Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Escort Passport 9500i AutoSensitivity Mode Beats a Tylenol

It's just what the doctor ordered.

No, I am not talking about an aspirin, I am talking about Escort's innovative new speed-sensitive sensitivity mode that has premiered with the Passport 9500i.

Maybe, its just me - perhaps, in my later years, I am going soft. I find myself driving automatics more than I am driving stick. I am favoring 'luxury' cars more than hot sports cars at the rental counter. I am listening more to Rachmaninoff than Rush.

...Or, maybe it's the world around me - I find myself among more strip malls, more stop lights, more traffic jams, more SUVs with distracting TV screens in front of me, more drivers on cel phones, more automated door openers.

Either way, I am finding driving more stressful around town than I remember 26 years ago when I first started tooling around with my very first (the original) Escort radar detector. Back in the day, things were simpler - only X & K radar to worry about and in steady-state mode; Instant-on (technically called RF Hold), while available, wasn't readily deployed. And the occasional door openers that were found operated strictly on X-band.

Enough romanticizing about the past, we live in a different world today...Which brings me to the Escort Passport 9500i and headache relief.

For those of you who have read The Ultimate Radar Detector Review 2005, you know that I continue to use the Valentine 1 as our reference radar detector. Its consistently stellar detection performance across all police RADAR and police LIDAR signals justifies it place at the top of the radar detector hierarchy.

However, all the extreme sensitivity and philosophical tendencies to report all X & K signals - a strong asset on the open-highways - can quickly become a liability when driving in more densely populated areas around town. This is not the fault of the V1. If anyone is to blame, its the FCC which allows for all those automated door openers to operate on both X & K-band. If you want to know how many door openers and their approximate locations within any given strip mall, the V1 is the most capable radar detector for doing so.

These 'falses' aren't really falses at all. They are bona fide radar sources. They just happen not to be police radar sources.

Radar detector manufacturers have had to deal with this dilemma for some time...and I would imagine it is one of the most challenging things a high-end radar detector must do - provide extreme sensitivity to legitimate radar threats while at the same time rejecting/not reporting every signal which they receive. It's a complex task of signal processing that takes place to help make that determination and it happens in a milliseconds time. Both Beltronics and Escort have arguably the most advanced 'filtering' algorithms of all radar detectors - manifested in the Passport 8500 X50, Beltronics STI-Driver, and Beltronics RX-65 Pro detectors.

This dilemma is not entirely unlike the one that tire manufacturers have to constantly struggle with in their design of high performance all-season tires which need to provide stellar adhesion in the dry and wet, while at the same time maximizing traction in the winter (by balancing two opposing means of doing so).

Escort has devised an even more elegant and effective solution to addressing this long-standing conundrum. By dialing back the 'sensitivity' automatically when your vehicle is traveling at a sedate pace that is common on todays crowded secondary roads, Escort enables its owner to have the best of both worlds automatically - extreme performance when you need it on the highways and a less performance when you don't. In the latter case, less is more.

Which brings us back to the topic at hand.
Emerging from central Florida into the more populated and congested south west coast, the V1 quickly became tiring as did the 9500i to a lesser extent. To quiet down the 9500i, all I had to do was push one button and 'voila' the detector went into its speed-sensitive AutoSensitivity mode. When sitting at long traffic lights in a traffic between two shopping centers, I had to repeatedly reach towards the windshield to hit the manual mute button on the V1. This didn't always work out since the detector would identify additional radar sources (up to a displayed count 9) which would require additional muting. It gets old very quickly, I must say. Most of the time I simply unplug the unit in those cases - you long-time V1 owners probably know what I am talking about.

With the 9500i, all I hit was one button and only once. Sweet.

When I was approaching the cape I was stuck in traffic on the bridge. The V1 rightly alerted to a weak K-band source that was ahead. It turned out the a patrol vehicle was on the center median facing perpendicular (north) to my west-bound approach around and to the left on the road. The Passport 9500i was silent. Aaaah, relief - the sound of silence. When switching the detector back to highway mode, the 9500i alert to K-band. Desiring peace and quiet, I returned the 9500i to AutoSensitivity mode. It remained quiet at even 30 feet away and facing directly at the patrol car. It wasn't until I crossed a 15 foot threshold that the 9500i alerted at a full strength. My approach speed was about 3-4 miles an hour. It feels to me that detector is not actually less sensitive in this mode, but uses a variable squelch mechanism to obtain its silence.

The more I moved at a snail's pace toward my final destination for the evening, the more I appreciated the Passport 9500i's new innovative feature as the detector remained silent with every signal to which the V1 alerted. No need for aspirin with this one.

I am warming-up to this detector more every day, I drive with it.

Veil Guy

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