$99 Radar Detector Test
Can a budget-priced radar detector protect against radar and lasers?
By Radartest Staff
Last updated: 2021
Note: Discontinued. See reviews of the latest models.
In a radar detector, performance is everything. The farther away it can spot radar, the better. Performance, along with features, rises in lockstep with price. No surprise that $650 models deliver more of both.
But judging from industry sales numbers, many shoppers clearly are willing to compromise—the bulk of detectors today sells for less than a C-note. So naturally we wondered how much protection a $99 model can deliver. To find out, we stopped by a local big-box retailer and grabbed a pair of best-sellers in the $99 street-price class, the Whistler CR75 and Cobra SPX 5300.
We spent two days driving with the Whistler CR75 and the Cobra SPX 5300, then ran them through our usual battery of tests. For comparisons we included two entries from the over-$500 category, the Escort Passport Max 2 and Escort Redline. Here's what we found, the top-ranked model listed first.
The Whistler CR75 forgoes some of the Cobra's flashy brightwork in exchange for a lower profile and near absence of reflected windshield glare. Its primary functions are controlled by four top-mounted buttons. These are twice the size of the Cobra's and far easier to locate and operate.
Voice alerts and two sets of audible tones help the Whistler CR75 to identify the nature of a threat. Visual alerts are supplemented by a pair of dazzling blue LEDs that flash during radar and laser encounters.
The Whistler CR75 showed class-leading performance against X- and K-band radar, outpacing the Cobra SPX 5300—and very nearly the $549 Escort Passport Max as well—on both bands. It marginally trailed the Cobra on Ka-band, although still delivering adequate warning distance for an alert driver.
Bottom line: the Whistler CR75 delivers value-priced protection from radar and lasers. For more features and even better protection, try the Whistler CR90 or Whistler CR85.
Cobra SPX 5300
The Cobra SPX 5300 is the entry-level model in the SPX lineup. (Other models: SPX 5400, SPX 5500, SPX 6700, SPX 7700, SPX 7800BT.) It's among the smallest we've tested, measuring a svelt 3.7 inches by 2.4 inches (length and width).
Cobra calls this a "14 Band" model, nine of which aren't bands at all, merely marketing hype. One claim is detection of the Spectre IV radar detector detector used to sniff out illicit radar detectors.
At our Hill/Curve test site we found the Cobra SPX 5300's radar performance above-average on K and Ka bands but weak on X band. The latter is uncommon today but is used exclusivey by the Ohio Highway Patrol, making this model a poor choice for use in that state.
Despite its virtues, not to mention an attractively low price, the Cobra's fussy controls, weak performance against lasers and abundant false alarms may give pause to some, even dedicated bargain shoppers.