Review: Whistler CR85
Class-leading performance and value
By Radartest staff
The Whistler CR85 is company's range-topping non-GPS, windshield-mount model, slotted just under the GPS-enabled CR90. Other non-GPS models in the lineup, differing mainly in features and price, include the CR80 and CR75.
The front of the Whistler CR85 case is dominated by a blue OLED text display that’s larger and higher-contrast than many such designs. The engineers resisted the temptation to cram too much into the available real estate, allowing space for large, readable fonts. And the display remains readable even in bright sunlight. In contrast, the OLED display of one $599 model from a competitor is impossible to read while wearing sunglasses. Even without shades on, the latter's small display, packed with colorful icons and text, is an ergonomic mess.
Voice alerts and tones are provided, helping the driver to identify the nature of an alert. Visual alerts are displayed on the OLED screen, augmented by two dazzling blue LEDs that flash during radar and laser attacks.
The Whistler CR85 is designed for plug-and-play operation. But it has an unusually broad array of user settings—we counted 16 primary menu items but probably missed some—that allows extensive fine-tuning of the CR85’s operation and behavior.
There’s an exceptionally wide array of features intended to reduce annoying false alarms, but without chopping performance in exchange. Three City modes progressively lower X-band sensitivity or disable it. There are six filter modes for the trio of radar bands, allowing a separate level of filtering for each.
Engaging TFSR (Traffic Flow Signal Rejection) tells the Whistler to ignore signals from the low-powered, pole-mounted radars increasingly being used by transportation departments to monitor traffic flow and speeds. Installed at regular intervals at roadside, these pests trigger periodic alerts—mostly K-band—unless TFSR is asked to intervene. First it recognizes the spurious signals, then ignores them and declines to false-alarm. We tested TFSR in metro Denver and verified that it works as advertised.
One invaluable feature is Ka RSID, short for Ka-band Radar Signal Identification. It verifies when a Ka-band radar signal is coming from a police radar gun and not one of the innumerable other sources that pose no threat. Being able to instantly spot a bogus Ka-band alert is anything but marketing hype.
Laser detection is a task where the Whistler CR-Series models excel. The CR85 and its siblings proved unusually adept at spotting lasers, including several new laser guns that outwitted some pricier models. The better high-end laser jammers, $500 and up, remain the only reasonably fail-safe countermeasure. But packing a Whistler CR85 or another CR family member offers more protection than we’d have expected for the money.
Against radar threats the Whistler CR85 delivered nearly identical performance to its forebears, the Whistler Pro 78SE, XTR-690SE and Whistler XTR-695SE. (This is hardly a surprise since they all share the same well-sorted electronic platform.)
At our Curve/Hill test site the Whistler CR85 and CR90 stayed very close to class-leading BEL (Beltronics) Pro 100 radar detector. Against its Cobra competition the Whistler CR85 (and the CR90 we also tested) proved significantly hotter on the X-band radar frequency.
That gap shrank on K band but widened again on the two most widely used Ka-band radar band frequencies, 34.7 and 35.5 GHz. This is worth noting since Ka band is the radar frequency of choice for nearly all state highway patrol divisions and state police agencies across North America.
The Whistler CR85 stands out for its sophisticated, feature-rich design, not to mention its effectiveness in countering radar and laser guns.
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