Cobra iRadar review: Cobra iRadar

The third function of the iRadar app is the Settings menu. Here users can dig in and customize the sensitivity of the iRadar detector and fine-tune the app itself. Settings are broken into four sections. User settings features another toggle between highway and city modes, an option to chose between voice and tone alerts, an automute function, and options for automatically logging detections on the map and managing power usage of the iPhone running the app. The Alert settings menu is where you can toggle alerts for X, K, Ka, and VG-2 bands and POP mode. Cobra's Safety Alert system can be toggled here; this system relies on transmitters in emergency vehicles, road hazard warning equipment, and trains to warn of potential driver and vehicle safety threats. The GPS Alert settings menu is where you adjust what warnings come from the app and iPhone itself. These options include alerts for speed cameras, caution areas, speed traps, and user-marked locations. Data for these alerts comes from the cloud using Cobra's Aura Camera and Driving Hazard Database (data connection required). You can also set a speed warning that notifies you when you've exceeded a preset and customizable speed limit. Finally, the Unit Info menu displays the paired iRadar's model number and connection status, as well as the version number of the iRadar app.

The fourth and final function of the iRadar app is a store function that takes you to Cobra's online store for additional purchases. Currently, the only item in the store is the $169.95 iRadar itself, which is only really useful if you've downloaded the app before picking up the hardware.

Getting back to hardware for a moment, the iRadar's car charger plugs into a vehicle's 12-volt power connection or cigarette lighter port and connects to the detector. Of course, you'll have to bring your own iPhone/iPod USB charging cable and, if you want the touch screen to remain visible as you drive, your own car cradle. Another nice bonus feature rolled into the iRadar's power cable is its monitoring of your vehicle's electrical system output and reporting of battery voltage via the paired iPhone app's Dashboard screen. You can also set the iRadar app to audibly alert you if the battery level gets too low.

On the road and when it wasn't warning us of speed detectors in the area, the iRadar unit's low-profile design made for minimal distraction. Our first run with the unit was made with the iPhone tucked away in a cupholder and out of our line of sight. Using a second smartphone running the Trapster app--a free app that alerts users to speed traps and road hazards--we set out in search of a clocking copper.


Using the iPhone's data connection, the iRadar app can notify users of road hazards as a pop-up (left) or on a Google map (right).

As we said earlier, by itself, the iRadar is a good--if not simple--radar detection device. It beeps and gives verbal warnings--for example, "K-band detected"--when it detects speed-sensing radar. But without the iPhone's screen visible, that's about the extent of the sort of warnings you'll get. We didn't experience very many false alarms, and when we did, they were brief and quickly dismissed by the iRadar's logic. For example, upon activating our test vehicle's radar-guided cruise control, we were presented with a brief K-band radar warning. However, after a few seconds, the iRadar automatically dismissed it and never falsely triggered for this system again.

Where the iRadar comes alive is when it is paired with an iPhone running the iRadar app. That means bringing your own car kit to keep the iPhone in your line of sight. We think it's a worthwhile investment, but with both the iRadar unit and the iPhone mounted, the vehicle's windshield can begin to feel a bit crowded.

Fortunately, the app works for its space on the windshield, displaying not only detected radar band and signal strength, but also advanced warnings for hazards such as speed traps and caution areas pulled from Cobra's Aura database. This gives drivers a chance to check their speed before they attract police attention, buying precious seconds to slow down. Granted, we never ran into a police presence in any of the speed trap areas reported by the iRadar app, but we're of the school of thought that prefers more warnings to not enough.

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Antuan Goodwin gained most of his automotive knowledge the old fashioned way, by turning wrenches in a driveway and picking up speeding tickets. From drivetrain tech and performance to car audio installs and cabin tech, if it's on wheels, Antuan is knowledgeable. Email Antuan, follow him on Twitter, or like him on Facebook. Antuan