- Review Price: £299.99
Speed cameras are a touchy subject. Although many car enthusiasts – myself included – see them as the spawn of Satan, anyone who’s been a victim of a road traffic accident involving excessive speed will probably welcome any measure that reduces such incidents.
The problem is that speed cameras, or safety cameras to give them their official name, make a great deal of money, and it’s therefore very easy for the cynical among us to ascertain that financial profit is the real reason for their existence.
This theory is compounded by the fact that cameras are often located on long, straight stretches of road, with good visibility and multiple lanes, while twisty, off camber roads with hairpin bends rarely have a single camera in sight.
Regardless of what your opinion on the subject of speed cameras is, one thing remains constant – if you get caught by one, you’re looking at a fine, points on your driving license and probably a hefty increase to your insurance premium.
Now before the self righteous masses bang on about how anyone speeding deserves what they get, let’s remember that these camas are black and white – so whether someone is blatantly flouting the speed limit, or whether they have just strayed over a little, the result is often the same.
A couple of years back a friend’s wife was flashed by a camera, having strayed slightly over the speed limit – she was bringing her daughter home from school at the time, and is in no way a speed fiend.
The ever increasing proliferation of speed cameras has resulted in the ever increasing number of products that warn drivers about them. While these units started off as very basic affairs with a few LEDs and rudimentary beeps to warn drivers of upcoming cameras, they have now evolved into fully featured devices with full colour screens and voice alerts.
Interestingly these detectors are illegal in certain European countries, but luckily the fact that “safety cameras” are supposed to be located at accident black spots in the UK, the argument for their use is that the driver is being warned about an upcoming dangerous stretch of road, rather than an upcoming money making camera.
I’ve been using a speed camera detector of one type or another for several years, and the biggest drawback is that it’s a pain keeping your device up to date. Basically, new speed camera locations appear every day, so to keep your detector up to date, you’ll need to download the latest data every day. This means taking the unit out of your car, connecting it to your PC, downloading the latest camera database and then returning it to your car.
Speaking from personal experience, one of two situations generally occur – you either don’t end up updating your camera detector for weeks on end because it’s too much hassle, or you end up doing the update and then forgetting to put it back in the car the next day, leaving you completely unprotected. That problem however, is now, officially a thing of the past, thanks to the new Road Angel Professional Connected.
This latest speed camera detector from Road Angel has more features than you could shake a stick at, but let’s start with the USP that I hinted at on the previous page. The key is in the name – Road Angel Professional Connected – and it’s that Connected bit at the end that separates this device from the competition. You see unlike every other speed camera detector out there, the Professional Connected doesn’t need to be hooked up to your PC in order to download data updates; instead this Road Angel is regularly downloading updates whenever it’s switched on.
Inside the Road Angel Professional Connected is a GSM/GPRS transceiver, along with an Orange data SIM. This means that as soon as the device is switched on, the SIM registers with the Orange data network, the unit can receive updates over GPRS at any time. So, as soon as a new camera site is added to the Road Angel database, those coordinates will be beamed directly to your Professional Connected, which will update its own database on the fly, while you’re driving. There’s an indicator that illuminates whenever the Road Angel is updating, and considering how often this flashes up, it’s clear that the old method of updating “once in a while” via a PC wasn’t enough.
Of course you still can update the unit via your PC and an Internet connection, but I can’t imagine why you’d want to. Knowing that your speed camera detector is always up to date without you having to lift a finger is, quite simply, ideal. But the cool Connected nature of this new Road Angel doesn’t end there either – you can also instantly upload data to the Road Angel database. If you see a speed camera that your Road Angel didn’t know about, you can simply press a button, which will log your exact coordinates and send them to the database chaps. Said database personnel will then confirm that there is in fact a camera at the location you provided, and then send an update out to every user.
As well as fixed camera locations, the Road Angel database also includes sites used by mobile camera vans – the Professional Connected will therefore warn you that there may be a mobile van coming up, but of course, then again, there may not. However, if you actually see a van at one of these locations, you can log it as a “Live Site” and that information will be transmitted to every other Connected Road Angel user instantly – now that’s what you call a community working together!
OK, so that’s the Connected bit of this particular Road Angel covered, but what else does it have to offer? Quite a lot actually. The unit itself is shaped like an old CRT widescreen TV – the front fascia is obviously flat, while the rear projects back a way, but in a rounded casing. It’s not a massive device, but it’s not tiny either with dimensions of 105 x 55 x 55 (WxDxH). The actual screen takes up the central portion of the fascia and measures about 2.5in diagonally. There is a single button located on the top of the devices, this will power the unit on/off when held for two seconds, or mute alerts when pressed quickly. There are no other buttons necessary, since the Road Angel Professional Connected is controlled entirely via the supplied remote control.
At the rear of the unit are three connectors, one of which is a mini-USB port – this can be used for both connecting the Road Angel to your PC via the supplied cable, or charging it using the bundled adapter. It’s great to see a mini-USB connector being used, since most PC users will have cables knocking about, or even other power supplies, which means that the device can be charged in multiple locations without needing to buy extra accessories. Flanking the mini-USB port are an Aux port for hooking up an external laser detector, and a socket for connecting an external antenna.
When you power the Road Angel on, you’re met with the satellite acquisition screen. Depending on your environment, it can take anything from a few seconds to a few minutes for enough satellite locks to be acquired. Once that happens, the device switches to its main screen, which displays current speed and heading in the very centre. To the right of the digital compass is a battery indicator, while to the left are indicators for GPS and GSM/GPRS signal strength.
When the Road Angel alerts you to a camera or black spot, the colour of the display changes (red if you’re travelling above the speed limit, green if not), and you’re also shown an image of the type of danger ahead – whether that be a fixed speed camera, camera van or accident black spot. You can specify how far ahead the Road Angel should be alerting you of hazards, choosing between 250, 500 and 1,000 metres – my preference is 500m, which gives you plenty of time to react, without the alerts lasting so long that they become annoying. Another useful setting will double the alert distance if you’re travelling at over 50mph – when you’re travelling fast, those distances get eaten up all the quicker, so a bit of extra time to react is welcome.
Of course the alerts aren’t just visual – in fact it could be considered quite a dangerous distraction if they were. You also get audible warnings, so if you’re coming up to a camera van location, the Road Angel will tell you just that, and then emit a shrill beep that repeats until the danger is past. The sound is reassuringly loud, and I could hear all the alerts clearly over both Linkin Park on the stereo and the roar of my exhaust as the rev counter clawed its way to the red line. You can even set the Road Angel to increase its volume in line with the speed you’re travelling, since engine and road noise both increase with speed.
Another nice touch is the ability to obtain accurate coordinates of your current location, so if you break down or have an accident you can tell your recovery company, or the emergency services exactly where you are, ensuring that help arrives as quickly as possible.
The unit has a built-in battery that will give you approximately four hours of use, a figure that I wouldn’t argue with. As well as the aforementioned mains power supply and USB data cables, there’s also a cigarette lighter power cable in the box. This means that you can run the unit from the power in your car, while charging the battery at the same time. It’s definitely worth carrying the cigarette lighter cable in your car, just in case you find the battery running low on an unusually long journey.
As already mentioned, the Professional Connected is controlled via a handheld remote. Road Angel has been smart enough to include two remote controls in the box, meaning that if you have two cars, you can leave one in each and simply transport the device itself from car to car. The remote is small, flat and fairly unobtrusive, so it shouldn’t look out of place in most car cabins. There are Velcro strips provided, allowing you to secure the remote to a convenient part of your dash, although personally I’d rather not be sticking things to my car’s interior. Most modern cars come with small cubby holes for change, which will accommodate the remote nicely.
The basic Menu, up, down, back and OK buttons on the remote are pretty self explanatory. The Store button will store the coordinates of your current location and send them back to Road Angel. The Delete button will delete a user defined alert input. The Mute button mimics the button on the top of the unit by muting alerts, while the power button will switch the device off.
There are two ways to mount the Road Angel Professional Connected in your car – it can ether be placed on your dashboard, or suspended from the windscreen. The dashboard mount was a no-no for me, since it involves attaching a sticky pad to your dash, then sticking a mounting plate to that. The second option on the other hand, works brilliantly – the windscreen mount is secured using two suction cups, while the device itself is then clipped into the cradle. You just need to make sure that the Road Angel is properly engaged with the mount in the cradle before driving off – I was a little careless when installing the unit and halfway around a roundabout it flew off the cradle and landed in my passenger seat!
The Road Angel Professional Connected has one last cool trick up its sleeve though. You can also use the device as a tracker, so if you want to keep tabs on your other half (because you’re concerned for their wellbeing obviously), you can simply logon to the tracking portal on the Road Angel site and find out exactly where they are in real time. If the Road Angel is switched off, you’ll be given the last registered location, which will usually be the location of where the user’s car is parked up.
And as if that isn’t clever enough, once you’ve tracked the location of the unit on the Road Angel web portal, you can then type a quick text message and send it directly to the device. This is particularly useful if the user doesn’t have a hands-free kit in their car, especially if you just want to ask them to pick up some milk on the way home.
Any product that redefines the market sector isn’t going to be cheap, but Road Angel hasn’t gone overboard with the Professional Connected. In fact even though the £299 asking price looks steep compared to other high-end speed camera detectors, there simply isn’t another device that offers these features. There’s a monthly subscription charge of £4.99, which gives you full access to the Road Angel database, and in the case of the Professional Connected, you’ll be making very good use of that database with the unit updating regularly without any intervention from the user.
The tracking/text message option carries an additional monthly charge of £5.99, but you do get a month free with purchase, allowing you to try it out and decide whether it’s worth that extra cost. Personally I can live without the tracking, but the rest of the package is pretty close to perfect.
With more and more speed cameras appearing, it’s never been easier to lose your license, even if you’re not a speed demon. The Road Angel Professional Connected will protect drivers from the fixed position cameras and, for the most part, mobile vans as well. The accident black spot warnings also give drivers a heads up to particularly tricky stretches of road, allowing them to take more care and avoid any unpleasant incidents.
The real party piece here is the fact that this unit downloads all its database updates automatically, without the need for hooking up to a computer. This means that you’re simply always up to date, and you’re unlikely to come across a camera that the Road Angel hasn’t warned you about. The ability to tell other users when a camera van is parked up is also a great and very satisfying feature.
If you haven’t used a camera detector before, the asking price and the ongoing subscription cost may seem a little steep. However, compared to getting a fine, points on your license and an increased insurance premium, that cost is minimal.
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