Cobra Road Scout Review – Cobra’s Novel Radar Detector & Integrated Dash Cam is a Winner
Cobra Road Scout Review
The Cobra Road Scout leads me to ask, why don’t all radar detectors have an integrated dash cam?
- Review Introduction
- Cobra Road Scout as a Radar Detector
- Dash Cam Performance & Video Quality
- Software Configuration
- Watermarking & Date/Time Stamping
- File Formats
- Connectivity Options
- Recording Options
- Emergency Recording Mode
- Editing & Sharing
- Powering Down Mode
- Heat Build Up
- Controlling the Radar Detector’s Detection Configuration
- Design & Appearance
- Display & Back-Lighting
- Review Conclusion
We first saw the new Cobra Road Scout at Cobra’s headquarters in Chicago, seven months ago. When Cobra’s executives described their new design, we were skeptical at first. But when the Cobra team actually showed us the Cobra Road Scout in person, we had a change of heart not only by the concept, but by the Cobra Road Scout’s novel design.
You see, the Cobra Road Scout is the first device of its kind–a combination dash cam and radar detector, all-in-one.
Many years ago when I had one of the early versions of a Motorola flip phone that had a camera built-in, I didn’t see the value then, but today I couldn’t conceive of a phone that didn’t have a built-in camera or have video recording capabilities, can you?
So, I am certainly not coming to the same conclusion this time around with the first-of-its-kind, the Cobra Road Scout. In fact, I can’t image why all future radar detectors, not just from Cobra, but other brands too, wouldn’t have a video camera, it seems such a natural thing now I am wondering, what’s taken so long!?
As is sometimes the case, when you make one piece of electronics do multiple things, it can be mediocre each of those functions. Fortunately, this is not the case with the new Cobra Road Scout.
Mind you, this isn’t Cobra’s first attempt at a dash cam and it shows. Several years ago, the parent company of Cobra purchased WASP, a dash cam company for active life styles (think GoPro). Cobra also has a steep history in making dash cams. So in reality, even though this another Cobra first, the Cobra Road Scout feels refined and mature. So let’s take a closer look at the new Cobra Road Scout.
Cobra Road Scout as a Radar Detector
Since the underlying product of the Cobra Road Scout is a radar detector, let’s get to its behavior. To put the performance of the Road Scout into perspective, think of the Escort Passport 9500ix. We’be been told that the Road Scout has been spec’d to equal the performance of the 9500ix and by our experiences so far we have no reason to believe that Cobra didn’t hit its mark.
To put the Passport 9500ix into some historical context, the Escort Passport 9500ix was Escort’s most popular selling detector in its entire history, which makes it the most popular detector ever sold in the entire industry. Clearly, that wouldn’t have happened if detection performance was good.
Moreover, the Cobra Road Scout should give its owner an even better driving experience, because Cobra has revised the platform and added a more current and superior IVT filter (used to filter out K-band collision avoidance systems).
To be sure, the Road Scout is not as sensitive as Cobra’s new top-of-the-line detector, the Cobra DualPro 360 but it’s better than the Cobra DSP-9200BT (on which the underlying platform of the Cobra Road Scout is built-upon).
Does the Cobra Road Scout do as well overall as high-end detectors? Frankly no, but that’s not really the point.
97% of the drivers aren’t speed demons and the loss of some extra dBs in sensitivity as compared to the very top detectors, likely won’t be missed. As expected, laser reception performance is good. I did receive one false when driving towards the sun when it was low in the sky, but that can happen with any detector. Cobra has done well with laser in the past, so its performance is keeping in the Cobra tradition.
One notable thing about the Cobra Road Scout detector, it doesn’t have POP mode. I have never used POP detection mode and unless you drive in the state of Nevada, you won’t either. Even in Nevada, POP radar is on its way out as I understand the feature is slowly being phased out of their MPH radar units.
Dash Cam Performance & Video Quality
The dash cam portion of the Cobra Radar Scout is also good. When reviewing videos, they appeared sharp and road signs, readable. Of course, this is to be expected on a good HD camera. The native resolution is 1080P by 30fps.
At that resolution each 3 minutes of video consumes about 80MB of storage. With the provided 16GB card, that should yield nearly four hours of total recording time, before the Road Scout needs to “loop” and begin overwriting previous segments of recorded video.
I did find that even though the underlying video was solid, it may have had a bit too much contrast. I have fed back my early findings including some video clips I recorded and along with some other suggestions, Cobra’s development team seems very receptive, so hopefully we will see those changes shortly in the form of firmware updates.
RadarBusters has been part of the early beta testing of software (along of course with both the Road Scout and the DualPro 360). This is a very positive development because sometimes an engineering team can get too close to the development process in the lab and not step back and look at the overall. Having a fresh set of eyes can help in this regard.
By using both models before Road Scout’s production release, we’ve been able to give them a fresh view from the outside from the consumer’s point of view. Another positive development that we can report is now more than ever Cobra (and Escort) are engaged in rapid development of software improvements, which has not always been the case.
The Cobra Road Scout’s underlying Ambarella chipset has been used in DJI drones, GoPro action cams, and Hikvision (HD security cameras) so the Road Scout has a solid underpinning and it shows.
Since the Road Scout is both a detector and dash cam, it currently uses two different apps to configure it, one for each aspect of the detector. For the dash cam, the smartphone app is called the Cobra Drive HD which can be download for free for either iOS and Android. The Cobra Drive HD app connects by way of WIFI (more on this later). And can be used to view and control the recording in real-time.
The recordings can be stopped and initiated by pressing the video camera icon at the bottom of the screen. When recording, it flashes at a rate of about one per second. When you press the camera icon to commence recording the app sounds off two quick high pitched beep which are easy to hear. When you press the icon to stop the app makes a single sound that roughly approximates a shutter sound you would hear on a conventional camera.
Watermarking & Date/Time Stamping
You can watermark videos which appear in the lower right of the recording. The stamp includes the Cobra image, a date and time (with varying formats available). I use the conventional MM/DD/YYYY format, HH:MM:SS. GPS coordinates appear on the bottom right as the dash cam leverages the built-in GPS capability of the detector. Additions to the watermarking I would like to see included is the current speed of travel and perhaps the current G-force as measured by the Road Scout’s built-in sensor. Having the current G-force indicated, could help as video evidence if you were rear-ended, for example.
The Road Scout has a built-in G-force sensor of which there are four settings: OFF, Level 1, Level 2, and Level 3. The higher the number setting, the greater the force has to be to initiate an emergency recording event. The default setting is 2.
File types, created. The format of the video is compressed with H.264. The audio sample rate is 48khz, with gives a theoretical frequency range of up to 24khz. At my age, I lost the ability to hear at about 16khz (perhaps I listened too much to Rush in the early 80s). No matter, the frequency range is more than sufficient most eardrums. The camera can loop record in one, three, or five minute segments.
At the minute “loop clip time” the file sizes as reported on Windows 10 is roughly 96MB per minute. The names of the file are in the format of YYYYMMMDDD_nnnn_VID.MOV. I would like to see the actual time (based on a 24 hour clock) replace the sequential four digit numbers. This could help in locating a file.
When a recorded clip is marked as an “emergency event,” the final three letters of the file name changes from “VID” to “SOS.” Unlike Escort’s M1, locked/saved files, the Road Scout’s are not placed in their own separate sub-directory when you examine them in Windows files explorer.
The Road Scout has three (count ’em) connectivity options.
- Bluetooth is used for controlling the radar detector portion using Cobra’s iRadar app. A video tutorial can be found below.
- WIFI CAMERA MODE, allows control of the dash cam configuration by way of Cobra’s Drive HD app.
- WIFI RADAR MODE, allows the detector to pair with an existing hotspot in the vehicle to access updates and Defender/Aura data without the need of the iRadar app
Videos of each are located below to show in more detail how each of these work.
It appears that connectivity can drop unexpectedly. It’s easy to reconnect, however, and I have passed by observations on to the development team. They are aware of this “glitch” and suggest in the meantime, that if you want to avoid this issue, you can turn your phone’s airplane mode on.
You have the choice of one of three loop clip times as indicated earlier, however there is no way to disable loop recording. Nor are there any other video recording options, like 720p/30 or 720p/60. Having these other choices could enhance the utility of the dash cam and potentially give a greater maximum recording time, in the case of 720p.
Emergency Recording Mode
This recording mode can be activated in two ways. The first can occur when an external event stemming from the G-Force sensor (for recording traffic accidents and other mishaps) and the second can be done manually by pushing down and holding the MARK button. The function is called emergency mode, but it can be used to simply save a recording and prevent it from being overwritten. During this recording mode, you can stop the recording by again pressing and holding the MARK button for about three seconds.
Editing & Sharing
The Road Scout’s Drive HD app allows you to download video clips onto your smartphone, allows for some pretty sophisticated on-the-spot editing, and sharing of your recording to others.
Powering Down Mode
Since the detector’s dash cam is in effect always on and recording when power is either turned off or lost, the built in capacitor keeps the detector long enough to “finish” the recorded file at that time as to not create a corrupted file before turning off.
Heat Build Up
Even when not in the sun, when powered on for a bit the gets quite warm to the touch. That must be due to the amount and types of processing chips that are incorporated in the unit. In my opinion, the casing could benefit from having more ventilation “holes,” although on your windshield it’s going to get “hot” in any event. Time will tell how durable the unit is in such unforgiving conditions. The fact that Cobra has included an “industrial” type memory card to be able to withstand the heat, I trust they have already taken heat into consideration.
Controlling the Radar Detector’s Detection Configuration
As I indicated earlier, the Road Scout has two different operating modes each one requiring its own software. In the case of the “RADAR” mode, the Cobra iRadar app uses Bluetooth to control the device. All aspects of the configuration can be changed wirelessly. There are more options to configure in the app than on the phone. You can review the videos below to see how each one is done.
Design & Appearance
Without question I found the design “cool looking.” It’s the first detector I would attribute the words “hip” or “chique.” The design may be controversial to some, but I think it really works. It will certainly appeal to a new younger generation that comes to expect such contemporary designs in their lifestyle.
Display & Back-Lighting
The Road Scout has four color display modes, red, blue, green, and copper. My personal preference is green. The upside of using this color is that OLED screens tend to have the longest life-span using that color.
Even though the buttons are located on the front and are easy to access, the buttons are backlit which makes them even easier to handle at night. The cool thing about the right side of the detector, the outer ring can be turned clockwise or counter-clockwise to make selections in the programming mode coupled with the center large MARK button as well as to easily change the volume. No longer needed are the old-style +/- KEYS. This allows only three remaining push buttons of the left “dial” which allows them to be larger individually and easier to handle with your finders.
The detector is a bargain at $449 because in the context of what you are getting–two devices in one–if you figure a convention dash cam can run you from $100-$200, the detector is only about $249. That makes it a very good value. You also get the benefit of needing only one power-cord, which also happens to include a USB port to power your smartphone
Clearly, Cobra has a winner on its hand, there’s no question in my mind. Now that I have used the first 2-in-1 detector and dash cam, I can’t imagine that more detectors like this won’t appear in the future.
Cobra has created a brand new product segment and I believe the Road Scout represents the biggest innovation since the incorporation of GPS into a detector. I’m certain the new Road Scout is going to develop a large following.
The Road Scout is expected to become available in the August 2019 time frame, that’s when the production run ramps up. I’d recommend waiting for the second batch in August as the units tend to get more stable as they ramp up production as they work out any potential early production kinks.
A very complete series of video are available on a mouse-scrollable “carousel” on the front page of RadarBusters.
RadarBusters has been selected as an early provider of these units, so you’d be one of the first to be able to get one. Orders will be processed on a first come first served basis and I understand any credit card purchases won’t be actually charged until the Road Scout actually ships.
You can pre-order yours from RadarBusters.