Trip-routing GPS devices have dominated in-car consumer tech coverage for the past few years, but that doesn’t mean the radar detector hasn’t made advances in the interim. Cobra’s XRS 9950 offers up a thorough 12 bands of scanning, a full 360 degrees of detection, and a color OLED screen that’s easily readable in bright sunlight. Unfortunately, even the best detectors can’t help you when a well-trained law enforcement professional sets your car in the sights of the radar gun.
After a fairly simple setup that involves attaching the XRS 9950 to the front windshield via suction cups, we tested the device on a trip from urban New Jersey to rural New Hampshire. Giving the device a clear view of the rear window allows for 360-degree scanning. Through urban areas, the XRS 9950 was quite chatty, frequently calling out signals. In fact, if you also have a GPS navigation device calling out directions, the two devices can turn a relaxing drive into an anxiety-inducing experience, as the devices compete with themselves to shout out information, seemingly at random. A 1.5-inch OLED screen also displays relevant information but often felt redundant, as the voice prompts were usually sufficient.
We also tested the optional GPS dongle that warns users when they are about to pass through a traffic light with a camera. But we didn’t encounter any alerts from the device, most likely because we were on a major highway for nearly the entire trip.
While the XRS 9950 does a great job of detecting and alerting users to continuous-wave radar, we found out the hard way that it can’t protect drivers from the quick draw of the good old-fashioned radar gun. Worse still, the device’s vigilance can easily lull users into a false sense of security that entices them to drive even faster.
As we were about to pass from Connecticut into Massachusetts—admittedly going faster than we should have been—a state trooper set his sights on us, pulled the trigger, and got a quick reading. While the XRS 9950 dutifully blurted out the presence of a strong signal, there was nothing we could do except pull over and begrudgingly accept our ticket. A radar scrambler may have helped, but they aren’t legal in many states and aren’t likely keep a trooper who sees you speeding with his own eyes from issuing a ticket. That makes devices like these rather limited in their usefulness. No matter how many bands a device can scan or how big the OLED screen is, there’s no escaping the long arm (or the quick draw) of the law. And honestly, that’s probably the way it should be.