Compact iRadar Atom detects speed traps (hands-on)

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/ Updated: May 22, 2013 3:42 PM PDT

LAS VEGAS -- Along with announcing its new AirWave Bluetooth music receiver at CTIA this week, Cobra also launched the latest iteration of its iRadar sensor device.

We first saw this unit earlier this year at CES . Though both the Atom and the original iRadar detect local speed radars, the Atom is physically smaller and reportedly more accurate.

In addition, it works in conjunction with an app that's available on both iOS and Android platforms, to alert drivers where known speed traps are located. Launched on Tuesday, the iRadar Atom retails for $199.95.

Design
The Atom is a small, glossy black box that is no bigger than the palm of one's hand. It looks similar to a small wireless keyboard mouse, and weighs about a fourth of a pound.

It measures 1.15 inches tall, 2.25 inches wide, and 3.30 inches long. On top is a speaker grille, which you can hear audio alerts from. If you want to turn off audio, you can press the big mute button below it.

Cobra iRadar Atom
The iRadar Atom is ultraportable and won't take up that much space on your dashboard. Lynn La/CNET

Radar detectors face both the front and back of the device. One its left edge is a power toggle that also doubles as a volume rocker. On the right is a port for charging.

While the Atom is smaller than the original, its shape is a bit boxier, especially when considering its most recent predecessor, the iRadar 200 . However, given its petite aesthetic, it won't be as obtrusive when mounted on your dash.

Features
As a radar detector, the Atom can warn drivers of nearby speed radar units that are operating on the K-band system frequency, which includes radar cameras that are situated at stoplights or street corners.

Cobra also reports that the Atom is twice as accurate and sensitive as the original, which translates to an even wider alert area.

Cobra iRadar Atom
The iRadar app works with the radar detector and maps out known speed traps. Lynn La/CNET

Though you can use the detector as a standalone device, you'll get more out of it when you use it in conjunction with the iRadar smartphone app. Available for free, the app maps out known flagged locations, as well as crowdsourced hot spots where users flag reported sights of live police officers looking for speeders, or radar cameras that perhaps have been overlooked.

The integrity of each alert can be flagged by others, as well, and you can click "true" or "false" for each reported alert. In addition, you can see if one spot is particularly hot, by viewing a colored indicator. If it's blue, the authenticity of a speed trap is low, but if it's red, it is a verified threat and you should slow down upon approach.

Outlook
Though pricey, the Cobra iRadar Atom is a useful tool for those looking to be more aware of speed radars. But while the device carries the bulk of the value, the mobile is just as essential.

With its easy-to-read user interface, the iRadar app isn't only user-friendly, it also boasts a robust community. The app has already been downloaded a reported one million times and with 40,000 user-tagged alerts, the scope and accuracy of the app proves just as valuable as the Atom itself.

Check back with CNET for all the news unfolding from this week's CTIA 2013 show.

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Quick Specifications

  • Release date May. 21, 2013
  • Product type Radar detector