Note: The step-up model is the Passport X70, with extra features including a color display that shows your speed and the posted limit when used with Escort Live. View details.
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, Escort chose this moment to roll out the Passport X70. Same $299 MSRP and, in photos, the two even look similar. Outwardly, the most notable difference is the X70's OLED display (the S55 makes do with a red LED display.)
The price gap is a lot wider than it may appear. Although Escort sells the Passport S55 for $299, it can be found online for as low as $140. This made us wonder: can the stripped-down version compete with its pricier big brother?
With the two sitting next to each other, we found that the S55 footprint is smaller, measuring 4.8 inches by 2.9 inches versus 5.2 by 3.1 inches for the X70. 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 X70.
Switch gear is similar: The X70 is controlled by four top-mounted buttons, the S55 uses five. On the latter these are flush-mounted and easily located by touch. The X70'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 X70's audio jack, making it a poor choice for a motorcyclist who wants to link to a helmet headset or earbuds.
Also on the missing list is a USB port. Its absence may be a deal-breaker for the savvy because it allows online updates. Without it, only the factory can 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.
On the road, there's little difference in behavior between the two Escorts. Both use the corporate M4 platform which, our tests have shown, generally delivers similar performance regardless of model. Tested at our Hill/Curve site, the duo turned in nearly identical scores.
But there were some surprises in the test results. Although the pair trailed the $649 Escort Max 360 on X and K bands, both alerted a few feet before the Max 360 on the all-important Ka band.
Is the S55 a better buy than the X70? In the short term, maybe, at least for those who buy radar detectors like Bic lighters. But the S55's lower cost of entry—other than its superior LED display, its main advantage over the X70—will evaporate when new speed-measuring equipment arrives.