Friday, November 27, 2015

Escort Passport S55 Review

Escort Passport S55 (left) and X70 during field test.
If you've never heard of the Escort Passport S55, join the club. It was MIA when we first looked for it on the Escort website and no one has reviewed it. The only mention is in online ads.

According to manufacturer, the Escort Passport S55 is a private-label  version of the Escort Passport and destined to be sold online by only a handful of major retailers. To reduce costs and keep from poaching sales from the $349 (MSRP) Passport, content was removed and some features deleted.

For those not already confused by the similar names and lack of product information, Escort chose this moment to roll out the Passport X70. Same $299 MSRP and, in photos, the two even look similar. Outwardly, the most notable difference is the X70's OLED display (the S55 makes do with a red LED display.)

The price gap is wider than it appears. Escort sells the S55 for $299, but we found it online for as low as $160. This made us wonder: is the low-priced version competitive with its sibling?

Once the S55 was sitting next to my X70 on the test bench, more differences were apparent.  Size, for example. Although both use a version of the corporate M4 platform, the S55 is narrower and shorter than the X70.

And while both have black cases, the S55's upper housing receives a central swath of faux-brushed aluminum and a chromed capital S. This casts an annoying mirror image into the windshield on sunny days.

The S55 is controlled by five top-mounted buttons, one more than the X70. These are flush-mounted and easily located by touch. Inexplicably, the X70's buttons are recessed in the case. With some care, they can be located eventually. But the power button is buried so deep you'll need a Q-Tip to press it.

The S55's display isn't as flashy as the X70's, but it can be read under conditions that make the latter's OLED display almost invisible.

Some features are missing on the S55, the audio jack, for instance. No USB port either, meaning no online updates.

On the road, there's little difference in behavior between the two Escorts. Performance is equal as well: Tested at our Hill/Curve site, they turned in nearly identical scores. 

And those scores were impressive. Although the duo trailed the $649 Escort Max 360 in X- and K-band range, we were stunned when both outperformed it on Ka band.

So is the S55 a better buy than the X70? In the short term, maybe, for those who buy radar detectors like Bic lighters. But a detector can last awhile, and that missing USB port could make a difference when new enforcement threats call for a firmware update.