Uniden R8 Review: The New King of Radar Detectors
Uniden R8 Review
Supercharging the Uniden R7 makes the Uniden R8 the best directional radar detector we’ve ever driven with.
Updated: 01/31/2022, by Veil Guy
Veil Guy’s Uniden R8 Review
- Uniden R8 Review Introduction
- Real-world Radar Detection Performance
- Police Laser Detection Performance
- Detection of Advanced Radars
- Filtering of K-band blind spot monitoring (BSM) and collision avoidance radar
- Auto Lock-out of Stationery Sources of Radar
- SPECTRE Immunity
- Audio Behavior
- Design & Packaging
Uniden R8 Review Introduction
For the last several years I have been crisscrossing the country every three months as I am participating in a clinical trial located on the opposite coast. The total round-trip mileage often exceeds 6000 miles each trip.
These trips have presented me with an unprecedented opportunity to test some of the best radar detectors that are currently available or will soon be.
The experiences gathered on these trips are often shared with the manufacturers directly with the hopes that improvements can be made post-production or in the case of pre-production units, made prior to public release.
I’ve driven with just about every high-end radar detector that’s ever been released over the course of 43 years and for the last several years my go to detector has been the Uniden R7 for a whole host of reasons.
While other newer more sensitive radar detectors have since become available–such as the Escort Redline 360c–my preference remained the R7. Basically, I feel it’s been just a more well-rounded radar detector.
When we were returning from our last trip several months ago we stopped by Uniden located in Dallas, Texas where we were introduced to the Uniden R4. We knew something was coming from Uniden for nearly a year, but I think development was pushed back because of the pandemic and the associated global supply chain issues.
The incorporation of LNAs into the Uniden R4’s circuitry was the logical evolution of the Uniden R3 and it appeared quite promising. Now that we have driven with it extensively we are pleased to share a review of the new Uniden R4 and it does indeed perform at a higher level compared to the R7 and the 360c, as we fully expected.
But the appearance of the R4 did beg the question, when would Uniden provide the same tweaking to the R7 and could we dare call it the Uniden R8?
It didn’t take long for the answers to come and I was very pleasantly surprised to have a pre-release Uniden R8 in my hands in early November. Uniden honored us by allowing us to have to have the first look at the R8 when they got their first small batch of pre-production units and I have been driving with it extensively since that time.
So far we’ve racked up about 7000 miles on the R8 and have run it on some major interstates such as I-95, I-81, and I-10 as well as around town throughout 14 states. That’s more than enough driving for me to form a solid opinion about this new radar detector.
Real-world Radar Detection Performance
Uniden R8 vs 33.8 Ka around curve and facing away.
Having had extensive driving time with both the Uniden R7 and the Uniden R4, we found that the R4 tended to out alert the R7 to police radar by about 1 or 2dBs in increased sensitivity. With the incorporation of dual LNAs into the Uniden R8, the new R8 not only erased that difference but added another 2dB on top of the R4’s already impressive sensitivity, a potential increase of about 26% in additional detection range.
On paper, LNAs have the potential to increase sensitivity by 6dB over their non-LNA counterparts, but in practice we found the increase to be approximately 4dB overall. When one considers that each dB increase represents an approximate 13% increase in potential detection range, the Uniden R8 provides a potential increase of about a 60% in detection range over the R7, which is pretty mind-blowing given the already extreme performance of the R7.
We have had some truly mind-blowing multi-mile detections with the R8. In one encounter the R8 out alerted the Redline 360c by 50 seconds at a steady 85 mph, that’s more than a mile advantage.
Interestingly, the degree of improvement of the R8 versus the 360c was the equivalent to what we have observed with the Redline 360c over the performance of the R7, but now the performance has tipped back to Uniden’s advantage.
In another mind-blowing radar encounter, we picked up a 34.7 Ka detection that lasted nearly 10 minutes at a cruising speed of 80mph, that’s more than 70,000 feet or 13 miles. To be sure this was an unusually long detection, in large part due to the open terrain, but it does raise the question with detectors like the R8 that have such alerting range potential, how much sensitivity is enough?
Overall though, alerting range differences between the two detectors were smaller and more on par with each other in many of our encounters with police radar.
In any event, the Uniden R8 builds upon the already extreme performance of the Uniden R7 and provides its driver with as much sensitivity one could ever desire.
Like the R4, the R8’s detection performance is consistently very strong on all three Ka-bands found in the US. The R8, like the Redline 360c, is also blisteringly quick at detecting instant-on Ka radar.
Surprisingly, the Uniden R8 trailed in X-band relative to the Uniden R4, this could be accounted by a model to model variation or the relative designs of the convex lenses on the two radar detectors, but still the performance was very good.
Police Laser Detection Performance
The Uniden R8 has good laser detection capability and like the R4, has the ability to indicate the type of laser you encounter. We tested the R8 against the LTI Truspeed SXB, Kustom Pro Laser 4, Stalker RLR, and the DragonEye Compact and the Uniden R8 successfully identified them all, although it identified the Stalker RLR as the XLR.
Unlike police radar, police laser is harder to detect at close range. Since we hadn’t encountered enough police laser on the road, we tested the R8’s detection capabilities ourselves with the above guns against a black Mercedes sedan with the Uniden R8 mounted at the center of the windshield.
At distances of about 500 feet the Uniden R8 was able to alert so long as the license plate area was targeted, but did not alert when either headlight was targeted. Detection improved farther away and by 900 feet and beyond the R8 was able to consistently alert to laser regardless of the targeting points.
While we don’t ever test laser using a tripod (since all real-world police laser usage is hand-held), we did test in both stabilized and non-stabilized hand-holding. Laser detections improved with non-stabilized hand-holding–the way police target today.
Laser tends to get easier to detect when one drives with lighter colored vehicles having sloped hoods because of reflections from the hood tend to be more easily “seen” by the laser sensor so those results are subjected to improving further. Overall we were pleased with the R8’s laser detection, although we always would like more.
While many enthusiast sites pushing laser jammers, boast about the importance of being able to perform as super close ranges (basically to promote expensive jamming equipment), the reality is that laser is most lethal at farther distances when you can’t even see the police officer targeting you. I’ve been targeted at distances of 2400 feet and more in another of states including Wisconsin, Maryland, Delaware, and Kentucky.
Once, I received a speeding ticket while I was driving a rental car south of Madison, Wisconsin on Interstate 90. The police officer targeted me from nearly 2700 feet away, long before I even saw him sitting low in the median.
So in this context, the R8 provides sufficient detection performance and I am especially pleased that it can alert to the variable-pulse/anti-jamming pulse-rates of the latest police lidars like the Stalker RLR and DragonEye Compact.
When paired with the new Veil G6 Stealth Coating, the Uniden R8 should provide plenty of time to slow down if you are targeted with laser in many instances.
Detection of Advanced Radars
When configured to detect them, the Uniden R8 consistently alerts to MultaRadar MRCD/MRCT systems that are increasing in popularity, particularly in the state of Texas. In fact, its been my experience that Uniden radar detectors are the best and most consistent at alerting to these difficult to detect radar systems.
The R8 is also designed to detect Sensys Gatso radars and joins the R4 as being one of the very few radar detectors to do so.
Some years ago, we tested a bunch of radar detectors outside of Los Angeles and none of them were able to alert to the Gatso RT4 that was being deployed at a number of intersections there. Those systems have since been decommissioned but when we drove through a section of Iowa recently we encountered some of those speed cameras. Unfortunately, we didn’t have the benefit of being able to test the R8 at the time so until we actually encounter an RT4 in actual use, we will have to wait to see how the R8 performs.
To test the falsing potential, we did drive with the Gatso detection feature enabled and we did find it falsed occasionally to K-band collision avoidance systems of certain vehicles more so than it did with just MRCD/MRCT enabled. Still, it didn’t false to such a degree that it was not tolerable. As Uniden continues refining this detector which future firmware updates, I trust its falsing frequency will decrease.
Filtering of K-band blind spot monitoring (BSM) and collision avoidance radar
When K-band filtering is enabled as well as K-blk 1 & K-blk 2 set to WEAK–which reduces falses from certain vehicles like Hondas and Acuras–we found the R8 to behave very well. While the Escort Redline 360c is a little bit quieter (so long as MCRD is not enabled on it), the alerting nature of the R8, when it does false, is much improved over the Escort piece and frankly, I trust the police radar K-band detection performance of Unidens.
When the R8 does alert to a K-band BSM system, it alerts very gradually as one approaches such a vehicle. This is in contrast to Escort radar detectors which often remain silent but then alert at full-strength as if you are encountering instant-on police radar at very close range. As such, the Uniden R8 is easier to drive with.
Auto Lock-out of Stationery Sources of Radar
Escort’s patent on auto lockouts, based upon GPS location, has expired which has allowed other manufacturers of GPS radar detectors to avail themselves of this feature. The behavior of the R8 is similar in that the detector can be configured to automatically mute stationery sources of radar when one drives through an area over time. If the stationery source ceases to operate or is moved, the detector will “unlearn” the location and free up the storage space occupied by it. As this is a new feature for Uniden, the effectiveness of auto-lockouts will improve over time.
I personally never have preferred to avail myself of such a feature, but there are those that do and as such it will be a welcomed addition to the R8.
Of course manual lockouts are still possible with the simple pressing of the mute button twice and the R8 has the ability to lockout both X & K band sources as well as Ka-band and advanced MRCD radars.
While there are plenty of 34.7 Ka-band speed signs on the road, given the popularity of the band with genuine police radar, I would urge caution in locking out Ka unless you know that Ka isn’t deployed in your driving area (such as the entire state of PA). Otherwise, I like to be reminded that my detectors continue to operate in tip top shape in detecting Ka.
SPECTRE RDDs (radar detector detectors) can be found in Canada, Virginia, and at some truck weigh stations.
We prefer testing SPECTRE immunity with the older SPECTRE III, as the newer SPECTRES are more heavily filtered and are not as sensitive as the III.
We tested the R8 in eight configurations to determine if and how it could be detected by police in the real-world and in a variety of encounters. Surprisingly, we found the R8 to be harder to detect than the single-antenna R4.
When passing the “patrol” car in the opposite direction of travel, we would occasionally detect the R8 at about 87 feet, or about four car lengths, before passing on either side of the vehicle.
When overtaking in the same direction of travel, we would occasionally get alerted just as we were beginning to pass the vehicle with the R8, again on either side of the vehicle.
When approaching with the patrol car from behind in the same lane of travel, the SPECTRE would occasionally alert at around 60 feet or about three car lengths from behind the vehicle with the detector and more consistently when closer than 50 feet or three car lengths.
When driving directly along side of the vehicle with the R8, there was no SPECTRE detection on either side.
When approached by the car with the R8 from behind, the patrol car was unable to detect the R8 within about 10 feet or about a car length.
We also simulated a situation where the patrol car was sitting in the median perpendicular to the road. In this setup. the SPECTRE was unable to alert to the presence of the R8 in any circumstance as the vehicle passed by.
There we also times that the SPECTRE did not alert to the presence of the R8 at all, but there were enough detections that could lead to scrutiny from an officer when in close proximity to a patrol vehicle equipped with SPECTRE.
So while the R8 is not completely immune to RDDs, it’s very good.
In my opinion, though, having SPECTRE immunity, while nice, is not foolproof and I have an article that I will be publishing soon explaining why.
Like the Uniden R7, the R8 has the same large and wonderfully bright and readable multi-color OLED display and an auto-dimming feature based upon actual ambient light which allows for more discreet driving in the evening.
Compared to other company’s multi-color displays, the R8 is easily the most readable even during the daytime both in brightness and text readability. The display’s eight colors can easily be changed in the detector’s menu programming. My personal preference is for either amber or white.
The R8 has three different display layouts and can also be configured to display your real-time speed, your speed and direction of travel, direction of travel only, your vehicle’s electrical voltage output, or altitude. I occasionally use the voltage mode to check the health of my vehicles’ battery and alternator output.
I generally select the speed and compass display mode. When driving in Canada (where posted speeds and distances are in the metric system) I select KM/H over MPH speed display.
The R8 has a 12 different alert tones each of which can be assigned to the specific band or type of radar and laser. My recommendations for tone selection are:
- Laser – Tone #10
- Gatso – Tone #8
- MRCD/MRCT – Tone #8
- Ka Band – Tone #9
- K Band – Tone #2
- X Band – Tone #3
Similar to Valentine, the R8 can also indicate detection of additional radar bands during an existing alert and offers five user-selectable tones to choose from for both K and Ka radar detections. My recommendation is for assigning tone #1 for both bands.
The R8 can be configured to alert quietly or quite loudly and depending upon the vehicle I am driving, I will choose the volume accordingly. When I use the detector in my Jeep Wrangler Rubicon, I set the volume on a higher setting because of the elevated levels of in-cabin noise. When driving with a Mercedes or BMW, I tend to set it lower because of the quieter cabin. In either case, if I am cranking music, I like to know that I can set the volume loud enough to still be able to hear it alert when I need it to. I am very pleased with the range of volume choices and I regard both the R4 and R8 to be the best of any radar detectors.
Design & Packaging
The appearance and design configuration of the R8 is a nice improvement over the R7 and appears more upscale. The R8 appears more substantial than the R7. The R8 (pictured on the left, is slightly wider, but slightly smaller in length to the R7 (pictured on the right).
Where the R7 is flush across the top, the R8 has a sloped rake that is taller as you move towards the front of the detector before plateauing where the top buttons are located. Much of the detector is shorter than the R7, until where the top buttons are located where both detectors are nearly equal in height.
This design does appear to obscure, somewhat, the rear-facing laser sensor because of the height differential of the front of the case to the rear where the sensor is mounted.
On the rear of the detector are two convex lenses one that may account for the improvement in laser sensitivity. Curved lenses place in front of the radar horn can impact the radar detection performance a numbers of ways depending upon its design. Acting as a wave-guide, which bends radar waves, the lens can improve shear sensitivity on specific radar bands, improve off-axis detections, or decrease performance of detection of other bands (as a consequence of tuning for anothers). Such lenses can not do all of these things, so the priority in detections of the engineering team is what dictates the performance outcomes. If I were to guess, Ka detection would take precedent and this particular lens design may account for the apparent reduction of X-band sensitivity relative to the Uniden R4.
The power cord and MicroUSB jacks are located on the right side of the detector which is my preference for keeping cords away from my steering wheel and right leg.
On the left side of the R8, the there is a small RJ type interface that can be used to interface to Uniden’s yet to be released laser jamming system and an audio jack.
The MARK and MUTE/DIM buttons of the R7 have been moved from the left side to the front, a much improved design change, and are backlit.
The R8’s updated cigarette lighter supports the daisy chaining of a remote control module that incorporates all of the buttons located on the detector itself. The control module doesn’t have a display built-in but will act similarly to the control modules found on custom-installed detectors and jammers from Escort. The real value of having this sort of remote module will increase when the laser jamming system is ultimately incorporated into the detector.
The single stick-cup mounting bracket has been redesigned and it a big improvement over its predecessor. The mounting clips have also been updated to be compatible with other newer Unidens, like the R4. This is a very welcomed addition, which will reduce the amount of different accessories needed if you own more than one Uniden radar detector.
The R8 also has built-in bluetooth capability to interface with future smart phone applications, the specifics of yet has not yet been announced. The configuration features will eventually appear in a future firmware update.
Speaking of firmware updates, the R8 is ushering in a much improved software program, which similar to Escort, will connect to the internet and download and install both firmware and photo database updates eliminating the need to manually search out the updates online.
For the sake of review brevity, many other features of the R8 are similar to the R7 and can be found in our in-depth review of the Uniden R7.
The Unden R8 is a significant upgrade to the R7 and brings both impressive increases in sensitivity and a host of new features and future expansion capabilities. The retail price of the R8 is set at $699. It is my expectation that the R8 will ultimately replace the R7, but in the meantime, I consider the R8 to be well worth the difference in asking price over the R7.
The bottom line is, the Uniden R8 takes the crown over all other radar detectors with both its extreme performance and great feature set. The R8 is the most sensitive detector we’ve ever driven with.
My heartfelt congratulations goes to Uniden America for continuing to push the envelope of what’s possible in a detector.
RadarBusters is currently taking pre-orders for the new Uniden R8.