BEL STi Magnum Radar Detector Review
Ultra-high performance, not detectable by police
Last updated: 2015
The BEL (Beltronics) STi Magnum is a high performance radar detector that can claim a long list of technological innovations. It was the first to have twin forward-facing radar antennae, with low noise amplifiers (LNA), for instance. Never mind the buzzwords, just take it on faith this stuff is expensive. The payoff is heightened sensitivity and pumped-up radar warning range.
The BEL STi Magnum was also the world's first undetectable model; more recently it was joined by the phenomenal Escort RedlineXR, the best windwhield-mount model we've tested.
The shared characteristics aren't a coincidence: BEL is an Escort subsidiary and under the skin, the BEL STi Magnum and Escort Redline are identical. Same electronic platform, switchgear, red LED display, backlighting and principal features; even their power cords, mounting brackets and accessories are interchangeable. The most noticeable difference between the two is in their construction: the BEL STi Magnum has a magnesium housing while the Escort Redline's is polycarbonate.
The BEL STi Magnum is all business. Its robust metal case is matte black to keep it stealthy and to resist windshield reflections. The three front-mounted control buttons are red-backlit—another industry first—to make nighttime operation easy. Its coiled Smart Cord adds an audio muting button with LEDs for status and alerts, letting the driver conceal the detector and operate it remotely. A small touch, but vital when eagle-eyed lawmen are looking for illicit detectors.
A high-intensity red text display is adjustable in four steps from all-dark to maximum brightness; it also auto-adjusts. Visual alerts depict the radar band—X, K or Ka—accompanied by a bargraph that shows signal strength, or proximity to the radar gun. With experience, a driver can use this to tell if the radar gun is an imminent threat or only a potential problem far up the road ahead.
Four operating modes—highway, city, City NoX and Auto—maximize sensitivity (radar warning range) while also limiting false alarms. (Many urban false alarms are generated by radar-controlled automatic door openers that share X and K band with police radar.)
There's an audio jack to link the BEL STi Magnum with a powered external speaker, useful in overcoming the high ambient noise levels inside heavy trucks. Commercial drivers, principally 18-wheeler jockeys, are big fans of the Magnum due to its immunity to the radar detector detectors used to ferret out illicit detectors. (The federal ban on detectors in big trucks—imposed at the behest of a congressman cozy with the terminal trucking industry, had nothing to do with safety. It was designed to hobble independent owner-operators and make them less competitive.) Politics aside, however, the BEL STi Magnum and its Escort twin are the tools of choice among this group of drivers.
The BEL STi Magnum is plug-and-play but it also offers several user-selectable options. One is voice alerts. These make threat identification nearly idiot-proof and speed the process of getting acquainted. Those who prefer alert tones can opt out with a few seconds' worth of button-pressing.
Another unique feature is selectable band defeat to deactivate any radar band, particularly X band, and further heighten the Sti Magnum's resistance to false alarms.
On the open road, the BEL Sti Magnum has good resistance to false alarms, many of them caused by radar detectors in nearby vehicles. It also has Tech Display (a.k.a. Spec Display), a handy feature that will tell the driver whether a Ka-band radar alert is police radar or another radar detector. Knowing the difference means not having to stand on the brakes in reaction to every alert.
The BEL STi Magnum held the record for long-range radar detection—nearly 12 miles—until the arrival of the Escort RedlineXR, with a staggering 14.5 miles of warning range. Those records were set on flat desert roads and range elsewhere is far less. But with performance to burn, this translates into detection of radar coming from beyond a distant hill or curve, when conventional detectors will remain silent.
If lasers pose a threat, the Laser ShifterPro system provides bullet-proof protection.
With its solid array of features and sparkling performance, the BEL STi Magnum remains the tool of choice for those shopping for extreme range, anvil-like durability and user-friendly operation.
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- Automobile Magazine