Ever since the automobile has been invented, a battle has taken place on the roads. This battle is that between those who love going fast, and those who would love anything but people going fast. Generally, the latter group has been made up of the police and various law enforcement agencies, and as such have the resources those agencies can bring to bear. For those doing the speeding, the amount of resources has been significantly less; for the most part simple situational awareness has been the greatest asset to going fast on public roads. Awareness and common sense, that is. For the past couple of decades, there has been another tool in the arsenal of those who quest for speed in the form of radar and laser detectors. While not foolproof by any means, they certainly enable a little bit more piece of mind for their users. Not all radar detectors are made alike however; and as such the quick driver has a few choices to make with their purchase.
There are three main brands for radar detectors; Escort, Cobra, and Valentine. Escort and Cobra each offer multiple models with various choices, and can often be purchased at your local Best Buy or stereo store. Valentine on the other hand only offers the Valentine One, an ever-improving model that has been evolving ever since its debut, and you will never find one in stores. This development cycle paired with such a sales structure allows Valentine to offer attempt to offer better quality control as well as the chance to upgrade existing units. While this can make it difficult to acquire a unit, many enthusiasts make that choice over the competitors.
The reasons for this become clear upon closer inspection: until recently the Valentine One has been the only unit with directional arrows. As Matt Farah often says (paraphrasing), ‘Without arrows you might as well have a fucking canary squawking at you on your dash’. As someone who has owned units from the three major brands, the truth of this statement cannot be fully understood until hearing that dreaded BEEP! and having to swing your head on a swivel looking for the source. The addition of arrows theoretically solves this, with the addition of arrows to an Escort unit—the 360 max—as seeming confirmation of their superiority. I decided to bite the bullet, and picked up a unit of the tried and true V1, leaving the Escort 360 for further development. You can purchase a unit at this site.
The Purchasing Process
There is no doubt that purchasing other radar detectors is easier than buying a Valentine. With others, you can visually cross-shop at a physical location. The Valentine must be purchased online, with a certain degree of trust involved. For some people, not being able to hold a unit before purchasing will be a deal breaker, however with how many positive reviews I have heard over the years, I felt the risk of a bad product were minimal. The website furthers this feeling, being solidly designed and easy to operate, with plenty of information. There is a lack of information on the product information page regarding the number of inputs on the base unit of the Valentine One. The importance of this information will become apparent later in the review. Shipping, tracking, and receiving all went off without a hitch, although it should be noted a signature is required by an adult upon receipt.
What I Bought
I purchased the Grand Touring package, which includes a base Valentine unit along with a Savvy attachment for $449.99. Doing so saves $20 over purchasing the two separately. I also invested in the Bluetooth adaptor for $49.99. This brings my total to Valentine to about $500. I also purchased the concealed display, but it was returned. The mount I utilized was the BlendMount, which retails for about $130. A connector for a powered mirror should cost no more than about $10. With installation, it sits at about $750, although this is at the absolute top end of what it would cost. For the average consumer, the simple price of $399 or $449 depending on your choice of Savvy, will provide everything for a basic installation.
The Installation Process
For most, the installation process will be as simple as opening the box, mounting the device on the windshield, and plugging it into your cigarette lighter. Such a setup will work without issues, although to avoid any problems with the law—mounting on the windshield can be cited in California—my installation was a bit more extensive.
Such a setup will certainly be doable at home, although for under $150 I had an audio shop wire everything in for a fit and flush appearance. I utilized a mirror mount, with a tap into my powered mirror for short wires. Depending on your choice of accessories, the installation process will vary. A Savvy unit will require wiring from the OBD II port, while a concealed display will depend on placement. Overall, the process should not be too difficult. This brings us to the major flaw of the website, and the unit in general. There are a total of three accessories one would want to use in their car. Their ‘Savvy’ unit utilizes the OBD II port to mute or reduce sound below a set speed, and there is also a mountable display along with a Bluetooth adapter.
The device only has enough inputs for two of these accessories, meaning you have to pick and choose which you would like. While inconveniencing, it is downright bad site design that you are able to purchase all three and a unit at the same time without being informed via a warning box, or simply prominently displayed information. As such, while I purchased all three, I returned the concealed display, and picked the other two options. A major inconvenience for their customers.
While aesthetics are certainly individual, I find the design of the device’s face easy to use and pleasing to look at. The red lighting can seem industrial, and the ability to control the brightness easily from the device would be appreciated. After just a few hours of use, and a few warnings, the warnings become easy to recognize, with signal strength, type, and most importantly of all, direction, available at a quick glance.
My wife summed up both of our feelings on the actual appearance of the device with her first impressions upon sitting in the car, “Wow. That is clunky”. And it is, easily adding what appears to be twice the mass to my mirror unit—an already chunky unit to begin with. This is down partly to my mirrors design not playing well with my choice of mount, the BlendMount, a device I highly recommend for any radar detector, even with my issues. While proud of their continuous product development at Valentine, the appearance seems dated due such a dedication to one product.
Operation and Effectiveness
To someone in the market for the least amount of speeding tickets, all of the above information won’t be as important as how well it operates. I live in the foothills of Northern California, and our local police force is known for its zeal in enforcing laws (doesn’t every counties sheriff have its own TV show?). On top of that the California Highway Patrol are not the most lenient either in this region, providing the perfect proving grounds for a detector. I normally am a very aware driver while driving, and as such normally escape tickets. However, I have long appreciated the added benefit of having a detector. As such, judging effectiveness for me is not done by the amount of tickets, but rather by ease of use, and how well it blends into my routine.
On these counts the Valentine shines. All of my previous detectors acted as a trigger: I would be driving and scanning my surroundings, and as soon as the detector would beep, I would have to search for the officer. Now, upon a detection alert, the arrow determines where I look and what actions I take, acting as a legitimate warning. Further, the number of false warnings—another dreaded downside of detectors—is markedly lower than my previous detectors. The addition of the Savvy unit, which I view as a necessity for any long-term use, makes parking lot triggers like automatic doors and parking sensors, completely null and void. I have my Savvy set to 35mph, which is a comfortable speed for my driving habits, and I cannot stress how much this device is appreciated. I have yet to need to utilize the Bluetooth adaptor, which is good considering I recently shattered my screen. With my phone in such a state, it is useless as a display while driving, and I am looking forward to replacing my phone and testing the application available. Overall, the smoothness of the unit itself already has entrenched itself in my driving habits like no other unit has before.
Cost and Verdict
To some, the cost I spent on my Valentine setup may seem excessive. However, every ticket that it potentially protects me from whittles that price down until it becomes an earning device. I am ashamed to say that time will come sooner rather than later for me. For those who do not want to spend as much, or want a more mobile setup, the base unit is more than sufficient for everyday use. While there are many detectors on the market, I feel there is only one real competitor: the also arrowed Escort Max 360. While I have not experienced the Escort, it would have to be fairly revolutionary to command the price premium it commands. At nearly $250 more than a base Valentine unit, I feel comfortable that my purchase, even with accessories, was the right one. I highly recommend the Valentine for anyone who wishes to be more aware of their surroundings on the road, although I must stress to never fully rely on a radar detector, nor to ever speed in excess.
I recently recieved a degree in History from the University of Nevada, Reno.