Friday, May 25, 2007

Escort Passport 9500i: Performance Update

Last Tuesday evening when my wife and I were returning home from our Ohio trip (during which time we visited Beltronics, Escort, and Valentine Research), I happened to briefly evaluate the latest version of an Escort Passport 9500i. I have been resisting the temptation to performing a full analysis and review until more time has elapsed since it's introduction at the beginning of the year.

At one point during my travels, the 9500i alerted to the presence of K-band at a point the was farther [away from the source] than at the position than either the STi Driver or the Valentine 1, did.

After that experience, I got to really thinking about this new radar detector again -- the things I like about it; the things that I hope will improve over time as this new model gets "shaken out;" and I believe I am starting to see and understand what Escort is attempting to accomplish with their new flagship windshield-mount radar detector.

When a radar detector approaches/exceeds -120 dBm in reception sensitivity, it's going to have a propensity to "false" at a [much higher] rate to legitimate radar signals which are not bona-fide police radar (like X & the K band door openers, other cheaper radar detectors which leak RF, and certain ACC/ADAS systems which utilize either police radar bands or police lidar wavelengths).

This is very true with both the Beltronics STi Driver and the Valentine 1 when operated in their respective "highway" modes -- the modes I generally use. (Fortunately both Beltronics and Escort provide auto-muting -- which successfully mitigates this annoyance to a large degree).

The easy thing for a radar detector manufacturer to do, once they have achieved these sensitivity levels, is to report everyone of those "falses." The problem with that is that the radar detector owner will soon tire of the excessive warning alerts and begin to disregard them (perform his/her own filtering), which can be a "self defeating" dynamic.

This situation is not entirely unlike driving a high performance vehicle which has an incredible suspension and provides stellar handling characteristics (on the track) but becomes punishing to the kidneys on the great public road surfaces of states like PA and MI.

Escort, certainly, is cognizant of this fact and, I believe, is attempting to accomplish a most difficult feat -- providing extreme sensitivity to bona-fide police radar speed traps while at the same time providing the highest levels of signal rejection ever accomplished on a radar detector.

They are, in effect, attempting to climb mount Everest without an oxygen tank or (perhaps a better analogy) are attempting to create an all-season tire which is equally adept in both dry/rain and snow conditions.

The amount of complex signal processing that must take place and in such a short amount of time must be daunting challenge for Escort's firmware designers, indeed.

Without a doubt, this is a bold initiative and not one for the light-hearted.

Given the resources of a manufacturer like Escort and their desire to continue establishing benchmarks by producing radar detectors that are easy to live with, I trust they will "summit"...even if it takes some time to do so.

Kudos to the fine folks at Escort for even attempting such a climb!

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