Uniden R1 Review & Uniden R3 Review: VeilGuy reviews these awesome radar detectors

Uniden R3 Review/Uniden R1 Review: Veil Guy reviews two incredible radar detectors

The new Uniden R1 & Uniden R3 radar detectors redefine what’s possible

By Veil Guy — Updated: July 17th, 2018

Uniden R1 Review & Uniden R3 ReviewVeil Guy’s In-Depth Uniden R1 Review & Uniden R3 Review

 

Introduction to the Uniden R1/R3 Review

After putting some serious seat time behind the wheel with the new Uniden R1 and Uniden R3 radar detectors, it didn’t take long for me to realize how spectacular these two detectors are.

It also dawned on me, that I have been wrong all of these years.  Who likes admitting to being wrong?  Well in this case, I do.  Why you ask?  Simple.  It’s because ever since the introduction of the Escort M3 platform of radar detectors–beginning with the Beltronics STi Driver, followed up with the Beltronics STi-R,  Escort Passport 9500ci, and then the Escort Redline–I believed we had essentially reached the limits of radar detection sensitivity.  In other words, I believed if none of the aforementioned detectors alerted to police radar, then a radar signal wasn’t actually there to detect.  I believed Escort had summited the tallest mountain above sea level there is–Mount Everest.

As I witnessed the sheer and jaw dropping performance of the Uniden R1 and its GPS-enabled stablemate, the Uniden R3, a question came to mind: What happens when we conquer Everest?  Do we quit or do we look for the next tallest mountain to scale?  Human nature being what it is, I should have known that answer.

You may be asking yourself now, what the heck does building a radar detector have to do with mountaineering?  In the cases of the Uniden R1 and Uniden R3, just about everything.  You see, what Uniden America has done with these two new radar detectors, is the equivalent of going on a long journey to scale Olympus Mons.  Never heard of this mountain?  I don’t fault you.  It’s not in the Himalayas.  Nope, you have to go a little further than that to find it, nearly 34 million miles further, on a red planet, called Mars.

Interestingly enough, the math just about works out too.  You see, while Mount Everest has an elevation of 29,029 feet, Olympus Mons is 72,000 feet high.  That comes out to a bit more than double.  It just so happens, given the right circumstances, that’s what it looks like the potential increase in detection range of these two new Unidens have relative to other high-end radar detectors.

If that isn’t stunning enough, these Unidens are quieter and less false prone than anything to ever come out of West Chester, Ohio or anywhere else for that matter.  Oh, did I forget to mention they do all this at 40-55% less cost to us consumers?

Packaging & Workmanship of the Uniden R1 & Uniden R3

Both of these radar detectors appear well constructed.  Their outer casings have good tight seams and are nice to hold in your hand.  The menu buttons are large, spaced nicely, and have a terrific tactile feel to them.

The packaging of both of these Unidens is superb, starting with the sturdy carrying case capable of holding everything that comes with these detectors, which is a lot.

Uniden is unique in offering two different mounts in their respective packages: a single sticky-cup mounting bracket with a ball-type head which allows for a variety of mounting positions and angles as well as a conventional dual suction-cup mounting bracket–my personal preference.

Uniden also provides a nice coiled cigarette light power adapter which is terminated with a proper RJ-11 jack and includes a push-button for muting alerts and locations as well as a built-in USB port to power your smartphone.

It would be nice if Uniden were to eventually include a USB to mini-D cable to connect to your detector to your computer to update the detectors’ firmware, and in the case of the Uniden R3, its photo-enforcement database.

Uniden nailed it when it comes to detector size and weight, which I regard as just about perfect.  Any smaller, the display size, menu button size, and speaker performance might suffer.  These two detectors make just about everything from Escort seem bulky.

Utility & Behavior of the Uniden R1 & Uniden R3

Extremely bright full-color OLED display

While Cobra and Whistler have in the past offered bright, colorful displays, Beltronics and Escort have been struggling to do so.  Even though their detectors are larger, their displays are smaller by comparison to the Uniden and they never seem quite bright enough, being essentially unreadable in bright lighting conditions.  After years of customer complaints, I figured if Escort couldn’t figure out how to make a bright display, no one could.  I was wrong again. In fact, the Uniden R1’s and Uniden R3’s OLED displays are so bright, I would like to see them offer an additional setting, called “dimmest.”

The Uniden R1 and Uniden R3 have a number of useful display brightness settings: BRIGHT, DIM, DIMMER, DARK, and OFF.  The first three are self explanatory.  The DARK mode is nice for stealth driving.  In this mode, the screen stays off, except for a little flashing dot on the lower left of the screen, until a detection occurs and then when the Uniden R1 or Uniden R3 alerts, the screen turns back on, displaying everything you need to know about your encounter.

The OFF display mode, turns the screen completely off and it remains so even during detections, providing only audio alerts.

A few things I’d like to see is a slower flashing dot (ie; heartbeat).  In my opinion, it flashes too quickly.  I’d rather see a slow flash on-off rate of about one second, more like our heartbeats at rest, than like after a 100 yard sprint.  I’d also like to see the brightness levels also apply to the brightness of the backlit front-facing buttons and an auto-dimming feature–which could automatically tailor the brightness levels of both the screen and the backlit buttons to the ambient lighting conditions.

A wealth of useful information provided at a glance

Particularly with the Uniden R3, Uniden provides a lot of useful information on their display, including your current speed and direction of travel; the sensitivity setting of the detector; the current time of day–courtesy of GPS satellites; the band of police radar and frequency of the primary detection; up to three additional concurrently detected police radar bands each with their own signal strengths (when ALL THREATS mode is enabled).  No other detector comes close to providing all of the information, especially in an eminently readable manner.

For those interested in knowing the battery/alternator voltage or their current altitude, that information can also be at your fingertips.

The two font buttons, MUTE/DIM and MARK on the Uniden R3 or MUTE/DIM and CITY on the Uniden R1 can be backlit for easy identification in the evening, but can also be disabled for those interested in a more stealth less attention garnering appearance.

Great Audio & Tonal Quality

The voice qualities and alert volumes of the Uniden R3 & Uniden R1 are exceptional and very discernible. The sound levels can be made very loud and still remain clear with the alert tones easily recognizable and distortion-free.  Voice augmentation is very natural and not all “synthetic.”

The alert tone of Ka-band was a little off-putting at first, it’s chirping sound I would tend to attribute more to X-band type alerts, but after a short amount of time, it grew on me and now I am totally fine with it.  Whistler offers a variety of tone alert selections, perhaps Uniden could follow suit.

Useful sensitivity settings

The Uniden R1 and Uniden R3 provide three sensitivity settings: HIGHWAY, CITY, and CITY2.  Highway mode puts the detectors in maximum sensitivity for all radar bands–X, K, and Ka.  CITY mode reduces K band sensitivity which can help reduce falsing to stationery K-band door openers you’ll encounter around town, but it also reduces the range that your detector may alert to the K-band collision avoidance systems that can still make it through the filtering.  Interestingly, the sensitivity is so high on these detectors, that even when neutered somewhat on K, tthe R1 and R3 still provide plenty of sensitivity.

CITY2 not only reduces K-band sensitivity, but also disables X-band if the band is not already disabled in the menu configuration.  No matter what sensitivity setting you’ve selected, detections to Ka-band and laser are not impacted in any way. Unlike the R1, the R3’s sensitivity is altered by pressing and holding the MENU button on the top, as opposed to the R1’s CITY button on the front.  My preference would be for the R3’s MARK button to be tasked to do both marking of locations and changing sensitivity.  Like the menu button, sensitivity could be changed on the R3 by pressing and holding the button for an short amount of time and for marking by quick depression.  This could mirror the dual function of the left MUTE/DIM button’s behavior.  The right button could be labeled MARK/CITY.  Such an arrangement would create a more consistent experience across both the R1 and R3 detectors.

Easy to use Menu Configuration

While some detectors can be difficult and time-consuming to program, the Uniden R1 and Uniden R3 are refreshingly easy and quick to do so.  You enter the configuration menu of the R1 or R3 by quickly pressing the MENU button located on the top of the detectors and then you can step to each option by either depressing the left or right volume buttons that straddle each side.  To change or toggle a feature, simply press the MENU button quickly.  Some features have multiple settings, so pressing the MENU button repeatedly will cycle through all of your options.  As simple as the programming is, I believe it be event further simplified by having the menu system be entered by pressing and holding the menu button instead of a quick push.  This would be more consistent with the method for exiting it.

There are three ways to exit the menu programming:

  1. Press and hold the MENU button until it EXITS
  2. Cycle all of the way through the options until the EXIT appears on the screen and then quickly depress the MENU button
  3. Let the configuration mode simply timeout and it will exit on its own

Both models have similar underlying features, but the Uniden R3 has quite a bit more options related to its GPS functions when GPS is turned on.  The following video tutorial shows you how to configure the Uniden R3/Uniden R1 for maximum performance and enjoyment.

 How to configure the Uniden R3/Uniden R1

Superior Alerting to Police Radar

Both the R1 and R3 do an exceptional job at alerting you to radar detections.  Visually, you will be presented with the primary detected radar band, its frequency, and its signal strength with five bars of varying colors indicating the levels and relative proximity.

The voice annotations, if enabled, are clear, the volume and tonal characteristics are distinct, and perhaps most importantly, the duration of the trailing alerts after the radar signal is no longer detected is superior to anything ever to come from Beltronics or Escort, which have remained  far too long in duration to be useful.  Like the Valentine and Whistler detectors, in particular, the R1 and R3 turn in essentially perfect performances when approaching quickly triggered instant-on police radar traps.  The effectively convey the alert texture needed to really help you recognize the most lethal form of police radar operation when you are approaching it.  This stuff just doesn’t happen by accident, the engineering team clearly knows what they’re doing.

Dynamic range is very good so you get a very good sense of how close you actually are to the radar source, an important trait in communicating how you should react.

Alerting to Police Laser (LIDAR)

One aspect of the R1’s and R3’s alerting nature which could use improvement is the alert duration to detections of police laser.  Unlike the quickness and sharpness of R1’s and R3’s alerts to radar, detections to laser last too long, in my opinion.  The R1 and R3 will alert for about 11 to 12 seconds in total whether the actual detection is brief or lasts as long as five seconds.  I believe, it’s much better to alert for shorter durations, like the Valentine 1 or the Whistlers.  These detectors alert for no more than two to three seconds after the lidar beam is no longer detected.  With these shorter alert durations, you get a better sense of how long you are really being targeted or if the officer is having difficulty finding an aiming point (more on this later) to get your speed.

Improved GPS (Uniden R3)

The incorporated GPS chipset is very good.  It provides quick signal acquisition, accuracy in geo-location, good reactivity to changing speeds, and the ability to display the time of day.  In a number of instances, it even has the ability to retain satellite acquisition without a clear line of sight to the sky.

Muting & Signal Lockout

At a touch of a button, the R1 and R3 can mute their alerts.  But they also offer a nice feature too, UNMUTING.  Generally, with other detectors when a signal is muted, it remains muted until the signal dissipates and the detector alerts to the next detection.  With the R1 and R3, I personally like the fact that I can press the MUTE button again (either on the detector itself or by using the power cord) and have the detectors begin alerting again.  Do I often use the mute button this way? No, but I like the nimbleness of it.

The GPS-enabled R3, like other GPS detectors, has the ability to manually lock-out a stationery radar source by its geolocation.  When you drive by the source again, the detector will still detect it, but the detector will remain muted.  The R3 doesn’t have the ability to AUTOLEARN (Escort’s term for automatically locking a signal out after multiple drive-bys), but I personally don’t miss the capability.  I prefer to lock-out manually.  In areas where I routinely drive (where AUTOLEARN would apply), I already know where the falses are, so I don’t wait for the detector to learn, I can just simply mute it once and be done.  On the other hand too, I don’t mind getting an occasional alert to a known falsing location, because it reassures me that the detector is on and working properly.

Quiet-Ride (Speed sensitive alert muting)

The R3 also has the ability to mute alerts to detections when you are driving below a set speed threshold.  This feature is fabulous and can make for a very quiet detector around town.  I typically set the threshold to 45 mph.  Anything below that, the detector stays quiet.  I’ve got my R3 configured that it doesn’t alert once in my commute to the office and there are a least six stationery sources of radar, that would otherwise cause my detector to alert and I didn’t even need to lock them to have a quiet commute.

RLC Quiet-Ride

This is a feature, that I don’t use or particularly care for in its current configuration, not that some wouldn’t find it useful.  The idea behind it makes sense, but I feel there is a better way to accomplish the same outcome.  What RLC (red light camera) quiet ride allows for is the setting of a speed that if you drive below it, the detector will not provide an audio alert to  red light cameras that may be located just off of a highway at the end of an off ramp .  With a detection radius of about 1000 feet, it’s not uncommon for GPS detectors to alert.

I much prefer Whistler’s approach.  Instead of tying the alerting behavior to your speed, I believe it’s better to control it by distance.  Allowing for a reduced alerting radii from 1000 feet to 800, 600, 400, 300 feet would accomplish the same thing.  The reason I am resistant to the idea of muting by speed is because some red light camera monitored intersections also enforce speed limits with technology called speed-on-green.   If you are traveling above an arbitrarily set threshold of the posted speed when you traverse the intersection on a green light, you can still be issued a speeding ticket!

At this point, I choose to leave this feature off.  If you are going to use it, I would suggest you set the muting threshold to something like 65 or 70 mph, a speed you are not likely going to be driving at when going through intersections.

Near SPECTRE RDD (Radar Detector Detector) Immunity

Contrary to other reports and “tests”, I found both the R1 and R3 detectable by my SPECTRE RDD model, although detections were inconsistent and when they happened they were very close.

The latest models of SPECTRE, particularly the SPECTRE Elite, have been designed to be less impacted by spurious RF and as a consequence, they’re more heavily filtered.  This may account for why my results are different, but it does show that the R1 and R3 are not immune for SPECTRE.  That distinction still belongs to Escort and Beltronics.

Still, the use of these radar detectors should be fine in the Commonwealth of Virginia, Washington D.C., military bases, and most provinces of Canada–each area where detector usage is banned.  I would caution truckers, though, when pulling into a weigh station.  It is not uncommon to see SPECTRE RDDs in use at these facilities and I would recommend powering off the detector.

Filtering & Signal Rejection

Digital Signal Processing (DSP) Done Right

While some other manufacturers tout advanced digital signal processing using fancy catch phrases (and fall short of their claims), Uniden’s approach just works.  Compared to Escort’s digital M5/M6 platforms which can offer erratic and inconsistent alerting behavior (my sense tells me because they are too heavy handed with their filtering and signal processing algorithms), the Unidens feel as though their code is nice and tight and purposeful.  It goes to show that software (ie; firmware) is every bit as important as the hardware that it’s controlling.

Both the R1 and especially the R3 do a miraculous job of remaining quiet when they need to.  In fact, I didn’t think it was ever possible to exhibit such good manners with a detector that has such extreme sensitivity.  But as quiet these detectors are, when they alert, their performance feels very consistent.  I quickly found that I could trust either the R1 or R3 on the highway.  Really the only other detector that I have had this experience is with the Valentine 1, and that my friends just about the highest praise I can bestow upon these two detectors.

While many will undoubtedly compare the R1 to the Escort Redline and the R3 to the new Escort Redline EX–because each model possess “extreme” sensitivity–the better comparison is to the V1, not because of sensitivity (which the R1 and R3 handily win), but because of their overall balance and refinement.  The V1 has nearly 26 years under its belt, as as such you would expect it to be thoroughly refined.  What I didn’t expect is for Uniden to attain this level of refinement in such a short period of time.  Do they behave flawlessly?  What does?  But, I’ll tell you this, they’re darn close and with each subsequent release of new firmware, they’re getting closer.

BSM Filtering that Actually Works (K FILER)

Over the years, these systems have wreaked havoc on radar detector manufacturers and have annoyed countless drivers.  Uniden provides some of the best filtering I have experienced on this front.  Two things really help the Unidens reject the K-band collision avoidance systems that are found in many vehicles today.   One is their K FILTER mode, which excises many of these systems from alerting.  Acuras, Honda, GM, and Fiat vehicles have proven to be the toughest to reject (filter out) in general, but Uniden does a great job overall.

Reduced K-band Filtering (K NARROW)

Uniden, like Radenso, offers a very useful feature, called K NARROW, where the frequency range swept in the K-band region is reduced and more centered around a properly tuned police radar gun.  Why look for something that isn’t there?  Not only does this further cut-down on falses from these automotive annoyances, they can also effectively filter out stationery K-band drone signs that you will often encounter in construction zones.  These signs are battery operated and can stray far out of “tune” and outside of the frequency range of a properly calibrated police radar gun.

Reduced Ka-band Falses (Ka NARROW)

Years ago, Cobra radar detectors, used to be sources of Ka-band falsing.  These models have long been out of production so Ka-band falses today can come from different sources.  Some falsing can come from harmonics of lower frequencies or perhaps from some dish or cellphone towers.  Others can come from sweeping frequency modulated K-band automotive transmissions.  It’s not uncommon for a radar detector today, regardless of manufacturer, to be fooled by these FMCW K-band systems and alert with Ka-band.  Some are more prone to doing this than others.

These Uniden detectors are not immune to being duped by these systems either, but they’ve been making progress with each subsequent firmware update.  Uniden also offers a KA NARROW mode, which focuses the detectors on the three primary Ka-band police radars used in North America: 33.8 Ghz, 34.7 Ghz, and 35.5 Ghz.  Like with the K NARROW feature, why look for police radar at a frequency that it won’t ever find?  Abroad, where other frequencies are used, of course, the standard Ka WIDE mode is the one to use.

In both the KA and K NARROW settings, there’s always a possibility of a slight improvement in performance and reaction time to quick-trigger I/O. But the good news is, even when sweeping the full KA WIDE band, performance doesn’t drop like a non-segmented Escort Redline does as compared to a segmented version.  So it’s more of a filtering benefit, than a performance increasing one, which is just fine with me.

Performance

Sensitivity

I’ve saved the best for last.

As I stated at the outset, the sheer performance of the R1 and R3 has redefined what I believed is actually possible in a radar detector.  It appears to me that both of these detectors have up to 6dB and perhaps more increases in sensitivity to just about every other radar detector in existence, be it a windshield mount or an expensive remote installed detectors.

The sheer range of the R1 and R3 are mind-blowing.  I routinely get detections at twice the distance of other great detectors including the Escort iX ($499) and Escort Max 360 ($649) and advanced detections by nearly 50% more range than the other “extreme” performing Escort Redline ($549).  It’s not that these other detectors aren’t great in their own right.  It’s just that the R1 and R3 are even noticeably better.

 

 R3 vs Escort Max 360 vs Redline vs Escort iX

Consistency of Sensitivity Across all Radar Frequencies

Like detectors from Escort and Valentine, Uniden doesn’t backslide performance on X-band.  This may be a non-issue for most drivers, but if you are like me and drive in the states of New Jersey and Ohio (where X-band is still used), you’ll appreciate that the R1 and R3 don’t compromise performance on X-band in exchange for performance on other bands.  The R1 and R3 offer consistently stunning levels of performance across all of the radar bands in use.

For detectors that retail at only $429 and $329, this performance level has been unheard of.  You may be asking yourself, why buy an expensive remote installed detector?  Other than for the “hip” factor, or that you have money to burn, or that all of your Lamborghini-driving friends have remotes, it is increasingly difficult for me to justify such a purchase.  I’d suggest instead you take a trip to the Seychelles with the savings.  Especially with the R3, this is really the only detector you may ever need.

Ability to Detect Instant-on (I/O) Radar

Candidly, there has really only been one radar detector that I have come to historically trust to reliably notify me to an approaching instant-on police radar trap and that detector has been the Valentine 1.  The V1 has been the one detector, in my mind, that has done the three essential things it needs to, to do this.  First, it has the sensitivity across all radar bands to see weak radar from a distance.  Second, it has the reactivity to be able to detect and alert to brief (weak) transmissions of radar.  Three, its trailing alerts are nice and tight so that it accurately conveys the texture of brief detections of radar transmissions.

R1 turns in perfect performance to approaching hidden instant-on police radar speed trap at night

 

Both the R1 and R3 have proven to me that they have the chops to be reliable partners for consistently alerting you to the most lethal forms of police radar operation.  That’s an accomplishment for the ages.

 

Why Extreme Performance Matters

Sensitivity to Police Laser

Which brings me to the ability to detect police laser.  Anyone who tells you that the ability of a radar detector to detect police laser is not important, either doesn’t have a clue what they’re talking about or are trying to sell you expensive laser jammers, or both.

Besides benefiting from the effectiveness of the police laser absorbing Veil coating, even if you have no such protection on your vehicle, suggesting that it’s not important if your detector has the ability to reliably alert to police laser is like suggesting that it’s not important if your detector isn’t able to alert to instant-on radar, especially if and when you are the one being targeted without any advanced warning.

Who wouldn’t want to know that you are being targeted by radar or your speed being clocked by anything else for that matter?

 

Why Detection to Police Laser Matters

Having a detector alert well to laser, is most important.

Even without passive or active police-laser countermeasures, I’ve personally been able to avoid speeding tickets, on multiple occasions, when my detector has alerted to police laser when I wasn’t the one being targeted and at least twice, when I was.

Advanced detections to police laser can happen quite frequently if you are driving along side another vehicle that is slightly ahead of you and when he or she is being targeted before you.  I’ve also detected police laser when the vehicle ahead of me was being targeted.  It can and does happen, provided you have a detector that’s good at detecting laser.

To my way of thinking, the ability to detect police laser is one of the most important characteristics of a radar detector because it almost always comes without any advanced warning and it’s always used in an instant-on fashion.  That’s why the V1 has historically been my go-to detector.

While I haven’t encountered much police laser with either the R1 or R3, the encounters I have had, they have done their job well.  I understand that these detectors can detect (at least some) Dragon Eye police lidars, which is no small feat.  As I put mileage on them in Maryland, where they can be found, I’ll get a better feel how the R1 and R3 do against these difficult to detector (and jam) police laser guns.

Conclusion

It should be patently clear by now that I absolutely love these detectors, especially the R3.  The R1 is an exceptional detector for use on the highway, but the R3 with its GPS prowess, is particularly well-suited to both highway and city driving.

In one sentence I can surmise this entire review: I believe the R1 and R3 are simply the best radar detectors you can drive with today, regardless of price.

If any detectors could benefit from having directional arrows, the R1 and R3 certainly do.  Their sensitivity is so high and their filtering so good, it would be very nice to know from where that very weak signal of police radar, miles away, is coming.  Imagine an R5 and a GPS-enabled Uniden R7 each with directional arrows.  That would be mind-blowing.

Speaking of mind blowing, I think it’s time to start searching for another taller mountain.  The thing is, we’re going to have look beyond the Kuiper Belt to find one.

We believe the best place to purchase your R1 and R3 is from RadarBusters.  They are the largest Uniden detector dealer and offer superb pre and post sales support.

Veil Guy