Review: Escort Passport Max
Best radar detector - red light camera countermeasure?
By Radartest staff
Many have sought a radar detector that combines the GPS of the Escort Passport 9500ix with the long range of the Escort Redline XR. GPS would chop false alarms and protect against red light cameras. Longer range would sniff out distant radar traps other detectors might miss.
The Escort Passport Max aims to appeal to both camps, a combination of GPS and high performance. Styling is a unique. The housing has a wide swath of brushed-aluminum trim across the front and sides. On top are a high-gloss black center section, white graphics and polished aluminum buttons, all of which reflect into the windshield during daylight hours.
The Escort Passport Max comes with a GPS-style StickyCup mount that clings tenaciously to the windshield. A thumbwheel friction lock allows angle adjustment, and the arm holding the detector is short to minimize shake.
The Escort Passport Max is controlled by six top-mounted buttons. These are recessed, rather than raised like on the Escort Passport 9500ix and Escort Redline, making them more challenging to locate and operate by touch alone. Missing is the GPS on/off button of the Passport 9500ix, eliminating the possibility of accidentally disabling the function.
Control butttons are backlit, easing the task of operating them at night. During alerts their backlighting flashes, a feature unique to the Escort Passport Max.
The OLED display’s font for operating mode—Auto, Auto NoX or Highway—is factory-set to blue, with a matching backlighting color for the control buttons. Displayed above the operating mode is a series of seven horizontal LEDs that illuminate progressively from the center outward, 40 times per minute.
At the display’s far left is vehicle speed, to its right is system voltage. When linked to the innovative Escort Live system and either an iPhone or Android smartphone, the posted speed limit also appears.
Other choices of display colors: green, red or amber. Regardless of the choice, font color for speed and vehicle voltage remains white. This is the first use of an OLED display by Escort. It’s colorful, but it can be difficult to read during daylight and it disappears when viewed through sunglasses.
Users who prefer plug-and-play operation will opt for the factory-default Novice mode. This permits a choice of display colors; all other user preferences remain off-limits.
Engaging Advanced mode allows access to a wide array of user settings. Meter mode offers the same three options as the Escort Passport 9500ix and Escort Redline—bar graph, Spec and Expert—plus a unique Simple mode. During alerts this displays a generic "Caution" at speeds below 20 mph or "Slow Down" at any speed below the user-selected Overspeed threshold.
Like its two siblings, the Escort Passport Max has an excellent audible information-delivery system with a choice of voice alerts or two different sets of tones. The latter includes the standard Escort tones or unique doorbell-like chimes.
A 3.5mm audio jack is provided for headphones, an external speaker or helmet headset. It’s stereo, unlike the mono output of previous Escort models, and thoughtfully protected by a rubber plug when not in use. Adjacent to this is a mini-USB jack for updates of the Defender camera database or detector firmware revisions. This camera database proved best-in-class in an extensive test.
Standard features include AutoLearn, AlertLock and Speed Alert, same as the Escort Passport 9500ix. One unique feature is variable-delay automatic power shut-off, called AutoPower. On the Escort Passport 9500ix this shuts off the unit after four hours of inactivity. On the Escort Passport Max the delay can be set at 1, 2, 4 or 8 hours, with a factory default of four hours.
On the road, we found the Escort Passport Max to behave very similarly to the Escort Passport 9500ix. Over time it progressively locked out errant signals causing false alarms. Then it usually stayed quiet unless it was warning of police radar or red light cameras cameras.
Part of this behavior can be credited to speed-variable sensitivity where the microprocessor reduces sensitivity at low speed, limiting false alarms in town. As speed increases, sensitivity rises proportionally, for maximum protection.
At our Curve/Hill site northwest of Phoenix we measured the performance of the Escort Passport Max, along with an Escort Redline and an Escort Passport 9500ix used for comparison. Escort issued a flurry of Max firmware revisions in late 2013, necessitating a re-test after each update. Three tests were conducted over a two-month period; those from the last—Max firmware rev. 1.6—are shown.
On X band the Escort Passport Max eked out an eight percent lead over the Passport 9500ix and trailed the Redline by four percent. In K-band performance the Escort Passport Max again scored in between the other two Escort models, outpacing the Escort Passport 9500ix by 29 percent while trailing the Escort Redline by 25 percent.
Same story on 34.7 GHz Ka-band where the Escort Max achieved six percent greater range than the 9500ix, 16 percent less than the Redline. On the widely used 35.5 GHz Ka-band frequency it nearly equaled the Escort Redline, with 16 percent more range than the Escort Passport 9500ix.
We found the Escort Passport Max to be a stylish, well-mannered radar detector with a wide array of features and user preferences. It also has the best performance of any model in this segment. These traits elevate the Escort Passport Max to the top tier among the best red light camera countermeasures.
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