Another blast from the past this week with a look at the Whistler XTR 130. Far from the most impressive build on the market, with a feature set better suited to the demands of 2001 than 2017. For those just looking to get into radar detectors it does offer all the basics, and the price point is low enough to make it an attractive first purchase. Whistler are well known for their broad spectrum, bare bones builds.
This series of reviews on radar detectors has been a blast, getting to know the market, the consumers and the underlying tech has kept me busy for a few months now. Shame I’ll have to let the knowledge go to waste, I can only hope a new model is announced from someone soon, or maybe someone would like to show off their built in detector? Regardless, the most interesting thing I have found is the fact that the hardware has seen few changes in the last couple of decades. All of the advancements have been made on the software end of things. Of course some firms are expanding the feature set of their builds by chucking extra hardware in there, GPS systems and Bluetooth usually. I love the expanded functionality, and in many ways it can supercede good software. Taking the same signal and filtering it a little better can give a detector more range and allow it to differentiate between signals on the fly that much better. Bluetooth app integration can allow a build to reach out far beyond its operating range, due to community updates in real time. The XTR 130 has none of that. So while the feature et is basic, it is much easier to use.
So let’s get to the review. First a look at the build itself, independent of the feature set. Not the most important thing in the world, but I feel I need to say something nice about the XTR 130 before I rip into the lack of features.
Whistler XTR 130 Radar Detector Design and Build Quality
The XTR is an interesting build. I love the molding used, the actual shape of the plastic, but the decals are a little 1992 cool for school. Looking past that we have just the three buttons for mode switching and a volume option. The display is excellent though. I am not a fan of older big LED displays, as they tend to veer too close to clock radio territory for me to get behind them. Cobra changed my mind on that with their multi colored LEDS, assigning a color to a band, making it easy to see what is being picked up at a glance. The Whistler XTR 130 uses the same design, and you can see it on the higher end ones too. There are a few off model builds that use just the red, so be careful about which version you are picking up.
The feel is a touch on the cheap side. It is lighter than I would like, but the casing feels sturdy enough. The mounting bracket leaves much to be desired though, I like a good mag lock and sticky suction cup bracket, like the one offered by Escort on their models. here we have the older click bracket style and simpler suction cups. It works, and I gave it a bit of a thump just to make sure it stayed, but still. You can look into a third party option, and the low price of this build makes that viable as an option.There are a number of extra items that you should look into when you buy a sub $30 detector that will really add to the experience.
The XTR 130 is compatible with the wonderful intellicord from Whistler. The name might be a touch cumbersome on the tongue, but the added utility is well worth the expense. It has buttons on it, allowing you to change modes and adjust volume on the fly.
The on board software is workable, but nothing special. range wise we can expect around 2 miles in good conditions, and less in the city. Selecting the correct city filtering mode is paramount to using this thing without headaches in the city. The detector can operate both plugged in and off an on board battery. I love this, as it allows the user base to expand out into motorcyclists as well as motorists. Our modes are the standard three city modes, each cutting off various signals, VG-2 mode, for protecting against detector detectors, with Whistler offering the best version of this protection, they wrote the code in house, and it is excellent. The lack of a specific pop radar detection mode is a concern, but pop radar is not immune to regular radar detection most of the time anyway, so it is a small issue. There is not much else in terms of core features here, a real shame, as that means I now have to talk about the downsides.
The biggest of which is the lack of app integration. I get that this is an older, and cheaper, model, but still. A cable connector and a firmware upgrade are all that would be needed to get this thing onto the iRadar or the Escort Live app. Beltronics have a deal with Escort for some of their models, and I feel that Whistler could really benefit from a similar deal. Even Cobra have started porting their app to their older models, with a propriety cable being sold to allow direct connection. I do recommend you look into buying a subscription to an app service regardless, and even without directly connecting your radar detector to it you can still receive real time road updates via it.Escort Live has the most features, but I believe the iRadar has more on road users. Really depends on your needs. It is true that the XTR 130 will not be able to make use of the auto muting of known false alerts that the apps offer, nor does it have a smart learning feature, which allows it to remember the hazards on your route.
Now I get to talk about the worst feature on the model. Well, I think it’s the worst on all models. The laser eye detection system. The world of speed detection is getting more and more sophisticated, and with the slow emergence of laser speed guns the radar detector firms have had to come up with a counter. their answer is the laser detection system, present in pretty much every model on the market right now. The reason I have so much disdain for the feature, disdain enough to dedicate a paragraph to it in every review at this point, is due to the fact that while it works, it does not work well. And it’s all because of how laser speed guns work. With radar the signal is broad, it bounces for miles around, which is why you can get miles of warning. this is even true of pop radar, but not of laser. It cannot be picked up miles away yet, and usually you are already hit with the laser by the time the detector informs you. Making the warning useless. It is possible to pick up some refraction from other people being hit, but this is only within line of sight. There is an alternative, but I will go into that in the legality section, as there are a few issues that need to be talked about there.
Overall this is far from a perfect build, and there are only a few tweaks available to make it run smooth. It is at least easy to use, just turn it on and go, but I like being able to change more than simply the filtering mode. The real praise is going to be heaped on in the next section, as that price is very hard to argue against.
Whistler XTR 130 Radar Detector Legality and Pricing
Ah, the Law. With a capital L no less. It is important to know where you stand with radar detectors, as there has been changes to the law in the last few decades. They are illegal in the State of Virginia, and also in Washington DC. Everywhere else they are legal in non-commercial vehicles.
This is where the Whistler XTR 130 comes into its own. As a legacy build the price is dirt cheap, we are looking at $29. Hell, some folk are selling them for $5. It makes it incredibly attractive to anyone who wants to check out the local radar use without breaking the bank, and for my money it is well worth looking into. I would not advise you use it long term, what with it being massively outclassed by the newer detectors, but as a brief look into the world of radar detectors there are f=very few downsides.
I wish radar detectors were more like mattresses. Not that I want to sleep on one. I just want a good warranty. The mattress industry saw a warranty arms race, and so have some of the best in the world. Radar detectors have seen no race, so we are stuck with an across the board 1 year limited warranty. That only covers factory faults. I would argue that if it breaks within a year of normal use then it should count as a factory fault, but have had to press that issue with other manufacturers. Whistler have a bit of an edge over the competition though, they have an in house repair shop and some of the best customer support on the market. I have contacted them outside of my normal channels in the past for review purposes and the speed of their replies was wonderful. They also offer to repair their builds in perpetuity. They charge after the first year, but it is still good to know you have that safety net. My advice is to buy from a licensed third party seller on Amazon, that way you get whatever they offer, the standard 1 year limited and the consumer protections offered by Amazon themselves. it will keep you covered no matter what.
Moving forward I expect to see some legislation about LIDAR jammers come in, when LIDAR speed detection becomes more widespread. Seen as x-band radar detectors are still being used in some jurisdictions it will be a while though. The price to me was astounding, the fact that you can get a functional radar detector for as little as $5, and one that has a trusted name at that, is mind boggling. The warranty could be better, no question, but that is the norm in this business. There are ways to protect yourself when buying, and I recommend you do everything you can to protect yourself.
Whistler XTR 130 Radar Detector Conclusion
This is not the best radar detector on the market, that is obvious. Whistler do not make cutting edge products, but they do make dependable ones. Their builds tend to keep working as the years go by, and that can only be a good thing. The price point is wonderful, so good that this is the third time in this article that I have raved about it, but seriously, as little as $5? Amazing. The bonus features are fine, and the core functionality is okay.
If you are looking to dip a toe into the world of radar detectors then you could do a lot worse than the XTR 130. It is cheap and cheerful, will do the job with consummate mediocrity, but at this price point we can’t ask for more.