Well this has been an interesting week. The last two weeks have been devoted to the now unsupported older builds from Escort, and I found them to be excellent alternatives to the higher priced current models. They lack a few things, like easy access to the app and auto-GPS programming, but with some tinkering you can have them running like dreams. I went back to the current models expecting to be able to espouse the virtues of the modern, but imagine my surprise when I finish up my tests on the Solo S3 and found it to be a little on the tame side. It does everything an Escort build is supposed to do, but the fact that you are spending nearly treble the price of an X50 for free access to the app and a year long warranty left me a little cold to the S3. Granted, it might be the last few reviews coloring my opinion, not to mention the fact that the unique selling point here is not for me, but still.
Usually I talk here about the fact that radar detector hardware has remained largely unchanged for the last couple of decades, and that’s true. Here though we have a minor upgrade over the older tech. Increased portability. The S3’s unique selling point is the fact that it runs on battery. There is an option to run it for a cord, but they are clearly aiming this build at the motorcycle market. not a bad move to be honest, and it does mitigate my feelings regarding the overall value of the build. If you need a model to be cordless, then I guess paying a premium for it makes sense.
So let’s get to the actual review, see what’s so special about this build.
Escort Passport S3 Radar Detector Design and Build Quality
The S3 is an interesting build. A bit of a step sideways rather than a true step up for the Escort series of radar detectors. I know who it’s for, and so too will you at the end of this review, so I need to ease up on the criticisms here for a bit. The core issues are what are important, so let’s break this model down a bit.
The first thing you are going to see is the look of the build, and for a change I quite like this one. most of Escort low end machines are a bit on the ugly side. Not a slight on the performance, more an issue of aesthetic, never a huge problem but can make the difference in a tie breaker scenario. It is a sleek design, and the feel of the build is great. A little heavier than most of the Escort models, what with the added battery weight, but it is not so heavy that mounting it on a motorcycle helmet becomes cumbersome. It comes with the standard mounting bracket, which I feel is a bad move. this thing is clearly tailor made for helmet mounting, and charging for it separately is a poor move on Escort’s part.
The display is a simple big LED read out, which is easy to read in any light, and less important if you take it on a bike. The outer casing is robust, but I do not think it would hold up well to a substantial fall. the kind of accidents common with motorcycles would knock it out pretty quick, so you do need to be a little careful when toting this $300 piece of hardware on your head. The warning sound is standard annoyance, and without access to the controls while driving it is best you test out the audio levels before taking it on the road. The model is compatible with the smart cable, so if you intend to use it in another vehicle you can take advantage of the added functionality, the mute button and smart learning feature.
Usually I rave about the app here, and while I feel it has some use with the S3 it is more limited than with other models. You can change things on the fly when you are on a bike, so you cannot make use of the more advance features as and when you need them. You can still take advantage of the apps network, with all the other Escort users updating the database in real time, which does make the the Escort builds far more accurate than others on the market. I keep bringing up the multi vehicle user, but bear in mind than when you use it in a car you can again access all the cool features inherent to the Passport series.
The S3 comes with built in LIDAR detection, which is a nice if superfluous feature that comes with all Escort models. I get what it’s supposed to do, it warns you when someone is using one of the new LIDAR speed testers, but unlike radar detectors, for the most part, LIDAR is point to point. So if you are receiving a warning it is because either A. You have been hit in which case your speed is known, or B. The vehicle in front has been hit giving you very little time to adjust. On the plus side unlike Radar jammers, LIDAR jammers are not against the law, so best to integrate one of those alongside your radar detector.
At the end of the day you know you. If you are in the market for a multi use radar detector, one that can be used with ease in different vehicle types, then you have to go fora cordless one. The S3 comes with all the bonuses associated with the Passport series, making it a very attractive model. The only issue, from my perspective, is the relatively high price.
Escort Passport S3 Radar Detector Legality and Pricing
I say this for pretty much every review, but it is important to know the legality of the device you are buying. Outside of the US radar detectors are pretty much completely illegal, sorry international readers, you can’t even take them over the border to Canada, so be careful if you make the trip up to the Great White North regularly. In the US itself all but two states allow you to use radar detectors. Those states are DC and Virginia, so remember to switch it off and take it down if you have to drive through. It is also illegal to use a radar detector on or near a US military base no matter what state you are in. So far so easy to avoid. There are restriction in place in both California and Minnesota as to what you are allowed to have on your windshield, so if you intend to use a radar detector in either of those states be sure to mount it to an alternative location. Finally, remember that radar jammers are illegal everywhere. LIDAR jammers aren’t though, and the laser detectors that come as standard with radar detectors these days leave a lot to be desired. for maximum protection be sure to invest in both a radar detector and a LIDAR jammer.
And now the price. Honestly, I have been dreading this section the whole review. There is a lot to like about the S3, but the price may be a bit much for some people. It’s usually around $350 (that said you can sometimes find discounts by clicking here) while lacking a few features I like to see in the more premium priced Escort builds. Now, I get who this is for, the driver who needs a cordless radar detector, say motorcyclists for example, but considering that all of the one the fly features, like the manual mute tuning and the app access, cannot be used on a motorcycle I feel like if you are in the market for a cordless radar detector you are going to want one with as few extraneous features as possible. Maybe for the folks who want a multi role detector this is a great buy, for for the core motorcyclist there may be better options out there. Also if you can get it for closer to $300 I would say it’s a solid deal.
And to the warranty. I spend most of my time testing out products and reading warranties, and over the last few years I have gotten pretty good at spotting the good ones. The one that comes with an Escort radar detector is adequate, a standard 12 months of coverage that replaces or repairs only in the event of a manufacturer’s defect. Now, I am of the opinion that anything that breaks down within one year of perfectly normal use should be covered by that, but I have no information on how easy escort is to work with in that regard. Their performance guarantee does fill me with hope that their customer support network is great though. It’s a nice little add on where Escort will pay for your next ticket, should you get one for speeding, for some unknown reason, and I think that is a gutsy move from the firm. They believe in their product, or at least that’s what I am getting from that policy, and it is a mark of excellence.
At the end of the day you know if this is for you. The price might be a little on the high side for me, but I can see the market they are aiming at with this model, and I have to assume that they are buying, else the S3 might have been dropped alongside the now dead S55 or X50. Regardless, the firm has a good track record in terms of customer support, and a half decent warranty, that can be upgraded.
Escort Passport S3 Radar Detector Conclusion
I’ve said it twice already, but it bears repeating, you already know if this is the right model for you. All you have to do is buy it. If you want a high quality radar detector that will update itself on the fly, and keep you informed of all kinds of hazards coming up, and you want to be able to switch between motorcycle and car, then you need the S3. If you are just looking for an Escort radar detector, and don’t mind having it plugged in all the time, there are better options for the company. Overall, a little too niche for my tastes, but I can see the use in it for the right user. If you can find it on sale for closer to $300 it’s a good value.