Saturday, September 24, 2022

Cobra Electronics SSR 80 Radar Detector Review – 2018 Update

The Cobra SSR 80 is another legacy build from the firm. It is a touch surprising that they have so many. I mean, a look at their currently supported models shows a remarkable lack of diversity, and while I can broadly see who they are aiming at in the market, I feel like the Cobra of yesteryear were better able to target many different kinds of consumers. The SSR 80 is a low end build, but one that, with a few tweaks, is more than up to the task at hand. This is far from the longest range in their radar detector range, aha, but for day to day sue, in the inner city, this is an excellent option.

My standard practice when I get a new range of products to review is to submerge myself in the market. Seek out the key players, find out what is being sold to who, and finally take a long look at the tech under the hood. With most other products there is a nice long histry7 of advancement for me to get stuck into. With radar detectors that was not really the case. For the most part radar detectors have remained largely unchanged for the last several decades. Granted, radar waves are radar waves, but it was still a slight surprise. The likes of Valentine have been able to sell the same model for a long time, and a fairly hefty price too. So how is that possible? Software, and external hardware integration. The big thing last gen was shoving GPS systems and Bluetooth into the builds. Before that it was making sure the filtering software was as refined as possible. Now it’s all about app augmentation. The SSR 80 cannot boast much in the way of extras, but Cobra have made a name for themselves with their excellent community app, the iRadar, and having that here really elevates this particular build.

I start these reviews with a look at the aesthetics of the build. Hardly what one could call the most important aspect of the radar detector, but with these Cobra builds, all priced similarly with similar specs, getting the one you like the look of is a real tie breaker trait.

Cobra Electronics SSR 80 Radar Detector Design and Build Quality

The first thing that stood out to me when I looked at the SSR 80 is the size. Cobra have a smaller build on sale right now, but this is still pretty damn inconspicuous. The overall look of the build is merely okay. I prefer symmetry, and that left hand pip on there is not to my cup of tea. The display is the older Cobra large LED type, and unlike other models on the market, Cobra are able to make that look good. The use of nice solid bars, and different colored lights for each band make it far easier to see what’s up at a glance. It has been a little on he sunny side here, and I have to point out that in strong sunlight seeing the display is a little more difficult than I would like. This is the first time I have experienced this. The warning noise is still shrill and more than up to the task of keeping you informed without the display, but it is a black mark from me.

Being so small comes with another minor downside. I don’t like the weight. I prefer a bit of heft to my electronics, and it just isn’t here. It does mean that the mounting bracket that comes as standard, a simple click system with suction cups, is more than up tot the task of keeping it safe, even in less than ideal terrain. I would still advise you look up a more modern bracket, something with a mag lock. The price of the SSR 80 is so low that you can pick one up without breaking $100 paid in total. If you are in Minnesota or California you cannot mount it to the windshield anyway, so getting a different bracket is probably a good idea.

When it comes to filtering the false positives the SSR 80 is far from the most impressive thing on the market. The feature is there, and it does its best, but it leaves a lot to be desired. I do have to state here that no one has it right, no matter how much you spend, out of the box you are going to get false positives. With a bit of tweaking you can get them down to only a few times a month, but it take work, and not all the tools fro that are here. If you want to give it a go with this build you will need access to the iRadar app and look up the kind of bands in use in your area, getting rid of the X band alerts is viable in a number of jurisdictions.

The radar detector detector protection is very robust with this model though, with both a VG2 mode and a Spectre mode to play around with. There isn’t much more to this build. The Range is standard, around 2 miles in open terrain, less in the city. A few filtering modes for the city, those are the false positive protections, and that’s about it.

The iRadar app is the ace in the hole for Cobra builds. The SSR 80 is not compatible out of the box, but there are cables that allow you to connect directly to your phone, and thus use the extra features. At its core it provides you with a real time community updated map of your area, showing all the risk areas. Expanded, we have auto updating of false alert areas, but that is for the more expensive models. Here you can help your neighbors by updating the list via the SSR 80 directly. It is an excellent purchase, and it increases the range of the SSR 80 immensely. There is no auto mute feature here though, which is a shame. It means that in order to switch off the verified false alerts you have to lean over to the detector manually. The lack of smart cable is being felt here, and hard. I consider it to be a touch dangerous, but it’s either that or stop the vehicle entirely. Neither are ideal options.

The final feature I will talk about is the LIDAR detector, or laser eye. I am not a fan of this. Not just in this particular Cobra build though, this paragraph has become pretty standard with my reviews, as no firm out there has a solution to the laser speed capture tech that I find terribly useful. it’s all about the way the tech detects speed. With radar the waves are large, they bounce all over the place, even in pop mode. With laser the beam is far narrower, there is less for the laser eye to pick up, so for the most part it only goes off after you have been hit. Best case scenario it goes off when someone within sight gets hit, giving you less than a minute to course correct. There are other options, and I will go into detail in the legality section, as there are a few dangers to using the alternatives.

This is far from an amazing radar detector, but at this price point it does not have to be one. What we are looking for is something that will get the job done, and when you tweak the settings, and know your area, this can be near a match for the most expensive models on the market. The iRadar app is the ace in the hole. It makes Cobra the only real option in the low cost market for radar detectors, the likes of Whistler and Beltronics both have similar builds, in similar price points, but they both lack a dedicated app.

Cobra Electronics SSR 80 Radar Detector Legality and Pricing

This is a bit of a bemusing section for me. I have reviewed a number of product ranges in the last few years, and none of them required that I look into the law regarding their ownership and use. With radar detectors there are two main laws to concern yourself with. The 1936 Communications act covers you in most states for use in a non commercial vehicle. In the mid nineties an act was passed that prohibited their use in commercial vehicles, sorry to all you freight haulers out there. There are exceptions, in both Virginia and DC you cannot use them no matter what you are driving, the same is true on US Military Bases. Finally, in both Minnesota and California there are laws regarding what you can and cannot place on your windshield. So be sure to find an alternative mounting location if you live or travel through either state. If you are an international reader then Radar detectors are likely illegal in your country outright. You can’t even use these in Canada, so be careful all those who cross the border regularly.

I have a problem with LIDAR detectors, if that last paragraph didn’t make that clear this one will. Thankfully there are alternative options. The most impressive is the jammer. Now, Radar jammers are against the law pretty much world wide, so steer clear. Laser jammers are covered by no laws, and so if you want full coverage you will want to pair a radar detector with a LIDAR jammer. They obfuscate your information for a moment, giving you time to course correct. There have been some reports of folk being pulled up on OoJ, obstruction of justice charges through the use of LIDAR jammers, so be careful, and verify what the deal is in your local area.

The price is where Cobra always knock it out of the park. The SSR 80 is n exception. In their Legacy department they list the SSR 80 at $60 or so. I would recommend you go somewhere else though, as I have been able to find it in the sub $50 range, and that makes this a bargain. When we look at the bonuses involved, the iRadar etc, then ths becomes a real contender. I am fast approaching the point where my top ten might consist entirely of Cheap Cobra builds and one high end Escort model.

Cobra’s warranty is okay. I have looked at a wide variety of warranties, and when one firm is getting away with a basic one the rest follow suit. You get one year of coverage, hardly terrible, but not ideal. It cover factory faults, but I would argue that so long as you are using it right, if it breaks within a year it counts as a factory fault. For the best coverage you should get it from a licensed third party, via Amazon as well. That way you get not only the one year of Cobra coverage, but also whatever the third party offers, and the consumer protection you get by going via Amazon as well. So long as you shop smart you can keep yourself covered no matter what.

Know the law. It can change, and it has in the recent past, but know what it is now before picking up an item that falls into a grey area. Radar detectors are great, and at this price you should seriously consider picking one up.

Cobra Electronics SSR 80 Radar Detector Conclusion

There is a lot to like here. The look of the build is not ideal, and the display is a little lacking, but the core design is alright. The core functions are great, maybe not perfect for long range driving, but in the city is is great. The iRadar is amazing, and while a lot o folk might not be able to make best use of it, you can still increase the effective range of the build by quite a bit by simply turning the thing on. The price is astounding, as it tends to be with these legacy Cobra builds, and the warranty is okay. Certainly one to consdier for those with more time than money.

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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