What's the best radar detector? Many define best as the one with the longest range, the distance from which a radar detector can ferret out police radar. Some judge by price, figuring that a higher tariff equates to better protection.
Three models that seem to garner the most buzz are the Escort Redline EX ($599), the Escort Passport Max 360c ($599) and the Valentine One ($399).
These three share a feature rare among radar detectors: dual antennas. The Max 360c and Valentine One (V1) antennas point fore and aft, allowing them to depict the direction of an incoming radar beam. In the Redline EX both are forward-facing to maximize sensitivity (range).
Curious to see which design philosophy produces the best radar detector, we spent days on the road with each. Here's what we found.
Escort Redline EX
- Superior performance
- Effective filtering
- Great windshield mount
- Advanced features
- Low-contrast display
The Escort Redline EX has a matte-black case adorned on top with only a discreet Redline EX logo, making it much more resistant to annoying windshield reflections than many detectors.
Its windshield bracket attaches to the detector magnetically, making short work of installing or removing it.
The Redline EX feature set is shared with the Escort Passport iXc and Max 360c. This includes is an IVT filter to identify BSM (Blind Spot Monitor, or lane-change-warning) radar and resist false alerts.
Upscale features include Auto Learn which automatically locks out nuisance signals like radar-controlled automatic door openers. Drive past one a few times and it's automatically stored to memory. Next time you drive past, there's no alert.
Inherited from the Max 360c and iXc is an annoying Overspeed Alert that warns when 70 mph is exceeded. Fortunately, it can be shut off via the Preferences menu or the threshold speed can be raised to defeat it.
The Redline EX benefits from its GPS and sophisticated software, with good resistance to false alerts. It has a filter to recognize and ignore BSM radar, something Escort dubs IVT, or Intelligent Vehicle Technology.
We found the Escort Redline EX to be a very capable radar detector, among the best we've tested in Ka-band range, the radar frequency favored by most traffic enforcers.
The Redline EX offers some unique features in exchange for its higher price. For example, it's the only one that can't be detected by the Spectre radar detector-detector. The RDD is used by police to spot illicit detectors and the Redline EX is immune to it.
It's also one of the few able to sniff out Mutaradar and Gatso radar increasingly being used by red light and speed cameras.
Escort Passport Max 360c
- Hot K-band range
- Advanced features
- Automatic radar lockouts
- Red light camera alerts
- Speed-variable sensitivity
- Dim display
The Max 360c is housed in a two-tone case and controlled by six top-mounted buttons. The four primary buttons are white-labeled and can reflect mirror images of themselves into the windshield on sunny days.
A clever windshield mount attaches to the detector magnetically and hangs onto the glass tenaciously.
The small OLED display is used by other Escorts including the Redline EX. It's densely packed with images and tiny text. Although colorful and capable of displaying graphics, the OLED unfortunately lacks the visual punch of an LED. As a consequence, on sunny days the display can get washed out by the sun.
The Max 360c's LED directional arrows remain distinct in sunlight and the audible alerts are equally effective warnings.
Unique in this group, the Max 360c has Wi-Fi, enabling it to link without a cellphone to the Escort Live app, a crowd-sourced ticket-avoidance network. The system broadcasts warnings of nearby speed-enforcement activity and helps keep tabs on the enforcers.
Unlike the V1, the Max 360c has GPS and Auto Learn, same as the Escort Redline EX. This allows it to recognize and lock out nuisance signals automatically after passing them on multiple occasions.
The Escort Passport Max 360c will appeal to drivers preferring set-and-forget operation. It has class-leading K-band performance and also ranked well on the Ka-band tests. Its array of features and the ability to automatically lock out nuisance radar signals make it a good choice for drivers weary of being bombarded by false alarms.
And the arrows pointing toward a threat will be an added attraction for many.
- Good range on X and K bands
- Simple controls
- Good visual alerts
- Quick response
- Few features
- Weak on 35.5 GHz Ka band
- No GPS or AutoLearn
- False alerts
The Valentine One is a familiar face and has been a contender in a dozen of our shootouts since it was introduced in 1991. It has received a few updates—laser detection in the mid-nineties, a revised circuit board in 2007 and sporadic software tweaks—but is otherwise unchanged from the original.
The V1 remains focused on performance rather than features. There's no auto mute, no selectable band defeat or GPS, for instance. A routine task like shutting off X band, which has nearly disappeared in this country, takes about 12 seconds in an Escort and can be done while driving. Doing the same with a V1 requires an Internet search followed by an extended session of button-pushing. Neophytes may find the process most safely done at home.
All operations are controlled by a rotary multi-function switch that handles audio volume, muting and operating mode. Using a single control conserves space but slows the pace considerably. A change of operating modes requires a leisurely 2.1 seconds, for instance, while both Escorts accomplished that task in one-tenth the time.
The front of the matte-black housing is dominated by large red arrows that depict radar direction. The bright LEDs are readily seen during daylight and while a photocell dims them at night, they remain visible for hundreds of feet to the rear. This tends to attract curious cops. Many detector-poor drivers also seem to find the arrows irresistible, drawn near like moths to a flame, often tailgating and refusing to back off. A concealed display ($39) is necessary to kill the light show after dark and lessen the come-hither effect.
- Dual radar antennas
- Directional threat arrows
- Front and rear laser detection
The Bogey Counter displays up to nine simultaneous threats. In town, we found it a bit overwrought, often screaming warnings of four or more threats in reaction to one radar signal.
The Bogey Counter displays up to nine simultaneous threats. In town, we found the feature a bit overwrought, often screaming warnings of four or more threats in reaction to one radar signal.
For the directional arrows of the Radar Locator to work accurately the detector must be mounted mid-windshield, with a clear view front and rear. We found it to be generally accurate in open country but it can get confused in town, the arrows lighting up randomly.
The V1's radar response is faster than either of the Escorts'. This doesn't allow much time to analyze a signal and not infrequently, it gets it wrong. The result is more false alarms than we'd prefer, particularly in town.
With its hair trigger, we found the Valentine One to be happiest on open highways where fewer radar sources can help to keep it quieter. But it's also prone to detecting Blind Spot Monitor radar in passing cars and barking K-band alerts in response.