Review: Escort Passport SmartRadar
Cost-effective alternative to built-in radar detectors
By Radartest staff
Last updated: 2016
Editor's note: Discontinued model.
Not everyone prefers to hang a radar detector on the windshield, announcing its presence to the world. A remote model like the Escort Passport 9500ci or its twin from subsidiary Beltronics, the BEL STiR Plus, handles that issue with discreet components. Their radar antenna mounts in the grille area and tiny controls are concealed in the cockpit, leaving no evidence that the vehicle is countermeasure-equipped.
But invisibility comes at a price, increasing the allure of the far less-expensive Escort SmartRadar. Unlike a built-in remote model, its radar antenna mounts inside on the glass, usually above the rear view mirror, where it's hidden. A compact control-display module operates the system remotely.
Redundant controls are also built into the unit. A multi-function button on the right side controls audio volume and muting; next to it is a USB jack. On the left, a similar button handles power on/off; it also glows green to indicate power-on, blue when paired with a smartphone via Bluetooth. There are also landline-style jacks for 12-volt power, a serial data port and an external display.
The thumb-sized display/control module has an eight-inch-long power cord whose phone-style RJ9 connector plugs into the SmartRadar module. It has a red LED display and along its lower edge, buttons for power, audio volume/muting, display brightness and operating mode.
Add those to the equation, however, and SmartRadar comes alive. Bluetooth enables the detector to communicate with the smartphone—either iPhone or Android—and its Escort Live app. With GPS and the Internet on tap, the phone now controls the detector and communicates with the Escort Live network.
With the Escort Live app running, trouble spots are displayed on a map, warning of radar traps, reported cop sightings and other perils. It likewise uses GPS to note the ID and location of nuisance signals, allowing them to be locked out by the user. For many, this feature alone is worth the price of admission.
Surprisingly, the $299 Escort SmartRadar had performance equal to the $799 Escort Passport 8500ci Plus. Compared to the $449 Escort Passport 9500ix, the SmartRadar showed 122 percent better K-band range. That gap even widened: 144 percent greater range on 34.7 GHz Ka band, 169 percent better range on 35.5 GHz Ka band, outstanding numbers. Too bad Escort decided to axe it from the lineup.