Escort iX Review: Veil Guy reviews the Escort iX radar detector

 

Escort iX Review: Veil Guy reviews the Escort iX radar detector

Is the new Escort iX their next radar detector for the ages?
By Veil Guy — Updated: August 24th, 2016

 

Escort iX Review

Veil Guy’s In-Depth Escort iX Review

Introduction to Escort iX Radar Detector

Shortly after the I published my Escort iX preview, I learned Escort was sending me an Escort iX for their first formal public review.  I appreciate their faith in my unique understanding of how Escort radar detectors have performed over the nearly 40 years I’ve been driving with them.

I’ve always maintained the only way to really gauge the performance of any radar detector is to actually drive with it in the real-world, pit it against genuine police radar and police laser traffic enforcement, and subject it to the RF interference that is routinely encountered on the open roadways.

I pioneered this review style in 2004 followed by the first published review of those real-world results with the the leading detectors at that time–the Escort 8500 X50, Beltronics Pro RX-65, and Valentine 1 radar detectors–on an extended multi-state trip.

Since that time, this approach has always served me and my readers well in ferreting out the true performers from the trendy pretenders.  Being true to form, I once again set out on a multi-state trip to put the new Escort iX through its paces to see just how the Escort iX stacked up to its predecessor, the Escort Passport 9500ix.

For those not yet familiar with the Escort iX, this new radar detector is being positioned to replace the Escort Passport 9500ix.  The Escort Passport 9500ix is, by Escort’s own account, their most popular selling radar detector of all time–having exceeded world-wide sales of 500,000 units over a nine year span.  The only other radar detector model from Escort that was produced for such a long period of time, in fact longer, was the venerable Escort Passport 8500 and Escort Passport 8500 X50 series.

An historical account of the “legendary” Escort Passport 9500ix

Before delving in to the specifics of the new Escort iX, let’s first establish its context, which means discussing the Escort iX’s predecessor, the Escort Passport 9500ix.

The Escort Passport 9500ix was briefly preceded by the Escort Passport 9500i.  The Escort Passport 9500i was a ground-breaking radar detector when it was first released in early 2007.  I coined the term, “game-changer” when I reviewed it, because it was Escort’s very first radar detector that incorporated GPS. (Note: There had been a GPS radar detector briefly offered Uniden some years earlier, but it was never fully realized.)

For Escort, GPS gave the Escort Passport 9500i the ability to lock-out (silence) false alerts from fixed locations of X-band and K-band–typically originating from automatic door openers used by retailers.  This new capability was very well received by drivers who appreciated a false-free detector on their commutes.  The 9500i also had the ability to self-learn these locations by GPS coordinates and automatically mute them as well.

Prior to the 9500i, drivers would be hammered by recurring false alerts, rendering their detectors to be more a source of an annoyance than a tool to avoid the pitfalls of police radar traffic enforcement.  Escort’s philosophy has always driven their engineering to create detectors which eliminate false alerts as much a possible with the assertion that when an Escort radar detector alerts, it’s more likely to be a bonafide police radar trap requiring your immediate attention.  It’s been a difficult undertaking over the years, but it’s one that is largely paying dividends today.

The Escort Passport 9500i was Escort’s first detector built upon what they internally refer to as their M4 platform. Prior models were built-upon the now discontinued S7 platform which has been well-regarded and looked at by some with a strong sense of nostalgia.  Despite the S7’s popularity with enthusiasts, the S7 had some limitations including the occasional need to have it sent back to the manufacturer to have it recalibrated. The more stable self-calibrating M4 has proven to be an overall superior platform and in its most updated form serves as the underpinning of the new Escort iX.

Those that have read my reviews over the years already know my favorite performing M4-class radar detector has been the short-lived Escort SmartRadar.  I found, no detector in its day better demonstrated the real-potential of the M4.  The SmartRadar’s performance was extremely good and very consistent.  Perhaps it was a bit ahead of its time, as smartphones weren’t as prevalent as they are today. The good news is the new Escort iX appears poised to outdo that fine detector, although candidly, I still really miss that guy.

With the subsequent release of the Escort Passport 9500ix, Escort incorporated a class-leading redlight camera and speed camera database enabling the 9500ix to alert to locations of photo enforcement.  For the first time ever, Escort gave us a radar detector that could not only alert to police radar and police laser, but to other threats that we would not otherwise be aware of.

For good reason, the 9500ix quickly became a hit with drivers all over the world.  From my perspective, however, the 9500ix wasn’t without its drawbacks.  In Escort’s never ending quest for making the quietest radar detector, the 9500ix had some characteristics that I personally didn’t care for.

I found the 9500ix was slow to respond to detections of instant-on (I/O) police radar and sluggish at alerting at varying signal strengths with the same precision of previously offered models like the Passport 8500 X50.

Furthermore, sensitivity to both X-band and police lidar took a noticeable step backwards.  In my view, Escort got a little too aggressive in their quest for producing a quiet detector because I felt it came with too much of an expense to sheer performance.  I suppose the rest of the world didn’t take much notice as evidenced by the 9500’s incredible popularity.

With the advent of pulsing K-band traffic monitoring sensors that started appearing in cities around the country, the 9500ix eventually got updated with a new filtering mode called traffic-sensor rejection or TSR.  Escort was the first detector manufacturer to offer a solution to these traffic monitoring systems.  Perhaps it was because these systems made an early appearance in the outskirts of Cincinnati–close to Escort’s home base–and must have driven the engineers absolutely nuts.  Years later, every other detector manufacturer offers a similar filtering option, but Escort got there first.

TSR and filtering systems like it don’t come without their own set of drawbacks, however, and when enabled on the 9500ix, the slow responding detector became even slower in reacting to briefly appearing K-band radar.  The reason for this is that these traffic sensors transmit their radar signals for only brief durations–from about 500ms (half a second) to upwards of 1000ms (or one second).  To avoid alerting to these transmissions, the 9500ix required detections of K-band to last for greater than one second and at times closer to two seconds.

While certainly making the detector resistant to falsing to these traffic sensors, TSR also made it possible that the detector could miss a genuine quick I/O shot made on another vehicle ahead.  Escort did eventually dial back its delay to a more reasonable amount of time, but it’s still an unfortunate side-effect, as it is with all detectors relying on a TSR-like filter.

Newer and arguably more capable radar detectors have since been offered by Escort, namely the M3-platformed Redline and Passport 9500ci as well as the M6-platform Max 360.  But, the overwhelming popularity of the 9500ix endures to this day and it remains available to purchase–at least for the foreseeable future.

Even so, there’s no denying it, the 9500ix is long in the tooth and has been in need of a makeover.  Well, the time has finally come for the 9500ix to get a significant refreshing, and significant it is.

So now that we’ve established some context for the Escort iX, let’s take a look at why the newer iX is such an improvement over the older 9500ix.

Packaging & Workmanship of the Escort iX

Solid Construction

Escort is back in the business of manufacturing proper radar detectors.

I’ve been pretty vocal about the construction and design of some of the more recent detectors from Escort including the Max, Max 2, the short-lived Passport, and the current Passport X70.  In my opinion, the case and the overall construction quality of these particular detectors feel more like they belong on a kid’s toy than to a $400-$600 high-end radar detector.

The good news is Escort and its sister company, Beltronics, have been addressing these shortcomings with the recent introduction of two detectors, the Beltronics GT-7 and the Escort Max 360.  Both are solid.

This brings us to the Escort iX.  What can I say other than Escort iX is a properly designed radar detector.  Its construction is clearly created in the image of earlier models including other legendary detectors like the Beltronics RX65, Passport 8500 X50, and the Passport 9500ix–all very solidly built.

beltronics rx65, escort ix, passport 9500ixBeltronics Pro RX-65, Escort iX, Passport 9500ix

The look and feel of the Escort iX is superb. The color of its very sleek impact-resistant plastic case is perfect.  The seams are tight.  The tactile feel of the push bottons are spot on.

The Escort iX definitely seems more capable of holding-up to hard use over time than the aforementioned Max and Passport series of detectors.  The Escort iX is proof positive that Escort is committed to this detector for a long time to come and I couldn’t be happier.

Escort is also stepping up to the plate by adding the additional value of their SmartCord USB now as standard equipment.  This cord not only provides power to your detector, but enables you to power your Apple or Android phone at the time same time and would otherwise set you back an additional $35, if purchased separately.  I hope this cord becomes standard equipment on all of their top models.

Escort also provides a sturdy and beautifully embossed black carrying case that I believe protects its contents better than thin walled pouches of the Max series of detectors that I have been critical of.

The only thing that I found lacking in the Escort iX’s packaging is that a USB to mini-D cable–which is required to perform firmware and Defender database updates–is nowhere to be found.  I’ve asked for such a cable to be included on numerous occasions in the past, and I’ll ask for it again here.  At these price points, such a cord should come as standard equipment.  Mini-D cables aren’t as commonplace as they once were.  If Whistler can provide one with a $150 detector, certainly Escort can with a $500 detector.

 

Utility & Behavior of the Escort iX

Awesome Mounting Bracket

The most distinguishing design of the new Escort iX is its use of novel quick-release mounting bracket, which relies on a strong magnetic coupling of the bracket to the top of the radar detector as opposed to its rear.  The mounting interface is awesome and makes for lightening fast attachment and detachment of the radar detector.  No other mount in existence, from any manufacturer, comes close to the utility of this thing.  Instantly, every other bracket feels (out)dated.  Words can not do this design justice, which is why I have included a short video below showing how well it works.

Escort iX’s EZ Magnetic Mount Video Demonstration

Great Audio & Tonal Quality

The voice quality and alert volume of the Escort iX are exceptional and a welcomed improvement over the 9500ix.  The sound levels can be made very loud and still remain clear with the alert tones easily recognizable and distortion-free.  Escort’s trademarked female voice sounds very natural and not all “synthetic.”

El detector también hable español.  Today, nearly 60 million people residing in the U.S. speak Spanish, that’s nearly 20% of the total population and Escort has taken notice.

Information Rich Display

The Escort iX has some of the best visual and audio feedback of any radar detector.  The user selectable four-color OLED display allows Escort to display a wealth of information that the older LED designs could only dream of.  The Escort iX provides three levels of metering display modes.  My preference is the “spec” mode.  With this setting, the detector is capable of displaying your current speed, the radar band(s) detected, their specific frequencies, and the signal strength all at the same time.

There is a small trade-off for this capability and that trade-off is readability during bright times of the day.  Escort has recessed the display as much as I have yet seen, but this does only so much.  It’s been a number of years now that Escort has offered this kind of display and I suspect since they haven’t yet been able to make the screen brighter, it must be difficult to do (or they would have already done it).

Perhaps there is a concern for display longevity if the screen were made brighter, yet Cobra has proven successful at making their OLED displays very bright and brilliantly colored.  Now that Cobra and Escort are under one roof, perhaps we’ll eventually see some improvement on this front.

More Useful Sensitivity Settings

The Escort iX is Escort’s first detector which provides four levels of sensitivity:

  • Highway – Maximum sensitivity on all radar bands at all speeds.
  • Auto – Variable sensitivity based upon vehicle speed. The higher the speed, the greater the sensitivity and vice-versa.
  • AutoNoX –  The same as Auto mode, but with X-band temporarily disabled.  Useful for drivers who drive in states like New Jersey, North Carolina, and Ohio where X-band is still used, but who drive out of those states where X-band is not used.
  • AutoLoK – New to the Escort iX.  The same as Auto mode, but with reduced K-band sensitivity.

Like the 9500ix, the Escort iX can either auto-learn or manually mute false locations to make for a really quiet ride around town.

When it comes to filtering out K-band door openers that are used in areas that you don’t routinely drive, this lockout feature can’t help you at reducing falses from initially occurring.

To help drivers in these situations, the Escort iX can now allow its owner to quickly reduce K-band sensitivity by selecting the AutoLoK sensitivity mode.  This new filter is very easily enabled by pressing the sensitivity (SENS) button on the top of the detector.  No longer are we required to drill deep into the programming menu to engage or disengage a particular filter.

This new feature really came in handy for me when I was driving on Route 13 in Delaware, over the weekend.  Route 13 is a two-lane highway each direction that often goes through towns riddled with convenience stores, gas stations, and mini-markets.  I’ve included a video below demonstrating the advantages of this new sensitivity mode.

 

Demonstration of iX’s AutoLoK Sensitivity Mode

Superior Alerting

As has always been the case, the trailing alerts (when signals are no longer detected) could still be shorter in duration which would give us a few good things: a more accurate depiction of approaching I/O radar threats, better real-time representation of the actual severity of the threat, and a shorter duration of any false alerts that may occur.

That being said, the way the iX alerts is far superior to the Passport 9500ix.  The signal strength ramp-up is smoother, more gradual, more linear, and ultimately more predictable.  Gone, is the alerting choppiness of the 9500ix.    The iX finally fixes a major gripe I had with the 9500ix.

Another great feature which has been carried over to the iX, is abbreviated audio alerting, called cruise alert.  When driving below a set-speed, you can configure the detector to alert with only a quick double tone followed by a muted alert.  This feature is a Godsend when crawling in heavy traffic or when you are stuck at a seemingly forever-long redlight where a Walgreens is on one corner and a CVS is on another.  No need to grab for the aspirin anymore.

Improved GPS

The iX’s GPS has been updated to the vastly superior SIRFstar IV architecture.  This new chipset allows for reduced power consumption; very quick SAT signal acquisitions (you no longer have to wait up to 30 seconds or more); ability to retain GPS signal in covered spaces like garages and tunnels; and much improved GPS signal differentiation.  These new capabilities allow for a far more precise geolocation, speed display, a more accurate accounting of threat locations, making the iX superior to many dedicated GPS navigation devices.

 

iX versus Red Light Cameras

 

Built-in Bluetooth & Escort Live! Integration

The iX now incorporates a more sophisticated Bluetooth chipset which makes for very easy pairing to either your Apple or Android smart phone.  The Escort app allows the iX user to quickly make configuration changes wirelessly.  It also allows for the use of Escort Live!, Escort’s own crowd-sourcing software.

When Escort Live! is incorporated into the mix the cruise alert can be matched to the posted speed limits in real-time that are stored in the GPS database, which means you can automatically receive abbreviated alerts when driving at or below the speed limit and full alerts when driving above them.  While not perfect, that’s a nice benefit of using Escort Live!

Filtering & Signal Rejection

Who ever said that you can’t teach an “old dog” new tricks, clearly has never seen the new iX in action.  Yes, the M4 platform has been around for a long time, but what Escort has done on the back-end with their digital signal processing over this time is nothing short of remarkable.

The iX is imbued with the ability to reject (filter out) most K-band radar-based collision avoidance systems that are so prevalent today.  Escort refers to their new approach as IVT filtering (in-vehicle technology).  Whatever the name, I found it to be largely effective.

The occasional GM, Honda/Acura, and now Fiat vehicles occasionally sneak through, but overall, the system does wonders for reducing the amount of falses that come from these rolling annoyances.  Equally impressive is that this advanced filtering appears to come without imposing any appreciable penalty to the alerting distances of genuine K-band police radar.

Escort must be pretty confident in their technology because the IVT filter is always on and can not be disabled.  Previous attempts at reducing these K-band alerts with this class of detectors came only with the use of the TSR filter.  But, as stated earlier, TSR wasn’t originally designed to defeat these systems and when used for this purpose, while somewhat effective, it came with performance penalties in both reaction time and alerting range.

With the iX, I found no need to implement TSR.  In fact, when I experimented with both TSR and AutoLoK, I didn’t find that it made any improvement in rejection performance with the vehicles that got through the IVT filter.

Like the Max series of detectors, false alerts from these systems age generally more gradual but on occasion the iX will alert at full strength like you are being blasted with I/O K-band radar. This reminded me of the M3 class of radar detectors like the Redline, Magnum, 9500ci, and STi-R remotes that generally alerted in this fashion when in proximity to these systems.

These percentage of these types of I/O-like alerts seemed to increase when TSR was enabled.  This is not a good thing as it’s quite unsettling when it happens.  My recommendation is to simply rely on the IVT filter to do the job.

One other comment that I should make about the IVT filter, it seems to do a very effective job at eliminating false Ka alerts that can stem from these systems.  I am not ruling out the possibility of ever getting a false Ka alert from these sweeping K-band sources, I just didn’t experience one when I was close to the vehicles that have been responsible in the past.

As the iX can be easily updated, expect to see continued improvement as newer systems get introduced and existing ones are better understood.

Performance

Noticeably Increased Alerting Range

I’ve been saving the best for last.  As promised by Escort’s marketing department, the iX does appear to offer improved performance over the 9500ix.  In fact, my experiences lead me to believe, while still not at the level of their most sensitive M3-platform detectors, like the Redline, the iX appears to be the best iteration yet of an M4 class radar detector.  In other words, this dog’ll hunt.

When I made comparison runs against police radar sources, it was not uncommon to see the iX out alert the 9500ix.  Based upon my observations, I’d venture a guess it’s good for about 2-2.5dBs of additional sensitivity.  This translates into a potential increase in detection range by about 20-30%.  I found this helpful where I came across some very low powered 35.5 Ghz Ka-band in Maryland.

 

iX versus Maryland Trooper with 35.5 Ka Police Radar

I found the iX could hang with the more expensive but more featured-laden M5 (Max/Max2) and M6 (Max 360) radar detectors when approaching K and Ka from the front.  But the Max 360 was able to distinguish itself with superior detection of X-band, some better off-axis detections, and in circumstances when radar came from behind (as one should expect it to with its additional rear-facing antenna).

I do believe, however, the iX’s alerting ranges were generally more consistent than the Max series of detectors, particularly with K-band.  The iX seems to more perfectly balance the underlying sensitivity of the detector with the digital signal processing that takes place downstream from the antenna.

Whether it’s a function of horn-design, physical sensitivity increases, post digital signal processing, or some combination of these, the iX appears to benefit from some mildly improved off-axis detection, something that can help detection of radar that awaits you around the next bend in the road.

iX versus Passport 9500ix with two Ka encounters

Improved Detection & Alerting Quickness (Reactivity)

Years ago, I discovered the virtues of Ka-band segmentation coupled with reduced levels of Ka-filtering when I reviewed the original Beltronics STi-R remote installed radar detector.  I observed that using band segmentation had the potential to vastly increase alerting range to Ka police radar as well as increase the likelihood of detecting brief I/O shots ahead from much greater distances.  It took a good number of years for industry to finally accept my findings, but I am pleased to say that today just about every radar detector manufacturer has incorporated similar capabilities into at least some of their detectors.  Fortunately for us, the iX is one of them.

The iX allows the advanced user to segment the very wide Ka-band into four specific ranges, three of which correspond to the frequencies of Ka that are currently used in the U.S.. These Ka bands are centered at 33.8 Ghz, 34.7 Ghz, and 35.5 Ghz.  By focusing on only these three frequency bands, a segmented radar detector can respond more quickly to a detection while at the same time reducing the chances of falsing to frequencies of Ka-band that haven’t allocated to police radar.  Why waste your time looking for something that isn’t there?

Perhaps the incorporation of Ka-band segmentation may not be as dramatic with the iX , but it certainly can’t hurt performance either.  The point is, the iX is quick.  In fact, the quickness of the new iX addresses my biggest grievance with the 9500ix–that is was dog-slow.  This detector appears to be the polar opposite of the 9500ix it replaces and yet still manages to remain quiet while offering high levels of sensitivity.  It’s as close as you can get to having your cake and eating it too.

While Escort’s “stripped-down” extreme performance Redline can still out-alert the iX, I feel the iX is the more complete and well-rounded detector.  If the Redline is a sprinter, the iX is a decathlon champion.

Conclusion

It should be clear to anyone reading this, I like Escort’s new detector.  The iX does just about everything right and in the process addresses the weaknesses I found with the detector it’s going to replace.  For a brand new model, the iX feels more fully cured and not rushed.  The iX is well-suited to being my daily driver.

I suspect with the popularity of the Passport 9500ix coupled with the memory of a couple of recent missteps, Escort’s management wanted to make sure they got this detector right, right out of the starting gate.  It’s safe to say that they’ve succeeded in doing so.

Escort claims its new detector is a “legend reborn.”

I claim that it’s yet another legend in the making…

For those interested in being among the first to own one, Escort is now accepting orders.  The detector is expected to be generally available by mid August of 2016.

Drive Safe, Drive Smart, Drive Ticket Free

Veil Guy


The All-New iX keeps everything you love about the legendary 9500iX with more power, new features and a sleek new design.