The Cobra iRAD is exactly what you'd expect from an affordable radar detector under $150. It doesn’t have elite range. It doesn't have built-in GPS. It lacks advanced features like over-speed alert, auto-mute and auto-sensitivity. It doesn't tell you where the radar is coming from and it doesn't alert you to multiple radar sources. However, it connects to your smartphone via Bluetooth. This allows you to use a community sharing app to expand its features and alerts. The app can cover the gap of some GPS features by using your phone's GPS. This makes it a great option for drivers that aren't sure they want to spend $500 to $700 on one of the best radar detectors.
In a highway scenario where the detection range is critical, the Cobra iRAD earned a C+ grade. It had the same range as the Cobra RAD 450, and both were only barely better than the Whistler CR93. If I proved one thing during the highway tests, it's that you get what you pay for regarding range. If you want the most protection, you need to pay for it. High-end detectors like the Escort RedLine EX and the Valentine One had ranges that were two to nearly three times as long, but these also cost four to five times as much.
In the city tests, the iRAD earned a B grade. These tests looked for a balance of alerts and silence. Too silent and it might as well not be in your car. Too many alerts and you're more likely to turn it off. Unlike most detectors that received Bs because they were too noisy, the iRAD was often too quiet. To be effective, a radar detector must help keep your awareness up.
The iRAD is very easy to use, receiving an A- grade. The display has high-contrast colors that make it very easy to read, and the controls are labeled clearly. The biggest issue is that the controls having multiple functions, meaning you have to figure out how to access secondary functions. But overall, you can take this out of the package and effectively use it.
One of the biggest reasons that the iRAD is a great option for a novice is the community sharing app, Cobra iRadar. The iRAD doesn’t have GPS, but you can connect to your smartphone with Bluetooth and use the app to get most of the benefits of a GPS radar detector. This includes red-light and speed camera alerts, which don't depend on radar. It provides alerts from active non-radar sources and caution areas. It can also tell you how far away the radar source is, approximately, and where it's coming from.
Using the report button when you encounter a lidar gun or a speed trap, you create a GPS coordinate on the app and other drivers are alerted to a high-threat area when they drive near it. The community sharing app is a great idea, but it suffers from one major flaw – it's only effective if drivers use it. The number of drivers with radar detectors is very small compared to the number of cars on the road. And the number of detectorists that actively use a community sharing app is fewer still. This was evidenced throughout my tests. Not once did I see or receive alerts for potential threats shared by any other drivers.
The Cobra iRAD isn't the best performing radar detector. It doesn’t have the range or the comprehensive list of features of most radar detectors. But it's one of the most affordable options. It's very easy to use and the integration with your smartphone helps bridge the gap between higher priced detectors with GPS.