Friday, June 08, 2007

AutoScan versus Highway Mode...A Closer Examination.

As some of my friends and close followers [of my postings] already know, I recently drove to Atlanta, GA and back from Philadelphia, PA, to attend a conference with my good friend and business associate RadarRoy (of radarbusters.com).



Instead of flying, I decided to drive it -- all in the name of testing the latest radar detectors (including new models from both Whistler and Cobra). I managed to take copious notes on my traveling experiences and will include a summary of them in my upcoming blog postings and our full-review entitled "the ultimate radar detector review 2007." Our trip included a journey through Virginia (where radar detector usage is still banned in Draconian fashion) -- you can guess which radar detector we used for that portion of the trip. We also managed to visit our friends at Cricket Ventures (buyradardetectors.com) in Rock Hill, SC.



It's going to take a bit of additional time to compile all of those experiences and post them. That is something that is in very short supply of late since a lot of things are going on both in my personal and business life. (For example, my sister is tying the knot this weekend and the pre-wedding activities, alone, are demanding on what little time I have).



As you may already know, I recently purchased another retail model of the Beltronics STi Driver, which brings my current ownership count to two units. Once I got familiar with the operation characteristics of both them (on both an absolute and relative basis) I decided to take a unique approach to empirically examining the actual effect of operating the radar detectors in AutoScan mode.



One particular reviewer -- Craig Peterson of RadarTest.com -- has mentioned the use of AutoScan mode (in terms of generally quieting Bel's and Escort's detectors 'even more') but has not gone into depth about its utility and generally recommends to drive with the radar detectors in Highway mode when on the highway -- to maximize their effective performance by minimizing filtering. All other tests with which I have read (such as SpeedZones.com or GuysofLidar.com), either in print or on-line, always focus on performance of their tested radar detectors set in Highway mode (or in the V1's case -- all bogeys mode).



But since the default settings of Beltronics and Escort radar detectors are, in fact, AutoScan mode, I felt it was high time to really explore, in depth, the actual effect of running their detectors in AutoScan while driving on the highway and around town.



And what better way to do this than with two BEL STi Drivers running concurrently.



First things first: Establishing a Base-Line with both BEL STi Driver Radar Detectors



Before I could really explore the effect of AutoScan, I have taken a few weeks and about 3500 miles of driving with both of them in Highway mode. In this manner, I was able to accurately access the intra-model performance production variances of each radar detector.



My conclusions are the latest STi Driver that I purchased is slightly "hotter" on X-band and Ka-band reception (at least on the observed frequencies of 33.8Ghz, 34.7Ghz, and 35.5Ghz) while not being quite as "hot" on K-band reception. These performance variations are relatively small (about 1-2 seconds max between each radar detector) and not completely consistent. In other words, the new BEL STi Driver doesn't always beat my other STi Driver. But, it does enough times for me to draw these basic conclusions.



Empirical Findings of AutoScan mode (BEL STi Driver)



After several weeks of close examination of each radar detector (run in AutoScan and Highway modes) and many additional miles I believe I have formulated some opinions which may be helpful for you to determine whether AutoScan is the right mode you or not.



It appears that AutoScan mode effectively reduces sensitivity to both X-band and K-band by a very little bit and reduces sensitivity to non-police Ka-radar bands while not effecting reception performance to (at least) the three U.S. police radar Ka-bands (33.8Ghz, 34.7Ghz, and 35.5Ghz). To the contrary it appears that reception performance may actually increase (slightly) on those three police radar Ka-Bands relative to their Highway setting counterparts.



I write effectively because I believe their is much more to AutoScan than merely "dialing-back" sensitivity to certain radar bands. I believe the detector still receives the signal but it may be doing some additional processing to "squelch" the initial reporting of weak X, K, and non-essential Ka signals that normally would register about a 0-3 signal strength level. It may also be that the (listening) sweeping pattern (remember a radar detector is a very specialized radio-scanner) may be altered so that an AutoScan'd radar detector may actually focus a greater amount of time on Ka (in the case of the STi Driver, at least) at the slight expense of both X and K-bands. Or it may be a combination of all of these. Regardless of how Beltronics actually accomplishes their advanced filtering, the ultimate effect, is slightly reduced sensitivity to X and K and non-essential Ka.



And I do mean slightly...nothing really dramatic...just enough to eliminate some of the observed variance advantages of one detector over the other.



The benefit to all of this advanced filtering is a quieter radar detector! Gone are are a good number of X and K "falses" one often receives with a high-end radar detector when traveling on the highway by interchanges and adjacent shopping centers. Gone too are the occasional Ka-falses which occur from other cheap radar detectors which leak RF (harmonics in the wide Ka-band) at frequencies like (a reported) 33.458Ghz.


AutoScan does not appear to have any adverse impact on the Beltronics STi Driver's ability to report multiple and simultaneous radar encounters. Each radar detector seemed equally adept at identifying concurrent encounters of X and K-band regardless of the filtering mode selected.


So the trade-off appears to be a very slight reduction to both X and K reception -- in some cases -- for getting an even quieter detector which falses even less frequently. Having driving with Valentines for many years, I am really warming up to the quieter nature of the Beltronics STi Driver since it really doesn't appear to come at the expense of extreme sensitivity to real bona-fide police radar traps. Too much sensitivity without advanced filtering becomes painful over time and your mind can start to do its own filtering (eg; ignoring) which may not be a good thing.



Empirical Findings of AutoScan mode (BEL RX65-Pro and Escort 8500 X50)



Over the years I have examined the performance of AutoScan mode relative to Highway mode on both the Escort Passport 8500 X50 and the Beltronics RX-65 Pro radar detectors and although I haven't published anything, I have formulated some opinions which I will share with you now.



AutoScan appears to have a very interesting effect on the Escort Passport 8500 X50 (of which I own four -- two blue and two red). It appears that K-band reception actually improves slightly where X and Ka reception is affected similarly to the Beltronics STi Driver.



The Beltronics RX65-Pro detector doesn't quite seem to be affected to the same degree as the Passport 8500 X50 (at least in terms of K-band reception).



I suspect these performance variations in operating modes may be tied to an altered sweeping pattern for listening. In the instance of the 8500 X50, the detector may have allocated more time to listening to K-band relative to X and/or other parts of the Ka-band that are not police radar. The Beltronics, in general, feels a little quicker and as a result performance changes are somewhat less noticeable.



Conclusion



At least for now, I am going to continue driving with my STi Drivers with POP-OFF and AutoScan on (which is their factory default operating mode). You may want to try the same -- for your own edification -- you may actually prefer it.



Regardless of which mode you use, it's good to know that both Beltronics and Escort are continuing to push the envelope on super-advanced filtering modes -- that have minimal adverse impact of genuine police radar reception -- to deliver their owners the most enjoyable high-end radar detector ownership experience possible.



I can't wait to see how the Escort Passport 9500i matures over time!



Veil Guy

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