RX5010 Radar/Laser Detector w/Digital Compass & Altimeter
PNI Corporation MSRP: $129.99 pnicorp.com

Reviewed by Kim Fatica

Time to knock on wood again. Another year's gone by without a speeding ticket and I've done it by being cautious since my very last one 14 years ago, without any help from technology. But there are those of us in this profession who just can't seem to keep the foot off the gas, feeling the pressure by the assignment desk to reach the press conference in 10 minutes when you're 15 minutes away. Maybe you have a breaking news story and the producers are looking for a live shot. In any case, your chances of getting busted are greater while you're working than when you are off.

Electronic detection devices are a dime a dozen these days, but Precision Navigation has created a sweet little instrument many will find more useful than your garden variety ticket-shunning device. The RX5010 is not only capable of letting you know when you are being monitored by the highway patrol, but also gives you basic compass direction and can tell you how high or low you are from any given point-perfect for dialing in live shots.

The altimeter displays altitude in feet (-990 to 9990' in 10' increments) or meters (-995 to 9995m in 5m increments). You must calibrate the altimeter, which means you need to know the altitude for the location where you will be calibrating your unit. If you were to use the RX5010 for a live truck, I would suggest zeroing the altimeter at the receive site of your main tower. This is now your reference point, allowing you to see how much higher or lower you are at any location around the transmission area. While the altimeter function of the RX5010 is a bonus, it can be temperamental. Even the slightest changes in the weather can produce false readings. PNI's sensor is an air pressure sensor and can detect barometric changes as small as .005 inches of mercury, twice the typical resolution used in meteorology. The manual cautions that a change in altitude as much as 50 feet can occur with slight weather shifts and as much as 200 feet in extreme weather. This also sets the unit up as a basic barometer.

The windshield-mounted unit gives speed detection alerts for the widest variety of methods that I have ever seen: X, K, Superwide Ka, Instant-On, Pro Laser I and II/LTI 20-20/Ultra Lyte (360-degree coverage) and VG-2. If you're like me and are not well versed on the latest detection technologies, PNI includes an excellent, concise and easily understood manual that can be kept in your glovebox.

The bright green L.E.D. display is easily read during the daytime and even in bright sun, but can also be dimmed to make it easier on your eyes at night. There is also a sensitivity control for the radar modes that can be adjusted to filter out false readings from automatic door openers, alarms, microwave and RF emissions. If you're brave enough to operate the RX5010 in states that have a ban on detectors, it can temporarily hide its own emissions when it senses a radar detector detector (VG-2) in operation, becoming invisible to the VG-2 interceptor being operated by the patrolman.

There is one other surprising feature to the RX5010 which places it in a league all its own. Among all the other radar alerts is the ability to detect Safety Warning Systems radar. Emergency service and work crews in some areas use SWS transmitters to alert drivers of possible hazardous conditions or emergency situations. If you are in the area of one of these transmitters, the RX5010 will display one of the following alerts: "Highway Construction or Maintenance", "Highway Hazard Zone Advisory". "Weather Related Hazards", "Travel Information/Convence" (Convenience), "Fast/Slow Moving Vehicles".

If you spend a lot of time on the road operating a live truck under deadline, this is a safety device I would recommend to anyone. It is by far the best instrument of its kind available, manufactured by a company known for its navigation technologies in GM, Ford and Chrysler vehicles and now Timex watches. It is a small investment to protect yourself from driver error, a poor sense of direction, and even miscalculating your line of sight.

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Kim Fatica began his career in television as the voice of WBGU-TV (PBS) in Bowling Green, Ohio back in 1983. His first full-time photo gig was at WWAY-TV in Wilmington, NC in 1985. Fatica came to the Cleveland market in 1986, where he is now Director of Photography at WKYC-TV. Kim Fatica has 10 Emmy Awards to his credit, including Photojournalistic Enterprise (1997) and was a runner-up for NPPA's Region 4 TV News Photographer of the Year. His freelance business, Hemlock Point Studio, has been creating video projects since 1988.

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