Today's high performance radar detectors are like computers in a way: they work well because of a combination of both hardware and software. A radar detector's hardware are the physical parts of the detector that enable it to sniff out a radar signal. This is the part that chiefly determines the sensitivity of a detector. Software, or firmware, controls how a detector behaves once it encounters a signal, and is responsible for the "personality" of the product. It decides which signals to filter out as false alerts, and is responsible for many of the detector's features, including the user interface.
Radar detector hardware doesn't change very often, if ever. Typically a change would only occur as new models come to market. Firmware, however, is frequently being tweaked by radar detector manufacturers and it is common to see several new versions released per year. That means that, for example, a Bel RX65 purchased today would potentially perform differently than a RX65 purchased several months ago, and certainly would perform differently than one purchased several years ago.
What Are They Changing?
So, what kinds of changes are being made with these firmware upgrades? Manufacturers are typically secretive about specific changes, but a common tweak is likely to adjust a detector's filtering capabilities for newly found interference-creating devices. Updates could also contain bug fixes, or product enhancements. Within the last year, Beltronics released an updated version of the STi Driver that fixed a problem related to poor sensitivity on a specific Ka frequency. Also within the last year, Whistler released an updated Pro 78 and XTR690 that improved Ka performance and enhanced some user interface functions.
Shopping For The Latest Firmware
If you're shopping around for a new radar detector, be aware that the detector's firmware version could affect its performance and usability. Avoid buying products from retailers or web sites where product would sit on shelves for months (from infrequent sales or due to huge quantity buys), or from web sites who have distributors "drop ship" product instead of stocking themselves. In a situation where products have sat in a warehouse for months or where a dealer has no control of the source of the products, it is easy to see how you could receive a dated version.
Buy Radar Detectors policy for high end detectors is to only stock as many units as we expect to sell within a two week period. This means we are constantly turning over our inventory, and always have a recent firmware version. We are now beginning to indicate on our product pages exactly which version we are currently shipping. We are also indicating manufacture date, when available. This information is being checked and updated once per month. If you are considering purchasing from us and have any questions regarding the firmware, please don't hesitate to contact us.
Checking Your Radar Detector's Firmware Version
If you already have a high performance radar detector and are curious to find out your firmware version, simply find your detector below and follow the steps.
Beltronics STi Driver - Hold down both the Volume/Mute and Sensitivity buttons while powering on the detector. The firmware version will be displayed when the detector turns on. Warning: this will reset the detector's settings to factory defaults.
Beltronics RX65, Vector Series (995, 965, 955, 940) - Hold down both the City and Brightness buttons while powering on the detector. The firmware version will be displayed when the detector turns on. Warning: this will reset the detector's settings to factory defaults.
Escort 8500 X50 Black - Hold down the City, Dim, and Mute buttons while powering on the detector. The firmware version will be displayed when the detector turns on. Warning: this will reset the detector's settings to factory defaults.
Valentine One - Hold in the control knob while turning the knob "on". Continue to hold in the knob until all lights are illuminated (about 5 seconds). Release the control knob, then press-and-release it again. This will display the version one digit at a time in the bogey counter window. Warning: this takes you into the V1's programming mode. To exit, turn the detector off and then back on normally.
Dates of Manufacturer
For Bel and Escort products, you can determine the date of manufacture by checking the label on the bottom of the detector. The last four digits on the serial number line represent a year and week number. For example, if this number on the bottom of your detector is 1208 that means the detector was manufactured during the 12th week of 2008.