Switching to a cordless radar detector has its benefits, including portability and a clean setup. But oftentimes, reliability is sacrificed. This could result in a faulty device, or worse, you getting a speeding ticket.
To help you avoid this, here are the two best cordless and wireless radar detectors we’ve tested:
Features of Both Radar Detectors
Both the Escort Solo S4 and Whistler XTR-543 are good options in the wireless radar detector department. Here are some of their features and how they compare.
Display and Hardware of the Radar Detector
It is inevitable to compare the Escort Solo S4 with its predecessor and fellow long range radar detector, the Solo S3. There is a touch of change in the S4, as it looks a little modern and up to date when it comes to design.
Still, this is not detrimental to the user. There is a slightly larger button for turning the device on and off, which is easily located by the case’s front.
There are also dedicated buttons for easy shifting from one sensitivity mode to another — in the case of the Solo S4, there are City, Auto, and Highway — and for modifying other programmable preferences on the radar detector.
The button that informs you of the battery levels and doubles for the mute option is also among the visible buttons.
In comparison, the Whistler XTR-543 is heavier and larger than the S4
While this is not much of concern, and normally not a consideration when it comes to cordless counterparts, the dimensions and the weight of the Whistler XTR-543 make it slightly less desirable than the Solo S4 especially if you are considering cordless options because you’re traveling.
But despite the difference, the Whistler edges out its Escort counterpart when it comes to the window mount that it comes with. It’s reliable in keeping the radar detector in place when others, including Escort, would leave users opting for a separate purchase just to make the suction cups and the device less shaky and rickety.
Whistler XTR-543 also does not look or feel like a cheap product, taking another minor but potentially annoying concern off our heads.
The display for the Escort Solo S4 is in OLED, which is just like the Solo S3 and other long range radar detectors that Escort has made currently available. However, these displays of the Escort models have been criticized time and again.
While they may enable power saving, the OLED displays from Escort are not famed for their visibility in all lighting conditions even when you can sift through the different brightness levels and even go with auto-mode.
One too many users (us included) have expressed frustration over not being able to read legibly the information on the screen of the product because it tends to be drowned out by the sun. The clear audio and voice alert partly make up for this imperfection, but we would still want to have the option for visual alerts to be there, just as we would with other radar detectors.
Now, the Whistler XTR-543 has a great LED display . You would think this product is better in OLED when it comes to easy visibility, and in some ways it is. And yet, Whistler is not spared of complaints that the screen can be hard to read when in bright lighting conditions, and the lighting options for the radar detector does very little to make reading easier.
Visual alerts are dependable and give sufficient information easy, but are close to useless in such circumstances when a user needs to squint. Thankfully, the notifications also come in audio and voice, so at least you can depend on that in case a signal is detected.
The Whistler radar detector boasts of perfect alert periscopes, which are essentially two flashing lights, that you can also depend on in case something is interfering with the clarity of sound warnings such as open windows or loud music.
On the other hand, the Solo S4 displays the strength of the different bands it can identify through a bar graph, and will also let you know of the change in terms of beeps. Nine features can be modified depending on a user’s preferences, including sensitivity, and the device will remember it perfectly even when it has been powered off. Whistler XTR-543 offers the same convenience.
The Solo S4 is undeniably pricier than the Whistler XTR-543, but that may have to do with durability. Unfortunately, the latter was reported in some instances to stop functioning within months of purchase, or at least have noticeable deterioration in its detection capabilities.
Cordless Range and Band Priority
Just like the Solo S3, the Solo S4 can be modified as desired. In terms of sensitivity, there are City, Auto and Highway modes.
For the City mode, the Solo S4 functions with lower sensitivity for the X-band, which is notorious for false alerts. If you want, you could also opt for X-band detection to be switched off altogether.
Other bands could also be turned off, and Escort offers an easy option to set different tones for the bands the product can detect.
Just like the cordless long range radar models that came before it, Whistler XTR-543 boasts of leading protection from all the bands in operation in the United States and Canada, which include X, K, and Ka radar bands.
Drivers also benefit from knowing of threats ahead of them on the road, which explains the positioning of most radar detector units, but an added coverage by the rear also results in a user who is more at ease.
Any form of detection, may it be radar or laser, can easily be turned off with this radar laser detector for a quieter drive. The different driving modes in Whistler are City, City1, City2, and Highway.
Both models feature muting functions, although they are named differently. For Escort, these are Mute, AutoMute and SmartMute, while Whistler has Quiet and Auto-Quiet. Nevertheless, the functions are the same.
GPS (or lack thereof) and False Alerts Filtering
Both Solo S4 and Whistler XTR-543 lack GPS. This makes both radar detectors susceptible to false alarms, particularly from cars that have doors controlled by radar.
There is also no database to indicate locations of speed traps, red-light cameras, and speed cameras as well. This poses a risk of being vulnerable on the road, so you might want to be wary of that too.
Prompt Alerts and Detection of Instant-On Signals
The Whistler model has prime identification so it could give you extra time to adjust your driving should you need to. The S4, meanwhile, has Digital Signal Processing (DSP) technology with functions that are essentially the same and promises to cover both radar and laser sensors.
Both models can detect lasers as well as POP guns. While most radar detectors perform with little problem in signal strength and picking up radar signals, lasers and POP guns is another concern altogether. These are instant-on, which most of the time would mean that even though you have received an alert, it would be too late.
Both pieces of equipment promise to do a quick sweep of the surroundings for such guns. In this aspect, both the S4 and Whistler XTR-543 are not seamless; your best protection is still to drive within the allowable speed limit. Thankfully, these both have excellent over-speed alerts that come in handy in areas where it is particularly risky.
Other Important Features for a Good Cordless Radar Detector
Purchasing a Whistler XTR-543 has the added benefit of the Stay Alert feature, something that has been praised on other radar detectors from the brand. This product is especially useful for those who like to take long drives at night or road trips.
Essentially, all one has to do when this feature is enabled is to tap one of its buttons so that the radar detector knows that you are fully conscious while driving. An alert might jolt you in case you miss responding in time, but it might just be what you need to ensure that the lives in the car are safe.
Performance of the Detector
Range and Accuracy
Both radar detectors look efficient enough on paper, but it is helpful to keep in mind that by opting for cordless options, you are also compromising performance because the radar detector tries to manage its battery consumption. The higher-performing the device, the more the product would require power. Understandably, both the S4 and the Whistler XTR-543 suffer from decreased performance, especially when compared to other radar detectors from its respective brands’ range.
The Solo S4 easily edges out the Whistler XTR-543 in terms of performance, and this applies to every shared band it could detect. In our tests, there are instances when the two could not identify the threat even when taking the same route, and Escort’s Solo 4 is much more accurate in picking these up. Performance on the S4 is wanting though especially when it comes to the Ka-band which is in use in almost every state and even underperforms when compared to other older models from the brand.
Both are also extremely vulnerable to false alarms, and this is partly due to the absence of a GPS for both devices. Blind-spot monitoring (BSM) systems, which are prevalent in this day and age, will cause both to alarm needlessly. Protection is also compromised since there is no database of speed traps and red-light cameras that this product could rely on.
On the Whistler XTR-543, a common source of complaint is its sensitivity modes which are aimed to arm the device against such annoyances but fails in delivering the promise anyway.
If you want a radar detector that has top long-range detection and minimal false alarms, then you are better off staying away from both Escort Solo S4 and Whistler XTR-543. It would be better to level expectations for cordless options — there is a reason they are not so common.
Battery Performance and Other Considerations When Choosing A Great Wireless Radar Detector
There is quite a disparity in the battery life of the two cordless radar detector models.
For the Solo S4, it claims that its batteries can work up to 30-40 hours before needing a replacement. Whistler XTR-543, meanwhile, is at half of the minimum amount given by Escort at 15 hours.
The Escort model needs two AA alkaline batteries, while Whistler runs on three AAs. Both will come with batteries right off their packages, but Whistler XTR-543 will provide rechargeable ones — it also asks users to only use rechargeable batteries in case these need to be replaced.
However, Whistler XTR-543 has had complaints of unreliable batteries. Some do not last for as long as 15 hours, while others fail to function short of six months, leaving you with the cord and defeating the purpose of a cordless radar detector.
Other Power Sources and Power-Saving Systems
If you do not want to rely on the batteries all the time, both options presented can be powered through a cord. It is the SmartCord for the Solo S4, while the Whistler XTR-543 needs the Power Cord.
These do not affect the operation and the range of the equipment will be maintained. However, these ensure that the device will not turn off once the battery is consumed.
Both models would not leave you like that, anyway. These have power-saving mechanisms, such as using the backlight when there are no alerts, and an automatic shutting down of the system in case of inactivity. These would not die the next time you need to use it just because you forgot to switch it off the previous day.
Cordless Detectors Price and Added Costs
For the S4, it is worth considering that the ideal SmartCord is not included in the purchase. The device is also not compatible with the crowdsourcing app Escort Live. And despite its compromises, it is least $100 more expensive than its Whistler counterpart.
Conclusion: Escort Solo S4 or Whistler XTR-543 — which is the best cordless detector?
Wireless radar detectors are all about convenience, and as such, have less than impressive performance than their corded counterparts.
You may be better off with the non-cordless kind, but if you have to go with this route, then there is not much choice anyway. Escort has discontinued all the foremost cordless models but Escort and Whistler have done the same with the rest besides the Whistler XTR-543; other brands don’t have any best cordless radar detector to speak of.
Discontinued models can still be bought off of sites such as Amazon, but these come with limited support from their manufacturers.
Here’s our list of best radar detector manufacturers: https://www.ratedradardetector.org/rd/companies/.
Between the two cordless radar detectors we compared, the S4 is the best wireless radar detector. The Solo S4 is both lighter and more durable, making it the best cordless radar detector.
Even though its Whistler counterpart is cheaper, issues with durability and failure to function some months down the road may not be worth the hassle, making that extra $100 for the Escort worth it. Escort has also outperformed the Whistler radar detector, even when the results failed to wow.