Saturday, September 24, 2022

Beltronics Vector V955 Radar Detector Review

Finishing up my look at the world of radar detectors with the Beltronics series, and my investigations into this firm has revealed some interesting pieces of information. Take the core Beltronics site for example. It’s a bit of a bother t navigate, and trying to find their models on it is a nightmare. In fact, so far as I can tell, only a small handful of their on the market devices are actually featured by them. They have sections that seem to contain the models, the Vector range, the Sti range and others, but when we click through there we are met with empty pages. It means that the models are going to have to speak for themselves, and unfortunately they have stage fright. The V955 is by no means a bad radar detector, it can do what it says it does, but the lack of organization from the firm makes me question the warranty, and the supplementary software they offer. When we pile on the lack of focus on the app integration side of things, and the fact that a product range on par with Whistler range, but more expensive, it makes it somewhat difficult to recommend this build to any subset of the market. I pride myself in being able to see the best in most builds, so it is sad here that I can see so few benefits to buying a Beltronic over their rival’s models.

Let’s get the overarching tech question out of the way nice and early. It is important to me to understand the products I am reviewing, not just in terms of who they function day to day, but the internals as well, the under the hood info. usually I get to wade through a sea of old tech to find the current up date information, but that has not been the case with radar detectors. The hardware is pretty much the same now as was being sold in the early nineties, even the V1 is pretty much the same build. So how are companies selling some of their high end builds at such high prices? Well branding is important, but so too is the software. That’s where the R&D budget goes, into sorting the data coming in, sifting through it to determine whether a signal is the real deal, or just a passing automatic door. Most firms have some kind of internal filtering, but only the best have the best, streamlining the end user experience. I still feel that with enough time, and the right third party purchases, you can make even the cheapest build a breeze to use, near on par with the high end models, but it requires a time investment. With the V955 it requires an investment into a few other things as well.

So let’s press on with the review, first a look at an area where a previous Beltronic model took the overall crown, the aesthetics of the build.

Beltronics Vector V955 Radar Detector Design and Build Quality

The first Beltronics model I reviewed was the GT-7, around three months or so back, back when I was just grabbing whatever I could get my hands on to review. Now that that the format has settled, I can dig into the whole range that Beltronic have on offer. The Gt-7 might be the best looking model on the market. The screen is nice, the accents are gorgeous, and overall it is a stylish build set to last for decades. I thought it would be true here as well, but sadly the high standard set by the GT-7 is a little out of reach of the V955. This is a basic looking build, the plastic is a little pliable, and the weight of the build is just on the wrong side of heft. There is no symmetry in the design, a poor move in my opinion. That display leaves much to be desired, it’s one of those older big LED displays, and as such looks like it belongs on your night stand, ready to play “I Got you Babe” every morning. Considering I just got done reviewing the Whistler range, and for all the faults at that firms feet, they have some excellent hardware designers, it makes the Beltronics effort look even less impressive.

The feel of the build is fine. I mentioned the weight not being to my liking, but on the whole I think the build is sturdy enough. Especially when we consider the price. The mounting bracket is nothing to rave over. A simple click and suction cup design. It will work, but as is always the case with these older brackets I recommend going third party. The V955 is pretty cheap, so getting a few add-ons will still have you spending under $200 most of the time. Look for a bracket that comes with sticky suction cups and a magnetic lock. Not a huge issue, but something that needs to be considered.

I have looked through all of Beltronics stock, on their site and elsewhere, and have yet to find a smart cable. Not all firms sell them, Cobra is a big name that don’t stock one for instance, but at least they have the option to activate auto muting. When you want to adjust the volume of your Beltronics build you will need to stop the vehicle and lean too  far forward. I do not recommend you do so while moving, talk about a hazard.

In terms of bonus features there are few here that I would call surprising. The VG-1 mode is here, able to protect against detector detectors, and I am always happy to see the. The range is a touch below standard for today, looking at about a mile, give or take. It really depends on the terrain, but on average you can expect a mile. Far from terrible again, but in this market not having any stand out features is a bit of an issue. There is of course the laser detection system, but I have issues with that feature no matter the firm, and have a dedicated paragraph to go into detail as to why I think it’s always a let down. The lack of smart filtering is a glaring issue to my mind. I’ve seen bargain basement builds come with some rudimentary algorithmic sorting for false positives. It’s absence here is distressing.

The biggest issue with day to day use of the V955 is the lack of dedicated app integration. Beltronics offer software updates, a nice touch, but the lack of polish on the site leaves me wary regarding their dedication to their product. Proper app integration is a godsend for low cost builds like this, as they can increase their utility and their range by a fair amount. You can go with any old app, iRadar from Cobra and Escorts app both have passives modes that display real time threats as reported by other peoples radar devices, but needless to say without a supported model you cannot take advantage of the more advanced features of either app.

So let’s talk about the laser detection. All the big firms are pushing this feature, and with good reason. Speed camera tech is evolving, and the newer laser guns are going to require a whole different set of defenses. I am not a fan of laser detection devices. Laser works on a point to point system, with a far narrower beam, making picking up the waves/particles over any range nearly impossible. In most cases the laser detection goes off after you are hit, rendering the warning useless. It is able to, in perfect conditions pick up on refracted beams, but to reiterate, the range we are talking is very limited, giving maybe a few extra yards to course correct. There are other things you can do to protect against laser speed checkers, but they come with a few caveats and legal issues, so I save talking about them for the legal section of the review.

This is a train wreck. I really don’t like having nothing nice to say about the products I review. It just seems to me that the Beltronic V955 is a bit of a relic on the market. I guess if you want something ludicrously basic at a fairly decent price this is an okay option, but there is literally nothing it does that can’t be done better and cheaper elsewhere.

Beltronics Vector V955 Radar Detector Legality and Pricing

The law surrounding radar detectors is a bit of a mess. In the US there are a few places where they are straight up illegal, a few more than restrict where they can be placed, and even whole classes of vehicles where they are illegal no matter where you are. If you are an international reader then I am sorry to say that, mostly, they are probably illegal. They are illegal in Canada too, so be careful all those who cross the border often. For commercial vehicles they are illegal everywhere. In non commercial vehicles they are illegal in DC  and Virginia, as well as any military base. In both California and Minnesota you cannot put them on your windscreen, they have obstruction of vision statutes. Beyond that you should be fine. Radar jammers are illegal everywhere, so don’t bother looking for any. Laser jammers on the other hand are perfectly legal right now. They are far better at protecting you from laser speed readers, so for best coverage combine both a radar detection device with a laser jamming device. Bear in mind, some places have begun taking people up under obstruction of justice laws, so please be careful.

V955 is far from a terrible build, it just falls short in all areas, and while it is cheap, even here it falls a couple of buck short of a bargain. It is in the $120 price range, and in terms of what you get for your money that is not a great price. Half of that, then yeah, I might have been able to recommend it, but if you have $120 to spend on a detector, I can think of at least a dozen better options.

Whistler was in a similar position to Beltronics at this stage of the review. they had better looking builds, sure, but I felt like the price was a little high fro what they are offering. They had a good warranty and excellent aftercare support to fall back on. And I am afraid that Beltronics cannot even boast that. they offer a 1 year limited warranty on all their builds, but considering the state of their site I would not place my faith in it. There is so little there to inspire confidence. I might e wrong, but I do not think I am. If you have to go for a Beltronic build, based on someone else’s recommendation I assume, at least get it off Amazon. They at least have a fine array of consumer protection policies to rely on.

Well, now you should know the law regarding radar detectors, I recommend you look into yourself as well, as for all I know they are fast tracking laser jammer banning. The price of this build is too high, and the public face of the company is far too basic for me to feel comfortable lauding their warranty. There are better and cheaper options out there.

 Beltronics Vector V955 Radar Detector Conclusion

I have had to write bad reviews in the past, usually there is one firm that fails across the board in any product line, or once an entire product type no matter who made it. The V955 is not the worst radar detector on the market, it does at least work. But that price is far too high, the feature set is far too low, and the face o the company looks like it’s on its death bed. If you want something cheap and cheerful, then you are better served with a Whistler, or better a Cobra.

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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