Wednesday, July 10, 2024

Cobra Electronics SPX 7800BT Radar Detector Review

Still cleaning up this series of radar detector reviews with a look at some forgotten Cobra builds. Most of the ones I have been able to get my hands on have been older, low end models, but today I’ll be talking about the SPX 7800BT, and it is more on the upper end of the spectrum. Don’t get me wrong, it is by no means top of the line, but there are some transition bells and whistles here, the shape of what would come after it, and it really allows the 7800BT to justify the slightly higher asking price. Cobra builds tend to be cheaper than their competitors, due to a lack of certain hardware upgrades, up they more than make up for that with the longevity of their builds and the quality of the app experience.

Radar detectors have not changed all that much in the last few decades. It’s such a weird sentence, really. When I get a new product line to review the first thing I do is try to find out everything I can about it. Not just the business, or the major players in the industry, but the tech involved as well. for the most part there is a rich history of advancements, as tech is abandoned and replaced, but with radar detectors that is not the case. When you think about it it makes sense, radar waves have remained unchanged since the dawn of light, but it did beg the question. Why are so many firms charging so much for their models if they are basically all the same? The core reason is tuning and software. Properly tuned hardware allows the 7800BT to extend its range, and the software can filter out the noisy data to maximize it. Add in learning functions, and various other software benefits, and what you spend the money on is range and ease of use. With this Cobra build you are getting just that, at a cut rate price.

So let’s start with a look at the aesthetics of the build. Not the most important thing, I’ll grant you, but it can be a bit of a tie breaker trait when deciding between simlarly priced and specced models.

Cobra SPX 7800BT Radar Detector Design and Build Quality

I don’t know how this happened. I have gotten my hands on pretty much every Cobra build that has ever been made, and this is by far the least impressive to look at. Really, they have bottom of the barrel two generations ago builds that look better than this. I mentioned that this is not all that important, but it is a major disappointment to me. A fine looking build was one of the hallmarks of a Cobra model radar detector, and to see that absent here is disheartening. The display is okay, technically it is better than the olde large LED models, but the resolution here leaves much to be desired. I have seen pseudi HD displays, drawing with crystal clear clarity, and I have seen Cobra’s own big LED mutlicolor displays, with their color coded signal bands, and frankly the solution used with the SPX 7800BT is beaten by both.

The weight of the build is less than ideal as well. I get that making it light is a good thing, in terms of mount stability, but I like a bit of heft to my electronics. A third of a pound is not hefty. The plastic at least feels sold, and the fit of the parts is up to the usual Cobra standard. No rattle, a good sign. The mounting bracket is the Cobra standard as well, and while I know that it savers money, I would have liked to see a magnetic locking system, as well as adhesive suction cups on this one. What we have instead is the standard click system, more than up to the task, don’t get me wrong, but I like a bit of insurance, a touch more peace of mind.

The feature set is impressive though. The usual filtering modes are present here, and this is the forth generation of the tech, so it’s better than some. It must be stated clearly that out of the box there is no radar detector that will eliminate false positives. There are a number of things you can do to remove the vast majority of them, and all of those options are available with the SPX 7800BT. The first is the filtering mode, which will do its best to sort the real from the fake. Second be sure to look up what kinds of radar bands are in use in your area, X bands are rapidly being phased out, so there is a small saving there. There is the auto mute option, and finally there is app integration. All combined it should give you a relatively silent journey, until you come across something.

We also have two VG2 modes, the warning mode and the auto off mode. There is built in GPS, a feature that has become standard in the high end builds these days, but thee is no Bluetooth, the other front and center feature. The real bonuses come when you plug it into your phone, but that requires a separate cable.

Without the cable we can still laud the iRadar app by Cobra. Even their lowest end builds benefit from access to it. It provides the user with a real time updated map of threats in their area, all information is supplied by other Cobra users on the road, and the network is vast. once you connect to the app directly, with the aforementioned cable, you can start helping others, and even receive updates to your Intellimute Pro mode, muting known false signals. The cable is $30 though, and I see that as a little on the expensive side. The benefits are numerous, but said benefits are also present in the lower end SPX radar detectors too, at a lower price point. I love all the bonus features here, and they make a real difference in terms of day to day use, but for some out there the added expense might not be worth it. The range of the 7800BT is a touch above the 6300, pushing 3 miles on the open road according to consensus, in the city you would be lucky to get a mile though, depending on signal noise. When we factor in the relative increase in range as a result of connecting to the community app though, we are looking at knowledge that near spans the entirety of the country.

And the LIDAR detector. All the radar detector firms are talking about their Laser eye. It’s a cool name, for a cool feature, but I would argue that the day to day utility of the feature is somewhat limited. The way laser speed detection works is similar to radar, but with far narrower beams, and as a result far smaller amounts of reflection. It means that for the most part, by the time you are warned of the laser you are already hit by it. Now, in some scenarios you can pick up the laser if it hits someone a few car lengths ahead, but you are not going to be getting miles of warning. I get that in this day and age, where the tech behind the cameras is getting more and more advanced, that the big players need to show that they are doing something to combat it, but this solution currently leaves a lot to be desired. There are other options on the market, but they come with their own issues. I’ll go into them in the legality section, for that reason.

So, the feature set is impressive, and the app integration elevates that further. The look of the build is not what I would call amazing, but it gets the job done. the mounting bracket too cold be better, but there are other options o the market, and considering the price of this build that is hardly a major black mark. Overall this is impressive, and certainly worth considering, especially if you can get it cheap.

Cobra SPX 7800BT Radar Detector Legality and Pricing

Now we come to the law, and for the most part radar detectors are legal for use in non commercial vehicles. If you are reading this from overseas then that is a different story, by and large they are illegal. In the US, if you are driving a commercial vehicle then you are prohibited from using a radar detector, covered by a statute from 1996. For those just driving their own car you are fine so long as you are in neither Virginia or Washington DC, as both states have laws specifically prohibiting radar detectors. You are also not allowed to use them on US military bases. If you drive through, or live, in California or Minnesota then you cannot put your radar detector on your windshield, find an alternative place to mount it and you are fine. Be careful about traveling north of the border,  not even Canada allows these things.

LIDAR detectors, the aforementioned laser eyes, are less than ideal, but there is one piece of tech that is near infallible. LIDAR jammers. Radar jammers are illegal everywhere, but LIDAR is not covered by any legislation, so buy away. They obfuscate your information for a few moments, more than enough time to course correct, before deactivating themselves. It must be said, some places have begun taking people up- on obstruction of justice charges for using a LIDAR jammer, but it really does depend on where you are. Be careful out there.

And the price, well, Cobra always have amazing prices for their models, and this borderline legacy build is no exception. You can find it right now in the sub $100 category. I have been able to get it for the bargain basement price of $85. It was listed as $130 a few months back though, so buying sooner rather than later is the best option. I imagine that this model is on it’s way out, while Cobra do still have it listed as for sale on their site it is not included with either their current builds, nor their list of legacy models.

The warranty could be better. That seems to be a running theme in this market. You get 1 year of coverage, for manufacturer’s faults. Now, I tend to lean on the argument that so long as the item was used as intended, i.e. mounted to a windshield securely and not roughly handled in this case, then if the item breaks within a year it is automatically a factory fault. I have had to press this point on a number of occasions, but it seems to work. I recommend you try for a licensed third part seller on Amazon, that way you can get the Cobra warranty, whatever coverage the third party offers, and of course the excellent consumer protections offered by Amazon as icing on the cake.

I think it is important to know what you are buying, and what way you can get into trouble by owning it. The law is important in this business, as it has already changed once within the lifespan of the V1 from Valentine, but then we’ve been through near three presidents through the lifespan of the V1 so. Regardless, the SPX 7800BT is well priced, and if you play it right you can get good aftercare support as well.

Cobra SPX 7800BT Radar Detector Conclusion

An impressive build overall. I like to see GPS in a sub $100 radar detector, or at least I do now, seen as this is the first time I have done so. I admit that with the advent of the app integrated radar detector built in hardware is less important, but it is nice to have something to fall back on in the event of a lack of WiFi. The core functions here are fantastic, and the price is excellent to boot. Another great product from Cobra, now can they please go back to the old designs?

Barry W Stanton
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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