The King of Kings of Driving Experience
If you've ever read reviews of the Valentine One, their marketing literature, or get into discussions about it, things tend to center around the V1's unique use of arrows. While that capability is indeed an important one, it's by all means not the most important.
In a previous installation of this review I wrote that the value of a radar detector is greater than the sum of its individual parts--ultimately dictating how rewarding the ownership experience is going to be. This is where subjectivity really comes into play as some things simply can't be expressed with a chart.
So, that being the case, what does driving with a V1 feel like?
If you are familiar with intricacies of police radar and laser and how detectors handle them, you're probably familiar with the term "false" and why it is better for a detector to false less, as a percentage of its overall alerts--including those coming from real threats. Certainly you don't want a detector to "cry wolf" at such a rate that it leads you to either discount "real" threat-alerts or worse, discard the use of the detector altogether.
But here is the thing. There really is no such thing as a false alert, unless there is a defect with the detector itself or RF interference coming from other out-of-band sources. When a radar detector alerts to radar or laser, it's because a signal is actually present and being detected. I prefer to differentiate detections as being lethal (representative of real traffic enforcement) or non-lethal (everything else).
While it is a fact that non-lethal sources of Ka-radar (signals emitted from older Cobra radar detectors, primarily) are becoming less common, overall the landscape of other false-alerting sources has really deteriorated.
There was a time that X and K-band controlled automatic door openers where the bane of detector falsing, but that is no longer the case. Yes, those sources are still there, but now a detector must contend with even more junk including stationery K-band and Ka-band drone and speed signs, X-band, K-band, and lidar-based traffic flow monitoring systems and now moving sources of radar and laser originating from automobile lane-departure, cruise control, and accident avoidance systems.
Escort's philosophy has always been to emphasize quietness through the use of sophisticated signal processing and more recently GPS-lockout. Valentine, on the other hand, has taken a more minimalistic approach preferring instead to allow the driver to make the determination as to whether or not a detected signal presents a threat.
Their reasoning is a sound one: there is always some measure of risk if a detector is subjected to too much "filtering" and/or is intentionally "slowed" in its responsiveness for the sake of silence. One could argue the virtues of either approach till the cows come home and ultimately it comes down to what the driver prefers. There really is no right answer as to which approach is better and the conditions where one generally drives is often the over-riding factor as to which one is preferred. Daily commutes to work have the potential to be very punishing.
The taming of these, often conflicting, dynamics of sensitivity and false resistance are not unlike the challenges of manufacturing ultra high performance all-season tires versus dedicated summer and winter tires. The good thing is that we as motorists can make the choice of which approach works best for our individual needs. It's not uncommon for a true radar detector enthusiast to own more than one detector. Finding one detector that can do it all always has and continues to be a very difficult proposition.
Irrespective of the preferred approach, I consider a detector's alerting behavior one of the most important aspects of detector performance. So, how does the latest V1 stack up in this department?
Superior Audio and Visual Alerting
I believe, the V1 offers the very best combination of audio and visual alerting available, bar none. It's quickness in reacting to varying signal strengths, in real-time, is unmatched. The V1 also provides the best and most accurate alerting duration in the industry.
These superior alerting characteristics enable the V1's owner to differentiate between non-threatening falses, fringe weak detections of constant-on (CO) radar or continuously fired laser from great distances, and approaching speed traps utilizing a most-lethal form of instant-on (IO) radar and laser, used to specifically ambush drivers who drive with radar detectors.
Whistler's detectors are a close second to the Valentine, but products from Escort and Beltronics trail significantly, in my opinion, in alerting behavior and unnecessarily so. In the case of their uber-performing M3s (such as the Redline, STi-R plus, and Passport 9500ci), these detectors have excessively long trailing alerts (upwards of 10 seconds) after the signal detected is no longer present. I have long suspected the reason for this is to serve a marketing effort: to suggest a level of sensitivity that simply isn't there, particularly when you pass a radar source.
I believe they have chosen to do this is because their models do not have a dedicated rear-facing antenna, as the Valentine does, which naturally provides greater sensitivity to radar from the rear and hence they have chosen to specifically mimic its alerting behavior. Doing this, however, blurs the nature of approaching I/O speed traps and makes it harder for the driver to differentiate between a false, a fringe weak detection of constant-on radar at distance, or an approaching instant-on radar trap of increasing strength.
This is most unfortunate and totally unnecessary because the detectors coming out of West Chester today have exceptional sensitivity, even their entry level detectors. And so, there is absolutely no need to perpetuate this behavior. In fact I believe it detracts from them their overall performance.
If Escort wishes to continue to utilize this unnaturally long delay, I would, at least, like to see them give us the option to toggle between short alert and extended alert durations. This would do for their alerting nature what band-segmentation did for their alerting range.
Laser alerts on the V1 are also superior to every other detector ever made. With the V1 you can tell when you are being targeted, when the officer pans his laser and re-targets you, and when he or she has actually obtained your speed. This can help you determine if you will be subjected to a speeding ticket or a laser countermeasure like Veil was effective in protecting you from receiving a ticket. If you manage to get your speed down and the V1 continues to alert to laser, then there is a good chance that your speed wasn't obtained in time and you can feel comfortable, right then and there, that you will be safe.
Superior False Alerting
Another subtle but very significant benefit to the accurate alerting durations of the V1 is with its falses. A V1 falses better than any other detector particularly with Ka. Ka falses--coming from other "leaky" detectors often are alerted to with only a single quick "double-brap," followed by an extended delay of a second or two of the directional arrow from which direction it was detected. It's perfectly configured. The quick tone gets your attention, the detector then goes silent but the display will continue to illuminate for a little longer so you can confirm the frequency of band detected along with the direction from where it came.
When a false alert occurs on an Escort or Beltronics detector, it trails excessively in duration in both audio and display. The more I've driven with this V1, the more I've come to appreciate its mild falsing nature and now believe one doesn't even need to rely as heavily upon GPS-lockout. In fact, GPS-lockout doesn't even apply to Ka alerting anyway, only with X and K, making superior falsing to Ka even more important.
With the Escort and Beltronics models, it is more difficult to tell the difference between a false and a genuine detection which may be another driving force as to why owners of these other detectors may feel compelled to utilize GPS-lockout. To be clear, the theory of GPS-lockout is a good one, but I believe it remains a bit too broad in its execution. It simply comes down to which philosophy you identify more.
The V1 also is unique in its ability to tell you that some Ka false alerts are actually false alerts and not from real-threats. It does so by displaying the letter "J" accompanied with a quick sequence of tones followed by the quick elimination of the entire alert long before an Escort or Beltronics detector would even complete its extended "programmed" alert.
Superior Signal Strength and Audio Alert Ramp
Another critical component to detector behavior is the effectiveness of conveying the severity of an approaching threat (ie; whether or not you are in speed is measurable by the officer). Once again, the Escort and Beltronics models have trailed significantly in this regard (although they have been getting better at it) and I believe this has been the case historically due to a marketing strategy--to make their detectors, once again, appear more sensitive than they actually are.
I've written about this before when I first noticed a change in their alerting behavior with a pre-production Passport 9500ix a good number of years ago. Escort used to have silky smooth alert ramps (starting with their very first detector, decades previously, the original Passport). But they chose to abandoned their roots in pursuit, I believe, of SML's praise which may have looked good on paper to them, but took them backwards in reality and we drivers have been paying the price ever since.
By alerting with greater urgency (higher signal strength) than is merited or with a non-linear and choppy way, the driver is deprived of the very information needed to determine how he or she should respond. Should one brake quickly (a risky proposition) or more gradually--which is much less stressful and safer? If the alert signal-strength reported is not accurate the driver has no way to know and may tend to error on the side of choosing the more risky braking response.
No other other detector does as good a job of indicating the exact severity of any given threat as the V1 does. Whistler's are very very good, second to Valentine I would say, but the V1 ultimately reins supreme.
I wish that Escort and Beltronics would continue revert back to their alerting schemes that have served us so very well over the decades gone by. Their detectors are too good now for these programmed alerting "tricks."
I apologize to my readers, if my very candid assessments sound harsh--they are not meant to be--but I felt it's critically important to make these distinctions of V1 more readily apparent to the reader since you will not likely find such observations detailed anywhere else. These are subtle but extremely important aspects of detector behavior which directly determine its ultimate utility as a serious driver's aide and the level of satisfaction a savvy owner would experience.
Superior Filtering (without GPS-lockout)
Valentine has tended to minimize intrusive filtering techniques, because performance tends to suffer somewhere along the line when doing so, but like all other detector manufacturers has had his hand forced by the proliferation of pulsed and frequency-modulated (FMCW) radar that is used in today's vehicle lane-departure, adaptive cruise control, and collision avoidance systems as well as traffic-flow monitoring devices.
Valentine was late to the game on this front, relative to Escort, Beltronics, and then Whistler, but like Porsche whose Cayenne entered the marketplace late, the V1 quickly established itself as one of the most capable models at what purpose they serve.
Both the V1 and the top-of-the-line Whistlers are most adept at filtering out these obnoxious sources of K-band falsing. I give even bigger credit to Valentine because the V1 is quite a bit more sensitive to K-band, making the V1's job even tougher. Its superior filtering comes with less of a risk of missing instant-on radar or resulting in decreased alerting range than other brands and I feel fairly comfortable using this setting on a regular basis even when I drive on K-band-infested Pennsylvania highways.
Unique also to the V1 is quick K-band disabling. With a simple push of its front button, K-band detection can be turned-off and then back-on. You can't do that with any other detector--one has to rely on using other detectors' programming menus to do so. This comes in handy when one sometimes drives in states like NJ or other regions where K-band is not utilized by traffic enforcement but you encounter it enough that you still need to use it when you drive in areas that do.
Conclusion to follow...