The Escort Passport S55 is a low-end version of the Escort Passport X80, stripped of features and content to lower its price.
Expect some compromises in exchange for the lower tariff, however. Most notable is an unending string of false alarms. Blame this on the proliferation of Blind Spot Monitoring (BSM) systems which renders low-priced detectors practically useless.
BSM systems use radar to spot adjacent vehicles and warn when a lane-change maneuver is dangerous. They transmit continuously, setting off every detector in the vicinity. Millions are in service and the number grows daily.
Unfortunately, BSM radar shares the K-band frequency with police radar, making it impossible for elderly models like the S55 to tell them apart.
The noise problem gets worse around town where radar-controlled automatic door openers similarly pollute K band. Drive within a quarter-mile of a Walmart and expect an alert. Commuters who pass the store twice daily will get two alerts.
The latest detectors have GPS that eliminates false alarms from door-opener radar. The downside is that they're pricier than the Escort S55, giving shoppers two options: go cheap—and expect to be bombarded with incessant false alarms—or pay more for a model with civilized behavior.
The best noise-fighting model we've tested is the Radenso XP ($399 MSRP). Aside from multiple strategies to control nuisance radar signals, it also had the best performance in its class, outperforming the Escort Redline EX ($599) and Escort Passport Max 360 ($649) in a recent test.
The S55 and X80 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 except for those planning to use the Escort Live app ($99). This links the detector with a smartphone and uses the phone's GPS.
Without this ability, like other low-end models the S55 reliably goes off each time you drive by commercial automatic door openers. To be fair, the X80 is similarly prone to false alarms. Only when linked to Escort Live can the non-GPS-enabled X80 lock out nuisance radar signals.
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.
The S55 lacks the X80's audio jack, making it a poor choice for a motorcyclist who wants to listen through 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, the firmware can't be upgraded to meet future threats.
Tested at our Hill/Curve site, the duo turned in nearly identical scores. Does this make the S55 a better buy than the X80?
Maybe, at least for those who buy radar detectors like disposable lighters. But older designs like the S55 lack the ability to control false alarms, reason enough for many to consider moving upmarket to a model with more advanced technology. See the latest review of the best detectors.