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UNIDEN GPSRD

By Michael "TXJEEPER" Cohn

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Uniden GPSRDEarlier this year, we happened across an interesting press release for a new Uniden radar detector, called the GPSRD. Now before you scream "Hey! This is an off-road site!" let me explain why this particular radar detector caught my eye. Certainly, we haven't traded in our slow-crawling 4x4's for IFS desert-running pickup trucks. And we definitely aren't worried about getting many speeding tickets on the trails that we like to hit. So why would we be interested in reviewing a radar detector?

Well, first of all, we do need to get TO the trails in the first place, right? Not all of us have old beaters or rigs with gears so slow that we can't hit the Interstate at real speeds. Some of us have daily-driven trucks that will do highway speeds or better easily and safely. In addition, many of our readers also have another vehicle in the household that gets driven on the streets regularly. So we felt confident that even if this wasn't entirely off-road-oriented, you'd still probably like to read about it. But there's more!

Here's the real reason our interest was piqued. If you haven't already figured out by its model number, GPSRD stands for "Global Positioning System Radar Detector." Did we just say GPS in the same sentence as radar detector? Indeed, we did.

Over the last few months, we've been using the Uniden GPSRD quite a bit. Its first and obvious duty has been as a radar detector to help us stay on the right side of Johnny Law...pardon me...to remind us to check that our speed has not varied over the legal limit, should a radar or laser signal picked up. For this article, we're going to assume that you already know what a normal radar detector does and how it works. We're going to focus mainly on what separates the GPSRD from the other run-of-the-mill units on the market.

Uniden GPSRD
Uniden GPSRD

When you first turn on the GPSRD it goes through all of the normal self-tests that a radar detector typically does. It displays the various types of signals it can detect and chirps the corresponding sound as they are tested. Once this self-test is concluded, the display then reads "Searching for Satellites." Here is where it gets really interesting. GPS technology is based on satellites that are in orbit all around the globe. In order for a GPS to properly work, it must pick up at least 2 satellites for 2-dimensional navigation and a minimum of 3 satellites for 3-dimensional navigation. By triangulating the distance between satellites, the GPS can then determine quite accurately where on Earth you are. OK, that's a pretty simple explanation, but it's all you need to know for now.

Uniden GPSRD
Uniden GPSRD

Now that the unit has found enough satellites, the LED light turns green. Game on! So what is the GPS used for? If you travel in the same areas reasonably often, you can set the GPSRD to remember up to 1,000 speed trap locations. For example, if you see a trooper sitting in a median on the Interstate, you'd press the Select/Trap button. Because the GPS is being used, the coordinates are marked in the unit's memory. Next time you approach that same area, the radar detector will give you warnings as you get closer. How cool is that? Of course, these traps can also be deleted in the future, should you choose to do so.

Like most radar detectors, the GPSRD has a City button which is used to vary the sensitivity when you are driving in town so you don't get warned every time you are near a grocery store with an automatic door. There is a Highway setting and four levels for City. In addition to this, the GPSRD also records data on false signals so when you return to the same area, it remembers the previous detection and depending on your settings, will only warn you if the signal exceeds the level that you have defined.

Uniden GPSRD
Buttons control all functions on the top of the unit
Uniden GPSRD
Searching for satellites

Pretty cool unit so far, right? Well we've just begun! In addition to 360 degree laser detection, radar detection, and all the GPS-based goodies above, the GPSRD also can double as a basic GPS unit. You can even mark a few of your own custom waypoints that you navigate to often, such as "Home", "Work", "Airport", "Hotel", and three other points, named simply "A", "B" and "C." So the first thing we did with our unit was mark "Home" so that wherever we traveled, we always could find our way home.

At any time while you are traveling you can display your position, for example, 132o35'5. If you have a map you can then pinpoint exactly where you are. This can also be handy if you break down and need to call for help. You can tell someone exactly where to go to rescue you.

Uniden GPSRD
Sample displays
Uniden GPSRD
Position display

So now we know where home is and we know where on Earth we are right now. Now what? The single most used feature of the GPSRD for us has been figuring out the distance to our destinations when we hit the highway on a road trip. The unit has an onboard database of every major city in the US and many mid-size and small cities, as well. Let's say we're leaving home and we are going to Austin, Texas. First, we'd scroll through the menus to find "Texas." Once we select our state, we then scroll through whatever cities and towns are available and pick the one we're going to or the closest to it. Not all towns are in the database. For example, Moab, Utah is not in there, so when we traveled from Birmingham to Moab, we had to pick Salt Lake City and estimate from there.

Once you select your destination, the GPSRD can instantly tell you how many miles it is from where you are, show an arrow in the direction you need to travel to get there, and also how much time at your current rate of speed it will take to arrive. One thing to note is that distances are as the crow flies, meaning a straight line between you and there. Obviously, roads take turns and go out of the way, so the further the distance is, you need to adjust mentally along the way, because the unit doesn't know about these variances.

Uniden GPSRD
Uniden GPSRD

Meanwhile, while the GPSRD is doing all of these calculations in the background and scanning for radar and laser, it also knows how fast your going, by virtue of how quickly your coordinates are changing. I like using the speed display, because of the way I hold the steering wheel. My arm often blocks my speedometer. The speed display on the GPSRD comes in handy for me for quick checks of my speed and is usually accurate to within 2 mph of my speedometer (stock truck with stock tires).

Finally, as if all of that fun stuff isn't enough, the GPSRD also displays average speed, elevation above sea level, top speed and a travel timer. The unit is also compatible with SWS Alert systems, which are used in some areas to warn you of potential construction hazards or emergency vehicles.

Uniden GPSRD
Uniden GPSRD

What's really interesting to note, is that for a unit whose main purpose in life is not as a GPS, the GPSRD has better reception inside of vehicles than our dedicated Garmin GPS III. The GPSRD has worked in every car and truck we've tried it in and even works in the woods, however, reception can be spotty because of tree-cover. By contrast, our Garmin GPS does not work in most hard-top vehicles without an external, roof-mounted antenna.

The Uniden GPSRD has quite honestly been one our favorite toys. Not only is it a great radar detector, but we've found many occasions to leave our regular GPS at home and just use the radar detector instead. For day-to-day and basic road trip navigation, the GPSRD just can't be beat. You practically can't get lost and you always have a rough idea when you'll get where you are going. Currently priced at $199.99 at the Uniden Online Store, the GPSRD is one of the best buys of the year.

RESOURCE

Uniden America Corporation
4700 Amon Carter Blvd
Fort Worth, TX 76155
www.uniden.com
(800) 297-1023