Note: Discontinued. See reviews of the latest models.
Remote (built-in) radar detectors are a niche market, higher in price ($800 - $1,999) and too specialized to enjoy a wide following in a market where the typical detector sells for barely a hundred bucks.
But for those who feel the need for a built-in detector, highly resistant to theft and, equally important, to official notice by uniformed gents packing guns and badges, there's no substitute for a quality remote model.
This has traditionally been a small market, usually consisting of no more than three models from as many manufacturers. But competition has been heating up of late and today the field is made up of several models.
Presented below, listed by price, low to high, here's what we found.
The Whistler DE3300's array of features allows it to be extensively customized to the user's preferences. For example, there are three separate sets of audio tones and a tutorial mode that speeds the task of learning the audio alerts. There's also a trio of City modes: City operates conventionally, raising the threshold at which an X-band alert is sounded and helping to limit urban falses, City 1 decreases X-band sensitivity to further reduce falsing and City 2 disables that band completely.
One unique feature designed to test the driver's alertness is dubbed Stay Alert. Once engaged, it periodically delivers an audible and visual alert and the driver must respond by pressing a button within five seconds. Fail to react fast enough and the message Get Rest is displayed, followed by an ear-splitting alarm. It's supremely irritating; I'd suggest using it only if you're seriously in danger of nodding off.
The Whistler turned in consistently superior performance, scoring within a few feet of the leader in every test. It also ranked second-quietest on the urban loop with only two falses.
We found the Whistler 3300 a pleasant driving companion and worth considering if you're shopping for a sensitive, full-featured remote.
The BEL remote (model 975R) occupies the middle ground in price and its compact control module--smallest of the bunch--gives it an edge in fitting tight cockpits. For those who demand the ultimate in low-profile operation it can also be built-in to the dash.
The bite-sized packaging does entail some compromises. For example, its four front-mounted switches are small and closely spaced, making them hard to find at speed or at night. Its status indicators--pale green and amber--proved extremely hard to see in sunlight although the four red signal-strength LEDs were always legible. Fortunately, the control module weighs only 1.6 ounces, allowing us to mount it under-dash using Velcro, shielding it from both sunlight and inquisitive eyes.
Audio alerts were less distinctive than those of the Escort Passport SR7, Escort Passport SRX or Whistler 3300 but arrive with an ear-shattering 96 dB of authority, making it a good choice for noisy vehicles.
The BEL 975R offers a full complement of features including auto mute, an abbreviated power-up self-test sequence, three-step dim/dark mode and memory for preferred user settings. It also has user-selectable features: auto mute, SWS and selectable band defeat. The latter permits the disabling of X or K bands for drivers who live in areas where one or another of those frequencies isn't used.
Like its forebears, the Vector LR Remote weighed in with excellent radar performance, scoring within feet of the leader on two of the three radar bands and lagging only slightly behind on the third band. On the urban loop the BEL barked three false alarms, an acceptable if unexceptional number. Its laser detection range was good but like other remotes whose laser detection modules mount high on the windshield, laser attacks at close range frequently went entirely unnoticed.
That aside, with its superior sensitivity and good overall utility we'd call the BEL a good choice for performance-minded shoppers.
Escort's entry-level remote model is essentially an SRX that does without a few standard features. Unlike its big brother, the SR7 comes without the twin laser shifters, resulting in a significant reduction in price, although it does have two detection-only modules, one each in front and rear. But those who won't leave home without active laser countermeasures will be pleased to learn that Escort Passport's ZR3 laser shifter package--twin front and single rear laser receiver/transmittters--plugs in to the system.
Instead of twin laser jammers that have combined detection and laser-jamming capabilities, the SR7 makes do with front and rear laser-detection modules that simply bolt to the license plate mounting holes.
Like the Escort Passport SRX, the new Escort Passport SR7 remote radar detector is a paragon of simple operation and also proved the faster of the two to install, a one-hour process compared to three-plus for the more complex SRX and three hours each for the BEL and Whistler.
The red text display, like that of the Escort Passport SRX, was the class of the field and the only one to be very impervious to direct sunlight. And the thumbwheel switch for power and audio volume is far faster and simpler to operate than the multi-function switches of the others.
In performance the Escort Passport SR7 is virtually indistinguishable from the SRX. Sensitivity was the best I've seen from a remote detector. At our Straightaway/Hills test site, for example, the SR7 delivered an additional 9,395 feet of range on K band and an extra 15,894 feet on Ka band over the SRX, only a few feet shy of 7.6 miles versus the SRX's 4.6 miles.
I was impressed by the Passport's superb audio, its informative and easily interpreted visual alerts and not least, by its uniformly excellent performance. Like the Escort Passport SRX, the new Escort Passport SR7 was the class of the field in radar and laser detection and it sets a new standard in straightforward, intuitive operation. If you can't afford an Escort Passport SRX, I'd advise giving this one a close look.
At first glance this Passport remote appears identical to the Passport SR7, understandable since it shares the latter's control/display unit, interface box and rear laser antenna housing. And while it's true they both detect radar and lasers, the Escort Passport SRX has a special capability that's certain to please drivers pestered by laser attacks: it has built-in laser jammers.
The Escort Passport SRX incorporates a trio of detector/shifter (transceiver) modules, two grille-mounted, the third affixed to the rear license plate.
I also noted that the dual-transceiver design dramatically increases this detector's laser field of view, the crucial ability to detect off-axis laser beams. At our standard 1,000-foot FOV test range, we measured the SRX's field of view at an average of 118 inches from the vehicle centerline, almost triple that of the second-best unit and the best performance we've recorded.
Blessed with this tantalizing combination of features and unique capabilities, I'd hesitate to call the new Escort Passport SRX a radar/laser detector. More accurately it's an integrated radar/laser protection system and an effective tool for the driving enthusiast.