on a radar detector I can rhyme off a dozen better options in that price range.

Beltronics have given some thought to that most annoying of side effects of owning a radar detector, those pesky false positives. Their on board filtering is okay, no firm can boast amazing filtering with just what’s in the box, but I would have like an auto mute mode. There is no smart cord with any Beltronics build, which is such an oversight. Considering that you are going to want to mute the thing every so often, having to lean over to the windshield is a hazard. A smart cable makes that much safer by having the button to change modes, volume and mute right next to you. Granted, only three firms sell one, but I do hope that more companies make their own.

There are few bonus features with the build. VG-1 mode is here, which allows the build to detect detector detectors and shut off as necessary. There is the aforementioned filtering system and that’s about it. The filtering system has a few updates released for it, but it is unknown which models will be supported for the foreseeable future. I can hope that it’s them all, but it is best to verify as and when.  In terms of core features, the range detection is pretty good, not quite up to the STi’s level, but a great all rounder. Range wise expect about a mile in the city, depending on conditions, and more range on the highway.

The biggest issue I have with the Beltronics range is the lack of app integration. A few firms out there have their own app, that integrated with even the lowest of their models. It means that radar detectors that might technically be worse that the PRO200 are punching well above their weight bracket, and outputting better than the PRO200. You can buy into an app, and it will allow you to be better protected, as other people update the community radar with their own detectors, but with a Beltronics build you cannot update directly, nor take advantage of any of the more advanced features. Again, with Beltronics cheaper models I was able to recommend this with the build, but the price here would push it above that threshold, making it too expensive for me to recommend.

This is the part of the review where I air out my grievances with the laser detection system. there is no model on the market that offers a viable laser speed camera option. They have all gone for laser detection, and they are so circumstantial. Laser is not like radar, radar sends out a far wider signal, allowing it to bounce off all kinds of things, making it easy to pick up miles away. Laser is a far finer point to point system, meaning if you get a warning odds are very good that you’ve been hit. Rendering said warning useless. It can pick up on some refraction, but the range is very limited, a few car lengths ahead or behind is what i would expect in most cases. Not all that great a lead in time to be honest. There is one thing you can do about this, and it is a little dodgy, so I’ll go into in the legality section.

As is always the case with any Beltronic build I wish I could be a little more complimentary. At the end of the day, the feature list is too small to justify the price, and the lack of app integration is glaring in this day and age. The range is okay, and if the price were a little lower it would be easy to recommend this model for the all rounder without a phone. As it stands, a poor showing in this section, with a worse one in the next.

Beltronics PRO200 Radar Detector Legality and Pricing

I mentioned that with every product line I review that I dive into the tech involved, and that’s true. This is the only project where diving into the legality of the product was appropriate, and what i have learned has been enlightening. For the most part radar detectors are illegal around the world. You cannot use them in Canada even, so be careful about crossing the border. In the US so long as you are in a non commercial vehicle you can u mount and use a radar detector in 49 states. Only Virginia and DC ban them outright. There are obstruction of vision laws in California and Minnesota, disallowing radar detectors from being mounted to the windshield, so be sure to find an alternative mounting position should you either live or travel through either state. In commercial vehicles you cannot use a radar detector. I talked about alternatives to laser detectors earlier, and the key one to remember is jammers. Radar jammers are illegal everywhere, but laser jammers are not. Yet. I stress that, as there may be some legislation coming down the line at some point, so be warned. There have been reports of some folk getting taken up on obstruction of justice charges through using a laser jammer as well, so check your local area. But if you want full coverage you would be best to combine a radar detector with a laser jammer.

The price of all the other Beltronics build have fallen into the sub $100 range, and for the most part that is a fair price. There might be a number of better models on the market for cheaper, but I won’t go into that right now. The PRO200 unfortunately is in the $150 range, and that is far too much for a build that I think is incomplete. Now anyway, when it first hit the market it was competitive and well rounded, but the market has moved on, and now the build is outdated, out priced and outclassed by so many other options out there.

With the Whistler builds, another firm who the market is leaving behind at a brisk pace, I was at least able to laud their customer service. With Beltronics I feel like a pinch of salt should be taken. I have looked through their site, and while a 1 year warranty is pretty  good, it is restricted. In addition, there are so many missing pages on their storefront that I am not entirely convinced that they have the infrastructure in place to support their models. I have sent emails to the firm, and gotten replies, but they seemed canned, and I hate that.

Bad after bad really. The price is too high, and while on the surface the warranty seems okay, the limited nature of the service, and the fact that their site is in a shamble does not fill me with confidence. It is usually in this section that low feature builds pick up the slack, but it is not the case this time. A real shame.

Beltronics PRO200 Radar Detector Conclusion

The PRO200 might have been a good model to buy half a decade ago, but that is no longer the case. there are too many features that would call standard missing. The price is too high, and the state of their site leaves much to be desired. I know for certain that in this price range there are about a dozen better options out there. .

Barry W Stanton
Irish born writer who drinks too much caffeine and reads too much Terry Pratchett. I enjoy long walks on the server and Korean cuisine.
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