Note: Discontinued. See reviews of the latest models.
Scan the forums and three brands repeatedly surface as front runners in the super-premium category: Beltronics (BEL), Escort and Valentine. Valentine loyalists tout the Valentine One's sensitivity (the range at which it can detect police radar) and its directional arrows, claimed to be able to indicate the direction of a radar signal.
Fans of Escort point out that its windshield-mount model, the Redline, out-ranged every competitor in a recent test.
But it can't defeat red light cameras or ignore false alarms generated by static sources. For that, say the manufacturers, you'll need a GPS-enabled model. This begs the question: Which is better, GPS or conventional tech?
To sort out the claims and advertising hype, we compared the two types of detectors: GPS-enabled versus conventional-tech. Multiple tests were run over a period of months to finally answer the question: Can the GPS-enabled radar detector provide relief from cameras and better resist false alarms—but without skimping on performance in the process?
We tested a trio of non-GPS detectors, the BEL STi Magnum, Escort Redline and the Valentine One. The GPS group included the Beltronics Pro GX65 (now called the Pro 500), Cobra XRS-9970G and the Escort Passport 9500ix.
As expected, five of the six contestants turned in terrific scores, spotting all four radar guns from the maximum distance, 5.4 miles. The Cobra XRS-9970G again trailed the pack here, short-sighted on K- and Ka band. The range disparity between GPS and non-GPS groups mirrored their performances at the Around-the-Curve test site.
Urban False Alarm Test
A third series of tests scrutinized their resistance to false alarms. It also graded the GPS models' faithfulness in warning of red light and speed cameras, hundreds of which litter the metro Phoenix road system.
The first effort compared only the Escort 9500ix and Valentine One. Three assistants and two cars circled an 87.4-mile-long urban loop four times, mapping the radar sources and false alarms. The final score was V1: 51 false alarms, Escort Passport 9500ix: 0.
Then we took both on a 1,470-mile freeway blast, Phoenix to Little Rock, Arkansas. Each accurately reported all of the 21 police radars and two lasers encountered en route. The Valentine One also barked 111 false alarms, the Escort 9500ix only nine.
The Bottom Line
Each type of radar detector has a unique character. The best GPS-enabled models have high resistance to false alarms. They may have somewhat less range than their non-GPS siblings, but they offer protection from red light and speed cameras. For many, that's an acceptable tradeoff.