Tuesday, October 30, 2012

BEL Pro 500: Better than the GX65 or Escort 9500ix?

BEL Pro 500 with GPS
Some of the best radar detectors you've likely never heard of continue to appear wearing BEL (Beltronics) name tags. The latest is the Pro 500.

It's the successor to the BEL GX65, another unfamiliar face to many. Yet the GX65 was a cloned Escort Passport 9500ix, in my opinion the best-performing windshield-mount GPS-enabled model on the planet. It merely was in a different housing with slightly different switchgear. (BEL is an Escort subsidiary.)

Identical in performance, it had nearly identical features. But missing was AutoLearn, a convenience valued by some, and most units sold during its production life lacked the ability to be powered by a USB cable when connected to a PC for updates to the corporate Defender camera database. An external 12-volt auto-style power port was needed during that process.

Those weren't automatic deal-breakers but it was priced at $469.95, only thirty bucks less than the Escort 9500ix. Customers stayed away in droves.

BEL made some smart moves in creating the GX65's replacement. The Pro 500 is USB-powered during updates, for example. BEL also dispensed with some of the Escort 9500IX's frippery--the bulky, hard-sided carrying case nobody used, for instance--which also reduced package dimensions and weight, lowering shipping costs.

Glossy finish. chrome are poor choices
The external changes are what first caught my eye. The Pro 500 housing has a matte finish, the same rubberized, non-slip, non-glare material that nearly made it into production on the Escort Redline. Unlike the semi-gloss finish used on both Escort models, the BEL Pro 500's housing better resists reflections into the windshield glass.

That's always been one of my complaints about many radar detector models--most Cobras and  some BEL and Escort models as well. Great-looking on the sales rack at the store, but try staring at one on all-day drives on sunny days. You can go blind. The only solution is to offset-mount the unit, out of one's direct line of sight.

In town, and for non-enthusiast drivers, the difference is probably too subtle to be noticed. But serious drivers, those who use a detector as a ticket-prevention tool, will appreciate this. Rather than staring at a mirror image of the detector for the full duration of a daytime freeway blast, the Pro 500's housing poses a lower distraction to the eye.

There's one other notable difference between these two range-topping GPS models: the BEL Pro 500 is priced a full C-note below the Escort Passport 9500ix. This cost differential alone between the $399 BEL Pro 500 and its $499 Escort 9500ix electronic twin is likely to get some attention, even without the upgrades. See the complete review.


At 2:31 PM , Blogger Pascal Votan said...

Reflections off of some detectors indeed is a problem. I found two things that work pretty well. One, get a roll of black electrical tape and use scissors to fashion a non reflective surface on the top of the detector. If done carefully it doesn't look half bad.

Better, get a sheet of flat black foam that has one side coated with a sticky surface. Walmart and craft stores carry this. Use scissors to fashion a non-reflective top surface on your detector.

Hope this helps out some of you.


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