Sunday, May 28, 2023

Whistler CR85 Radar Detector Review

I’ve had a lot of fun this last few weeks, getting to check out the Whistler builds I wasn’t able to get two months back when I went through their more recent line. The CR series tends to be pretty good entry level models, good for those who want something that will last, but don’t want to bother with extensive external set ups to get the most out of them. I would argue that in order to get the most optimal day to day CR85 you have to set it up just right, but it doesn’t take long, and it is mostly self contained. The CR85 is a step up from the 80 in a number of key ways, but the lack of GPS, a feature unique to the CR90, limits the utility of the build in a big way, especially seen as it lacks app integration.The lack of app integration is the main fault of the CR line, and Whistler models in general, they make up for it somewhat with the customer support, but considering that community apps have been the only real advancement in the radar detector market for the last decade or so, I am a little wary about recommending the build.

When I got the radar detector review gig I spent the first few weeks in research mode. It’s the same no matter what product line I get, I look at the market, the key players, the feature sets and the evolution of the core tech used. With radar detectors it was a touch difficult to do that last one, mostly because the hardware of radar detectors has changed very little over the last decade or so. The V1, Valentine’s flagship model, is pretty much the same build from release. The reason that the prices remain so high is the software. Refined algorithms can take that same old signal and get more detailed information from it, increase the effective range, and remove more false positive signals. The other feature that increases price is app integration. A community alert app does the same thing as a refined algorithm, and when we combine them we get a near perfect experience. The lack of both features in the CR85 is a sticking point for me.

So let’s start with something that the Whistler builds tend to do well with. The Aesthetics and the feel of the build. Whistler have some great hardware designers, and the materials used are a cut above. When you combine that with their customer service, which is amazing, you get a very good long term investment.

Whistler CR85 Radar Detector Design and Build Quality

The CR85 follow the standard CR series design. A perhaps too complicated look, with a nice black and blue color scheme. The cluttered look of the build is at least symmetrical, putting it ahead visually of many other models out there. The CR85 is an older model though, as such the display is the older big LED display, like 80s clock radios. Rather than using the cheaper red LEDs, the CR series uses bright blue ones, and it was a fine choice. It elevates the look, creates cohesion with the other color accent points, and is very easy to read. I would have preferred to see something similar to Cobras multicolored LED display, for the different bands, or better, a full HD display like the latter day Escort line, but this is a close third best. Not the most important thing in the world, but the attention to detail here tells us a fair bit about the firm, and when you are caught between different builds, with similar price points and feature sets, the best looking option is the one to go for.

THE CR85 feel very much the rest of the line. Whistler have struck a good balance with the weight. I like a bit of heft to my electronics, and they have nailed it with this one. The mounting bracket is a little less impressive. The tech used is the older clock bracket, with suction cups, and while that is sturdy enough to hold the detector in place, I prefer a little more insurance. There are a few third party options out there, and I recommend you look into them. You are on the hunt for a mag lock and sticky suction cups. They provide you with the sturdiest mount on the market. The nice thing about these older Whistler builds is that the price is fairly low, so you can buy a few upgrades to improve your purchase without breaking the bank.

The CR85 is specced a shade below the CR90, but it shares one of the most important features with it’s more expensive sibling. The Intellicord. A smart cable is essentially a power cord that has buttons on it, allowing the user to switch modes and mute alerts on the fly. Considering that no matter what the companies do there is no ay to remove false positives then the ability to mute without exerting yourself, or putting yourself into harms way, is a must have feature. Some models have dedicated modes to auto mute, but I prefer manual mode. Not all firms sell these kinds of cables, only Whistler and Escort so far as I know.

There are a few other choice features in the CR85 that help you deal with false positives, from other radar detectors and parking sensors etc. First is the city mode options, of which there are three, allowing you to dial in the right mode depending on signal noise. The CR85 has both RSID and LSID, both of which are smart filtering techniques that further reduce the false signals. The range of the CR85 is augmented by the addition of the KA max mode, though it is limited to the KA band, KA is the most used radar band. In order to get as few false positives as possible you need to know your area, pay attention to the static false signals, dial in the correct city mode3, make use of the manual mute options and finally, verify if X band radar guns are still in use in your area. They are being phased out across the board, and in many areas are not in use at all.

The lack of an integrated app is a problem for me. While I have outlined above how to get the most out of your CR85 the fact that the feature set could be expanded by so much with a simple app annoys me. The Escort Live app or the excellent iRadar from Cobra a community apps that receive updates from every other radar detector on the road, automatically muted false signals and warning the users of threats well outside the standard range of their radar detector. I would advise everyone to buy a subscription to some kind of community radar app, as even without a radar detector you can receive nice GPS updates, even if you cannot make use of the more advanced features of the radar detector. Again, as the price of the CR85 is not all that high, you can grab a sub to the iRadar or the Escort Live app and still be under $200, which is the upper limit for what i would call a cheap radar detector.

now we come to my least favorite feature of these radar detectors. All the big firms are pushing this as an answer to the laser speed detection systems rolling out right now. the laser eye. They are nice, and they do work, but the amount of warning time you get is so low as to be only circumstantially useful. It’s all down to the amount of signal refraction that occurs. Radar waves bounce around a lot, and travel far, so you can pick up a radar guns use miles away, even the quick pop radar style speed detectors. With LIDAR, or laser, the beam is fine, small, and the amount of refraction only really travels within line of sight. Not bad for the highway, less so in the city. There is a nice alternative to laser eye systems, but there are a few legal issues there, so I will go into details in the legality section of the review.

Overall this is far from a bad radar detector. The core feature set is great, and with a few tweaks we can have this build running near as good as the high end machines. The real selling point for me is the quality of the build, the longevity, combined with the after care support from Whistler you have a build that willl do its job well, for a long long time.

Whistler CR85 Radar Detector Legality and Pricing

I love the fact that I get to talk about the legality of these products. It is important to know where you stand with a radar detector, as while they are legal in most places, they are not legal in all. If you are driving a commercial vehicle then you are not allowed to use a radar detector, in any state. For your non-commercial vehicle you are good in all but two states. Both Virginia and Washington DC ban the use of radar detectors across the board, they are also prohibited on all military bases too. Minnesota and California have state laws restricting what can be placed on the windshield, so find somewhere else to mount the radar detector i you live, or work, or travel through, either states. Be careful when traveling outside of the US. I cannot find info on the legality of their use in Mexico, but I know for certain that they are illegal in most Canadian provinces.

Now, the alternative to the laser eye feature. It means buying new hardware, but I feel the utility outweighs the price. Laser jammers always work, and give you plenty of time to course correct your speed.

The CR85 is well price for what you get. It sits in the sub $130 price range, cheaper if you find it second hand. It might lack a fair few features that I consider integral, but the price is low enough to offset this issue. It might be cheaper to go with a legacy Cobra build, but there are in short supply, and when they run out the CR series from whi9stler may become the go to cheap option.

The warranty is pretty standard. The radar detector industry as as whole has come together to make the warranty stand at 1 year, and made it limited too. There is no warranty war going on, so don’t expect that to change for the foreseeable future. Whistler have some of the best customer support out there. I contacted them as a consumer to test out their response times, and they got back to me faster than most. They have an in house repair shop too, so in the unlikely even that your build breaks down they can guarantee your build will be fixed quick and returned.

be sure to keep yourself covered. knowing the law is important, you do not want to be in the wrong place operating a radar detector, as there are folk being taken up all the time. So long as you know the state laws regarding there use, and pay attention to any new acts with the word communications in them, you should be fine. The price is great, and the warranty is well worth the asking price.

Whistler CR85 Radar Detector Conclusion

The CR85 is far from the best option on the market, but it might be the best option in the CR line, when you look at the price and the feature set. So long as you combine all the things I tell you to combine you can end up with a radar detector experience that is on par with some of the best on the market. The price is impressive too, and the warranty is the usual excellent Whistler warranty. Certainly one to consider.

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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