Looking for the best speed camera detector for your vehicle? This guide will help you pick the right one for you, and help you find it at the best price.
Whether you agree with the government’s view that speed cameras and enforcement systems are essential means of saving lives and handling ever-growing traffic, or you suspect the cameras are simply an indirect taxation mechanism sending funds to the government (once every 2.5 seconds, incidentally), knowing where the enforcement devices are cannot be anything but helpful.
It is perfectly legal to buy radar detectors or GPS systems in the UK which can tell you about GATSOs (the big speed cameras familiar on UK roads) and other systems which might catch a speeding motorist in the act, however there have been a few cases of motorists jailed for actively blocking these systems with laser jammers.
Luckily the market has understood that most drivers are both keen to be warned when they’re approaching enforcement systems while not wishing to spend any time at her majesty’s pleasure for blocking them. The solutions on offer vary from detection – which can be pretty expensive, but will identify speed monitoring technology and provide immediate feedback – to different kinds of database. In both cases, fitting to your car (how good does it look on your dash, how easy it is to read) is a factor, while in the latter kind it’s also essential to know how good the system is at staying up to date and understanding where it is. Finally, there are also many kinds of enforcement cameras on UK roads, so an essential factor is which ones are monitored, and whether – as a driver – you get to find out which type you’re approaching in time to prepare (not, of course, that you would need to slow down anyway).
Best speed camera detector in 2023
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The Road Angel Pure is a great speed camera detector which will arm you with a lot of information about the cameras and enforcement on the roads yet do so in a way which (in so far as any on this list can be) is in the spirit of road safety. It manages that by using the whole 2.4” colour TFT screen as a warning colour so, once positioned on your dash, simply keeping the device in the corner of your eye should be enough to re-assure you that you’re staying below the limit. If there is a camera nearby but you’re not behaving badly, it’ll turn yellow, whereas if immediate action is required the whole screen will go red.
The system relies on the detailed Road Angel Alerts Database, which you need to subscribe to (subs are a not inconsiderable £99.99 for 12 months, rising to £149.99 for a “smart motorways” bolt on, but falling a little for longer subscriptions). This is pricey, and needs to be factored in when buying, but the resulting device even has real time information about gantry cameras on variable speed limit motorways which are spreading rapidly.
The system is also smart enough to show you your average speed, handy in all modern average speed limit zones, and the smart phone app makes it a breeze to customise the audio and display options (you can really tailor the warning sound levels to match the urgency) as well as stay up to date. The five-day demo subscription seems a little measly, but if around a tenner a month seems a reasonable amount then this is an excellent device.
Not a misspelling of sapphire, once you check out the marketing you’ll see that Saphe seems to be more of a phonetic attempt at the word ‘safe,’ with the One+ acting as the entrance card to a community of motorists taking advantage of a database covering the UK (and over 80 other countries).
Alerts are actually delivered via your mobile smartphone, which uses its GPS to detect your location and speed while the Saphe One+ effectively acts as a Bluetooth speaker with added flashing lights for the app. This makes for very simple operation, and many drivers appreciate not having any additional touch screens to distract them from the road.
So long as you’re careful not to turn off Bluetooth on your phone, all you need to do to engage the device is get into your car. You can use the app to decide whether you want to be warned about fixed speed cameras, mobile ones, accidents, cars on the shoulder, dangers seen on the road, average speed cameras, red light cameras, and so on. Over 900,000 motorists across Europe are part of the system which shares the traffic data.
Looking a lot like an early iPod (black model), the Saphe drive (that’s pronounced “safe drive”) takes the same safety database used by its sibling the Saphe One+ which means it has alarms for different types of speed cameras and dangers on roads like accidents, as well as suspected spot checks. You, as the driver, become a member of the community and much of that data is contributed by drivers spotting cameras as they pass them (there are three buttons on the front for speed check, hazard and accident).
What puts the only slightly more expensive “Drive” model (RRP £59 rather than £49) ahead is the clean and simple LCD display which isn’t overly distracting but presents a distance-to-camera (or zone) indicator and shows you your speed or – where it’s more important appropriate – your average speed. Exact alerts can be tailored using the elegant Saphe Link app (which is free).
Saphe see their natural competition as popular traffic apps, which explains their pricing in comparison to brands like Road Angel; their devices act more as an improved display & feedback system and this new Drive model also brings rechargeability, needing topping up only every 3 months.
The Snooper MySpeed system is designed with motorists of all kinds in mind, so there isn’t just a generously sized display to repeat the current speed limit, but a menu system which will enable you to indicate you are driving a camper or truck and perhaps subject to different limits.
There is a long enough cable to place the device anywhere even on a big dash, and thanks to built-in Bluetooth you can also play music from your phone if, for some reason, your car won’t. You can even plug in a retro-fitted reversing camera, so all-in-all this is a great device for something like a motorhome or truck which has a lot of personal mods.
In terms of our main matter here, it isn’t as easy to fit as some of the others, but the Aura speed trap database is good and it’s certainly not the most expensive. For European speed alerts a Here® database is included. The display is very clear (a green ring around your current speed if you’re not in trouble). The real question is the relative value of the device, even if you are looking for a dash-cam, and although the G-force is enough to turn on the dash-cam, the GPS can be a little slower to get the location right for the speed database.
If you’re not interested in the camera, a significantly cheaper version can be found with similar specifications, the Snooper MySpeed XL-G2.
Laser technology is found in a lot more places than before, not least since many cars’ assisted driving features take advantage of it. The concern (in this context) is that as a driver it becomes easy to ignore your speed trap alert system because of false positives, which is what the Alpha X is all about. It uses specific frequency band checks to filter out things like blind spot sensors or even shop door sensors. This is bolstered by a GPS database (manually updated via computer link) which also includes data on common temporary speed camera zones – the Laser Elite database.
As you drive, the Alpha X will warn you with a loud ‘ding-dong’ and voice alert – something like “spot camera detected”. The top of the device has two buttons; on the left it can be used to cycle through warning distances to the nearest 100m, while the right-hand button toggles the smart radar. Menu options are accessed by buttons underneath (so there will be no distraction as you drive).
Navigating the menus with the small OLED display is a notable improvement on this new model, though the voice which reads menu screens to you is an acquired taste. Realistically you’ll probably not make a lot of changes after one irksome few minutes (a complaint which can be levelled at a fair few items of tech!). Updating the database could be easier too, which might lead to not being up-to-date enough.
The GTX80 provides a similar level of camera monitoring as the DriveSmart Alpha X, featuring Radar and Laser monitors and a GPS database to back that up. Monitoring the real equipment rather than relying solely on a database has an obvious advantage, but there are plenty of reasons why the GPS is useful – not least the fact that laser systems are not usually on all the time, but just when a passing car is being speed checked.
That is where the Road Angel and Saphe’s live-updating databases establish their value (a value which Road Angel are not shy about charging for). The Alpha X allows users to update their database by connecting to a Windows computer via USB lead, but that’s not a tempting option for Apple devotees. Here the GTX80’s addition of Bluetooth, from which iPhone users can make free database updates whenever they choose, makes a convincing case for this option over its competitors.
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