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Cobra iRadar (IRAD 200) review: Cobra iRadar (IRAD 200)

Cobra's iRadar detector interfaces with an app on your smartphone (iOS or Android) to point out speed traps and red-light cameras before you get within range of detection.

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Antuan Goodwin
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Antuan Goodwin

Reviews Editor / Cars

Antuan Goodwin gained 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.

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6 min read

The Cobra iRadar unit appears at first glance to be a fairly basic radar/laser detector. About the size of a deck of playing cards at 1.15 inches deep by 2.92 inches wide by 4.22 inches long, the unit is, for the most part, composed of nearly featureless black plastic. The newer IRAD 200 that we're discussing today has a matte black finish with a silver band wrapping around its equator, as opposed to the glossy black of the older IRAD 105.

Cobra iRadar (IRAD 200)
7.7

Cobra iRadar (IRAD 200)

MSRP

The Good

The <b>Cobra iRadar</b> works with or without a connected Android or iOS smartphone. Its car charger has a powered USB port for the paired smartphone. A free app helps you fine-tune the iRadar's sensitivity and discern between actual alerts and false positives, as well as monitor for traffic cameras and speed traps.

The Bad

We still ran into a number of false positives during our testing, requiring quite a bit of interaction with the app for the first few days.

The Bottom Line

The Cobra iRadar justifies its entry-level price as a good radar/laser detector. And when paired with a smartphone running the iRadar app, it becomes a much more flexible and useful speed management tool.

It may appear featureless, but there are a few physical landmarks. Along the left edge of the unit are the input for the 12-volt charger, the power/volume dial, and the new iOS/Android toggle switch. Select the white dot for use with an iOS device and the green dot for Android. The top surface is home to the unit's loudspeaker and round, concave Mute button. Around back is a slot for connecting the iRadar to its dual-suction-cup windshield mount -- which holds the unit quite securely despite being of the lick-and-stick variety. When the iRadar is powered down, there are no obvious indicator lights, but once activated an LED indicator light glows red from behind the unit's leading edge. What would be the back of the unit, a large glossy black panel, is actually the main radar receptor array, so you'll want to point the shiny end toward the front of your vehicle.

iRadar on the dashboard
The simple iRadar hardware notifies the driver of speed detection with audible alerts. Antuan Goodwin/CNET

The LED indicator glows red showing that the device is active. In this state, it will beep and speak audible alerts for any of the radar and laser bands it senses with its 360-degree receiver, much like any of Cobra's radar/laser detectors. The unit features X, K, Ka, Ku, and VG-2 band detection and POP-mode warnings for instant-on detection. There is also a mode that notifies the user when approaching safety cameras. Additionally, the iRadar device monitors the voltage flowing through its 12-volt adapter and can notify you if your car's voltage ever runs low.

The iRadar's power cable is worth noting. This 12-volt adapter not only powers the iRadar unit, but also features a powered USB port for juicing your connected smartphone. You'll have to bring your own dock connector or Micro-USB cable, but this is a great addition to the iRadar's feature set.

The iRadar connected to my Android phone via the Bluetooth connection. After flipping the device's phone mode switch, the pairing process was as simple as locating the iRadar IRAD 200 device in the Bluetooth settings menu and pairing with the four-digit PIN supplied in the owner's manual. In the case of my Android device, entry of the PIN wasn't even necessary thanks to its simplified paring functionality. Additionally, I was able to take advantage of my phone's ability to pair with multiple Bluetooth devices to preserve the hands-free and audio-streaming connectivity with my car's audio system.

Once paired, the normally red status light on the face of the iRadar device glows blue, indicating that it's ready to connect with the iRadar app.

Cobra iRadar app for Android (pictures)

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The iRadar app is a free download in the Google Play Store and the Apple App Store. It can be used independently of the iRadar hardware, but works best when paired with the device.

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.

Cobra iRadar (IRAD 200)
7.7

Cobra iRadar (IRAD 200)

MSRP

Score Breakdown

Design 7Features 9Performance 7