UPS delivered my new 9500i earlier today! I immediately powered it up and tested it against my X and K band gunn oscillators. Of course, my new 9500i responded to each, so I can only assume that its Ka and laser are working just fine as well.
On to the fun stuff...
Internal Design and Construction
I then fully disassembled my new 9500i since I wanted a thorough look at all of its internals, and since I immediately wanted to ThreeBond all six of the horn-to-board screws during reassembly. ThreeBonding the horn-to-board screws prevents these screws from working loose due to vibration a year or two later, thus preventing most "self cal" or "service required" messages. Here are some things which I noted while thoroughly examining every component:
-- The internal build quality is EXCELLENT. I spent a good half hour examining all components as well as the overall design and assembly method and couldn't spot any potential design, construction or assembly problems. The internal speaker is incredibly easy to replace. Thats nice.
-- My 9500i, manufactured in 2907 (early August) has a different PUI speaker part number even though it looks just like the earlier PUI speaker model. The old PUI speaker part number which Belscort has used for some time is AS02832MR-LW56-R. The new PUI speaker in my 9500i has a part number of AS2832MR-LWC63-3-R. This new part number still isn't on PUI's web site. Either this new speaker model is simply a RoHS compliant version of the earlier speaker model, or it is the new "high temp" RoHS compliant version of the earlier speaker model. I have no idea, but I am hoping that the latter is the case!
-- The GPS unit within my 9500i is the NAVMAN Jupiter 30 AA003025-G. I was surprised that my 9500i had no trouble getting a good GPS lock with my 9500i mounted above my rear view mirror where I normally mount my STi. It even held its GPS lock while driving along my long driveway which is completely covered by a fairly dense tree canopy. I recall that early versions of the 9500i had problems with getting or maintaining a steady GPS lock. It appears that these issues have been nicely resolved.
Ease of Use
-- I spent two minutes reading the enclosed user manual. It then took me only a couple of minutes to familiarize myself with the 9500i and program the settings which I wanted to use. Quick and easy, just the way I like it.
-- I found that the 9500i's bottom mounted speaker is extremely easy to hear throughout my passenger cabin. I also liked the sound of its various alert tones even though they are somewhat different in pitch compared to my STi.
-- The 9500i's face-on display, compared to the upward tilted display in my V995 and especially in my RX-65 which I recently sold, is very easy to see if you mount your 9500i way up high.
-- It would be really neat if the 9500i's buttons were on the front as on the STi, but this obviously was impractical since the 9500i has six buttons compared to the STi's three buttons. Still, I found the design and placement of the 9500i's buttons to be well thought out.
Real World Operation
I did some quick tests this afternoon since I had to go to town to do a few errands. Here is what I found:
-- My V995, RX-65 and STi are somewhat more sensitive to K band door openers. It is a fairly small difference yet it was noticeable, especially off-axis. Just to be sure, I parked and then alternately powered up either my STi or my 9500i to confirm my suspicions. Still, the 9500i will have no difficulty detecting real K band police radar since police K band radar is both non-polarized and a lot stronger than today's low power K band door openers. I suspect that the 9500i's radar horn was deliberately optimized for Ka band with the side benefit of reducing weak K band off-axis alerts. This makes sense to me since it is obvious that the 9500i was designed to be inherently very quiet in cities and suburbs.
-- Ka band sensitivity should be top notch as indicated by GOL's recent straight line sensitivity tests.
-- The 9500i does have a slow and steady visual and audio ramp-up, but only for radar signals which are slowly increasing in strength. I quickly discovered that the 9500i uses a very short time integration circuit which measures the slope of the signal ramp-up and immediately extrapolates the detected signal slope to what that the corresponding signal strength would be after another couple of seconds. How quick is this time integration interval for measuring the slope? My guess is around 1/4 to 1/2 second, based on testing with my trusty cell phone which, when charging, emits a nice continuous X band signal. This time integration circuit is why, for example, when turning into a shopping center such that your 9500i is pointing towards the door openers, a fairly weak radar signal can suddenly jump from a 1, 2 or 3 to a full 8 or 9! Why? Because the very short time integration circuit suddenly sees a rapidly rising slope for the still weak signal, extrapolates that slope to what the signal strength theoretically would be after another few to several seconds, and jumps the reported signal strength up to this theoretical signal strength. Another good example would be encountering radar around a curve or encountering radar over the hill. In such cases, the 9500i will extrapolate the very weak yet fairly rapidly rising signal slope and, based on the extrapolated slope, display what the predicted signal strength would be a few to several seconds later.
When I first encountered this, I found this "feature" to be incredibly annoying! No wonder everyone is complaining that the 9500i seems to have a horrible ramp-up which suddenly jumps from a weak signal to a very strong reported signal. While still finishing errands, I immediately called Escort CS and spoke with Dan. He confirmed this "feature" along with my theory about how this "feature" worked. He also said that this "feature" is inherent in the 9500i by design, and that the point was to strongly warn drivers when the 9500i detects a weak yet fairly rapidly rising radar signal which the 9500i assumes is really police radar. It may be a neat design in theory, but the mathematical algorithm behind it needs some serious tweaking if it ever could be considered "useful". Personally, I absolutely hate this "feature" in its current implementation and will likely hate it in any future implementation. The possible exception would be if this feature is only used when the 9500i is in Highway mode since one normally uses Highway mode when driving in rural areas or on an open highway! Then this future could come in handy to strongly warn you when approaching around-the-curve radar or over-the-hill radar. In any event, this "feature" which has no name, should really be a user selectable option. It could be great for use on the open road, especially at night when you might be tired and less alert.
-- I didn't have time to test out exactly how TrueLock works, but I did note that my 9500i counted three pairs of new (just 1 year old and very well tuned) Lowe's K band door openers as just a single radar source! My 9500i counted two pairs of much older Wal-Mart K band door openers as two sources, one source being very strong and the other source being very weak. This tells me that three of the Wal-Mart door opener transmitters were on all but the same frequency and were counted as one source, and that one inward facing door opener transmitter was was on a somewhat different frequency and was counted as a different source. For TrueLock to really work as described in Escort's patent without accidentally locking out an additional police radar within the same GPS lockout area, the 9500i's firmware is going to need a rewrite. Thank goodness the police in many areas of the U.S. are switching or have switched to Ka radar which isn't affected by TrueLock at all.
My Initial Conclusions
-- Robust construction, very good ergonomics and ease of use, and an easily replaceable internal speaker.
-- Superb Ka band sensitivity as reported by GOL's recent straight line sensitivity tests.
-- Very quiet around town, even without using the TrueLock feature.
-- The TrueLock feature is NOT even closely following Escort's patent for a GPS radar detector.
-- Still no USB utilities as promised by Escort. Dan did confirm that Escort's engineers are actually working on it though!
-- The 9500i's firmware needs a complete rewrite from the ground up, as was done for the STi while Belscort was working on resolving the STi's 33.8 bug. The STi's 33.8 bug was resolved, overall STi sensitivity slightly increased across all bands, and the STi's auto display brightness is now digitally controlled by the firmware rather than being quickly analog adjusted based on the STi's photocell voltage. After two years, the STi with its latest firmware is now a superb radar detector. Let's hope that the 9500i will receive a completely revised firmware update soon.
-- The mathematical algorithm for the 9500i's unnamed "feature" which suddenly causes the ramp-up to jump to nearly full signal strength either needs to me modified, or this "feature" needs to either be user selectable or to be completely deleted from the firmware. Escort doesn't seem to realize that the sudden full strength ramp-up issue for anything but a steady or slowly increasing radar signal has resulted in numerous returns of 9500i radar detectors. Escort should disable this "feature" (for the present at least) since it isn't even documented on their web site or within the 9500i's user manual.
The 9500i's potential...
-- Escort should implement TrueLock so that it more closely follows the well thought out logic contained within their GPS radar detector patent. On the other hand, in a couple of years it is likely that K band police radar will have been mostly replaced by Ka band. If this occurs, then TrueLock as currently implemented will work just fine. Nevertheless, I think that the 9500i is going to need a more powerful CPU in order to properly implement TrueLock as described in Escort's patent.
Well, there you have it!
PLEASE NOTE THE FOLLOWING:
The above are merely my initial impressions and thoughts about the 9500i's performance and overall design based on only one afternoon of use. Obviously I need to use it much more in order to refine and/or correct any of my initial impressions about the 9500i. Yet initial impressions can be everything for some people. It is obvious that the 9500i is a very different breed of radar detector compared to what I have been used to over the last 25 years of using radar detectors. It is also obvious to me that I must use my 9500i much more in order to form some far more substantiated conclusions about it.