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Jul 04

Whistler CR85, CR88, CR90, & CR93 Review

Whistler’s detectors haven’t been particularly popular among enthusiasts these days yet many people have had good experiences with them and have been saved many times thanks to them. Whistler makes some very affordable radar detectors plus. Even their top of the line detectors are very inexpensive. (The CR93 is currently just $166, for example.) The thing is though, there’s other inexpensive detectors now available that offer significantly more performance for similar money (the DFR5 and DFR6 come to mind), but rather than just pointing people to another detector whenever they ask about Whistlers and leaving it at that, let’s take a closer look at Whistler’s top of the line radar detectors and see what they offer.

When it comes to radar detectors, I have two primary criteria for them to be considered “good enough” for me to run and for me to recommend you: 1) It has to give you sufficient advanced warning in most situations to give you enough time to slow down to radar being used up ahead and 2) It has to have good false alert filtering so that you pay attention to it when it does go off. I have nothing against inexpensive detectors, but if they fail at either one of those two criteria, I wouldn’t personally run it and I’m not going to recommend it to you. I love saving money and not spending it unnecessarily, but I also believe firmly in having a minimum level of protection to protect you from speeding tickets, hikes to your insurance premiums, any court costs or lawyer fees, not to mention the headaches and stress of dealing with tickets in the first place. IMHO it’s best to get a genuinely solid level of protection and not cut corners too too far.

Whistler’s Top of the Line Radar Detectors

Whistler makes some very affordable radar detectors. You can easily find them below $100. However, their top of the line detectors are inexpensive too so I’m curious to see what they can offer. For a while the top of the line radar detectors were the CR85 ($124) and the CR90 ($142). Both detectors offer the same level of performance and BSM filtering, but the CR90 adds GPS for things like low speed muting and redlight camera alerts. There’s no GPS lockouts with the Whistlers, but given the very small price difference to add GPS, I think it’s well worth it.

Whistler then updated the platform, improved the K band performance filtering options, and released updated models. Ka band performance is the same as before, however. Now their current top end detectors are the CR88 ($140) and the CR93 ($166). (Those are current prices on Amazon while I’m writing this. You’ll want to check current pricing.)

Either way, the performance should be the same with all of these detectors so let’s take a look at how they fare in controlled real world testing conditions.

Note: The less expensive CR68 ($62) and CR73 ($80) have a smaller horn (antenna) so they offer reduced performance compared to their higher end siblings.

Testing the CR85:

@jdong on RDF owns a CR85. He set it a test course on a road with a few curves with a Stalker II (34.7 Ka band radar gun) on one end and drove towards it with several different detectors including the Redline, V1, Max, X50 Black, and CR85 to see how much warning time they all gave. Every other detector alerted well in advance and gave plenty of warning time. The CR85 was able to do this once (yellow W), but two other times it alerted right as the driver reached the kill zone (green W’s) and the radar gun was able to pick up their speed. In short, it gave no advanced warning at all and against this constant on (!) source, it got owned. In my mind, that’s not acceptable.

Complete test results: https://www.rdforum.org/showthread.php?t=38256

A little while later I borrowed his CR85 and had a chance to test with it as well. In my own testing, unfortunately I also found that the CR85 was returning bottom of the barrel results, running on par with a cheap Cobra.

Complete test results: https://www.rdforum.org/showthread.php?t=44373

Obviously after these tests I was very unimpressed with the performance of the CR85, but I had only tested one copy of the detector. What if this detector was performing worse than average or there was something wrong with it? What if another detector would perform better?

Testing the CR93:

Last year when I went to SEMA in Las Vegas, I had a chance to talk to Mike B, the man who actually builds these detectors. He’s an awesome guy and I really enjoyed talking to him. You can read my notes from our conversation here.

I brought up the testing that we had done and expressed my concern about the performance of the CR85. He offered to take a look at it (I passed the info on to jdong, but I don’t know if he ever sent it in) and Mike also offered to send me a brand new CR93 to test with so I ran it myself for a little while and also tested out this new detector.

I went back to that same test course I’d used previously and this time every detector was giving me longer range (presumably because of less foliage on the trees). The CR93 didn’t perform as well as the higher end detectors, but it still gave sufficient warning for a save.

Complete test results: https://www.rdforum.org/showthread.php?t=61027

I also sent it out to Texas so that the TXCTG could do some more comprehensive testing. They also found that in relatively easy situations like a radar vehicle parked on the side of a long straightaway, the CR93 could give adequate warning. Not as long as your higher end detectors, but still sufficient.

Complete test results here: https://www.rdforum.org/showthread.php?t=59269

They also tried a harder test with the radar gun pointed the other direction and approached the radar gun from behind. The officer wouldn’t be able to clock you until you passed him and his radar gun was hitting you from behind, but if he’s sitting on a highway on-ramp or something and hitting cars from behind, this exactly what you’d encounter.

The top end detectors provided nearly 2 miles of warning, and that’s against a radar gun aimed the opposite direction. Some of the other detectors were providing close to half a mile or a mile of warning. The CR93 didn’t provide any advanced warning whatsoever. None…

Complete test results here: https://www.rdforum.org/showthread.php?t=59269

So against trickier situations, again you can get completely owned against C/O. Not good.

They did another test on K band with the radar gun aimed slightly across the road (think the officer picking people off as they come around a bend) and most detectors did very well providing nearly 2 miles of warning and a few others providing 1 mile. The CR93 provided just under a third of a mile, significantly less than the competition.

Complete test results here: https://www.rdforum.org/showthread.php?t=60101

So against easy situations like flat straightaways where the radar beam can easily travel down the road, the CR93 can provide plenty of warning. However, in situations where things get trickier, unfortunately the detector starts to show its weaknesses very quickly.

This is really my biggest concern with the detector. Sure it can provide saves in practice, but unless you’re driving in ideal conditions all the time, I really do feel it’s worth going for another detector that offers a higher level of performance. Saving money is great and all, but not if it’s returning results like these.

Other Aspects of the Radar Detectors

After seeing these test results, I quickly lost interest in diving deeply into the Whistlers, but I was still curious about other aspects of the detector.

The BSM filtering is one of the improvements of the CR88 / CR93. I didn’t test this a ton, but there is a new feature called FDSR (Field Disturbance Sensor Rejection) where it can alert you to the presence of a nearby BSM and let you know that the detector may have trouble seeing a legitimate signal at the same time. Cool feature. Personally I’d rather just set the detector up to filter out the signals altogether though using TFSR (Traffic Flow Sensor Rejection), the BSM filter, and you do have that option. With TFSR on and FDSR off, it did look to do a reasonably good job.

Another feature I think is pretty nifty is the ability of the detector to tell you the pulse rate of a lidar gun that you’re being shot with. This feature is known as the Laser Signature Identification feature, or LSID. You can also selectively filter out different pulse rates if you like if you get false alerts at those frequencies, similar to band segmentation on Ka band. Here’s a video from a few years back demoing the feature.

I also like that there’s different levels of X, K, and Ka Filtering. If you run Ka at the max performance settings you get the longest range of course (which is what we did for testing), but as you saw it was still not that great. There’s also some filtering options to help filter out false alerts at the expense of range. However, in my experience I still got Ka falses even with the Ka Filters enabled, and they would go off at odd frequencies too like 34.3 or, like in the video below, 34.9.

Summary

I know these detectors are inexpensive and I’m all for saving money so long as you don’t compromise performance too much. However, after seeing how the detectors perform in testing and even testing with multiple copies of the detectors on multiple courses against different radar guns, in my opinion they don’t offer a sufficient level of protection. I wouldn’t feel comfortable running them myself and I feel like I would be doing you a disservice if I was to recommend them. (To see my current top picks for radar detector at different price points, see my Radar Detector Buyer’s Guide.)

I think there’s otherwise a lot of cool stuff with the detectors. I like Mike B, I think the lidar pulse rate measuring bit is nifty, I like that GPS is such an inexpensive add-on, and I like that we have more options for radar detectors available at different price points. However, when it comes to offering a minimum level of protection and false alert filtering, based on what I’ve seen, I think you’re better off looking at the other options.

3 comments

  1. Mottie

    hello vortex
    I remember back in the days whistler detectors were not bad at all.
    back at the mid too late nineties there weren’t so much choice as today actually the choice was between v1 whistler crappie cobra and vector and the price range were totally different so the whistler was a really average decent choice. I can’t say bad things about this detector as opposed to the crappie cobras.

  2. James

    Hi,
    I recently stumbled upon this website which sells radar/laser detectors and scramblers. I don’t want to promote them in any way but I was wondering if you were aware of their products. It all seems like BS but interesting that they do mention that they have eliminated X detection all together which makes sense. Just was curious on your take of the products. Thanks

    https://rockymountainradar.com/shop/detectorscrambler-combination/judge-laserradar-detector-scrambler/

    1. Vortex

      Hey welcome aboard! Yeah I’m familiar with RMR. They’re widely considered one of the biggest scammers in the industry, I’m sad to say. I recently tested the Judge and it certainly doesn’t perform as advertised. You can take a look at my testing and review of it here: https://www.vortexradar.com/2017/06/rocky-mountain-radar-judge-review/

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