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NOAA Hi-Def Radar review: One of the best apps for storm radar

NOAA Hi-Def Radar is one of the most popular weather apps for good reason: it loads incredibly fast, has useful bookmarking features, and gives you a ton of information about severe weather conditions.

Jason Parker Senior Editor / Reviews - Software
Jason Parker has been at CNET for nearly 15 years. He is the senior editor in charge of iOS software and has become an expert reviewer of the software that runs on each new Apple device. He now spends most of his time covering Apple iOS releases and third-party apps.
Jason Parker
3 min read

NOAA Hi-Def Radar delivers great-looking animated radar maps to give you a better look at weather systems close to you, but it's missing one important feature.


NOAA Hi-Def Radar

The Good

<b>NOAA Hi-Def Radar</b> has fast-loading radar animations, tons of useful features for tracking weather, and a bookmarking system to save multiple locations.

The Bad

The app doesn't send notifications or alerts for approaching storms.

The Bottom Line

NOAA Hi-Def Radar is an excellent way to track storms, giving you a ton of useful information, but it's missing one important feature.

Having a traditional forecast in front of you is useful, but being able to see the path of an actual storm is sometimes the feature you need most. You can use the interactive radar maps in NOAA Hi-Def Radar to see when rainstorms are approaching, see where lightning strikes have occurred, and devise a plan if a severe storm is coming your way. The app tracks weather activity across the entire United States, but it also uses the latest images from NOAA satellites covering the Atlantic and Pacific oceans so you can stay informed during hurricane season, too.

Using the app
To check weather in your area, simply tap the current location arrow to get a satellite view with the latest weather activity. Just as with local TV forecasts, you'll be able to view cloud and storm movement to see if a storm is coming your way in smooth high definition. You can see when each satellite image was taken, and watch as it moves to the next image on the timeline. When a new image becomes available, the radar map is updated only a few minutes later. Also, you can touch a button in the lower right to search for other locations, get a forecast for the point at the center of your map, and adjust which buttons you want to see on the NOAA Hi-Def Radar home screen.

Interactive radar maps let you watch the weather (pictures)

See all photos

Even though it's the main feature, NOAA Hi-Def Radar isn't just for radar images. You can drag and drop a pushpin for local weather to any location to see the current weather there, along with a five-day forecast with basic information. There is also a system for bookmarking locations so you can quickly switch to favorite spots to see what the current weather outlook is there. As far as customization is concerned, you can adjust which colors are included in the weather severity spectrum, and several other options from the settings screen by touching the gear icon in the lower right.

One big missing feature
The only thing I think is missing in NOAA Hi-Def Radar is sending weather alerts in severe weather conditions. The app is great if you look at it before the storm arrives, but if it could send you an alert when severe weather enters your vicinity that would be extremely useful. It seems like a pretty easy fix since it already knows where the storms are and it clearly uses GPS to pinpoint your location, so why not send an alert when the two get close together? It would also be useful if it could warn you when severe weather is approaching a bookmarked location as well (I'm imagining an alarm for when a storm is approaching a friend or family member, for example). The app has a link to a separate app to get these features, but I really think it should be part of NOAA Hi-Def Radar.

Overall, NOAA Hi-Def Radar is great for fast-loading weather radar maps and several other features, but if it went the final step of sending your phone proximity notifications, it would be the perfect severe weather app.


NOAA Hi-Def Radar

Score Breakdown

Setup 9Features 8Interface 8Performance 9