I thought I'd report, as I had promised a little while back, on my trip with the now about 1 month old 9500ci.
I tried to find my Valentine 1 unit, but it's somewhere deep in the bowels of a monster stack of stuff in the back room. I wasn't able to find it in time to do the comparison, but that might have been a good thing as another poster mentioned at one point that his V1 seemed to interfere with his 9500ci.
Anyway, I just got back from putting about 1800 miles on my car with the 9500ci set to highway mode. Just for kicks, I turned on the Auto Learn function, too. I also had X-band disabled due to not being anywhere near Ohio or New Jersey, though I supposed it's possible there's some old X-band radars still hovering around some municipalities I passed through.
This applies to my setup on a 2007 Corvette Z06. The trip took me through Louisiana, Mississippi, and Arkansas.
Here's my impressions:
1. Overall, I found that the sensitivity of the radar detector is excellent, as long as you're not in traffic. This is one of the things I was concerned about. Being mounted relatively low (behind the grill) as instructed in the installation guide doesn't appear to profoundly affect range at all. In fact, it seems to be slightly better than my old 9500i (which has travelled the same route in segments in the past). However, I found that when behind other cars in heavy traffic, it tended to be blocked by vehicles in front and would suddenly scream bloody murder when the vehicle in front changed lanes or I did. This was somewhat predictable and repeatable. Point being, it's probably fine since if you're in that heavy of traffic, there's a lot of targets to hit and no way for the officer to clearly identify which vehicle he just tagged with radar. On a related note, I found that it does have reasonably good rearward detection even without a rear radar antenna. I'm not exactly sure how, but I could get pretty strong hits off of radar coming from behind me (aimed at opposing traffic) even if there was empty farmland and very few trees and no cars in front of me.
2. Autolearn appears to be more sophisticated than I thought. When you read the information available online about the unit, you hear about this "algorithm" that it uses to filter out false signals. It also mentions that if you pass by the same signal three times, it marks it as a false alert and stores it automatically. I thought those two comments were one and the same, but they may not be. I noticed that the unit marked several false alerts after only two passes (once going up and once coming back) though they were on separate days. It's possible, I suppose, that the unit remembers the day and time of the initial reading along with the GPS coordinates and if the same signal occurs a second time in the exact same place but separated by longer than a certain time (in my case, it was 2-6 days later), it may recognize that it's unlikely to be a true signal as what officer would lay in wait that long. It doesn't mean that the officer couldn't return to his favorite hunting ground, but it's a calculated risk, I suppose.
3. The laser receivers are very sensitive to false alerts. I got two false alerts at sunset on two different days (one from the front, one from the rear) and I had some red neon lights at a fast-food joint set off the rear detector once just past dusk. I do not believe, though, that I've had any false alerts from other vehicle's CHMSL (center brake lights) as I've had with the 9500i and the V1 before.
4. The red light camera database works. I went through Lafayette, LA, the only city currently in Louisiana that has such cameras (though not for long, as the state just approved their use elsewhere in any other cities that want them). It's a strange sensation to get a warning about 500 ft. from the intersection (a matter of only a few seconds) as you drive above it on the overpass at 70mph. You get virtually no warning (though you don't need it as it's for the intersection red light, not the interstate).
5. I received no true laser alerts on the trip. Laser is still rare in this part of the country, for now.
Other things I've noticed in the past few weeks:
1. I have been having trouble with heat overpowering the GPS electronics in the module. It's black plastic and sits on the dash (though you could mount it elsewhere). It's not hardened against the heat of a car interior parked in the summer sun. I did construct a rudimentary "heat shield" in the form of a white piece of cardboard I cut and trimmed to cover the GPS model, and have had some success with this. I'd say that it reduced the problem from a multiple time-per-day event to a once every 2 weeks event or less. Despite this, it's still not hard to overheat the GPS module. Cardboard is transparent to radio waves so it does not affect reception.
2. The startup test sequence is getting annoying. All the beeps/chirps/etc. are comforting to some degree, but I'm going to see if there's a way to mute that stuff routinely and just monitor it on the readout.
3. Corvettes are relatively hard targets for radar to pick up. This is obvious when I approach stationary speed signs that read out your speed and it's preferentially picking up the family sedan 3 car lengths behind me (as evidenced by the huge discrepancy between my actual speed and the speed being read out on the display, with me doing the speed limit). If I'm the only one on the road, it'll pick me up fine, but if there's any other traffic in the vicinity of me, often it reads that traffic instead. I suspect the fiberglass/carbon fiber is somewhat translucent to radar and, to the radar gun, it looks like a radiator/engine/frame assembly compared to most steel and aluminum bodied cars. I'm sure the typically faster speeds and larger frontal areas of the other vehicles around also contribute to a stronger signal for them. I always slow down for those radar-speed readout signs as I've seen way to many officers use that as a sort of external radar and then hand out tickets (e.g., there's only one radar signal in the area and yet they take off after some poor fellow, while I'm watching, and pull him over without disruption in that single radar signal).
4. The installation is fairly stealthy on my car. I had a friend of mine, very familiar with Corvettes, do a walk around on my car looking for something "new." I hadn't yet told him about the 9500ci installation. He didn't notice any of the shifters as installed, even though I thought they were moderately noticeable, until I pointed them out. This guy is in the Corvette club with me and has seen plenty of Corvettes in his day. Suggests that an officer on the side of the road will have a hard time noticing the installation at speed and will stand a real chance of missing it even if stationary. I'll see about getting some pics posted to give you an idea.
5. I'm going to have to dig out the Uniden BearCat scanner I have, now that I've freed up the cigarette lighter.
Overall I'm happy with the purchase, though with the announcement of the 9500xi recently, I'm even more convinced that they should drop the price of the 9500ci considerably.
P.S. And no, I didn't get pulled over. I was a good boy and in no hurry.