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Jun 27

Is Vortex Radar Biased or Sponsored by Radar Detector Manufacturers?

Occasionally, despite my focus on being an objective and unbiased tester, I’ll hear someone suggest that I must be paid or sponsored by manufacturers, I’m biased for one reason or another, or something along those lines. Honestly I find that fear totally understandable because that stuff happens among reviewers. As a matter of fact, those sorts of issues are why I got into testing in the first place. When I first got into radar detectors years ago, some of the primary sources of radar detector tests and reviews were from salesman pushing the products they sold while unfairly downplaying the products they couldn’t make money on as well as testers who were unwittingly putting out bad data simply because they didn’t know how to properly test radar detectors. There were some good testers out there too, but how could I know the difference? I just wanted to know the truth, for myself, about how detectors perform and which one is best for my own needs, so I just started testing them out to see what worked best for me and sharing my experiences along the way. I want to know which detectors offer the highest levels of protection.

One thing I love about radar detector testing is that anyone can go and independently test and verify claims for themselves. I do that, along with many other radar detector enthusiasts on RDF. I also highly encourage you to conduct your own testing as well, sharing your videos and results with the community. You’ll learn a ton yourself and it benefits others as well.

I’m also a huge believer in transparency. Now that I make a living off of testing and reviewing radar detectors (I didn’t when I first started out and that wasn’t my goal getting into this), I think it’s important for you to know how I do this, what my financial incentives are, as well as my own personal preferences and biases regarding radar detectors and how that factors into my recommendations and videos.

and finally, for the record, no I’m not sponsored by any manufacturer and I don’t work for any manufacturer. I do help test and develop radar detectors for many different manufacturers, but I’m not sponsored by any and actively turn down any such requests when they arise.

My goal is to provide the very best objective and unbiased radar detector information, no matter of if I get paid or not, no matter what brand name is written on the detector. If it’s awesome, I’ll tell you. If it sucks, I’ll tell you. If I’m being compensated in any way such as getting a free detector or making a percentage of the sale, I’ll tell you. You deserve to know.

Ultimately I just want to know the truth, that’s my number one priority, and that’s what I’m here to share with you.

Why People Think Vortex is Biased or Sponsored

Now most of you guys know what I’m about already and how I roll, but there’s a few cases when people don’t, particularly if they’re new to me. Why would someone think that my reviews are sponsored? I’ve noticed 3 main reasons:

  1. A manufacturer doesn’t like that I gave their product a poor review or I’d recommend another product over theirs and so they either attempt to invalidate me or my tests or they claim I’m secretly working for a competing manufacturer.
  2. Someone buys a detector that I recommend, finds that they’re not getting 10 miles of range or that it doesn’t alert when they pass a police officer, and they think that I’m lying and being paid off by the manufacturer of that detector.
  3. Now that the Uniden DFR6, DFR7, and R3 are such good detectors and have become three of my go-to recommendations, I no longer have 10 “best” radar detectors to recommend and so people think I’m a Uniden salesman, heh.

So how do I and don’t I make money? Here ya go:

How Vortex Radar Makes Money

What Vortex Radar Doesn’t Do

  • Paid reviews
  • Accept sponsorships from manufacturers
  • Promote select detectors because I get paid for selling them and put down detectors because I don’t get paid
  • Recommend garbage detectors that are a waste of your money

Sales & Commissions

The primary way I make money is when you click on my affiliate links and purchase a product I recommend. Amazon carries lots of the popular radar detectors including Escort, Radenso, some Unidens, dashcams, and so on so that covers the majority of items. Best Radar Detectors carries some of the specialty products that aren’t on Amazon like the Uniden R1/R3, STi-R Plus, 9500ci, Escort Live cables, Blinder HP-905, etc. Some products like the Stinger VIP, the AntiLaser Priority, and Blendmount I also have an agreement where when you use my affiliate link or unique coupon code, that purchase is associated with me and I get a commission.

I have it set up with nearly every product out there I can make a commission on and I like this because this helps me remain objective about what I recommend. That said, there are a few products that I either can’t or specifically choose not to make money on.

K40 products are only sold through installers so I can’t make money on those, but they’re poor performers anyways so it’s no big deal. Some products like Escort’s Max Ci and Max Ci 360 are also only being sold through installers so I don’t have a way of making money on those. Initial impressions of the Max Ci detectors are looking pretty good for the most part, despite it being outclassed by the competition in many key areas, but if it’s a good fit for you, you should get it. The Valentine One is available through Amazon, but it’s resold there by third parties for more than full retail, it’s potentially an older version, and you won’t get any warranty so unless you live in an area where Valentine doesn’t ship, it’s better to purchase the V1 direct. I highly recommend the V1, even though I don’t make any money when you purchase because I link you to Valentine’s direct site and they don’t offer an affiliate program. I consider this a cost of doing business and accept this because it’s best for you and it feels right to me.

Free Products

I also sometimes receive free products from manufacturers to test and review. Often times it’s a beta or pre-production unit to help with the development process, give feedback, help with firmware updates, etc. Sometimes it’s production hardware. It all depends. When I do tests, I mention if the product is beta or production, if I received it from a manufacturer, and other relevant details. Before I receive the unit, I’m always very clear that I’m going to share my full opinion, good or bad, and if a company is going to send me a product, they need to be aware of this. I’m not here to put down other companies though. When I receive a product, if there’s any issues, I like to first talk with the company and figure everything out, see if updates are necessary, see if I’m doing something wrong, etc. Only after all that do I put together the formal reviews.

People are sometimes concerned that I may receive a “juiced unit” that performs better than normal retail hardware. There have been two instances of this happening in the past before I got into countermeasures. One was when one manufacturer opened up a competing and better performing detector and put the other detector inside their own case to make their product look better. This was disastrous for the company for obvious reasons. Another concern was when one laser jammer manufacturer gave testers a special firmware so that the product performed better than retail units. Personally I’ve never had this happen to my knowledge and any company who would try that at this point would be quickly called out because there’s so many people all working together to test and compare information.

So I do sometimes receive free products which is helpful since I don’t have the budget to purchase everything myself. I wish I did though. 🙂

I also borrow detectors from other radar detector enthusiasts, typically their personal retail copies, so I can test and compare their products as well.

Most of the products that I run day to day though such as the ALP, V1, Max360, I purchased all of those retail just like everyone else.

Even if I do receive a unit for free from a company, in no way does that influence my opinion one way or another. I’ve given good reviews and bad reviews to products I’ve received for free. I’ve given good reviews and bad reviews to products I’ve purchased. That’s just how it is.

Sponsorships & Working With Companies

I don’t accept payment from companies for testing and reviewing their products. I’ve been asked on a number of occasions, but I always decline. I may get the products for free which helps me accomplish more with less, but I’m not financially incentivized by manufacturers.

Sometimes companies ask me to help them test and develop their products and I’m very happy to do so if I can contribute to helping make products better for everyone. However, I only do this when companies already have an awesome product and I can help improve it further. If a company puts out a poor product that doesn’t perform well and hasn’t been thought through properly, it’s not my job to do their work for them and it wouldn’t be a wise investment of my time and energy so in those instances, I choose not to work with them until they can reach a minimum level of awesomeness. 🙂

Testing Methodology

Since I’m a detail-oriented perfectionist, when I test, I want to do everything in my power to ensure that my test results are valid and correct. I’ll do my best to control testing conditions like radar gun and radar detector placement, account for any uncontrolled variables like weather or traffic, and repeat my testing as time allows to check for repeatable and consistent results. Everything including settings, testing conditions, etc. are all documented, recorded on video, and publicly shared. All the evidence is available for you to see what I saw and check my work. (I don’t always post every RD test run with every test, but they’re all recorded and saved just in case.) Anyone can claim whatever they want on the internet, so I aim to be very comprehensive and thorough with what I share, which you’re probably noticing with this lengthy article. 🙂 The details can be overwhelming, I know that, but I find them critically important.

I’m also constantly looking for any reason why my results would be incorrect, mistakes in my testing procedures, and other variables or issues that could impact my results. I have zero problem with people asking questions about my results because the last thing I want is to put out invalid data. If there’s an issue, please let me know so I can fix it, mention it in existing tests, or retest as needed. I’m human and I may make mistakes (I have before!), but I really care about the accuracy of what I share so I want to ensure that I do everything as well as humanly possible.

This is especially important given that some manufacturers understandably like to promote tests where their products perform well and occasionally invalidate tests where their products perform poorly, so having everything documented and clearly shown is important in both situations when the testing undergoes closer scrutiny.

Choosing “The Best” Products

How do I choose which products are “best?” In general I like to focus on numbers, test results, and hard data. It keeps opinions out of things and things are focused on verifiable, objective facts. Whether you like a product or not, if it performs well, it performs well. If its performance sucks, it will show up in testing.

At the same time, there is a subjective element to things as well. We all have our own personal preferences and needs so test results and numbers alone are not going to give the whole story.

Some people prefer a more technical and customizable detector while others want something more automatic and plug-and-play. Some people want a custom installed remote detector while others want a more affordable windshield mount. Some people need RDD immune detectors, but most don’t. Some people want arrows while others are fine with listening to the audio. Some people drive in urban areas, some in mostly rural areas, and some a mix of both. Some people don’t mind paring their detector with a phone to add more functionality while others want everything built into their detectors. People’s budgets vary too. Because of all these unique preferences and more, there’s no way to pick one best detector for everyone so as a reviewer, it’s important for me to take a step back from my own personal preferences and consider what other people would need and what’s a better fit for them, regardless of if it’s what I would personally prefer.

Sometimes it’s a bit of a pain when there’s a lot of good options for radar detectors and it can take time and research for people to figure out which one is best for them. Sometimes people just want a simple, straight answer. “What’s the best radar detector?” For those people I do like to do my best to simplify things as much as humanly possible. (Currently I’d say it’s between the Uniden R3 for top of the line performance and/or RDD immunity, Escort Max360 for being easy to use and packed with features, or Valentine One for techy people who want situational awareness.)

My Personal Preferences and Biases

Now because I’m a person, I have my own preferences and biases towards what I like. I’m fully aware of them and the fact that they can influence my recommendations. I like to keep to the facts, but I also like to be human and give my own personal take on things that are also helpful to pair alongside the test results. Here’s my personal preferences:

I like high performance detectors with very good BSM filtering. I like intelligent GPS lockouts, ideally automatic but manual is fine too. I prefer not needing a phone for my detector, but I’ll do so in specific instances where I need the extra functionality. I don’t need RDD immunity or MRCD detection. I love arrows and find them incredibly useful, but I can get by without them if the detector is superior in virtually every other way. I love manufacturers that listen to their customers, treat their customers well, and respond to issues and bugs by implementing firmware updates that improve upon their products. I personally don’t care if a radar detector can integrate with a laser jammer and would skip integrating them if it means I get a better RD and LJ that way. I’m okay with spending a little more money on a detector if it means it gives me better protection and more peace of mind.

Who Financially Supports Me? You Guys Do.

So if I’m not sponsored by manufacturers and I don’t run an online store where I sell products, how do I make money? Well it’s actually thanks to you guys. When you guys purchase a product I recommend, watch my videos and ads play, when you donate to me, or when you support me on Patreon, that’s how I get paid and that’s how I make a living.

The whole I reason I started testing and doing videos is because I wanted to find out how products actually perform in objective and unbiased independent testing. If I were to start putting out misleading information that was designed specifically for me to make money at your expense, that would go against the reason that I started doing this in the first place. I gotta make a living to pay the bills and continue doing what I do long term, and I choose to do so while maintaining my own integrity. 🙂

How to Support Vortex Radar

Finally, if you appreciate what I do and would like to support me, here’s several ways you can do so:

I hope that clears things up and I appreciate your support! 🙂

-Vortex

3 comments

  1. Mottie

    Hello vortex
    rest assured that most of us radar detectors enthusiasts know the truth about you and that you are absolutely devoted to the truth and our community and your reviews and tests are unbiased and totally straight. I would like to give a little example:
    we all know that valentine research does not use any resellers whatsoever! and yet you keep recommend the v1 and give that detector the respect he deserves even though some people would say it’s a bit oldie. I don’t want to say bad things about the desist but we all remember what radar roy ( god rest his soul) used to say about the v1 only because he couldn’t make a profit of it. and that started way before escort came out with really good detectors that gave a fight to the v1. we all remember that rr claimed that the vector detectors and the old escort like 850 etc are a better choice than the v1 well we all know what that means…
    I even remember when you advised against!! purchasing a v1 from Amazon even though you could earn a little commission of it only because the best way is to go directly to valentine research and get a better price and be sure you will get the latest version and software available.
    I can say and I believe I am talking for a lot of us that we’re glad and thankful to have a great and professional reviewer like you on our side.
    best regards and keep up the good work.

    1. Vortex

      Thanks Mottie.

      Yeah for 99% of people, this is pretty obvious and doesn’t even need to be said. However, I’ve noticed 3 situations when it comes up:
      1) A manufacturer doesn’t like that I gave their product a poor review and so they attempt to invalidate me or my tests or they claim I’m actually working for a competing manufacturer.
      2) Someone buys a detector that I recommend, finds that they’re not getting 10 miles of range or that it doesn’t alert when they pass a police officer, and they think that I’m lying and being paid off by the manufacturer of that detector.
      3) Now that the Uniden DFR7 and DFR3 are becoming two of the go-to recommendations and I no longer have 10 “best” radar detectors to recommend, people think I’m a Uniden salesman, heh.

      It’s nice having one go-to place where I address this clearly so that when/if it comes up, I have something permanent to point people towards.. so it’s really mostly creating the reference that I’ll be linking to later whenever it comes up.

      1. Mottie

        well said vortex my friend
        actually it’s my recommendation two to guys who asks me which detector to go with ( usually these guys are beginners) and wants to go with a medium price range so I advise the dfr3 or dfr7 . just like in the past I advised to go with the whistler detectors as a reasonable detector ( much much better choice than the crappie cobras ) a lot of people who don’t have the knowledge choose a cobra which is a terrible choice as we all know…
        and as for people who bought a detector follow your recommendation and didn’t get a 10 miles detection range- well they have to understand!!! that even if for example on your test the detector gave an alert from 10 miles it’s absolutely very because sometimes the radar is located on a road with a lot of curves, mountains, more cars, etc and therefore no encounter is a copy for the next encounter of radar and besides it doesn’t really matter if you get 10,8 or 6.5 miles alert it’s still way before the “kill zone” and protects you just fine.
        finally for those who bought a detector and the detector didn’t alert when they passed a cop car… well da!!!! a radar detector detects radar!! and not police cars!!
        but I can understand just like you the reasons some people who don’t have enough knowledge yet think that way but I truly believe they will come around when they become more knowledgeable.
        best regards

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