Escort MAX 4 Review: Escort’s Affordable High-End Radar Detector

Escort MAX 4 Review

The Escort MAX 4 is Escort’s new top-of-the-line single antenna radar detector and is being positioned as Escort’s “entry-level” radar detector.

Read Veil’s Accompanying Cobra RAD 700i Review

Escort Max 4

Escort MAX 4 vs Lousiana Trooper

Escort MAX 4 Review Introduction

The Escort MAX 4 provides noticeable improvements in both performance and filtering over its predecessor, the Escort MAX 3.

Escort is billing the new Escort MAX 4 as their entry-level high-performance radar detector and while this may be technically accurate, we certainly don’t regard the Escort MAX 4 as anything but an extremely capable radar detector at a very reasonable price.

The Escort MAX 4’s cost will be likely offset by the avoidance of just one speeding ticket, making it a smart investment that will pay for itself many times over.

Escort’s use of the term “entry level,” may convey a sense of being less capable or more simplistic, in a general sense, than their higher-priced counterparts, but in reality this is certainly not the case with this radar detector, as our in-depth Escort MAX 4 review will demonstrate.

Updated: 6-22-24 by Veil Guy

Highlights

  • The Escort MAX 4 is the successor to the MAX 3 radar detector
  • Sports a dual-core processor for enhanced signal analysis
  • Includes Dual LNAs (low noise amplifiers) for improved range and reduced detectability br SPECTRE RDDs (radar detector detectors)
  • Detects MultaRadar photo enforcement
  • Detects Mestafusion (used in Alberta, CA)
  • Has improved filtering
  • Provides exceptional alerting signal ramp and dynamic range
  • Includes Bluetooth
  • Integrates with Escort’s DriveSmarter (Apple CarPlay and Android Auto) smartphone app
  • Includes USB-C data port (a first for Escort)

Overview

The Escort MAX 4 is Escort’s first conventional single-antenna radar detector that utilizes dual LNA circuitry (first appearing in the Beltronics STi Driver and subsequently the original Escort Redline) and clearly represents Escort’s counter to the similarly designed Uniden R4, which also incorporates dual LNAs which we covered in our Escort MAX 4 Review Preview.

Unlike the Uniden R4, however, which also incorporates Bluetooth connectivity, Escort provides a slick smartphone app, now called DriveSmarter, which allows wireless configuration of the Escort MAX 4 and participation in the “crowdsourced” network used by other drivers using Escort Live! or DriveSmarter.

Unlike Uniden, which does not provide a smartphone app themselves, Escort’s Drivesmarter app (formerly called Escort Live!) is a mature app which we found has an increasing number of users, enough so, that we are seeing more legitimate early warnings to previous radar and laser detections by other users.

We also run WAZE, but we now run DriveSmarter alongside to get the benefit of the best of both worlds.

Sensitivity & Off-axis Performance

The Escort MAX 4 provides eye popping sensitivity and its off-axis detection appears noticeably improved over the Escort MAX 3 as demonstrated by an encounter in Baton Rouge, Lousiana.

 

Escort MAX 4 vs Covered Constant-On Stalker DSR 34.7 GHz Ka-band Police Radar

 

Again we noticed its superior off-axis performance during a recent stay at Fort Myers Beach, Florida, where we found that the Escort MAX 4 alerted to 34.7GHz, around multiples bends on Estero Blvd, farther away than other radar detectors.

Like all current Escort radar detectors, the Escort MAX 4 appears to be essentialy equal to the Uniden R4 and in the real-world provides more than enough sensitivity.

 

Escort MAX 4 vs Constant-on 34.7 Ghz Ka-band Police Radar Around Curve - 3 1/4 Mile Alerting Range

 

The Escort MAX 4 did well against an instant-on Ka-band at 34.7 GHz by a Kustom Signals mobile radar operator on I-10 in Mississippi.

 

Escort MAX 4 vs Instant-on Stalker DSR 34.7 GHz Ka-band Police Radar

 

The Escort MAX 4 turned in an impressive four mile detection to a Lousiana trooper running a 33.8GHz MPH Bee III.

 

Escort MAX 4 vs Stationery MPH Bee III 33.8 GHz Ka-Band Police Radar - 4 Mile Alert

 

X-band detections (still used in New Jersey and Ohio as well as in North Carolina and Mississippi) were right up there with the $4000 Uniden R9 custom installed radar detector.

Visit the following link for a collection of our Escort MAX 4 review real-world videos.

Detections of Exotic Photo Radar

After years of falling short in providing reliable detections of MultaRadar, Escort has figured out how to more reliably alert to MRCD/MRCT photo radar and has uniquely conquered Mestafusion (used in Alberta, Canada).

Uniden still appears to handle MultaRadar detections better and more consistently, but it’s good to see Escort make improvements in MultaRadar detections, there is a little more work that needs to be done.

The Escort MAX 4 lacks the ability of alerting to Gatso RT4 photo radar used extensively throughout the state of Iowa, but if you don’t find yourself driving in that state, this isn’t much of concern.

Even so, we would love to see Escort’s engineering team take a trip to some towns in Iowa and figure out how to detect it just as Uniden has and in a recent discussion with them, I was informed they are working on this which should become available in a future firmware update.

Certainly the Escort MAX 4 has the processing power to do so.

Redflex horizontally polarized low-powered K-band photo radar is detected by the Escort MAX 4.

We recently did some extensive testing against Redflex’s new photo radar system called Halo.

We first encountered intersections utilizing Redflex Halo in north Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.

None of the radar detectors we had at the time alerted to these systems even though they were actively operating.

As it turns out Redflex’s corporate offices are located in the greater Phoenix area and a community just north of Scottsdale, recently replaced their Redflex photo radar systems with Halo.

This gives us a unique opportunity to examine how these systems work and what could be done by the radar detector manufacturers to be able to alert to these difficult to detect systems.

What we found was when we ran the Escort MAX 4 with Mestafusion detection enabled, the Escort MAX 4 alerted to these systems to a degree of 80-90% consistency, the best of any other radar detector we’ve ever tested.

When MultaRadar (MRCD & MRCT) bands were enabled only, the Escort MAX 4 did not alert, suggesting that the signaling of the Redflex Halo systems are similar to those of Mestafusion.

We believe we collected enough information about the frequencies used by the Redflex Halo to assist radar detector manufacturers in being able to reliably detect and alert to these exotic new photo radar systems.

In terms of a comparison to another high-end model, the Valentine V1 Gen2 still doesn’t detect the aforementioned photo radar systems and hence feels stuck in the past.

Extended K-band Detection Range

The Escort MAX 4 has the ability to extend its detections to very low-frequency K-band radar (at frequencies below what is used by standard K-band police radar).

This can be useful when encountering older Gatso systems which can operate below the K-band frequency of 24Ghz.

We encountered an older Gatso system operating in a small town in Iowa that failed to cause an alert until the Extended Mode was enabled.

Lower frequency K-band radar can also occur in areas like Edmonton, Alberta in very cold temperatures which tend to cause an otherwise higher frequency K-band radar to “drift” downward and out of range of the typical frequencies of K-band radar, 24.080GHz (Redflex), 24.062 GHz (HALO), 24.125GHz, and 24.150 GHz (conventional police radar).

The default setting to this special feature is OFF, but it’s nice to know this capability is there if ever needed.

Segmentation of Ka-band

For potentially improved responsiveness to Ka-band coupled with lower falsing rates (to misinterpreted K-band collision avoidance systems found on many vehicles), the Escort MAX 4 allows for Ka-band segmentation.

What segmentation allows for is the tailoring of the Escort MAX 4 to detect specific radar frequency ranges used by Ka-band police radar guns.

Ka-band is very wide ranging from 33.4 GHz to 36.0 GHz.  While some international police radar utilize other frequency ranges, in the U.S. the following three are currently being used:

  • 33.8GHz – MPH
  • 34.7GHz – Stalker Radar
  • 35.5GHz – Kustom Signals

In 2008, I discovered that the performance of Escort’s sister (now defunct) company Beltronics STI-R remote custom installed system often provided significantly better range to Ka-band when the radar detector was segmented.

The segmentation feature was designed to reduce falsing and unbeknownst to Beltronics and Escort at the time, it resulted in improved detection performance.

While Escort was skeptical of my discovery for a number of years, other radar detector users started to utilize my suggested configuration settings and also found improvements in Ka-band detection performance.

Fast forward 16-years and the entire industry has embraced this advanced feature that is utilized by more technically inclined users.

With today’s improved processing power, these differences are not as stark as they used to be, but I still recommend the following settings for those interested in extracting the best possible performance on Ka-band:

Of the 10 segments, the Escort MAX 4 will have 2, 5, and 8 segments turned on by default, which corresponds to:

  • Ka Segment 2 (33.700GHz to 33.900 GHz)
  • Ka Segment 5: (34.600GHz to 34.800 GHz)
  • Ka Segment 8: (35.400GHz to 36.600 GHz)

Alerting Behavior

I’ve long been critical of the nature of Escort’s alerting behavior as being somewhat erratic and non-linear.

Such behavior first appeared with the original Escort Passport 9500i in 2007 and has continued since that time in many of their models.

But, I am pleased to report that Escort finally nailed the alerting behavior and signal strength ramp with the Escort MAX 4. which we now regard as being essentially perfect.

We found the Escort MAX 4’s alerting urgency accurately conveyed the threat level, provided wonderful dynamic range, and clearly let us know when we were in the “kill-zone.”

Like the Escort MAXcam 360c, the alerting behavior of the Escort MAX 4 was even superior to the Uniden R4 which tended to alert at maximum signal strength well before we were in targeting range as demonstrated by the following comparison video.

 

Escort MAX 4 & Uniden R4 vs Stationery Constant-On-34.7 Ka-Band - 3 Mile Alerting Range

 

It is essential to have a radar detector convey the severity of the threat of being clocked and by Escort getting it right , it allows you to really get a feel for the Escort MAX 4 and how to react to an alert.

I equate the Escort MAX 4’s behavior to having confindence inspiring road feel when driving by having precise steering, communicative tires, or both.

In this regard, the Escort MAX 4 gives you that level of confidence.

Well done. Escort, it’s time to apply this smooth silky alert-ramp to all other Escort radar detectors.

Filtering

Escort claims that their new Escort MAX 4 offers twice the accuracy of filtering.

While not elaborated upon, we assume Escort is referring to the MAX 4’s predecessor, the Escort MAX 3.

While this claim is difficult to prove on an absolute basis, we can safely say that we found the Escort MAX 4 to be extremely effective at reducing false alerts, particularly on K-band.

In fact, this accomplishment is even more impressive given its extreme sensitivity and we found its falsing rate to be less than the Uniden R4, although we have yet to examine to the Escort MAX 4’s relative responsiveness.

Once we complete a thorough examination of the Escort MAX 4’s quickness we will have a better feel if its quiet nature is do to superior signal processing, slower alerting rates, or a combination of the two.

In any event, in our experiences so far, we didn’t find ourselves in a situation where we didn’t get sufficient protection from an approaching instant-on shot.

When MultaRadar or Mestafusion detection is enabled, the falsing rate increases to these “bands” given that vehicle collision avoidance systems can sometimes appear similary to those photo radars.

This is true with most radar detectors, but there is definitely room for improvement for reducing these MultaRadar and Mestafusion misclassifications of vehicles K-band accident avoidance systems.

Fortunately, such detections don’t have to be enabled in most cases because MultaRadar and Mestafusion are only used in specific locations throughout the U.S. and Canada.

Police LIDAR sensitivity

The Escort MAX 4 only provides average detection capabilities to police laser.

Despite claims to the contrary, the ability to consistently alert to police laser I consider an essential capability for the following reasons:

Police lidar is often targeted at distances greater than 1500 feet (sometimes as much as 2400 feet).

At such distances, lidar is the most lethal (not close up) because you can’t even spot the officer.

Having a good laser detector can help you avoid a speeding ticket because at distances greater than 1000 feet, the beam divergence is sufficient enough to be able for your detector to “see” a portion of the laser beam that was being pointed at another vehicle in close proximity.

I also had an experience years ago driving (well above the posted limit) on the Interstate towards the North East Kingdom in Vermont where an officer targeted me with police laser at a far enough distance that I was able to rapidly change lanes and move my vehicle out of his initial aiming point, forcing the officer to have to retarget me in the other lane, which by that time is was able to peal of the excess speed.

In this instance I was using an original Valentine 1 which possessed exceptional police laser detection capabilities and I know I got a save by my quick responsiveness.  I didn’t even have Veil on my loaner BMW 3 series as the time, but without a doubt I managed to avoid a speeding ticket.

In another instance outside of an airforce base in Delaware, a vehicle ahead of me was targeted and the V1 I was driving with alerted as it saw a portion of the beam that was transmitted through that vehicle’s windshield.

I was able to slow down before it was my turn at an overhead shot from an overpass ahead of me.

And yet in another instance, I was slowly being passed by a vehicle on a two lane highway (route 50) in Maryland with a Whistler CR97 and I got an advanced alert to the other vehicle being targeted and was able to slow down.

As it turned out, that other vehicle was pulled over for speeding even though we both were.

This is not even to mention the usage of Veil which which absorbs police laser and often allows you to sucessfully slow down when using a detector with very good laser sensitivity.

So we feel that lidar sensitivity should be prioritized with any decent radar detector.

All it takes is just one save and you’ve potentially paid for your purchase with a speeding ticket avoidance.

Keep in mind that police lidar is harder to detector at close range (the opposite of police radar).

Interestingly enough, Escort has two radar detectors which provide exceptional laser sensitivity, the Escort MAXcam 360c (one of our very favorites) and the inexpensive Cobra RAD 700i.

The laser detection capabilities of both of those radar detectors are astounding, with both being able to alert to police laser at distances fewer than 100 feet.

This proves Escort has the ability to improve the laser performance of the MAX 4 (perhaps in a Mk II release?) as well as all of their other radar detectors not up to the capabilities of the Escort MAXcam 360c or the Cobra RAD 700i.

Other features common to other Escort radar detectors

Since we have covered these in previous reviews, for the sake of brevity, we are providing only a summary of some of the MAX 4 capabilities which are found on other Escort radar detectors.

  • K-notch setting to exclude alerts from Ka-band in the range of 24.190GHz and 24.210GHz often detected by certain K-band collision avoidance systems that can never be genuine police radar
  • Autolockouts of stationery sources of non-genuine radar (a feature I tend not to use as I prefer locking out these systems manually)
  • Marking of locations such as VASCAR speed traps, photo radar not already included in Escort’s Defender database, or points of interest.
  • Multiple radar sensitivity modes, including Highway (most sensitive), Auto (speed sensitive), Auto Lo K (reduced K-band sensitivity for driving around town), Auto No X (a feature that is better set in radar band detection selection).
  • Band detection defeat of X, K, Ka, Lidar, MultaRadar, Mestafusion.
  • TSR (traffic sensor rejection) designed to reduce false alerts from older stationery K-band traffic flow measuring systems found in cities, such as Cincinnati and sections of I-5 in California.  Escort has this feature on by default, but we recommend disabling TSR as responsiveness to K-band can be adversely effected.
  • Multi-colored OLED display (still difficult to read in certain lighting conditions).
  • Configurable display from basic to more advanced including multiple detections and specific frequency display.
  • Bluetooth and DriverSmarter integration.  Alerts from the Escort MAX 4 and other Escort radar detector owners are shared to potentially alert you to the presence of instant-on police radar that may not be otherwise detected because traffic is light or the officer is being very selective in targeting.
  • The Escort MAX 4 USB-C dataport allows for easily applied firmware updates from a home computer (either Windows or MAC).
  • Quick-release magnetic mount which can now be found on all Escort radar detectors and the Cobra RAD 700i, allowing for rapid dismounting and mounting as we always recommend removing radar detectors when parked for reduced exposure to heat from sunlight and inconspicuousness to lower the chance of a break-in and potential theft.

Entry Level Radar Detector?

The aforementioned capabilities are some of the reasons why we feel that the Escort MAX 4 is decidely not an entry-level radar detector.

It’s ability to detect and alert to exotic photo radars, offer band segmentation are anything but entry-level features.

These are advanced capabilities to suit drivers which possess a level of technical knowledge not likely known by new radar detector users.

We consider Cedar Electronics’ (Escort’s parent company) true entry-level high performance radar detector to be the very affordable Cobra RAD 700i.

Conclusion

Veil purchased the Escort MAX 4 at full retail to ensure we reviewed a production model and by not reviewing a sample given for free, our review is unbiased and true to what customers will receive who purchase one.

We had the pleasure of putting a few thousand miles on the Escort MAX 4 during a recent cross-country trip encompassing a host of states and varied traffic enforcement.

What we found was that Escort has developed a very capable radar detector (their best yet in a single antenna design).

Truth be told, we found ourselves preferring the Escort MAX 4 over the Uniden R4 in many instances as its sensitivity is right up there with the R4, offers a quieter ride, and is constructed of higher quality materials.

While we tended to shelve the Escort MAX 3, we certainly enjoy using the Escort MAX 4 on our cross country trips as well as around town.

Bottom line, for those seeking an exceptional radar detector at a reasonable price that is easy to live with, consider visiting either of the following two links to make your purchase:

Be safe out there and be sure to read our Cobra RAD 700i review!

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