Sunday, July 01, 2007

Whistler Pro-78, Whistler XTR-690 Radar Detector Update II

I NEED COUNSELING. I know this because, I've been obviously addicted to testing radar detectors every spare moment I have, lately.

While putting on another 350 miles today on a variation of my usual Northeast route, I couldn't help but feel a connection to another product tester of "similar sorts" (yeah right)— retired Brigadier General Charles Elwood "Chuck" Yeager.

He too field-tested new products, albeit at a somewhat higher rate of speed, than say a '07 BMW 328xi (which by the way, is one of the best cars I have ever driven). I can only imagine the fun he had in his experiences—since he never managed to kill himself testing various new hyper-speed aircraft.

chuck yeager testing the Bell X-1
Chuck Yeager testing another Bell model (X-1)


This weekend didn't start out too well, I am afraid. During a drive to southern NJ (while testing, of course), I damaged all four sport alloy rims and several tires— on my Dinan 540—driving through a construction zone on south I-95 approaching Route 322-East in Chester, PA. The road surface was not even and by the way the impact felt (abrupt), the difference in road surface must have been at least an inch between two slabs. It's a testament to how well Michelin Pilot Sport tires are made that they didn't blow out right then and there. I'll post some pictures of the damage soon. In the meantime, I had to settle for an '07 328xi to be the test-mule this weekend.


At any rate, I did manage to sneak some testing in today with the updated models (with the beta firmware) that I received from the Whistler Group (www.whistlergroup.com)— the revised Whistler Pro-78 and Whistler XTR-690 radar detectors.

All I can say is Mr. B. (or should it be Dr.?) and his engineering staff know what the hell they are doing, because inside of one week (since my review of the Whistler Pro-78 and Whistler XTR-690 radar detectors), they have managed to take a great radar detector and make it even better!

Ergonomically, the pulsating auto-dimming issue has been resolved as has the too rapid display alerting relative to the audible alert. This revised radar detector now handles a rapidly changing lighting environment better than the Beltronics STi Driver.

To test Whistler's radar reception improvements (with POP OFF) required me to find three known bona-fide stationery steady-state radar sources at X (10.5Ghz), K (24.1Ghz), and Ka (34.7Ghz). Since my original radar Whistler radar detectors were sent back to the Whistler Group to have them reprogrammed (I am told the same courtesy will be extended to any existing Whistler owner of the Pro-78 & XTR-690 who wish to have their unit updated), I made repetitive back-to-back two-way comparison runs between my model with POP ON versus POP OFF with each one of these radar sources.

Here's what I found:

  • With X-band, the performance pick-up was imperceptible.

  • With K-band, the performance pick-up was noticeable.

  • With Ka-band (34.7Ghz variety), the performance pick-up was quite noticeable.


Particularly with Ka from the front, when compared to one of the Bel STi Drivers, when POP was OFF, the Whistler Pro-78 tended to be the first to respond, even if only by a tick or two. Yes, you read that right, first. On one such pass, the Whistler Pro-78 appeared to initially mis-identify the weak glimpse it had of Ka-band and alerted to X-band, releasing, and subsequently reporting the proper band of Ka (of 34.7Ghz).

Note: I have occasionally received weak 'false' x-band alerts on the highway from the Whistler Pro-78 while the Bel STi Driver has remained silent. Base-upon the aforementioned experience, I suspect these falses were actually weak Ka that were mis-identified.

Apparently, the reason the performance differences on X-band and K-band aren't as noticeable is rooted in the wave-propagation characteristics of those frequencies/wavelengths relative to Ka-band and not so much the radar detector, itself.

After closely watching this Whistler Pro-78 do its thing, I noticed something for the first time, subtle as it is, but it was new [to me] nonetheless. It appears that Whistler Pro-78 has two distinct single alert ramps!

And, in my opinion, the best [and quickest] visual alert ramp I have ever seen on any radar detector, regardless of price. In fact, the visual strength indicator is so quick and precise, it feels more like the old analogue signal strength meter of the original Escort radar detector of the eighties, remember that one?

The Whistler Pro-78 visual strength indicator—although a digital LED—acts more like a PEAK meter than a VU meter (which is slower and less precise) like every other radar detector— its five main display elements can display fractionally which amounts to a total of 15 discreet signal strength bars.

If you carefully watch the display during a steadily approaching radar source, you will notice that the display will move faster up-and-down than the tone alerts.






See the resemblance between Whistler and Vaal?







I also found that when I operated the Whistler Pro-78 with POP ON, the radar detector tended to false [to other radar detectors] more than when the Whistler Pro-78 was operated with POP OFF—at which time it was extremely false-resistant.

Therefore, my recommendation for operating this radar detector is with POP OFF, SWS OFF, and no additional filter modes enabled—just the FILTER display.

As counterintuitive as it sounds, you'll actually be able to drive with a more sensitive and quicker radar detector which actually falses less. Now that IS having your cake and eating it too.

Each passing day I drive with the Whistler Pro-78, I come to know that at a retail of $229, it's the bargain of the century and at a street price of $179, it's the steal of the century. The same goes for the Whistler XTR-690 which provides identical radar/laser reception performance.

If I had to ever show up to a gun-fight sporting my Whistler Pro-78, I know I could more than hold my own with it.

I would like to think had General Yeager been riding shotgun, he'd be having some fun recollecting his past trials and tribulations in the cockpit with me, although, I know in my heart—if he had been in the car—he'd be doing the driving!

Veil Guy
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