Radar detector manufacturers are constantly playing a game of catch-up with new technologies designed to nab the lead-footed. "Pop" radar is a relatively new instant-on technology that may make a whole generation of radar detectors obsolete. These radar guns operate at low frequency until they are switched on to determine a driver's speed with lightning-fast accuracy. This leaves a radar detector little opportunity to scan and detect the radar signal. Pop radar may sound ominous, but a new crop of radar detectors--including the Escort Passport 8500 X50--offer Pop radar detection. Escort claims that the 8500 X50 is the most powerful and advanced radar detector ever, with the supreme sensitivity required to detect low-frequency Pop radar.
Mounting the 8500 in our test vehicle was easy and straightforward. A small suction cup bracket slides into the unit's release mechanism and easily attaches to the windshield with light pressure. The unit is housed in a sturdy plastic case that's low profile and compact--although it is larger and heavier than Escort's wireless offering, the Solo S2. The rear of the unit is dominated by a receiver window and there's a rear-facing laser detector window designed to detect laser signals emanating from behind the vehicle.
Digital Signal Processing (DSP) provides maximum range, with minimum false alarms.
The Escort 8500 has a suprisingly simple control layout. Two buttons on the top of the unit control sensitivity settings and display brightness. They also double as selection buttons when the unit is in programming mode. The left side of the unit sports a volume dial. A mute button is positioned on the front panel next to the large, horizontal LCD display which, during normal use, graphs the intensity of the radar and laser signals the unit detects. Power is supplied by an included Escort SmartCord, which plugs into a cigarette-lighter power socket. The SmartCord features an alert LED, as well as a built-in mute button-- two handy additions.
The 8500 can detect all of the radar bands currently in use in North America for speed detection, including the X, K and Ka bands. The unit also features detection diodes for laser detection, but for the most powerful protection from laser detection, Escort offers the ZR3 laser jamming system, which is plug-and-play compatible with the 8500.
The feature that separates the 8500 from other Escort radar detectors, as well as the entire previous generation of radar detector technologies, is its Pop radar detection capabilities. Pop radar guns, while still relatively rare in police departments, are used to identify speeding vehicles in traffic. They provide little warning as the radar signal idles at a low frequency until it transmits an extremely short, high-frequency burst to "Pop" a target. The 8500 is equipped with a highly sensitive receiving system and a digital signal processor designed to pick up Pop signals from a safe distance. Pop detection is not enabled by default in the 8500, however; users must turn it on in the settings menu. Escort probably chose to disable Pop detection by default because its increased sensitivity also increases false alerts. However, first-time radar detector users might be in for a surprise if they neglect to turn it on.
The Passport 8500 X50 provides 3 types of warning displays to choose from.
Audio alerts are the most important feature of any radar detector, and the 8500 doesn't disappoint in this department. Warning tones get progressively louder as a threat approaches, and users can set the unit to deliver warnings at preprogrammed volume levels. Each radar band--including Pop radar--has a distinct tone, making it easy to quickly discern threats. The 8500's "AutoMute" feature automatically lowers the volume level of an alert after a period of time.
False alarms are one of the major annoyances of radar detector use. In our tests, the 8500 was surprisingly adept at minimizing false alarms from home garage door systems, as well as home and commercial security systems that commonly operate on X-band radar. The unit's city sensitivity setting decreases sensitivity to X-band sources, while the highway setting does not. We found the unit's powerful "AutoSensitivity" mode the most accurate, however, as it dynamically filtered all types of radar signals and identified which sources were a legitimate threat. We got a few false alarms, but for the most part, annoying chirps from bogus X-band sources were uncommon.
The 8500 has nine built-in customizable settings. In the settings mode, the LCD acts as a menu system that lets users control display brightness, automatic mute, audio tones, and power-on modes. There are also settings for disabling detection of selected bands. We liked the expert mode settings, which allow a user to get a constant picture of the intensity of all the radar bands in the area. The SpecDisplay, which is a feature exclusive to the 8500, displays the actual numeric frequency of the radar signal being received.
For those living in states that prohibit use of a radar detector, the 8500 does include VG-2 radar detector detector protection, which is designed to both alert the driver and shut down the unit's oscillator.
On the Road
We used the 8500 on a 20-mile stretch of busy interstate and were impressed with the low number of false alarms we received. Again, this remarkable level of accuracy is due to the unit's AutoSensitivity feature. While we encountered no police radar, other controlled tests of the 8500's performance have put the reliable range of detection at 2 miles for all bands. Meanwhile, Pop mode tests place the reliable detection range between 500 and 1000 feet.
- Well-designed controls and display features
- AutoSensitivity feature greatly reduces false alarms
- Highly accurate with massive detection range
- Pop detection not enabled by default
The Passport 8500 has been hailed as the most revolutionary radar/laser detector ever. Now, Escort is raising the bar again. The Passport 8500 X50, the next generation of the 25-year-old favorite, is the most advanced and sophisticated radar and laser detector ever. The Passport 8500 X50's V-tuned radar receiver provides extreme detection range on all police radar, conventional radar, and "instant-on" radar, including the new POP X band mode, and up to 50 percent more range than the original Passport 8500 on the all-important K and Ka bands. In addition, the detector's digital signal processing (DSP) provides maximum range with minimum false alarms. The unit also includes a patented AutoSensitivity mode that intelligently distinguishes real threats from other known sources of radar, virtually eliminating false readings.
Passport 8500 X50's multiple high-performance laser sensors provide maximum police radar (lidar) warning, with superior off-axis protection. The detector also offers three high-resolution meter modes--a standard bar graph, exclusive ExpertMeter, and SpecDisplay. In ExpertMeter mode, the Passport 8500 X50 can identify band and relative signal strength on up to eight radar signals simultaneously, while with SpecDisplay, the Passport 8500 X50 will show you the actual frequency of the radar signal. Adding to the unit's versatility is a reprogrammable microprocessor, which can be re-worked to detect new radar and laser threats.
- 360-degree radar and laser detection
- Advanced reprogrammable digital signal processing
- AutoSensitivity mode automatically reduces false alarms
- EZ-Programming allows instant customization
- 3 high-resolution meter modes
- Ultra-bright red matrix display with 280 LEDs
- Multiple high-performance laser sensors
- Built-in earphone jack
- Completely immune to the VG-2 "detector-detector"
- 1-year limited warranty
What's in the Box
Passport 8500 X50 radar and laser detector, quick-release windshield mount, built-in earphone jack, coiled SmartCord, quick reference card, travel case, user's manual.