Note: The replacement for the discontinued 8500 X50 is the Passport X70. It has higher performance and extra features including a color display that shows your speed and the posted limit when used with Escort Live. View details.
Until recently, if you were looking for the best radar detector under $300, the Escort Passport 8500 X50 was it. But production ended and the torch was passed to the Passport X70.
Once the range-topping Escort, the Passport 8500 X50 later was slotted into the midrange of the lineup. It lacked the GPS technology of its upmarket siblings, the Escort iX, Max2 and Max 360, but for those not pestered by red light cameras and willing to tolerate a few more false alarms, this one could do the job admirably.
A Ph.D in electronics isn't required to operate the Escort 8500 X50. A thumbwheel switch handles the power on/off function and regulates the volume of its audible alerts. A pair of multi-function buttons atop the case handles everything else except for manually-muting the audio.
Signal strength (proximity to the radar) is indicated audibly by beep-frequency, visually by a bar graph that rises progressively as signal strength increases. The radar band—X, K or Ka—is spelled out in the text display, making it simple to comprehend what type of radar you're encountering.
The Escort Passport 8500 X50 has an array of user-selectable menu options that allow it to be fine-tuned to the driver's taste. For example, you may prefer not to advertise the detector's presence at night. No worries; the display can be reduced to a single discrete letter to denote its operating mode.
Among the more useful menu items is a trio of city modes. City reduces sensitivity to combat urban false alarms. If that proves insufficient, City LoX further cuts sensitivity. And for microwave-saturated regions that prove resistant to those measures, City NoX cuts X-band entirely.
To check performance, we tested the Escort 8500 X50 and a BEL (Beltronics) Pro 300. The two use the same platform and under the skin, they're identical. In theory, the pair should perform identically as well. And to no one's great surprise, we confirmed that the Escort 8500 X50 and the BEL Pro 300 were a match.
The Escort Passport 8500 X50 was a refined, sophisticated detector with well-balanced performance. While it couldn't match its pricier upmarket siblings in maximum range, it was a favorite in the under-$300 price segment.