Friday, July 1, 2022

Escort SOLO S4 Radar Detector Review

Escort are on a bit of a roll when it comes to releasing new builds. The S3 has been phased out in favor of the newer S4, their latest cordless model, and I am having a hard time seeing as to why. The feature set of the cordless builds are a match across the board. The S4 looks prettier, and while that might be a boon for me, I know that the look of the build is not high on the priority list of anyone else. I’ll leave that aside for now and focus on what we are getting with the Solo S4. Escort know how to build a radar detector, they have some of the most advance software on the market, and their app is probably my favorite of the first party releases. The cordless models are a little lacking in terms of features, from my perspective, but the utility is still there, and for the right kind of consumer this might be the perfect protection.

I have been reviewing these radar detectors for a fair few months at this point, and I have learned quite a bit about them. The weirdest thing, from my perspective, has been the fact that the core internal tech has changed very little in the last few decades. The V1, from Valentine, is still a competitive option on the market, and it has been sold essentially as is for decades. So how are the prices of the big names staying so high? The answer lies in software and integrations. The sorting algorithms are getting better and better with each generation, taking the same signals, refining them and spotting the false signals, or even increasing the effective range of the build. The S4 is using the more up to date software, and so we can expect the build to out perform the S3 by a substantial margin. Adding Bluetooth to the build also allows us to have auto app integration, further increasing the effective range, and granting access to all kinds of other features, letting us dial in the settings depending on location. The S4 lacks this, and it cannot be directly attached to your phone, but there are still a number of tricks we can try to make this build feel as good as the high end corded machines.

Let’s jump into the review, starting, as usual, with a look at the build. As stated, not the most important feature, but there are a number of cordless builds in this price range, all with similar feature sets, so finding the one you like the look of might be useful.

ESCORT SOLO S4 Radar Detector Design and Build Quality

The Solo S4 is a fine looking build. The laser eye fixture might ruin the symmetry, but that is par for the course with the Escort line these days. The buttons are big, and easy to read and the display is unique. I’m not sure how I feel about it, even now.It’s easy enough to read, and the use of the orange is striking, reminds me of New Vegas, but it’s still an old school display. A single color old school display at that. When I look at this from the perspective of a motorcyclist then the quality of the display becomes less important. Add in the fact that these kind of displays have far lower power draw and the design choice makes sense, and can even be commended, even if it isn’t all that aesthetically pleasing.

The weight of the build is less than I would like, but again, this is being primarily marketed to the frequent vehicle changer and the motor cycle user. If this is helmet mounted you don’t want any more weight than is necessary, and with that in mind this is amazing. The mounting bracket is fantastic, well the one for cars at any rate. I was not able t test the helmet fixture, but a quick look online tells me that it is of high quality. The core bracket is the mag lock sticky suction cups style, and they are so good, sturdy enough to stay in place on a rough dirt road even. I hope that other firms start supplying them too.

The Solo S4 is a new build, but the cordless nature of the build means that online updating is impossible. It’s probably why the differences between this and the S3 are so few. Essentially the same feature choices, and the same end goal. What we are getting is improved filtering and better range, certainly worth it for a first time buyer, less impressive for someone who already has an S3. The range of the build sits in the average range, a little over 2 miles, pushed a little farther on highways. There are several filtering modes to choose from, depending on where you are, city mode, highway mode etc. There is the VG1 safety mode, to protect against detector detectors, but considering by default the S4 is in passive mode this might be unnecessary. It wakes up to warn you of incoming signals, so the reaction time is a little less than the always on models, but it saves the battery.

You cannot use the smart cable with this build, nor can you connect it to your phone, so turning off the false posties is near impossible when mounted to a helmet. Best I think to keep the volume down on something comfortable. The Escort app can still be used, and buying Escort gives you access to their app anyway, so you might as well turn it on at least. You have to look out for updates on the phone itself rather than your detector auto warning you, but it can still increase the range of your S4, so long as you are in a car or similar.

The other feature that is being touted here is the Laser eye, and I have made my feelings on this particular feature quite clear in the past. Laser speed guns work on far smaller footprints than even pop radar guns. The beam goes out, hits the target, and there is a lot less dispersed beams. So when your laser eye goes off the odds are pretty good it’s because you just got hit, or someone in view just got hit. It limits the use of the feature by quite a bit. I imagine in the future the pick ups will become more senstive, but it is not there yet. There is an option that works, but that comes with some legal ramifications, so best I talk about that in the legality section.

Overall there is not a lot here. The core feature set is pretty standard, and it would be a lie if I said that the build did not do exactly what a radar detector should do. But I have grown use to the added utility granted by the apps, and other hardware integrations. The market this is aiming at is not me, so I have to assume that the motor cycle enthusiasts out there would love this build.

ESCORT SOLO S4 Radar Detector Legality and Pricing

Know the law. Weird thing to have to say on a product review, but the law regarding radar detectors has changed a number of times since they started getting used in the early nineties. For one thing as of 1995 you cannot use them in commercial vehicles, like long haul truck drivers and the like. For the rest of us using a radar detector is legal in 49 states. The only states that outlaw them are Virginia and Washington DC. They are also illegal on US military bases. If you live or drive through either California or Minnesota regularly then you will have to mount the radar detector somewhere other than the windshield, as both states have obstruction of vision laws that prohibit most things from being fixed there. Finally, for international readers I am sorry to say that for the most part radar detectors are illegal. If you travel into Canada be careful, as they even illegal up there.

Radar jammers are illegal. But laser jammers aren’t, and they provide much better protection against the use of laser speed cameras and guns that the simple laser eye. They confuse the incoming beam, making the reader display gibberish for a few seconds, giving you enough time to course correct. For best protection is is smart to combine a laser jammer with a radar detector. Look into your local laws, what is being used, and keep yourself covered. Expect some legislation to come down eventually covering laser jammers.

The price is where Escort tends to fall flat. They charge more than anyone else on the market, and while it is true that the quality is there, and the after care support is there to justify the price, for an off the cuff consumer this might be a little outside their comfort zone. You can expect to find the S4 in the $300 price range, same as the S3 on the Escort site. Bit odd to me. Seen as the S4 is so new you cannot find it on Amazon, but you might be able to pick up a bargain on eBay. I prefer to get them from licensed third partis, thus getting a few bonuses thrown my way, but it looks like we may have to wait a few months for the better deals.

The Escort warranty is pretty good, one of the best on the market to be honest. Which is really more of an indictment on the quality of the radar detector market’s warranties in general. You get 1 year of coverage, factory faults only. I would argue that should you use the S4 correctly, and it breaks within a year then it automatically counts as a factory fault, but I have had to press this point in the past with other firms. The thing that elevates Escort above the competition, except perhaps Whistler, is the Performance guarantee. After you start using your Escort, if you get a ticket, Escort will pay for it. There are a number of caveats, for example the ticket must be for speeding. No idea what might be, but it is still an impressive move, and one that I dare all the other radar detector companies to try.

As stated, the law regarding radar detectors is a little all over the place. Knowing where we stand right now when it comes to using our own purchases is important, and keeping an eye out for future legislation is a must in order to keep yourself covered. The price is usual for Escort, but i still think it needs to be lower than that. Being wireless might be a real boon for some consumers, but if they want to expand that market they are going to need a better price. The warranty is great, Escort really know how to put their money where they mouth is, and it endears the firm to me a fair bit.

ESCORT SOLO S4 Radar Detector Conclusion

The Solo S4 is interesting. On the one hand it is clearly a high quality piece of kit. You are getting the durability you need out of this one, and should the unthinkable happen, Escort have you covered with an excellent warranty and excellent after sale support. On the other hand the feature set is little expanded from the S3, even if the features themselves perform a little better. There is no smart cable, nor app support, which means this is really only good for those drivers who switch vehicle types, not simple switch vehicles, regularly. If you can find it cheaper than the S3 then the S4 is an amazing machine, and well worth it. But until then you are better off with an S3.

Barry W Stanton
Irish born writer who drinks too much caffeine and reads too much Terry Pratchett. I enjoy long walks on the server and Korean cuisine.
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