Cobra iRadar (IRAD 200) review:

Cobra iRadar (IRAD 200)

The iRadar app is what separates the Cobra iRadar line from the rest of Cobra's product lineup. The app features a virtual dashboard that monitors your GPS position, vehicle speed, and direction of travel. Here you can also switch between the iRadar's city and highway modes and quickly mark locations of speed traps or safety cameras. When the iRadar detects radar in the area, the dashboard will indicate the band sensed and the signal strength and users can mark the location as a real or false threat -- useful for noting those annoying "Your current speed" signs or automated doors in shopping center parking lots.

Users can also access a map of the current area with an overlay of detected and marked threats on Google Maps data. Users can filter the map to show real confirmed threats, false alarms, unconfirmed threats, police speed traps, areas that require caution, red light cameras, and speed cameras.

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 auto mute 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 and set different notification settings for the device's city and highway modes. For example, I chose to disable X and K detection in the city to block false alarms from automated door openers.

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 iRadar device itself, which would only make sense if you've downloaded the app before picking up the hardware.

On the road and when it wasn't warning me of speed detectors in the area, the iRadar unit's low-profile design made for minimal distraction.

As I 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 or Android device's screen visible, that's about the extent of the sort of warnings you'll get. For the first day, I received a number of false K and X band alerts around the San Francisco Bay Area, but diligently marking them as false alarms reduced the frequency of alerts along my chosen route as the testing progressed. I liked the iRadar's ability to warn me of upcoming construction zones and speed traps before I reached them, which let me adjust my speed proactively.

I also liked the fact that verbal warnings were issued from the device itself and that, although the iRadar depends on the app's data to provide many of these warnings, I didn't actually need to be looking at the phone's screen to benefit from the information provided. I could leave my phone in the upholder and not have to worry about cluttering up the windshield with two devices. I'm a less-is-more kind of motorist.

At $129, the iRadar IRAD 200 is priced at about what I'd expect to pay for an entry-level radar detector and by itself, it probably earns its price tag. However, when combined with the free app and the access to the speed trap and road hazard database, I'd say that this device is an exceptionally good value, particularly when you factor in the potential savings of avoiding even one speeding ticket.

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