Saturday, August 28, 2010

Whistler Pro-3600 Review

Read the in-depth real-world review: Whistler Pro-3600 Review

Whistler Pro-3600 Review

Updated: 23 Apr 14, By Veil Guy

I've known for some time that Whistler was planning a follow-up to their product line subsequent to their Whistler Pro-68SE release at the beginning of this year's driving season. But what I didn't know was whether the next Whistler model was going to be a dash-mount or a remote.

I got my answer a couple of days ago, when I was informed of the imminent release of the new Whistler Pro-3600 Remote Installed Laser Radar Detector.

First Impressions

The new Whistler Pro-3600 will replace the Whistler Pro-3450, a remote installed detector based-upon the earlier Whistler Pro-73 platform. The Pro-3600 is based upon Whistler's currently highest performing platform, the Pro-78SE.

Those already familiar with the the Pro-78SE platform (and its variants) or with my reviews of the same, will appreciate the performance capabilities of the new Whistler Pro-3600 Remote.

As I have yet to receive a production model with which to drive, I will cover the most salient features that the new Whistler Pro-3600 offers to those desiring to have a high-performance value-priced remote installed radar detector in their vehicle.

The Whistler Pro-3600 provides a nicely sized single display/control module that consists of a red LED display and four (non-backlit) control buttons (two on each side)—power on/off, display brightness, quiet (mute), and city/highway mode.

Compared to other remotes, Whistler's buttons appear to be much easier to use while driving and the display easier to read from a distance. Unique to Whistler, the display/control module can be oriented either horizontally or vertically (including the text orientation), which should increase the flexibility of in-vehicle mounting.
The Whistler Pro-3600 also consists of one interface module (designed to be mounted behind/under the dash), which accepts RJ11 type interface cables. Both the cables and the interface ports are labeled to facilitate easy installation.

The interface module sports three additional AUX ports to provide support for future device attachment (including 3rd party devices), possibly even an active laser jammer and will be field-updatable with a computer and a USB cable.

Another unique and very nice feature (especially for older vehicles) is the use of a cable with the incorporation of a tri-colored (red, green, orange) alert LED at its end. The alert color is user-selectable. What makes this component so interesting is that it will blink RED, when the unit/vehicle is off, making it appear like a in-vehicle security system to a potential would be thief.

The Whistler Pro-3600 is also GPS capable with the purchase of an optional GPS-antenna module. GPS will provide its owner with significant new capabilities, including: traffic camera alerts, real-time speed and direction, trip odometer, elapsed time, user-selectable over-speed alerts, user-selective speed auto mute and filter modes, and support of English or metric units.

With GPS capability, the 3600 can be configured to initially alert at its lowest volume setting while driving at a slower rate than a pre-selected speed. Anyone accustomed to driving around a town littered with X and K-band door openers who finds that even the delayed auto-muting can still be annoying, will appreciate Whistler's solution. A similar speed-sensitive configuration can also be applied to the 3600's filter modes.

Like the Whistler RLC-100 dedicated red light camera detector, the Pro-3600's database can be easily updated with a USB-connected computer, without requiring removal from the vehicle.

Another really compelling feature of the Whistler Pro-3600 is the ability to accept an optional rear-mounted radar antenna/laser receiver. This capability promises to provide Valentine 1-like capability in a remote, the first to my knowledge in any remote installed, regardless of price.

The Pro-3600 provides two distinct signal strength ramps, standard and fast. While both ramps are linear, the fast ramp amounts to essentially a "magnification" of the signal strength. This appears to be similar Valentine's Ka signal-ramp custom configuration setting.

The 3600 adds an additional filter mode, bringing that total to four. Unlike a conventional city/highway mode (which Whistler still provides), these filter modes allow its user to tailor the quickness to alert (ie; the reactivity) to Ka-band. The only other detector that offers anything like this was the high-end (and out of production) Beltronics STi-R.

Like most Whistler SE models, the Pro-3600 provides Ka RSID. The Pro-3600, however, now augments the RSID display with voice prompts, as well.

Installation time, I understand, can be as little as 30 minutes. Obviously, times will vary depending on the particular vehicle and the skill-set of the installer.

Retailing at $479, the Whistler appears to have another winner on its hands with the Pro 3600 especially when one considers its PRO-78SE-like performance, that GPS capability can be added for $99, one can add a rear antenna (for what I can't imagine being more than $149), and has the ability to integrate with 3rd party devices/systems.

Some companies pre-occupy themselves with releasing entirely new products peppered with catchy marketing phrases without offering much underlying substance.

Whistler, on the other hand, charts a different course. With each of its new product offerings, its commitment to continuously evolving is evident.

While a number of the new features mentioned above aren't strictly performance related, when they are taken in their entirety, they result a detector that is refined, mature, and synergistic—the whole is greater than the sum of its individual parts.

I am definitely looking forward to installing this new Whistler Pro-3600 into my wife's 'Bru.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Laser Diode Laser Jammers: Is There Any Merit to the Marketing Hype Surrounding Them?

"High-Powered" Laser Diode Jammers

Updated: 23 Apr 14, By Veil Guy

  • I've been told by a Laser Interceptor rep, that the LIs are "eye safe," and that Radar Roy's article suggesting otherwise, contained inaccuracies.
  • Laser Interceptor has come to a settlement with the holder of the US Patent for look-up table laser jammers, Blinder. LI is the first and only company to my knowledge to have actually have done this. As such, I expect to review a model sometime in the future.

Today I received an email marketing blast from Radar Roy concerning his "review" of a product that he markets, called the Laser Interceptor.

Roy touts in his article that the main advantage to the Laser Interceptor over (what is implied to be) lesser-performing and more "conventional" and "lower-powered" LED-based laser jammers—such as those produced by Blinder and Escort—is that the Laser Interceptor employs "high-power" laser-diodes to effectively jam all police laser guns.

While this notion on the surface sounds compelling, if one takes a little time to understand how a police laser gun and modern-day laser jammer works, one would realize that the performance of any given laser jammer is not really just a matter of power, it is a matter of accurate timing. This complex mechanism is described in greater detail by the domestic and international patent holder of the underlying technology, Blinder, who's headquartered in Denmark.

A laser jammer's primary function is to transmit pulses of IR light in a manner which destructively interferes with the pulse-train of the police laser gun that is being triggered. A laser jammer must quickly determine the actual pulse rate being transmitted by the laser gun and then counter with the illumination of its own destructive pulse-train to render the laser gun unable to obtain a speed reading (again, as described in Blinder's patents).

While power certainly can play a role, to a degree, in this mechanism, it is not the overriding force which ultimately determines the overall laser jamming effectiveness.

At some point, using more "illuminating" power does not and will not improve performance as other more important factors come into play. In other words, more is not always better.

Furthermore (and what is not understood by the vast majority of consumers or reviewers of laser jammers): police laser guns use magnifying elements in their transmission and reception sections to significantly amplify their weak transmission signals.

This is extremely important to understand because what this means in reality is that the difference in output of either an array of multiple LEDs or a single laser-diode is to a large degree negated and less relevant to the effectiveness of any given laser jammer, regardless of the mode employed in its design (LED Array or Laser-Diode). The timings and other design-elements (such as beam-divergence) are far more important.

In other words, the hype surrounding "high-power" laser jammers is bogus marketing-speak, used to sell very expensive laser jammers. This process is referred to as manufacturing demand (a MUST SEE video). Another industry that employs this marketing tactic (with impunity) is the bottled water industry.

However, since Radar Roy's review primarily focused on the "high-power" of one particular laser-diode-based laser jammer as being a most important factor, I would like to offer this perspective on laser diodes as an illuminating source of laser jammers as compared to an array of multiple LEDs.

As someone who has zero financial interest/stake in any of these laser jammer companies, for my money, I wouldn't focus on the particulars of the individual components used in the construction of a laser jammer for making a selling (or purchasing) decision.

In the final analysis what matters is the actual performance of the laser jammer in the real-world of everyday driving and not what was used internally to achieve that performance.

Historically, there have been both good performing and poor performing laser jammers of each kind (LED Array and Single Laser-Diode), further demonstrating this point.

Incidentally, the most advanced development of illumination sources today are...LEDs.

They showing up everywhere from the latest designs of flat-panel TVs to automotive lighting and interior lighting for very good reasons—they're inexpensive, very effective illuminators, cool-burning, and provide extreme reliability & longevity while consuming very little power.

The same is true for "Laser"/IR-illuminating LEDs.

"High-Powered" Laser Diode Jammers

With respect to the health concerns Radar Roy raised in his article, consumer products that pose a threat of permanent eye-sight damage, I suspect, won't be permitted to stay on the market for very long, once the FDA/OSHA gets wind of the health-risks that Roy goes to great length to point out.

Have you ever noticed the internals of a consumer CD or DVD player? If not, examine one. You'll see that its optical reading device is thoroughly protected to not permit direct viewing as a means of protecting one's eyesight. I suspect the power output of that device is quite a bit less than those of devices that are used to illuminate hundreds or thousands of feet away.

I can't help but think of a similar circumstance that Roy was personally involved with which resulted in the pressuring of a certain particular "jammer" manufacturer to take their products off the market.

That company was Rocky Mountain Radar. It was only after of his (and others) relentless lobbying efforts to the FCC about RMR's products, did the FCC finally take notice of the fact that RMR's was flagrantly violating their regulations and hence RMR was subject to very steep fines and other consequences, a company that could be considered by some as a "competitor" to Roy's Radar Busters, at the time.

That's when things changed dramatically for them (and the consumer), which incidentally, was a good thing, not because they were in violation of federal regulations, but because they were completely ineffective in jamming anything, despite years of their wild marketing claims to the contrary.

And this was simply because their little boxes were considered to be potentially interfering with other radio transmissions, a relatively harmless matter as compared to that of the emissions of a "very high-power" laser-diode device which, according to Radar Roy, can present a very real long-term health threat to eye-safety—as he stated in his article, 'irreversible eye damage.'

(What!?! 'Irreversible eye damage...while connected to a power supply', as they would be in general operation?) Let me see, risk versus reward?
  • Why wouldn't any company producing or selling such consumer products which, according to Roy, may be in violation of federal regulations/laws/guidelines not be subject to the same kind of scrutiny and/or enforcement/financial penalties that RMR and its dealers/distributors ultimately were?
  • Wouldn't companies performing professional installations of such devices be subject to OSHA regulations concerning their employee's eye-safety? Particularly when installers will routinely and repeatedly be in very close contact with the laser jamming heads as they perform their installations?
  • Why wouldn't the consumer (operator) of such devices not be subject to the very same kinds of legal consequences for knowingly violating specific federal regulations (especially those that have adverse health implications) as someone who would operate, say, an active or passive radar jamming device (which has little or no adverse health implications)?
While Radar Roy sure makes this particular laser-diode device sound very compelling (notice the irony?), until such questions like those above are sufficiently answered, the smart play, in my personal opinion, may be to simply stick with proven, safe, and "legal-to-use" LED devices from long-established and respected manufacturers such as those from Blinder and Escort.

The fact that these other products are considerably less expensive at doing the very same job—in the real-world—is a nice bonus, especially when one considers our tough economic times.

Happy and Safe Motoring!

Further References:

Veil Guy