Mike Valentine
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radar detector questions answered


  What's the range of Valentine One?
How does it compare to Bel and Escort?

- L.M., Missouri

  How much range, as a general question, is unanswerable, because it depends entirely on the circumstances. In our lab, we work on receiver sensitivity--how weak of a signal can we find?--and in our tests we outperform all others. Car and Driver tests range, and we outperform in their tests too, which confirms our good sensitivity. Radar is a line-of-sight beam, like a light, that's easily reflected and refracted. Imagine a flashlight beam on a foggy night; you can see the beam a short distance away, even if you aren't lined up with it, because it reflects off moisture in the air. But your best chance of seeing it a long way off comes when it points straight at you.

Radar range is the same. In outer space, with the beam pointed directly at V1, I'm sure we could find radar 100 miles away. But on earth you never get a straight shot like that. You might get 5 miles in the flats of Texas or Kansas. In the mountains around Asheville, N.C., you might not get a half mile.

Range tends to confuse people because they don't know all the variables. For example, when you see a radar patrol car, is the beam pointed toward you or away. When it's pointed away, you have only scattered reflections to look for, so maximum range is likely to be 1/20th of what it would be when toward you, and this assumes no obstructions between the reflector and your antenna.

Range over hills is confusing too. The only signal your detector has to work with is what's left of the original when it clears the last obstacle. For example, let's say that V1 has a 3 to 1 range advantage over another detector; that 3 to 1 applies only to what's left after the hill. If the radar beam has already traveled a great distance, the signal power remaining after the hill may be so weak that 3 to 1 gives you only 100 yards of additional warning. But that 100 yards can be really precious. It can make all the difference. Getting extra seconds of warning in the tight spots is worth more that a mile or two of bragging distance on the easy ones.

  Does Valentine One warn of photo radar?
- L.B., Oregon

  Yes, absolutely, but you don't get nearly as much warning. All the photo radars in the US operate on either K or Ka bands, though they could operate on any band assigned to traffic radar by the FCC. The good news is that the radar beam is on all the time, not playing hide and seek like instant on, so we have lots of time to find it. The bad news is that it uses a narrow beam aimed diagonally across the road. And it's usually very low power, because photo radar doesn't engage the target until it's within a few hundred feet. So you really need detector sensitivity to pick up weak reflections. Today's V1s, and older ones equipped with our latest radar upgrade, offer reliable protection against photo radar, but you have to pay attention.

  Instead of your expensive magnesium case, why don't you go plastic like every other detector and give us a better deal on price?
- N.G., New Jersey

  Our metal case serves as a vault to keep out various electrical interferences from other devices. These interferences are particularly insidious, worse than false alarms, because they can be in there desensitizing your receiving circuits, thereby hurting your warning range, but you have no way of knowing. The magnesium is really durable too, yet it's light weight. You'll notice the really slick laptop computers these days have magnesium instead of plastic cases.

  I travel a lot in Europe. Will V1 work over there?
- R.K., New York

  Yes, with a few caveats. K and Ka bands there are the same as in the US, so all V1s (after a few very-early models) will work as well there as here. When last we checked, Ku band is found in England, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Serbian and Spain (but not in the US). Most V1s on the road also cover Ku band; the exception is early versions with serial numbers having the last four digits lower than 0600.

More recently we've added Euro Mode, which adapts V1's radar sensitivity to the way radar is used for photo enforcement in Europe and some other countries outside the U.S. It narrows and intensifies radar coverage to K and the sections of Ka bands applied there to photo radar. V1s with Ku coverage and Euro Mode have those features installed but not "activated" as they leave the factory. For do-it-yourself instructions on activation, see techreport3 elsewhere in this site.