Both the Whistler Pro 78 and XTR-690 are AAA home-run hitters!
Whistler XTR 690, Whistler Pro 78 Radar Detectors Review
Update 23 MAY 09:
Update 27 JUN 08: Read Veil Guy's Whistler XTR-695 Review
I KNEW, a couple of years ago, that Whistler was serious about producing good quality, inexpensive, and honest radar detectors when I witnessed a $169 Whistler Pro 58 trounce the reception capabilities of a certain wireless remote radar detector that cost more than 10 times as much!
Most of you who are already familiar with my other radar detector reviews, already know that I spend the bulk of my performance examinations of the very best radar detectors produced where price is no object -- the top five of which are the Beltronics RX-65 Pro, Beltronics STi Driver, Escort Passport 8500 X50, Escort Passport 9500i, and the Valentine 1.
But, thanks to Danny and Frank of Cricket Ventures (www.buyradardetectors.com), I was able to get a hold of a couple of the latest top-of-line radar detector models that Whistler has recently begun shipping—the Whister Pro 78 and Whistler XTR-690—when I traveled through Rock Hill, SC on the way to Atlanta, GA several weeks ago.
On my return from Atlanta, I managed to spend some seat-time with each of these promising new Whistler models—enough time to realize that both of these models were indeed special and, in my opinion, represented an achievement milestone in the inexpensive radar detector performance category.
Today, I managed to put on an additional 400+ miles with these new Whistlers and encountered most forms of police radar (X, K, Ka) throughout the typical North Easterly loop that I make which includes both PA and NJ.
In a nutshell, the levels of performance that the Whistler Pro 78 and Whistler XTR-690 achieve, in some cases, are simply astounding considering that my comparison radar detector was a Beltronics STi Driver—a high-end radar detector which retails for anywhere between 2.5 to 3.5 times as much in price at $449! The reception performance of both of these new radar detectors is head and shoulders above all previous Whistler models and appears to be superior to models from Cobra, including their new innovatively packaged Cobra XRS-R7 which retails for more than double of either detector, at $386.
Is that to say that its performance equalled that of the mighty Beltronics STi Driver? In a word, no (and it wouldn't be fair to Whistler to expect so). In certain instances, the STi Driver alerted with a signficant number of additional seconds of reaction time to certain radar sources and often alerted to widely-adjacent sources of radar that the Whistler Pro 78 and Whistler XTR-690 missed completely. In general, though, the margins of difference were smaller.
However, particularly with Ka-band (34.7Ghz), the Whistler Pro 78 was often within a few seconds to the STi Driver and, as incredible as it may sound, in one instance actually alerted prior to it (by about 1 second) with one particular Ka encounter! Furthermore, the performance of the Whistler Pro 78 and Whistler XTR-690 exceeded, on more than one occasion, the performance of the STi Driver (on X and K-band) when the STi Driver was operated in AutoScan mode; it almost felt as though the Whistler Pro 78's and Whistler XTR-690's highway mode roughly approximated the performance of the STi Driver's AutoScan mode.
When driving on the highway, I tend to be less concerned with what's happening off to my extreme left or right, anyway. And just as I am not concerned that the STi Driver is generally a little less sensitive—to such radar sources—than the Valentine 1, I too am not concerned about either the Whistler Pro 78 or Whistler XTR-690 being less sensitive than the STi Driver to these same sources.
While I hadn't actually encountered a police laser speed trap while operating either of these models, it is my understanding [from one owner of a Whistler Pro 78,in Ohio, who has] that it's quite adept at spotting laser, as well.
I was pleased to find that the RF leakage profile of both of these radar detectors was very radar detector friendly. In otherwords, I didn't find that either of them had a tendency to set off other proximate radar detectors when in normal operating mode. We would occasionally pick up a harmonic at 35.4Ghz on the STi Driver when either Whistler was powered up or engaged in programming or setting changes, but other than that, things looked and felt very clean, indeed.
Both of these new Whistler excel in ergonomic friendliness—even exceeding the likes of certain high-end Beltronics and Escort radar detectors of which these models ergonomic features were clearly designed after.
The overall appearance and contruction quality of both of these radar detectors is quite good as is the feel of buttons and controls. Whistler's suction cups are some of the best in the business, making consistently good adhesion to the windshield. Whistler optionally provides a host of interesting and useful accessories for either model including an Intellicord™ which provides capablities like that of the higher-end Bel and Escort standard power adaptors. I think I actually prefer the thinness and length of the standard power cables that Whistler provides relative to the thicker coiled telephone-like cables of other radar detectors—which are less obtrusive to the outward windshield view.
The Whistler Pro 78 comes with a re-usable anti-slip dash mount pad (which is optional with the Whistler XTR-690) that promises to allow painless dash-mounting in more than one vehicle for those desiring to do so.
The Whistler XTR-690 offers six (count 'em) dim/bright LCD display modes although, my preference (at my age) was for the simpler and more readable LED display of the Whister Pro 78.
Although I never used the feature, both models allow for programatically setting a unique battery saver mode, which automatically powers them off after three hours of inactivity. If engaged and you are still driving, the detectors will sound an alert which allows you to quickly reset the countdown timer with a quick press of any button.
Another feature, unique to Whistler, is a driver attentiveness safety testing and alerting system which shows great promise in its utility. Currently, one must specifically engage the process by depressing and holding for two-seconds the "city" button and releasing it immediately after an audible tone is sounded. However, in my opinion, a better implementation of this innovative safety feature would be to programmatically enable the feature which then could be tied into the auto-dimming function (when dark outside) and then have it automatically run through the driver alert test sequence in a pre-determined time interval (set programmatically) at 15, 30, 45, 60 minutes or some-blend of each time separation sequence. This way the driver wouldn't have to manually engage the system to determine if they are indeed alert at a time they may not be.
Unlike their predecessor, the Whistler Pro 73, the Whistler Pro 78 and Whistler XTR-690 have selectable band defeat, including POP, support the SWS highway safety alerting system—which, unfortunately, has yet to be implemented—auto-mute alerting (called auto-quiet), and allows their owners the ability to select three different alert tonal characteristics (I prefer tone 3), a unique capability to Whistler, as well as three different filtering modes (not to be confused with the three different City modes)
I never found myself needing to select any of these additional layers of filtering modes, as both the Whistler Pro 78 and Whistler XTR-690 didn't appear to false to any great extent from other cheap radar detectors that may have been close by during my travels. However, it is my understanding that sensitivity is not adversely affected, meaning that the ultimate impact on reception of bonafide steady-state and/or instant-on police radar should be minimal, at most. It is also important to make the distinction that these additional "filter" modes will not reduce the number of potential "falses" emanating from X-band and K-band door openers, just other polluting radar detectors. So use them, only if you need them.
Decide which tone sequence you prefer:
We were told by Whistler that both of these top models share the same reception platform and my experience suggests that the performance is essentially identical (within typical production variance) between either model, as one would expect.
Both models provide Voice band-identification alert augmentation, which is clear and pleasantly feminine. The XTR-690 additionally sports a compass even though it retails for $10 less than the Whistler Pro 78. The cost differential is mostly attributed to the expensive-to-produce blue LED display to finds its home on the Whistler Pro 78. The Whistler XTR-690, instead, offers a back-lit LCD display which was harder to read in every lighting condition than the intense blue display of the Pro 78. Compared to its predecessor, the Whistler Pro-73, the Pro 78's display is an improvement in readability.
Since I do not drive with any GPS device, I found the Whistler XTR-690's compass quite useful in informing me of my direction of travel. Not only does it indicate N, NE, E, SE, S, SW, W, and NW, but it also displays the actual degrees of zero to 360, zero being north; 90 being east; 180 being south; and 270 being due west. It has nothing to do with radar performance, I know, but it is still useful information nonetheless, particularly when you are following very windy back-roads in the Pocono region of Pennsylvania.
Both models have two blue LEDs that adorn the top left and right sides which can be configured to flash/blink during a radar/laser encounter. This is a feature I came to appreciate, even though the volume was full and the tones distinct, because I sometimes drive with the music cranked pretty loud. In these instances both models can still grab your attention with their flashing/blinking LED indicators, even if their sound alert is drowned out by 110db of Jean-Michel Jarre.
Like the BELs and Escorts, programming is a snap and changes can be easily made on the fly without having to power off the detector at any time. Programming will automatically exit to regular operation after several seconds of programming inactivity or when the side power button is depressed once.
Drivers who live outside the United States (in such regions as the E.U and Australia) who may be subject to Multanova (34.0Ghz & 34.3Ghz) will be pleased to know the both models have been specifically designed to perform quite well with both horizontal and vertically polarized forms of this police radar. Additionally, Gatso—which operates on K-band (popular in the U.K.)—radar reception performance is also being tweaked and improved, we understand.
One minor annoyance observed was the auto-dimming function. Like the early STi Drivers, the display tends to sometimes switch quickly back and forth between dim and bright settings while traveling under trees and other obstructions to light. If Whistler would slow down the rate at which the dim/bright modes react to rapidly changing light condtions, this would be an improvement, in my opinion.
Another minor quibble, I have, is with the quickness in which either model releases a very brief/weak radar encounter. By the time you find yourself reacting to the sound of the alert and looking to the display, the display has already cleared the indicated band and strength. I would prefer if the Whistlers held on to the signal just a little bit longer, in these instances, so that one can confirm these alerts visually.
These two very minor issues, aside, I have drivien nearly a half of million miles—in my 27 plus years of driving many of those miles while in posession of one radar detector or another. Not until now, have I encountered a radar detector so chock-full-of-features and as capable at either of the Whistler Pro 78 or Whistler XTR-690 for so little currency.
UPDATE 02 JUL 07:
Unbelievable as it may sound, in the time-span between our initial publishing of this review and today, Whistler had not only addressed these two issues, they have gone even further by improving the performance of both radar detectors with the disabling of POP reception. You can learn more about these revisions in the Veil Guy blog.
Whistler's accomplishment is even more striking—considering that each of these models have been built to such a low price-point and have to perform around the extensive patents of Beltronics, Escort, and Valentine Research.
Both the Whistler Pro 78 and Whistler XTR-690 retail for $229USD, but can be found on sale at authorized dealers for somewhat less at street prices of $179 and $169, respectively. When purchased from an authorized dealer, each of these detectors come with an impressive three year warranty.
Given the caliber of these two radar detectors, it would be nice to see Whistler strictly enforce an authorized dealer MAP program, as they deserve the most respect, in my opinion.
If Whistler ever decided to produce a red LED display model, its entirely possible that they could produce another version of the Whistler Pro 78 that would represent an even greater value for $20-$30 less than the current blue LED model. I actually prefer red to blue. My understanding is that the color red doesn't tend to cause the pupils to constrict like the color blue does and therefor, is easier on the eyes when operated in the evening. Even so, I found the rich blue display to be preferrable to the Escort Passport 8500 X50's—though they appear to be identical components.
Personally, I would love to see a red Pro 78 or perhaps an LED display that operates very much like the radio displays of late model BMWs which sports a compass, as well, which could offset the savings incurred by the reduced cost of an alternate colored LED display.
It is my opinion that these new Whistler radar detectors represent two of the greatest values in radar detector ownership, today.
If it is your desire to have a full-featured radar detector which provides good protection against police radar, particularly against Ka-band, and are budget minded, you need not look further than either the Pro 78 or XTR-690.
Mega kudos goes to the guys and gals of the WhistlerGroup for attempting (and especially succeeding) to produce such high quality and very affordable radar detectors.
Happy and safe motoring!
The Veil Guy
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Related Reading:Whistler XTR-695 Preview
Beltronics STi Driver Review
Escort Passport 9500i
Valentine One Review & Tribute
How to Avoid Speeding Tickets with your Radar Detector
The Ultimate Radar Detector Review
The Ultimate Laser Detector Review
Summary Radar Detectors Buyers Guide
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