The Whistler CR90 Radar/Laser Detector: Defining the Difference Between a Value and Cheap

The Whistler CR90 Radar/Laser Detector: Defining the Difference Between a Value and Cheap
Coming Soon to A Windshield Near You!

It’s not too often that an electronic product for under $200 impresses me enough to write a blog about it, but the Whistler CR90 radar/laser detector has done just that. Please let me be clear- in no way, shape, or form, has Whistler compensated me for this review, but I simply wanted to share my personal findings of the fine product with my fellow motoring enthusiasts.

For years, I have openly expressed that you simply cannot buy a functional radar/laser detector for under $300, but the Whistler CR90 has shattered that belief. I will openly admit, that I was a loyal Escort enthusiast and trusted my vehicle to the protection offered by the Passport 8500 x50, but due to an unfortunate circumstance (vehicle break in)- my prized Escort was stolen and needed to be replaced.

I decided to use this “unfortunate incident” as an opportunity to research other makes and models of radar detectors, but I found myself being drawn back to Beltronics/Escort models. In an effort to save on money, I picked out a factory refurbished Beltronics Pro RX65, but found that my unit was defective and asked to have my unit replaced. Given my previous experience with the Passport 8500 x50 (the cousin to the Beltronics Pro), I asked that the Beltronics be replaced with a refurbished 8500, an exchange in which BEL/Escort kindly allowed.

After several months of use, I began to notice that this Escort was no comparison to my original unit. This particular 8500 was prone to consistent falsing and inaccurate detection of Ka band radar; which is a big problem in Illinois, as Ka is the favored band used by State Troopers. In spite of how many times that I wanted to trust this unit, I simply could not trust its accuracy and had to consider a replacement.

Since spending another $300 on a radar detector was not high on my priority list, I began researching alternative options and came across some compelling customer reviews for the Whistler CR85. Further research then led me to discover the GPS-enabled CR90, that not only kept track of speed, but it also alerted to approaching red light cameras (and some speed cameras too- Suck it Rahm!), which is an absolute must for driving in Chicago.

Judging by specs and user reviews alone, I felt confident that spending my hard earned money on this “value-priced” radar detector might be a risk worth taking. Some light searching of the internet, yielded several resellers offering the CR90 for well below the $279.95 MSRP and within a few short days- the Whistler arrived at my front door.

During the initial unboxing, I was immediately pleased with how the unit was presented and I thought it was certainty nice for the price I paid. Although the Whistler lacked the fine fit and finish that I came to appreciate with the Escort products, I was pleased with the reasonably solid construction and forward button layout- which would make daily use easy. The only real signs of cheapness came in the form of the flimsy power cord and the clunky window mount- which is certainly no deal breaker.

Like other users have reported, the included instructions are not terribly clear. Anyone who is remotely tech savvy should be able to custom configure the unit with relative ease, as I experienced firsthand. After about 10 minutes of initial setup, I put the Whistler in “city mode” and was ready to begin testing the unit during a short drive to Evanston. Within minutes of being on the road, a female voice alerted me to an approaching traffic camera and a distance countdown appeared in a sharp, blue, LED across the screen. As I passed through the intersection, another tone and visual message reminded me that I “Passed” the camera zone.

About a mile down the road, the friendly female voice came back and alerted me to another warning; this time it was a K band radar being detected. This time, it was a roadside speed radar that was being picked up from several blocks away. Considering that no false alerts were triggered between these warnings, I was beginning to see past the somewhat bargain basement finish and realize that there was a serious radar detector here. Further testing was needed to confirm my suspicions, and as luck would have it, a work assignment had me bound for Detroit a week later.

With the CR90 placed in the low, center of my windshield, the Ka band mode set to “Max” and TFSR (traffic flow signal rejector) engaged; the  CR90 proved to not only be reliable, but also trustworthy when it came to detecting legitimate radar threats. TFSR is a useful feature, as it helps to keep the alerts honest by filtering alerts caused by traffic flow sensors along urban roadways. I would say the most surprising aspect of the CR90 was it’s ability to detect off-center Ka band alerts.This type of detection, was particularly helpful when I was driving through Indiana and the CR90 picked off a hiding trooper who was tucked on the shoulder, hiding around bend and roughly a half mile away.

This wasn’t the only time in my 600 mile round-trip drive that the CR90’s Ka range came to the rescue. While keeping stride with a pack of more “spirited” motorists like myself, the CR90 emitted a brief Ka alert and then went silent. About 5 seconds later, that Ka band alert came back and the signal strength counter rapidly climbed. I swiftly moved out of the pack and began to apply the brakes. It was a good thing too, because the trooper waiting on the median was clearly “open for business.”

That first alert was clearly correct and had I been by myself, I might have dismissed it and neglected to slow down in time. Regardless, the distance between the first alert and the trooper was quite significant, and showed me that the CR90 has some serious range. Additionally, the Whistler CR90 showed solid performance in other bands as well, as it was able to detect the low-range K bands used by toll booth speed displays as well as the laser bands used for reading iPass units.

The list of features are certainly plentiful (CR90 Features), but the gripes I have found are surprisingly quite few. Among the most significant being more in line with annoyances as opposed to detriments to performance. Of those petty gripes, three  are worth noting:

1. Ka band range was very good, but heed that first “chirp,” as it is probably correct and will give you ample time to stop. 2. The fact that CR90 couldn’t realize that I was traveling on an expressway and would countdown distances to traffic cameras that wouldn’t have affected me.(I might have to overlook this, as Whistler does allow you to download the most recent traffic camera information to your CR90 for free.) 3. LED display could be a bit bigger and a bit more refined, but it still works well.

Bones Tested... Bones Approved!

Bones Tested… Bones Approved!

Overall, the Whistler CR90 has exceed my expectations and dispelled any notions I previously had with regards to sub-$200 radar detectors. With it’s great detection of traffic cameras, I keep the CR90 in my windshield most of the time while I am driving. The CR90 packs features and performance that will rival units 1.5x the price, and considering that Whistler backs covers you with a 2-year warranty- the CR90 proves that just become something is a value, doesn’t mean it is “cheap.”


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