Packaging & what is included:
In terms of features straight out of the box, without any optional accessories, the STi has the remote mountable speaker, and the smart plug - which allows you to mute the detector with a press of the button (as opposed to pressing the mute button on the unit itself), which is handy if you have the smart-button located in an ease of reach spot, such as the gear shift, rather than reaching up and muting the detector all the time. In order to match these two features, the V1 requires the purchase of the (optional) remote audio adapter.
The V1 comes standard with a sun visor mounting bracket, (of which the STi does not) that allows for a more solid mounting than just the suction cups on the windshield alone. Those of you that have experienced their detector taking a dive after the suction cups 'fail' will know exactly what I mean.
What the Valentine lacks in ease or programming, it sure trumps the STi in useable features. One of the features I find most valuable is the Valentine's system of muting an alert. Unlike the STi (which silences the alert completely at the press of the mute button) the Valentine allows you to adjust the volume of the muted alert from no volume, all the way up to full volume. This on it's own is more practical in my opinion as you can set the "muted" level to be low, but still audible, so whilst you aren't being blazed by a full alert sound, you also aren't forgetting it either (out of sound, out of mind?) On two occasions in real-world driving I have muted a Bel / Escort detector in a known false-alarm area only to find a patrol car sitting further down the road. Had I been able to still hear the detector (even at a softer level) I would have heard the signal strength go through the roof, well over the normal level for the false alert, thus identifying a real radar threat in the same vicinity.
The Valentine One allows you to adjust the volume of the muted alert so as you can still hear it softly, keeping you aware (but not annoyed) of the radar threats as you drive past. We'll discuss the bogey counter later.
The second feature of the Valentine mute system I find invaluable is the automatic muting of K-band signals. As K-band radar gives the most false alarms (other than X-band which is not widely used anymore) it can be extremely annoying driving through city areas with K-band alerting constantly. Whilst Bel & Escort have a "no X-band" city feature, they do unfortunately don't offer the same with K-band.
The Valentine can be programmed to alert K-band signals at the "muted level" (remember you can set this volume to any level) at the onset of an alert, then come on at full volume after a (programmable) amount of time. This essentially is the opposite of the Bel Sti, which can be programmed to "automute" by first alerting at full volume, then automatically switch to a softer level at a fixed 4 seconds after the initial alert.
Valentine does the opposite, alerting at the (adjustable) muted volume first, then coming on to full alert after a programmable number of seconds. What does this mean in the real world? Imagine the scenario:
You are driving down the highway an approach a gas station with an automatic door. These usually have a little black box mounted above which transmits on the same frequency as K-band police radar. Your Bel STi alerts with two tones, then speaks "K-band" (Cave man for all you existing Bel owners!) and then automutes to about 1/3 the volume of the original tone. This continues as you drive past until you are out of range of the automatic door.
With the Valentine One, It would pick up the K-band signal, at roughly the same time, but instead of blaring at full volume, it quietly alerts to the signal, just enough volume to hear, but not enough volume to annoy you, and then turns off after you are out of range of the automatic door.
Assuming you have programmed a reasonable amount of automute time into the V1 (say, about 10 seconds) you will never get the full volume tone as you drive past. But it doesn't end there. Valentine have added two more features to this system that work in tandem. Firstly you are able to automatically mute K-band signals when they are behind you. This means as you pass the gas station with the automatic door, the Valentine will switch to the muted volume, giving you less false beeping.
Secondly you are able to program an "over-ride" feature into the automute programming, in that if the signal strength exceeds a certain limit, the detector will immediately "un-mute" into full volume. This protects you from real radar threats.
In the same scenario above, lets say there was a patrol car coming towards you. If the V1 stayed in muted mode for the entire duration you've pre-programmed, you may not realize until too late that the radar threat is actually real. But with the mute override function of the V1, you can tell the V1 to over-ride the automute and alert in full volume if the radar signal gets to a certain strength. Absolutely brilliant philosophy.
The final programming feature unique to the Valentine One is ideally suited to Western Australian Drivers, and for those countries that have Multanova 6F speed cameras. The Valentine One allows you to program "Euro mode" into the Ka-band sweep which narrows down the Ka scan around 34.3Ghz instead of the full 2.6Ghz range. This gives far superior range on these type of speed cameras, but another advantage not so widely publicized is the ability (in Euro mode only) to switch between Ka narrow and K-band or Ka narrow only - K-band off!
This is an excellent "city mode" which will turn off K-band completely. Pressing the power button in toggles between U and u (capital and lower case) which toggles K-band on and off whilst always leaving Ka-band (narrow) on. Simply brilliant for real-world driving in these areas. With these features the V1 can become one of the quietest detectors on the market.
There are some programming features unique to the Bel STi that deserve a mentioning. One is the dark mode, in which all visual alerts are restricted to the smart plug, with the detector's display and buttons being totally dark. This enables you to be have the detector mounted up high (on the windshield or sun visor) but without alerting other drivers to its presence via the LED display. Valentine offer a similar solution with the optional "Concealed Display with band identification" extra. The STi can also be mounted upside down (perfect for sun-visor installations) and the LED display inverted respectively. This works well with the sun visor belt kit available.
The Bel STi also has voice alerts, in conjunction with it's alphanumeric display, which does in my opinion provide an easier and quicker identification of radar threats. The Valentine One really does rely on your interpretation of the audio alerts for identification, as the LED's associated with X, K, KA and laser are so small and so close together, it takes a good close look to identify the signal without listening to the audible tone. Conversely the Bel STi as in previous models can identify the band with a large letter/s as well as displaying the full word "laser" across the screen. I have found that driving with music on limits the V1's ability to quickly provide information on the radar or laser threat. The STi however, is much easier to read the display in noisy environments.
Both the Valentine One and Bel STi have dual antennas, however the V1 has one facing in each direction, and the STi has both facing forward. The STi has one antenna dedicated to X-band, and the other it shares for K and Ka band. Personally I would have liked to see Ka band get its own dedicated antenna, but Bel decided X-band should get its own antenna. One advantage to this system is that the STi has a higher sensitivity to K and Ka band than previous mono-antenna models, as the K/Ka no longer has to scan all the way down to 10.5Ghz where X-band lies. Instead it can concentrate it's K/Ka to the respective frequencies. The Valentine, shares all three (four including Ku) radar bands on the one antenna, however the rear facing antenna dramatically improves rear radar reception over the STi.
Both the Valentine One and the Bel STi have POP detection on both K-band and Ka-band, although according to the 2006 SML tests, the V1 has better detection on Ka-band POP than the STi.
The STi does tackle this problem, slightly, with it's threat display, allowing you to see the strength of different radar bands in the same area, but it will not tell you if there are multiple signals in the same radar band. Here the V1 wins, giving you an different tone sound when an additional radar frequency is detected.
Included in the standard purchase of the STi is Bel's remote (and hard-wire) smart plug. The push button on the smart plug allows you to adjust the volume, or mute a radar signal without having to reach up and hit the mute button on the detector itself, very convenient if the smart plug is installed in easy reach. The Bel STi also includes a separate external speaker allowing for hidden stealth installations. The Valentine offers these two features with the additional purchase of the optional Remote Audio Adapter.
I will start with Carl Fors from Speed Measurement Labs, as I personally attended the 2006 test in EL Paso Texas, taking my own notes on the results of each test. For this reason, I can verify the results quoted on Carl's website are the bonified real results that correspond to the results I noted.
The first test of Day one at SML was the standard 2 mile, 1.5 mile and 1 mile sensitivity test on X, K and Ka radar bands in both constant and instant-on modes (trigger held for 10 seconds and 2 seconds respectively). Even with the more dangerous "instant on" radar, both the V1 and the STi alerted to all 3 bands at all three distances.
For the over the hill test, the results were a little different. Detecting a police radar gun from over a hill or around a corner is very difficult for a radar detector, and only a high quality detector will give you adequate warning. It is very hard to detect radar (short for RAdio Detection And Ranging) over a hill because there are few reflective surfaces for the radar signal to bounce down (over a hill) towards you. Like a car stereo losing a radio station as you drive down a valley, so too is the difficulty in picking up the weak radar signal.
Each detector was lined up at a point just behind the crest of a hill with the radar gun hidden 1/2 a mile on the other side of the crest. All three bands were tested on both instant and constant on.
Two Valentine One's were tested and one Bel STi. The Valentine One tested, as part of the PRS1-V system, was mounted in a pickup truck and thus sat higher relative to the second V1. The increased elevation proved that mounting higher on the windshield increases radar range.
The table below shows the comparison between the V1 in the PRS1-V package, the V1 in the car as a stand alone, and the Bel STi also in a car. The numbers represent the LED signal strength of each hit.
The Valentine won out on X and K band over the hill, but the STi won on Ka-band.
Craig Peterson of radartest.com has been reviewing radar detectors since 1987, and is another very well known person in the industry. He is one of the longest testers of radar detectors in the industry and is very knowledgeable in this area and very professional in his testing methods. You can read Craig's results at radartest.com, but to summarize he places the STi ahead of the V1 due to superior range on Ka band, it's self diagnostics and back lit ergonomic controls.
Guysoflidar.com tested the three most common Ka-band frequencies in the US - 33.8Ghz, 34.7Ghz and 35.5Ghz as well as K-band 24.15Ghz. They tested two Valentine Ones as well as a STi driver, RX65 and two X50's.
The GOL results differ somewhat to the radartest.com results with the V1 clearly the winner at 33.8Ghz, pretty much identical at 34.7Ghz and the V1 having a slight margin over the STi at 35.5Ghz. What was very interesting is the data Michael B off radardetector.net forum posted on the sensitivity of each detector measured in a lab:
Remembering only a few db can result in a significant real-world variations in range (sensitivity) it appears these results are closer to those obtained at SML. The V1 wins out on K-band, which may also explain why the V1 tends to false alarm more (good job on the K-band muting functions available in the V1 programming). But the STi ever-so-slightly beats the V1 at Ka-band.
Put into a graph, the results are as follows:
One cannot argue against both of these models being superior radar detectors. They have very similar sensitivity on Ka-band, with the V1 slightly ahead in the other 3 bands.
The Valentine one still has superior laser detection, and offers the greatest chance of detecting off-axis laser scatter from a vehicle targeted in front of you over the Bel. But the Bel is stealth, and for those drivers seeking this attribute, it is something the V1 cannot deliver.
I have listed all the features I could think off in this last table to summarize the comparisons between the Valentine One vs Bel STi:
In my humble opinion, if you are looking for a stealth detector that cannot be detected by any RDD, then go with the Bel STi. But if you are looking for a detector with maximum range, top laser optics and superior usable features then I'd choose the V1.