Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Escort Passport Max Firmware 1.6 Test

A test yesterday of the updated Escort Passport Max was halted when a hot air balloon skimmed over my car and collapsed onto the road in front of me.

Fortunately, the winds were calm and no damage was inflicted on balloon or passengers. At length, it was bundled onto a trailer and towed from the scene.

With testing resumed, I was able to quantify any performance differences wrought by firmware rev 1.6. Also tested were two new Escort Redlines. One was tested with default settings, same as the Escort Max.

The other Escort Redline was configured for quicker response and fewer false alarms. Among other tweaks, some Ka-band segments were optimized and user preferences tailored for maximum performance. Results from that test will be posted soon.

All three radar detectors were performance-tested at the same site on successive days. Other than the date, there were no changes—it was the same vehicle and procedure, same radar, identical radar antenna alignment—even the weather and time of day remained the same. Eliminating these variables allows a meaningful comparison of the Escort Passport Max's two firmware versions.

For the Escort Max test, GPS was disabled on the Escort to eliminate any possibility of speed-variable sensitivity influencing the results. All three radar detectors were tested in Highway mode. Four runs were made against each radar and the results averaged.

Compared to the Escort Passport Max with firmware rev 1.5, I saw no statistically significant difference in performance with firmware rev 1.6. Also unchanged is its susceptibility to the local oscillators of other radar detectors. Second- and third-order harmonics from these produce K- and Ka-band alerts in the Max. No radar detector is immune to this phenomenon, but some fare better than others. For example, the Redline showed significantly higher resistance to this type of interference although it's noticeably more sensitive on K band.

Firmware revisions are issued for a variety of reasons and it’s quite possible that we’ll notice changes in the Max’s behavior. To that end we’re conducting an urban false-alarm test, checking its resistance to static radar sources.

We’re also measuring its responsiveness, the speed at which it reacts to radar. The earlier Max firmware was very quick to spot Ka-band radar—under 0.65 second on average. But it was painfully slow on K band, averaging 2.42 seconds. Disabling TSR shaved off one second but regardless, it can be assumed that some short-duration K-band signals would go unnoticed.

Barring any more hot air balloon crashes, I expect to have the other test results available soon.