Friday, November 25, 2022

ESCORT X80 Radar Detector Review – 2018 Update

When I get an Escort radar detector to try out the quality difference stands out to me. The feel of the build could not be higher, and the feature set is expansive. The X80 is no exception. A fine build from one of the market leaders. All that goodness comes with a price. The price. Escort charge more than anyone else, and it is easy to see why. They have the best app, the best warranty and the highest build quality. The price is going to be a deal breaker for some from the get go, and I have many other more affordable builds tested elsewhere on the site, take a look through the Cobra models. For the rest of us, this is exactly what we are looking for.

Radar detectors have been around for a long time, a fair few decades at this point. What I find interesting is the core tech has changed very little. It makes sense, I mean radar waves haven’t changed much, so why should the tech? Some companies have made mini detectors, but for the most part the size and function of the builds is the same. So how then is Escort able to justify the high price? It’s all in the software and add ons. Escort have, to my mind, the best filtering algorithms on the market. They are self updating, meaning they learn where the static false positives on your routes are, and they are better than most at not bothering you with false signals. The hardware add ons include GPS systems and Bluetooth tech, allowing direct connection to you phone, and all those tasty app features. The X80 has that Bluetooth that I like to see, so you can use the cable port for other, more important things.

So let’s get to the review. First a look at the outside, the core look of the build. Hardly what I would call the mist important feature, but I feel the aesthetics can ell you a lot about the company who makes the device. So what does the look of the X80 tell us about Escort.

ESCORT X80 Radar Detector Design and Build Quality

The X80 is an upper mid range build, in the grand scheme of things. By comparison to the builds I have been reviewing this last few weeks it might as well be an alien device. So far ahead of the low end Cobras in every way. It looks great too. The soft curve on the plastic shell, but it lacks symmetry. Not all that important but I would have liked to see it. The display is leagues ahead of the competition. An actual backlit HD display, makes reading the data super easy. There are three levels of brightness too, so no matter the conditions you can be sure to read it. The alert sound is annoying though, but then what radar detector strums a plangent melody when it picks up the signal? None of them, they all sound like someone is using a cat as a violin bow and playing Stravinsky out of key.

The weight of the build is just right. A touch of heft, just enough to belie the quality under the hood. I love a bit of weight to my electronics, makes it fee valuable, and though went into that here. The mounting bracket is the best on the market. A combination of magnetic locks and sticky suction cups. No need to look for a third party bracket with the Escort X80.

The X80 is a currently supported model, one of the newest builds to come out of Escort, as a result we are packed with all kinds of features. The most impressive is the Bluetooth tech built in, allowing the X80 to interface with your phone directly. Alongside that are the usual detection modes, highway, city, dense city. You can selectively ignore certain bands, X band is good place to start. There are three mute modes, manual, auto and smart. The range is fantastic. Not a patch on the Redline on the highway, but we are still looking at around 3 miles, give or take. That goes down depending on the signal noise, and your overall conditions, don’t expect so much warning in the inner city.

The on board filtering software is already great, but it has to be said that no firm has got it quite right. You are going to get the occasional false positve. There are a number of tings you can do to mitigate them though. The mute modes are a great option, disabled the X band in areas were it is confirmed that the older X band speed guns are not in use. Finally you connect to the Escort app, stick on the auto updating and pay a little attention and you can do away with 99% of the false hits. The software is constantly being worked on over at Escort, and updating you detector is a simple matter of connecting it to a computer and installing the software. It shows a dedication to long term ownership from the firm, doing their best to stave off obsolescence.

The Escort app is the most impressive one on the market, from a first party firm. The combination of more options and on the fly map updates means that you will always know what’s coming. Bluetooth means you don’t have to use the cord port to connect to the phone, and lets you use the smart cable with the build instead. The Smart cable has buttons on it, allowing you to switch modes and mute on the fly, without having to lean forward to your windshield while in motion, a far safer option, and one all firms should offer. All of the information on the app is added by other Escort users, and when you connect you add alerts to the global database. It is an excellent design.

The other feature that I left out is the laser eye. A way to pick up laser speed detection guns, and frankly, I am not a fan. All the big radar detector companies are pushing their laser eye, and they all work on the same basic principle. The problem lies in the way laser cameras work. The beam they shoot is very narrow, so so short a time, that there is little refraction to pick up. Radar is very broad spectrum, even the pop radar guns. There is far more radar waves bouncing around after use that you can pick them up miles away. With the laser there is far fewer, so most of the time the warning only goes off after you are hit, limited in its use. It can pick up refraction of laser, but the range is limited, usually a few car lengths at the best of times. There is an alternative, but I will go into that in the legality section, there are some legal issues surrounding owning the device.

Overall there is nothing to dislike here. The feature set is massive, it has everything you might want in a radar detector, and it works just right out of the box. If you feel the need to tweak some settings the option is there, but you really don’t have to with an Escort. If I could find this at a cheaper price it would be a steal. As it stands it is merely a very good deal.

ESCORT X80 Radar Detector Legality and Pricing

It’s still funny to me that I have to talk about the law in a review series. Radar detectors are legal in most states so long as you are not driving a commercial vehicle. If you are driving a commercial vehicle then you cannot use them. If you are in, or have to drive through, either Virginia or DC then you will have to remove your radar detector, as they illegal in both states. They are also prohibited on US Military bases. Both California and Minnesota have prohibitions on items placed on windshields, so should you live, work or travel through either state then be sure to find an alternative mounting location for you radar detector. Finally, if you are reading this outside the US then it is best to assume that radar detectors are illegal in your country. So few places outside the US allow them, they are even illegal in most of Canada, so be careful if you have to cross the northern border.

Now, a word on jammers. Not Radar Jammers, they are illegal everywhere, but LIDAR jammers. Remember I said I wanted to talk about alternatives to the laser eye system? This is it. Laser jammers confuse the scanner for just long enough to verify and course correct yourself, before switching themselves off. So for best coverage you need a radar detector and a lot of luck, or a radar detector and a LIDAR jammer. It must be pointed out, some folk have been taken up on obstruction of justice charges as a result of using LIDAR jammers, but that is outside the US. If you find anyone getting arrested for using one in the US let me know, but at least know the law might change.

And the price, Escort have so much going for them on the market right now, but the price is not one of them. Even their low end builds are pretty expensive, and this upper mid hits the $299 mark. I have not been able to find it cheaper elsewhere, not even on Amazon, so if you are in love with the build you are going to have to shell out a pretty penny. I think it’s worth it, Escort have put a lot of thought into this build, and you get your moneys worth in terms of feature and ease of use.

The warranty is amazing. There is only one other firm that comes close to the Escort warranty, and that’s  Whistler. Escort offer 1 year of coverage, simple, limited coverage, so factory faults only. I argue that if you use the radar detector for its intended purpose and it breaks within a year then that is a factory fault, but I have had to press that point on occasion. The real ace in the hole is the Performance guarantee. No other firm puts their money where their mouth is. Escort will pay for you next ticket after you start using an Escort Radar detector. There are a few restrictions, it must be a speeding ticket, for some unknowable reason, but it is still a gutsy move, and one I can’t help but applaud.

So long as you know the law you are fine. Make sure to keep an eye out for local and federal legislation that covers communication in the future, as they tend to cover radar. The price here is expectedly high, but you are getting  lot for your money. The warranty is great, and you can get an extra two years of coverage for $30 if you so wish. The performance guarantee is wonderful too. Escort really knocked it out of the park.

ESCORT X80 Radar Detector Conclusion

Escort are still at the top of their game. They offer the highest quality products, at pricesa that are fair. The core feature set of the X80 is excellent, and the extended features you get access to with the escort app are impressive. The core look of the build is great, but the feel and longevity of the build are better. Their warranty is one of the best on the market right now, and the fact that you can extend it is nice, no other firms offers this. The only issue I have is that you cannot find the X80 elsewhere, and with every other build I have looked at it has been cheaper off site. Keep an eye out for this one on Amazon or eBay, as getting even $50 off is a bargain for this build.

If you want something high end, but without having to spend $600, then the X80 is the radar detector for you.

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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