Redflex speed camera watches westbound lanes of U.S. 60 in Mesa, Arizona. Two dozen of these photo-enforcement cameras and 40
mobile photo radar vans wrote 30,000 tickets during their first full month of operation.
The governor said she hoped to generate $100 million the first year. Then she skipped town to become the director of
Last updated: 2015
Note: Also see our latest test of GPS radar detectors.
The GPS-enabled radar detector market segment is too new to
acquired a body of field-test reports. That's no surprise as these models are extraordinarily difficult to test unless you 1) Are an expert on speed cameras and, 2) Have two
photo radar vans and a pair of $150,000 (installed price, each) red light or speed cameras at your disposal.
But with 20 years of hands-on speedcam background, we probably qualify as experienced hands at this subject. And we know where to acquire the equipment, never
mind how. Once suitably armed, we spent seven months systematically testing each model of detector against every type of threat.
We later tested the accuracy and comprehensiveness of each manufacturer's camera data base, checking to see how long it took before new locations were noted and whether they were marked accurately. (We found some
variations in the quality of the Escort and BEL Defender database versus the rival Cobra Aura speed- and red light camera database.)
Testing against conventional police radar was comparatively easy. We did this at our desert test sites northwest of Phoenix where we create real-world, worst-case
ambushes in a mix of hills and curves on a desolate highway. At a second test site we checked maximum radar-detection range, making certain that each detector
in advance of each radar gun.
Frequent readers will note that our choice of test locations this time excluded the 15-mile-long site that was the scene of the Escort RedLine's world record 14.25-mile radar warning range in another test. Earlier tests there of the BEL STi Magnum vs. the Valentine One; of the BEL GX65 and Escort 9500ix proved that any of them could spot
radar from over nine miles away, more than enough range--at least in the perfectly flat desert.
The choice of that test site prompted some readers to ask, "Why don't you do a real world test, where they've got trees and buildings and traffic?" There's a very reasonable answer to this question, but that subject is best addressed
To learn which is the best GPS-enabled radar detector, check out the features table below, then scan the test results to compare the performance of each. (To go directly
to the detailed review of a model, click on its name
BEL Pro 500
Cobra XRS R9G
Cobra XRS 9950
Escort Passport 9500ix
Escort Passport 9500ci
The first test was at our Straightaway test site, a no-brainer. It's a series of 3-mile-long and almost perfectly flat
straightaways linked by plunging downhill S-curves at low-water crossings where it intersects the same river several
times over the course of 10 miles. (Bridges are uncommon on secondary roads in the Southwest. Most rivers remain dry
51 weeks out of the year, leading road builders to run the pavement right through the stream beds. Wood posts marked
in inches are thoughtfully provided as depth gauges.)
The Curve Test Site is a particularly difficult challenge. Here the radar vehicle is parked in mid-curve, its radar aimed uphill and at a 45-degree angle away from
traffic. The police vehicle isn't visible until the
moment the radar operator has already locked-in the speed of an approaching car, at about 650 feet. With nothing to deflect the radar beam toward the detectors'
extreme sensitivity can deliver enough warning
Australia-based Redflex Traffic Systems is the largest photo enforcement
company doing business in the U.S. In years past its photo radar (speed) vans used a
Swiss-made Ka-band radar
that was very lower-powered and extremely difficult to detect.
Now they're using a German-made K-band radar that's slightly easier for radar detectors to spot. But
much. Of the dozens of models we've tested against the Redflex radar only a handful gave enough warning.
That bunch included all five of the GPS-enabled detectors and other high-end models with superior K-band sensitivity.
American Traffic Solutions (ATS) is the other dominant U.S. photo enforcement vendor. ATS
developed its own Ka-band radar and continues to use it. Like the
Redflex system, the ATS radar is very low-powered, making it equally tough to detect.
Target-capture range, the distance at which your speed is locked-in (and your photo is taken) varies from 30 to about 110 feet, depending upon the road width, number
lanes and shoulder width. At speeds under 55 mph we feel 375 feet of detection range is the absolute minimum, allowing only five seconds in which to react. At 75 mph, make that 550 feet, and that'll help only the wide-awake driver.