Shown from left: Whistler XTR-695, Cobra XRS 9950 and BEL (Beltronics) Vector 955: Which is the best radar detector under $199?
Last updated 3/6/2013
See the review of this test winner's successor in our recent test and review.
The Cobra XRS 9950 and Whistler XTR-695 are taking dead aim at the class-leading BEL (Beltronics)
Vector 955 (replaced by the BEL Pro 100). All three are street-priced well below $200 and the Cobra and Whistler models both
claim to equal or exceed the BEL in performance.
This was certainly enough to merit a field test to
measure the sensitivity (radar-detection range) of all three of these radar detectors.
After running the trio through my usual battery of tests, here's what I found, the results listed
alphabetically. (If you're the impatient type, scroll down toward the bottom of this story for
detection-range charts. Or see the companion story to learn more about their strengths, weaknesses and what it's
like to live with each.)
BEL Vector 955
(about $179 street price)
The Beltronics (BEL) Vector 955 is one notch up from the entry-level Vector model, the Beltronics (BEL) Vector 940 that's also reviewed in another recent
At the top of the range is the excellent Beltronics (BEL) Vector 995, the
subject of another review.
The top of the BEL Vector 955's housing is covered with matte aluminum, black buttons and large, raised
955 numerals in bright chrome. In sunlight it generates a substantial amount of glare. You'll be
staring at its mirror image in the windshield all day long.
That's the downside. The upside: Of these three the BEL's high-visibility red text display was the
best of the bunch, much more readable in a variety of lighting conditions than the display of
either the Cobra or Whistler.
The Beltronics (BEL) Vector 955's X-band city-mode sensitivity is trimmed severely, no doubt to limit urban false
alarms. It's better in X highway mode - certainly better than the Cobra XRS 9950 in this test - but well behind
the Whistler XTR 695 in highway mode and even farther behind in city mode. But unless you
routinely drive in Ohio or New Jersey, both of whose state patrols still use X-band heavily, that's not
worth losing any sleep over.
Performance on the two critical bands, K and Ka, was excellent, however. It was also the quietest in town and the most
resistant to falsing in reaction to nearby radar detectors. This trait alone endears this BEL Vector model to many of its owners.
The competition may be closing
the gap, but in balanced, all-around performance, the Beltronics (BEL) Vector 955 is still the standard-bearer for this class.
Cobra XRS 9950
(about $179 street price)
This Cobra XRS 9950 radar detector has what Cobra calls a Full-Color ExtremeBright DataGrafix Display
II, their term for its 1.5-inch OLED multi-color display with 3D graphics. Looks great but geez, is it
bright at night. It can be dimmed manually in three steps but Cobra wisely chose to automatically
extinguish the display after 30 seconds of operation.
That's considerate of them but leaves you guessing about what the detector is up to. The tiny,
yellow LED blinking in center-screen only tells you it's powered-up. No word about what mode it's
in. Pressing any button fires up the display, but this places an extra burden on the driver and I'd rather have essential status information always visible. Using the menu,
full-time illumination of the display is possible, but it's doubtful many would find that a fair tradeoff.
The XRS 9950 has a USB port to accommodate the same GPS module used by the Cobra XRS R9G, and their respective successors, the XRS 9960G and XRS R10G. (These Cobras' GPS chipsets worked well enough, but after an 18-month investigation, we
found their Aura red light and speed camera-location database to be alarmingly
This particular Cobra XRS 9950 clearly was suffering from some unknown affliction. You won't
see any X-band scores at the Curve Test Site because it didn't alert to the X-band radar until the
target car was parked next to it. In X-band city mode it had 67 feet of range, making it effectively
dead. On the upside, it hardly ever falsed on X band. But I wouldn't suggest taking it along if you're
driving anywhere that X-band radar is in use.
Better add K-band radar to the list as well, since this unit couldn't detect that frequency either. Nor
could it detect one of the two most commonly used Ka-band frequencies. This could well have been
a quality-control issue - Cobra doesn't make it a practice to sell nearly-deaf radar detectors.
Regardless, this Cobra XRS 9950 unit offered no real protection against police radar. [In a more recent test, the 9950's successor, the Cobra XRS 9955, turned in excellent scores. - Ed.]
Whistler XTR 695
about $179 street price)
[Learn more about this model's successor, the XTR-695SE, in a recent
Here's a radar detector clearly tailored for the serious road warrior and it certainly looks the part.
Other than some tiny white labels on the upper case, it's all-black. The payoff is minimal windshield
glare, a huge advantage. Instead of having to mount it well out of your line of sight - or maybe
under a Kleenex box, it can be placed directly in front of you, by far the best spot.
See the companion story for more about the Whistler XTR-695's feature set.
If you're keen to check out its performance,
the charts are just below. And that performance is substantial, especially in light of its relatively
One final note: the latest Spectre (a.k.a Stalcar) Mk IV-series of radar detector detectors finds the Whistler
XTR-695 extremely difficult to detect. The first time I tested against the Spectre Mk IV and Mk IVA
(used in Virginia, most Canadian provinces and elsewhere around the world where detectors are illegal to use), the
Spectre couldn't hear it from across a two-lane road. This also applied to the Whistler Pro 78 and
XTR-690 models. A quick change by the Stalcar designer means that these Whistlers no longer
enjoy complete immunity. But they're difficult to spot across a wide freeway median, making them
the stealthiest radar detectors except for the totally undetectable Beltronics (BEL) STi
Driver and Escort RedLine which cost three times as much.
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