Note: The step-up model is the Passport X80, with upscale features including Bluetooth and a color display that shows your speed plus the posted limit when used with Escort Live. Learn more.
If you've never heard of the Escort Passport S55, join the club. At presstime it was MIA from the Escort website and no one had reviewed it. The only mention was in online ads by a few retailers.
According to manufacturer, the Escort Passport S55 is a private-label version of the Escort Passport and destined to be sold online by only a handful of major retailers. To reduce costs and keep from poaching sales from the $349 (MSRP) Passport, content was removed and features deleted.
For those not already confused by the similar names and scarcity of product information, in nomenclature this Escort is similar to its upscale sibling, the Passport X80. The two even look similar, the most notable difference is the X80's OLED display (the S55 makes do with a red LED display.)
Suggested retail pricing is identical: $299. This made us wonder: can the stripped-down version compete with its pricier big brother?
The two are similar under the skin—both use the Escort M4 platform—and they have similar performance. But the X80 has upscale features missing from the S55—Bluetooth, for example.
This wireless technology isn't a big deal for some, but it is for those planning to use the Escort Live app. Aside from early warnings of nearby speedtraps, the system can also be used to lock out nuisance signals causing false alarms.
Without this ability the S55 reliably goes off each time you drive by the local Walmart, reacting to the automatic door openers.
When linked to Escort Live the X80 also displays road speed and the posted limit, useful information for daydreamers.
Another missing feature is the X80's USB port. No USB means no firmware updates, making the S55 susceptible to obsolesence.
There's a slight difference in size. With the two sitting next to each other, we found that the S55 footprint is slightly smaller. And while both have black cases, the S55's upper housing receives a swath of faux-brushed aluminum with a chromed capital S on the product name. The brightwork casts annoying mirror images into the windshield on sunny days. Score one for the X80.
Switch gear is similar: The X80 is controlled by four top-mounted buttons, the S55 uses five. On the latter these are flush-mounted and easily located by touch. The X80's buttons inexpicably are recessed into the case. With some care, they can be located eventually. But the power button is buried so deep, it's best operated with a Q-Tip.
The S55 lacks the X80's audio jack, making it a poor choice for a motorcyclist who wants to listen to a helmet headset or earbuds.
Also on the missing list is a USB port. This absence may be a deal-breaker for because without USB, a user can't upgrade the unit. After shipping and labor charges are tallied, even free firmware to fix bugs or meet next-generation speed-enforcement threats is unlikely be cost-effective.
Tested at our Hill/Curve site, the duo turned in nearly identical scores. Does this make the S55 a better buy than the X80?
In the short term maybe, at least for those who buy radar detectors like Bic lighters. But the S55's lower cost of entry, its main advantage over the X80, will evaporate when the arrival of new speed-measuring equipment demands a firmware update.