The Whistler XTR-695 is a Most Unique and Capable Radar Detector
Whistler XTR-695 Review
Veil Guy's Whistler XTR-695 Review Video
Update 23 MAY 09: Read about the new and even higher performance Whistler XTR-695 SE
If you have been one of my long time readers, you already know that Whistler has been really stepping up their game with the introduction of the Whistler XTR-690 and Whistler Pro 78 series of radar detectors that were introduced to us drivers a little more than a year ago.
Continuing along those same lines, Whistler has again managed to raise the bar even further with their latest offering, the Whistler XTR-695.
Building upon the already capable "Rev C." platform of the Whistler Pro 78 and Whistler XTR-690, the engineering staff have managed to add a few new twists.
As an avid radar detector enthusiast and unbiased/unpaid independent reviewer along with my ability to put many thousand miles on a vehicle in a relatively short amount of time, I was offered the opportunity to road test a Whistler XTR-695 pre-production unit and compare it to my retail purchased Whistler Pro 78 and Whistler XTR-690 radar detectors.
I can say that the performance of this new Whistler XTR-695 is as good if not better than my Whistler Pro 78/Whistler Xtr-690. I do not know if this is due to manufacturer variances between the two or if the Whistler engineering team has been able to squeeze out a bit more performance.
They've even have given their appearance a much desired improvement, one that is (finally) befitting the capabilities that this new radar detector provides. I am trilled to write that The Whistler XTR-695 no longer looks like a wolf in sheepís clothing. This capable new radar detector is all wolf inside and out.
Let's start with the some of the more innovating and unique features that the Whistler XTR-695 affords its fortunate owners.
While a frequency display identification has been long provided by a handful of the higher-end radar detectors, Whistler has enhanced the Ka radar band reception determination and reporting to a different potential with the goal being to reduce the time it takes for the driver to separate a radar source as being a potential friend or foe.
The Whistler XTR-695 provides what is called Ka Radar Signal IDentification (Ka RSID, for short). What Ka RSID does is identify the likely sources of bonafide police radar on the very wide Ka band, numerically by displaying the nominal operating frequency of the received radar if it is determined to be within the parameters of the manufacturer. In the US this amounts to primarily three distinct frequency bands, of 33.8 GHz, 34.7 GHz, and 35.5 GHz.
The XTR695 has not left our International friends out of the picture as they have included the nominal frequencies of the commonly used Ka that are prevalent in other countries which utilize other portions of the Ka-band, such as 34.0 GHz and 34.3 GHz. Some of that radar is polarized and the drivers living in these regions know full-well that performance can be improved to horizontally polarized Gatso and Multanova by rotating their radar detectors by 90 degrees (and in the process, improving reception to these particularly furtive forms of police radar by as much as 15db!).
If a Ka signal is received by the XTR-695 due to another radar detector and falls outside of the pre-defined parameters, the Whistler XTR-695 simply alerts with their conventional KA display with no frequency indication.
The other notable and novel capability of the Whistler XTR-695 is a related reception processing approach, called Laser Signal IDentification, or LSID for short. Like the Whistler's ability to specifically pre-qualify and separate likely bonafide police radar from bogus ones, LSID performs a similar function with police laser (lidar).
Police lidar works on the principle of time-to-flight (of highly "focused" infra-red laser) which utilizes a discreet series of "pulses" which when emitted are measured to derive an exact approach or departing speed.
Each conventional police laser gun utilizes a particular pulse rate (measured per second). Most conventional US police lasers' pulse rates vary from about 100 Hz (100 PPS) to as high as nearly 400 Hz (400 PPS) as well as some International brands at 600 PPS.
The Whistler XTR-695 performs an analysis of any police laser's given "pulse-train," something typically only police laser jammers/shifters do as part of their laser jamming algorithms and then displays the numerical pulse rate (per second). For example, an LTI Ultraltye 100LRB Generation III police laser may have a pulse rate of about 100 PPS. The Whistler will display this to within a tolerance of 1%.
At this point, you may be asking yourself, what the value of such a function is. The answer: because the Whistler XTR-695 can profile incoming laser, it can be used to sort out likely false sources of laser from real ones.
You may know be asking yourself, well what are other sources of laser? The answer: there are an increasing number of potential false sources quietly making their way to your nearest highway; they are in the form of the latest lidar-based adaptive cruise control and lidar-based lane departure "safety" enhancing systems found in some Lexus, Toyota, and Infinity models with more on the way.
The trouble is, in the infinite wisdom of certain engineering departments, they have elected to use the same illuminator as police laser--GaAs laser diodes, which happen to operate on the same wavelength of police lidar, typically centered at 904nm-905nm.
The bad news is that these "safety" enhancing systems present additional interference sources as do their radar-based counterparts (which operate at 24.1 GHz, also known as K-band).
What this means is, in the real-world, of every day driving, particularly on a more heavily crowded highway, sooner or later you will either pass and be passed by a vehicle operating either an ACC or ALDS system utilizing lidar. When that happens your radar detector will oftentimes alert at full-strength to what it thinks is police laser and at a time which is the most potentially dangerous.
This is serious faux pas, as these and related radar-based systems have the potential to present a real safety "hazard" to our industry. I have repeatedly tried to inform the manufacturers of such systems as to the err' of their ways (oftentimes driven by cost-savings measures) and the leading radar detector manufacturers as well so that they will incorporate advanced "filtering" algorithms into their radar detectors and laser jammers to auto-"mute" these troubling sources from the alerts.
Well, one company that has been listening is Whistler. Since these new-fangled systems currently operate using much higher pulse rates than with most every police lidar gun, they can be effectively filtered out from the get go. This is precisely the real benefit that Whistler's novel LSID provides its owner and it is a crucial safety enhancement, to be sure. My hat is off to the engineering team of Whistler to invest the time, energy, and financial resources required to engineer an effective and elegant solution to this emerging problem.
As I have been road-testing the new Whistler XTR-695 for quite some time now, I can personally attest to its effectiveness. Over the extended Memorial Day weekend, I encountered no less than seven vehicles (from different manufactures) that not only set off of sensitive laser detectors (such as the Valentine One) but also both of the newest ultra-high-end remote radar detectors; the Beltronics STi-R and the Esccort Passport 9500ci (and therefore, the Cincinnati Microwave Laser Shifter ZR4). Other laser jammers are also be vulnerable.
Beyond the default identifying and auto-muting capabilities of the Whistler's XTR-695 LSID system is to specifically identify new bogus-sources of lidar, as well, and allow its owner to identify this new source as being a bogus source, so that the radar detector will no longer cause you heart failure when encountering this source in the future. The Whistler XTR-695 currently provides storage for up to 10 LSID signatures in addition to the ones that they have already identified and filtered out at the factory.
This extremely value feature, alone, is more than worth the price of admission to ownership.
Fortunately for us, Whistler didn't stop there. Perhaps in response to my original commentary about the Whistler XTR-690, the new Whistler XTR-695 does now incorporate a multi-color backlit LCD display which sport seven colors and seven (count 'em seven) different bright/dim settings!
Now, owners of the Whistler XTR-695 can specifically tailor the display characteristics to the particular color scheme of the entire of his/her vehicles.
This radar detector looks just at home in my BMW 5 Series, as it does an Infiniti, Cadillac, Shelby Cobra, Mercedes, and many other vehicles. In fact, I am hard pressed to think of an environment in which the Whistler XTR- 695 wouldn't look it belonged there.
Going even further than mere aesthetics, Whistler has managed to put this new display capability to a very good use: user-definable color displays to be used to allow the quickest ability to identify the nature of the threat, In my particular BMW, I opted to use the settings of RED (which appears to closely match the orange of my interior lighting scheme) in DIM mode and then the following sequence for the alerts: BRIGHT GREEN (of which their are two hues) for X-band, BRIGHT BLUE for K-band, BRIGHT RED for Ka-Bands , and the BRIGHT kaleidoscope of all 7 colors for LASER.
When coupled with the two blue flashing LEDís which adorn the top rear of the Whistler XTR-695, there is no way you will ever miss another alert either do to inattentiveness or because the windows are down and/or the music is "cranked." Provided the Whistler XTR-695 is in your field of vision as all radar detector displays should be), the Whistler XTR-695 is the best detector, in my opinion, for getting your attention quickly in the least favorable conditions.
Now that we have extensively covered the new feature-set of this new high-end radar detector from Whistler, I'm going to discuss its performance.
With respect to radar performance, the Whistler XTR-695 is no slouch as it takes over where the REV C. of the Whistler Pro 78 and Whistler XTR-690 left off. Whistler's engineers inform me they have made further improvements to K and Ka reception.
One of the least understood aspects of radar detector performance in the real-world (as opposed to a controlled radar test) is that sensitivity alone does not help when encountering brief triggers of instant on. Whistler's engineering clearly understands this, as do I.
To give a couple of examples: Beltronics and Escort (Passport) radar detectors are highly sensitive and respected devices. In the noble effort to pursue the maximization of radar selectivity (ie; alerting to only real police radar threats) and in turn, the reduction in the propensity to otherwise "false," both companies utilize additional signal processing which take a discreet amount of time to operate before they choose to alert to the source. This approach is extremely effective at maintaining the highest levels of sensitivity while at the same time producing a more quiet radar detector (one that falses less).
This is a noble philosophical approach, one that I truly appreciate, but it does present a series of great challenges to both Beltroncis and Escort for they have to strike the "right balance" in post reception signal processing prior to alerting and sheer performance. As one adds more processing, the perceived performance (by the user) of the radar detector may be that the detector is less sensitive because it takes a little longer to get an initial alert and that time translates into decreased range, if one happens to be moving.
Other radar detector manufacturers which build to low price points, often choose to use this "processing" delay as a "poor-man's" way of reducing falsing without resorting to the advanced processing of say the leading radar detector manufacturers such as Beltronics and Escort. And as I observed in the real world, can and do result in the occasional miss of very close and fast-triggered instant-on police radar.
Either of these two approaches can also potentially reduce the likelihood of seeing a brief and distant trigger pull of an instant-on speedtrap ambush farther down the road.
Valentine, takes a somewhat more "minimalistic" approach, which I also very much appreciate, in the name of pure performance: if the V1 sees it you are going to know about it. Some like to consider this as a "weakness" of the mighty Valentine, but I don't. That's why I have more than one vehicle, some automatic and some manual, depending on my intended driving route.
But like a very high-performance car which utilizes a manual stick and clutch system, which is extremely engaging, it can get a little fatiguing when driving on a very crowded highway or around a dense city. Sometimes going with an "automatic" is the wiser choice.
Whistler has managed to strike a fine and nice balance. The Whistler XTR-695 does indeed do some pre-alert looking and evaluation of the incoming radar signals, but it also is extremely quick at doing so, which minimizes the overhead and negative impact (on time) that their processing would otherwise take. As a result, like the Valentine, it is an extremely and I mean extremely quick responding radar detector. In fact, Whistler has historically demonstrated to be one of the best POP reception platforms in the business (as is the Valentine).
I like to think of the Whistler approach as being related to Ferrari's approach to the auto-manual clutches which can provide extremely quick F1-like gear changes automatically. That's how I would describe quickness of the Whistler XTR-695. On a recent 7500 mile extended trip in which the Whistler XTR-695 was called to service, I noticed that it occasionally was the first to alert to both K and Ka band when running "along side" the very highest performing remote radar detectors ever built which run as much as 5 times more in cost.
It's a most subtle, but very important distinction that I wanted to bring to light in the context of this review.
Demonstrating Whistler's Quickness to Police Radar Relative to the Ultimate:
Beltronics STi-R and Escort Passport 9500ci Remote Radar Detectors
During the course of my extended real world evaluation of a pre-production unit, Whistler managed to improve the reception to police lidar (police laser) by about another 10%, which can be noticed. They also managed to offer us a surprise (which I will now reveal here): the Whistler XTR-695 now joins the ranks of the elite windshield-mount radar detectors capable of accurately identifying and alerting to Laser Atlanta's stealth mode!
I have recently heard the certain Ohio traffic control officers actually use the mighty Laser Atlanta R and S models in stealth mode. The Whistler XTR-695 is the only radar detector built at this value price point that offers this fabulous capability!
Now to other little, but still important details. Like other top Whistler models before it, this sweetheart comes with the best suction cups in the business. In my opinion, the Whistler's XTR-695 suction cups are the platinum standard in the entire industry (which incidentally is not limited to just this model).
Like the Whistler Pro 78 and Whistler XTR-690 the volume level is more than adequate to get the job done and the alerting of the XTR-695 allows for user-specified tone controls. Voice announced band identification is also possible and when enabled, is clear and distinguishable.
This model also affords its driver with another unique filtering approach, one to filter out other cheap/junk radar detectors while at the same time minimizing the impact of reception to bona-fide police radar sources. Based upon your particular driving route, you can control the behavior of the filtering modes that this radar detector provides. (This feature is also available in other Whistler models).
Any room for "improvement?" Perhaps. I would still like to see a pick-up in X-band sensitivity since I routinely drive in areas where X-band is still utilized, New Jersey and Ohio.
Perhaps a little more out of K-band wouldn't hurt either, for I personally am willing to "pay" a little penalty (of additional "falsing" potential) from the plethora of door openers. Perhaps the addition of a special "city mode" which could intentionally reduce the false rate to both X and K-band door openers would be the happy medium here for those that are "bothered" by such things.
But really it's extremely hard to take exception with any aspect of this new Whistler on any serious count; it's performance with Ka-band (particularly 34.7ghz as evidenced in the video, immediately below) is especially strong.
About 2:30 Minutes Total of Advanced Warning to Approaching 34.7 Ka Speed Trap
(Taken: July 4th, 2008, Denver, CO)
XTR695 Turns in Very Respectable Performance with 35.5 Ka Police Radar
and Very Nearly Tied the Mighty Escort Passport 9500ci
So, in conclusion, based upon many, many accumulated miles and real world speed trap encounters, I believe that this is not only the best overall performing radar detector from Whistler to date, but represents the best overall value to radar detector ownership up to $300 dollars. Like both the Pro 78 and XTR-690, the XTR695 is one of biggest steals in the radar detector industry and one of the industries best kept secrets...but no longer, not if I can help it.
If you are in the market for a new high-line radar detector priced at less than $300 or for a radar detector with this unique feature-set (regardless of price), you need look no further. It is a fabulous radar detector and would make an exceptional additional to your vehicle's windshield.
Very nicely done!
The Veil Guy
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Now that you are armed with a good radar/laser detector, discover how you to use it effectively to avoid speed traps!
Related Reading: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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