Summary of Initial findings:
I am now running a Valentine 1 in my BMW330i (E90) and an Escort 8500 X50 in my Toyota Estima 3.5G. Both are satisfactory, providing adequate braking time, but whereas I find I get 1 full second additional forewarning with the Escort over the Valentine, the more subtle mounting of the V1 makes it my preferred detector in my regular car.
The V1 is a new model with the latest software version. I am running with X off, k off (only used on the Tolo Highway), ka on, Laser on, ka set to high sensitivity and POP on. The X50 is running with X off, and K off.
Late one night, I cruised up and down the Aberdeen Praya Road. This is a reliable place to pick up a ka band hit and it's easy to loop around after a short distance on either side. There are 3 boxes in the area that share one Multanova camera, and that night the one by the Aberdeen Bus Terminus in the eastbound direction was active.
Google Satellite Image http://tinyurl.com/qe3om
I did one pass with side-by-side high mounting by my rear-view mirror, noting the timing of the alerts and the physical position. I then made two confirmatory runs with only one detector mounted to eliminate possible interference between the detectors. Each pass was made at exactly 70km/h, the posted speed limit.
The X50 alerted a full second earlier than the V1 on all runs. Approaching the radar on the opposite side of the road, the V1 alerted a very long way off, but it could have been a false alert. The V1 seems very prone to falsing, even with most of the false-prone bands off. With X and K off, the X50 hardly ever falses and I have a higher confidence in its alerts.
The X50 programs easily, with an alphanumeric LED panel to guide the user. The Valentine 1 seems to have been programmed by the Marquis de Sade. I have seen MENSA tests that were easier. Honestly, I had more than one giggle at the manual, which I had to download, because it is so complicated that the manufacturer chooses not to provide it in the supplied user manual. If you have ever had the slightest difficulty programming your VCR, resign yourself to running the V1 on the factory settings, which are inappropriate for Hong Kong (limited use of bands and high density of equipment that cause electromagnetic interference) and would result in a very high false ratio. However, once you have the V1 set up properly, it's almost as reliable as the X50.
The construction quality of both machines is good. The enclosures are strong and well constructed, the suction cups stick securely on the windscreen and the cables lock into the cigar lighter socket and the enclosure. The buttons are well designed and of a good quality.
One thing that annoys me about both detectors is that the display is angled to suit a left hand drive car, and cars in Hong Kong are right hand drive. It's not a big deal.
Display and Innovation:
Aside from its reputation for sensitivity, I was sold on the V1's Bogey Locating technology. Essentially, this is an arrow pointing up that denotes a stronger signal in front than behind, an arrow pointing down that indicates the opposite, and another light indicating that the signal is about evenly balanced. In addition there is a Bogey Counter that tells the driver how many devices are operating.
In practice though, I found these features too complicated and unreliable to use. The Bogey Locating arrows are flicker between front, side and back, and the alert frequency is a better location indicator. The Bogey Counter too, is too much info at the wrong time. When the alert goes off, I spend my time looking in my rear view mirror to determine safe braking rate and not looking at the display determining how many cameras are scanning me. The other problem is that I can't see which band is alerting in the dark, because I cannot the read unlit text next to the corresponding tiny LED. Eventually, I will get used to the sound of the alert, but in the meantime, I need to leave my cabin lights on so I can read the display.
The Escort X50 has the basic display, which I run, plus the ExpertMeter display mode which does the same thing as the Bogey Counter but shows the hits band-by-band, and the SpecDisplay mode which tells the user the actual frequency of the radar. The basic display works great for me because the band and signal strength are displayed clearly.
I prefer the display of the Escort better, because it is clearer and easier to use.
Having seen all the possible attachment options of the V1, I was a bit worried, fearign that I'd have to buy several attachments and cables later. I was relieved to see the device came with several attachment and cabling options as standard. I can use the cigar lighter socket, or directly wire it into the fusebox. I can choose between 3 sets of suckers or a visor clip. I can use a coiled cable or a long straight cable. That's a nice touch.
I am often told that RD's are legal in Hong Kong. But it makes sense to avoid notice, or I might be 'randomly' pulled over for a detailed car search and inspection and/or breath test. Even if the car and occupants are clean, it's a waste of my and my passengers' time.
Therefore, it makes sense to conceal the detector as well as possible. I found that by mounting it above the rear-view mirror and running the straight cable round the windscreen, the V1 completely blends into the car. Most people don't spot the V1 outside or inside the car till it starts up.
In comparison, the Escort comes with only one proprietary cable. It's too short, it's the curly type and it's really obvious. Even if it's legal, my wife says it attracts the wrong kind of attention. Once, someone tried to race her at the lights after spotting the X50.
Seeing as the Estima is so high and as it has no bonnet (hood) to reflect sunlight, I will probably relocate the X50 low on the dashboard, where it'll be less obtrusive and stand a better chance of picking up laser.
The Escort cost me HK$3,200 and the Valentine cost me HK$4,200.
At this stage, the Escort is the clear winner, because it excels in performance, clarity of display and has much less false alerts. I would certainly recommend the Escort over the V1 to a first time buyer, even if he/she is a traffic cop or a radar engineer.
Now that I have a bit more experience and I have learned to program both detectors, I would still go for the Escort, although I'm in no hurry to trade because the V1 hides away nicely behind my mirror.
Next time? Maybe a Beltronics RX65 or STi Driver. [/b]