All right, folks, here it is. I took my Pro-73 and my new Pro-78 out to see if there was an on-the-road difference based on the 10db increase in sensitivity with the 78. I also wanted to see if the Pro-78's new Filter settings--designed to filter out leaky RDs from a manufacturer that will remain nameless--worked and had any effect on the detector's sensitivity.
My goal here was not to rank the Pro-78 in relation to the traditional "Top Five" or "Top Ten" RDs, but to compare it to the Pro-73 and see if it is worth the investment to upgrade.
I was hoping to use four known radar locations here in Colorado Springs. The first was a Your Speed trailer set up in a construction zone. My Pro-73 had picked this thing up from a mile away several times about 2 months ago. The second and third were fixed Your Speed signs, and the last was a mobile construction sign running a K-band radar. Unfortunately, the Your Speed Trailer and the construction sign had moved since I saw them last, so I was left with only the two Your Speed signs. Those are what I used for the range testing. To test filtering, I drove the same course with each detector.
At no time were both detectors plugged in at the same time, much less powered up simultaneously.
So after about 48 hours with my Pro-78, here's my review:
Design: Gone is Whistler's telltale "hourglass" look for RDs, with the curved design. The Pro-78 looks more like other RDs, with perhaps even a bit of the Cobra look to it. Whistler moved the bracket release button from the top to the side, making removal from the windshield easier, and they changed the buttons so that they are easier to understand. The intense blue display is still there and still looks great! Volume and power have moved to the side, as well. Whistler added two "periscope LEDs" to the top of the detector that either stay on all the time, stay off, or blink during alerts.
Ease of Use: The Pro-78 is a huge step from the 73 in ease of use. The volume/power is a three-way side-mounted switch that you push for power and rock back and forth to adjust volume. The switches on top are now dedicated to City Modes, Quiet, Dark, and Menu. No more multifunction switchology to confuse people like me. Once you enter the menu mode, it's easy to select the options you want, too. BIG improvement over the 73.
Features: New features for the Pro-78 include the ability to turn off individual bands (including laser,) filter settings (Filter, Filter 1, and Filter 2) to tune out leaky RDs, and improved volume, making the RD a bit louder than the 73. The ability to turn off bands is another huge stride forward and makes the RD much more customizable. It retains the highway and three city modes, the POP capability, auto-quiet, and auto-dark modes from the Pro-73. Whistler also improved the PULSE (instant on) warning for the 78. I never received an actual PULSE warning on my old Pro-73. I received several falses, but every time I encountered Instant On, it did not register a PULSE alert. On the second day with my Pro-78, I had a perfect test of the PULSE warning. I had circled around to make a second run at a motorcycle speed trap on a local roadway. I actually saw the LEO raise his gun right before I received a PULSE warning. I was merging onto the road .3 miles away when it happened. Good fix.
Filtering: The filtering on the Pro-78 will take a bit more time to fully test, but here's what I see so far. First off, the three "Filter" settings do appear to cut down greatly on false alerts from other RDs. In four days using the product with Filter 2 on, I have received only one false from another RD, and I'm not even sure that was truly an RD false. There was a door opener nearby that could also have done it. RD-falses are easy to spot on my Pro-73 -- they last for about three beeps, then go away. Then return. Then go away. Etc. I'd received them from Cobras, X50s, and even some unidentified RDs I'd seen on the road. With the Pro-78, I've had only one so far. And the Filter settings do not appear to affect the sensitivity of the receiver, at least not appreciably. During my tests, I found no difference in alert distance with the Filter set to Filter 2 than I did with Filters off.
As far as other falses, I wouldn't say the 78 is worse or better than the 73. Just different. You can tell the receiver is more sensitive by the way it picks up door openers much farther away. For example, on one hill, I received a K-band alert that lasted a good 20 seconds and went from 3 to a full 9 on the strength meter. It is an area where the local PD likes to lurk, too, so I was looking for a LEO. I drove it again with my 73 and received only a very brief signal when I was between two buildings (see the next map), but that was it. On my third run, I switched back to the 78 and again got a strong k-band alert. So I pulled into the church parking lot and found that the signal got stronger as I approached their back door. Sure enough, there was a door opener right above it. As soon as I passed the church, the signal went away. Assuming the door opener was the source, I received an alert at nearly .3 miles from the source, and slightly over a HUGE hill. (Note to Colorado Springs Drivers: This is a GREAT hiding place for LEOs due to the false alertsÖ.).
Range Testing: I did two separate pre-planned range tests for the Pro-78. The first was against a fixed K-band Your Speed sign at Vickers and Flintridge here in Colorado Springs. I did my testing on Flintridge, which runs north-south at that point, starting from the north. The radar faces North, and the road slopes down from north to south--so the sign is DOWNHILL from my starting point. With my Pro-73, I picked up my first alert .37 miles from the Your Speed sign, around a slight curve. This was consistent with other passes I had made on this sign on other days, as was the loss of signal I received a couple of seconds later. The alert resumed after 5 seconds or so, and continued with ramp-up until I passed the sign. It continued about a tenth of a mile after the sign. The Pro-78, however, gave me the first alert at .51 miles from the sign. This placed me around two bends instead of one, and with the 78, I had no loss of signal, meaning my alert was steady and ramping up all the way to the sign. (Note: as we approached this sign from behind, we were around a significant curve and going uphill. The Pro-78 alerted slightly sooner than the 73, but any detector would have been challenged by that detect due to the angles involved.)
My second test went against a different fixed K-band Your Speed sign, this time at the northern intersection of Rangewood and Autsin Bluffs. I was on Austin Bluffs headed north. Some notes about this test. First, the radar itself is solar-powered, and the test was early in the morning. There had been little time to recharge the batteries and the signal was weak. Of the six total runs I made at this sign, it actually failed to read my speed on three of them. Second, the signal is pointed off-angle from the road due to a curve in the road, making the detect even more difficult. I almost didn't do the tests, knowing the radar was struggling just to produce a signal, but I did anyway.
The Pro-73 and the Pro-78 performed about equally on this sign. The 78 gave me about an additional 100-feet of warning consistently, with both alerting around .3 miles and ramping up well. Neither detector was able to pick up the signal from behind, but there was also no other traffic for it to reflect off. Of note, the 73 repeatedly gave a false alert .2 miles after the sign, while pointed at a newly constructed hospital about a half-mile away -- I assume it was a door sensor for ambulances. The 78 did not false on this. I tested both RDs in City 2 Mode and again in Highway mode. I also tested the Pro-78 with Filter 2 and with no Filter. None of the settings seemed to affect the range one way or another.
Conclusions: I still have to run some more tests with the 78. I need to get some straight-road tests to see about the longer-range detects. But at this point, it sure looks like a nice improvement over the 73. The 10db increase in sensitivity did translate to significant on-road warning time increase in one of the two pre-planned tests. The Pro-78 alerted me between 20-30% sooner in that test and provided 5-10 seconds of additional warning. Doesn't sound like much, but that alone is a lot of extra braking time and might mean you slow down without the nose dive. Filtering appears to be better at this point, with the number of RD-induced falses way down, but the number of door-opener alerts going up with the increased sensitivity. But considering the nature of a door opener signal, I don't really consider them falses for any RD. Right signal, wrong application.
If I manage to find some nice, straight roads to test the 78, I'll post those results as soon as I do. For now, I think the 78 is a worthwhile upgrade from the 73, and well worth its price tag. Most of you know how happy I am with my Pro-73. Well, I have the feeling I'll be even more so with the 78.