Which radar detectors are the best ?
1st place, best overall performer and for sheer grunt, the latest Valentine 1 is as good as they get.
But remember we tested many V1's as well as the latest Valentines.
And you will pay a premium price, almost twice the price of the next best in line!
Which Valentine 1?
There have been numerous software improvements to the V1 over many years.
The most recent V1's, those released after the NEW BEL 955/970/980 were released showed a 2-3 dBm increase in K Band sensitivity over the V1's of 18 months ago, and 4-5 dBm in excess of a year ago. These are our figures, and Valentine may state a higher figure, needless to say, V1's are improving every day!
Top points for the K Band sensitivity of the NEW Valentine 1.
Value for money: Performance vs Price
For around $400.00, the Valentine 1, (2001/3) is the most expensive unit in the U.S
For those drivers looking for the best, and price is not a consideration, the V1 is it.
They don't come any more powerfull, or smarter than the latest V1, and I expect there never will be a higher performing detector. ( Mike Valentine will ensure that!)
The Valentine1, is 4 times the average price (Ave: $100.00) of a detector. But that high price tag can be quickly justified from the first time the V1 saves you from the new K or Ka DIGITAL radars.
LATE NEWS: There is a new smaller V1 due out soon.
The new model weighs in at a tiny 6.4 Ozs, almost half the weight of the latest BEL or ESCORT detectors, and is barely 1' high at its thickest point.
We are sure that the new V1 will not only maintain Valentines leading edge in the technology, but, increase that lead by a substantial amount.
Initial testing of the new V1, has shown superior radar, and especially laser performance, over all other brands.
Valentine clearly state their commitment to producing the most powerfull Radar/Laser detectors available, that means 2nd place is not in their specifications!
On the highway you can expect to detect mobile K band radar up to 7 miles away (line of sight). Plenty for most drivers if the radar is turned on all the time, and not in the HOLD mode.
NOTE: REAR facing Antenna?
The V1 has an additional rear facing antenna. Its sensitivity is less than the forward facing antenna, but more than a match for any moving radar approaching from behind. (rear)
The benefit of a rear facing antenna, is only valid, where there is no obstruction to rear vision. Eg: Not valid for laden trucks, or larger vehicles.
The forward facing antenna of a good detector, like the V1, Escort 8500 or BEL 900 series, will detect most mobile radar upto 3/4 of a mile from behind!
This is due to the radar beam going past your vehicle, and reflecting off approaching cars, trucks, buildings, sign posts, and any other reflective object ahead of you.
With radar on HOLD mode, off/on, operation, you would hope to get a couple of beeps as an officer checks another vehicle ahead of you, and the range could come down to less than 2 miles.
"K" Band Camera radar was no problem for the Valentine 500 yards to 1,000 yards approaching a camera, or driving into the beam. With 200-300 yards early warning before you passed the camera facing away from you.
Ka Band was a little tougher.
Our tests showed Valentine is still a little down in this area compared to BEL 950/970/980.
But, Valentine's software is much smarter than BEL's and what the V1 lacks in sensitivity it makes up for in intelligence/speed (fast response time).
So again top marks for the V1 on Ka Band.
Ka Mobile and Camera radar:
"Average" range on mobile "Ka" radar on the highway, is 2 to 3 miles. ( Real world, not a staged test.)
On "Ka" camera radar, you are looking at a detection distance of between 200 to 300 yards before you pass the camera. IF it's facing you!! If it's facing away from you, you're looking at between 100-150 yards before you pass the camera. Remember, you have to be about 20 yards past the camera for it to take your photo (rear facing camera), or 20 yards before you pass it. (camera facing approaching traffic)
On the technical side the V1 looks good, but in our dealings with Valentine over the last couple of years, we have found them lacking in the customer service department.
We found Valentine research to be a little aloof and slow to respond to customer inquiries. Many faxes were never answered, and answers, when they came, were vague.
More recently, (April 2001) we have seen an improvement in the time taken to respond to customer requests.
The Valentine Internet (web) site was revamped about 12 months ago, and has again been up dated in the last 6 months to provide more customer support information. It seems that work is under way to improve customer support. Warranty repairs take about 2-3 weeks, and we think this is still excessive!
For these reasons, we have rated their customer service as, in need of improvement.
Ratings out of 10: Valentine 1 (2001/02)
X Band sensitivity/range : 10/10
K Band sensitivity: 10/10
Ka Band sensitivity: 9/10
Software intelligence: 9/10
Customer service: 7/10
Next in line, 2nd place for performance only, but still exceptional value is the BEL 950/970/980 series radar detectors.
Do not confuse these models with the older BEL 945 Cordless/Battery unit. The BEL945 is a very poor performing product on Ka Band.
These three latest models of BEL STI detectors share the same basic hardware and software configuration. Therefore, the performance or sensitivity, can be considered to be identical other than for production tolerances. BEL have done well in producing an excellent product for such a competitive price.
As a result of the very new technology incorporated into the latest BEL product, there have been reports of some teething problems. BEL is responding quickly, to service its customers, that may be having problems with their new BEL units.
The only difference between these three models are in the operational features, voice or no voice alerts, or the ability to turn off or on the different X, K & Ka radar bands. The ability to turn off the X Band makes the 970 and 980 a popular European model.
Value for money: Performance vs Price
For just over $230.00--$280.00, the new BEL 900 series units are well worth the slightly higher investment cost.
This slightly higher than average price (Av: $100.00) is quickly justified from the first time the BEL saves you from the new Ka digital mobile radars.
When the BEL 900 series were first released (June 1999), the BEL's were within 1 dBm of the V1's on K Band and were more sensitive on Ka than the V1's by 2-3 dBm.
All the NEW BEL Models had plenty of X Band sensitivity, K Band was at least 4-6 dBm improvement over the old BEL 845/850/855 STI models.
The K Band sensitivity was 1-2 dBm better than the older Valentine of 18 months ago, but still 1-3 dBm behind the latest V1's . Still quite an engineering feat for a product nearly half the V1's price.
BEL has now been taken over by CMI (Cincinnati Microwave) the Passport/Escort people. We are yet to see what effect this will have on current technology and models.
On the highway you can expect to detect mobile K Band radar up to 6 miles away. Plenty for most drivers if the radar is turned on all the time, and not in the HOLD mode. (Up to 3/4 mile from behind.)
Under HOLD mode conditions you would hope to get a couple of beeps as an officer checks a vehicle ahead of you, and the range could come down to less than a mile.
K Band Camera radar was a little more trouble for the BEL, 400 yards to 500 yards approaching a radar camera, or driving into the beam. With 100-150 yards early warning before you passed the radar camera facing away from you.
Ka Band showed the greatest improvement, and on many of the BEL's showed better Ka sensitivity by 2-3 dBm than the new Valentines.
BEL 950/970/980 series topped our Ka tests, but the software still has some problems. Digital delay, as "we" have called it, still reduces the performance on the highway. Time taken by the software to filter out false alerts on Ka Band reduces pickup range on all roadside cameras.
Ka Mobile and Camera radar:
Ka Band camera range is also reduced by the Ka anti false software.
Range on mobile Ka radar on the highway is 2 to 3 miles. (Real world)
On Ka camera radar, you are looking at a detection distance of between 100 to 250 yards before you pass the camera. IF it's facing you!! If it's facing away from you, you're looking at 50-100 yards before you pass the camera. Remember you have to be about 20 yards past the camera for it to take your photo.
We have been dealing with Beltronics for many years now, and considering the fact that they are a very large organization, we have found their customer service to be pretty good. They have a very informative web site, and links to their customer service department. BEL will even call you back if you have a problem. The e-mail service varies from prompt to occasionally slow.
Ratings. BEL 900 Series ST2
X Band sensitivity/range: 10/10
K Band sensitivity: 10/10
Ka Band sensitivity: 10/10
Software intelligence: 8/10
Customer service: 9/10
As good as they get:
The Valentine 1 and the BEL 950/970/980 are in a league of their own, and represent the state of the art in radar detectors today.
Next in line, 3rd place The Escort/Passport 8500. ( Six units tested.)