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Passport 7500 Radar and Laser Detector

Roundel

  Product Review
  Passport 7500 Radar and Laser Detector

by Mike Miller

www.bmwcca.org
Vol. XXX No. 8 August 1999

In the Spy-versus-Spy world of escalating speed-detection technology and countermeasures, Escort Inc., like its predecessor, Cincinnati Microwave, enjoys a well-respected reputation for building some of the best high-end radar and laser detectors out there. Since the early days of the first Big Box Escort X and K band radar detector, test after test sees Escort's performance in the upper ranges of every category. In fact, the old Big Box is still highly effective in the X and K band range - more so than some of Escort's modern competitors, who have fallen by the wayside in X and K band as technology mandated the ability to detect super-wide Ka band and laser speed-timing devices. Lots of local police departments still use old-fashioned X and K band radar guns handed down from veteran officers to rookies -- with admonitions not to rest the gun next to the family jewels.

Over the years, Escort has brought us several devices employing the latest civilian radar detection technology available. Their latest creation, the Passport 7500, is packed with a unique array of features and technology not found in any other detector. Employing digital signal processing, the Passport 7500 warns of X, K, and Ka band police radar, as well as providing laser warning with five separate built-in sensors (four in front, one rear). The additional frontal laser sensors are designed to acquire laser beams aimed from lateral positions. Amazingly, the Passport 7500 can display radar warnings for up to eight different sources simultaneously, identifying the band and signal strength of each signal. Deciphering this display, especially in a multiple bogey situation, requires some experience. But it works quite well. Escort claims no other detector can do this.

We used the Passport 7500 on our recent M coupe road trip to Vermont (Roundel, December 1998). We weren't equipped to do any comparison testing or range-of-warning measurement, so this review is purely subjective. When one first plugs in the Passport 7500, it quickly becomes apparent that this is no fire-it-up-and-go radar detector. It's a very sophisticated little black box. While you can just take off down the road and simply stuff the brakes when the thing goes off, you really need to read the owner's manual in order to operate the Passport 7500 efficiently. I'll admit that the sheer number of programmable features was somewhat daunting at first, but it took only five minutes with the owner's manual in one hand and the Passport in the other to become familiar with its programming features. And I'll also admit to being electronically challenged.

The most alluring feature of this unit is that its programming options enable full customization for the user's purposes. The pilot light (power on indication) can be programmed to display in six different ways. Using a handy top-mounted dimmer button, the entire display can be set at one of four levels of brightness: maximum, medium, minimum and dark. Warnings can be muted either manually or automatically with the AutoMute feature. The latter is a program feature that can be switched on or off; when on, AutoMute will signal an alert at full volume and then revert immediately to a lower volume.

Other programmable features include a standard or fast power-up sequence, and a standard meter display or an expert display for seasoned operators. The standard meter displays information about a single radar source only. If multiple sources are present, the computer picks the strongest signal. In expert mode, the display shows a bar graph for up to eight sources. Escort does recommend using the standard meter for a few weeks to become familiar with the other features on this device, but I went with the expert display right out of the gate. The programmable features continue with standard or loud tones, three different levels of city mode sensitivity - including the ability to shut down the X band completely, and safety radar warning and safety alert systems.

Safety radar, those pesky alerts all over the highway these days, uses modified K band signals. It comes in two flavors: Safety Alert and the Safety Warning System (SWS). The Safety Alert system has three alerts: Safety Vehicle, Road Hazard, and Train Nearby. SWS has 60 messages, all of which can be displayed by the Passport 7500 with SWS engaged in the programming mode. Thankfully, not all areas have this stuff; most detectors simply think it's a K band radar, which can be quite an eye-opener at 100 mph.

Passport 7500 sensitivity comes in three modes: Highway, city and AutoSensitivity. City mode lowers X band sensitivity to reduce falsing in urban areas clogged with radar sources such as intrusion alarms and garage door openers, while maintaining full sensitivity for K and Ka band, as well as laser. But the Auto mode is truly excellent for highway driving in populated areas; in this mode, the internal computer analyzes incoming radar signals and adjusts sensitivity on all bands.

Here's where the inevitable comparison with the Passport 7500's closest competitor, the Valentine One, comes into play. The V1, which I've used extensively, is extremely sensitive and acquires police radar signals from amazing distances, as does the Passport 7500. Which unit detects radar from the farthest distance? I don't know; we were not equipped for that kind of testing. But one thing did become clear: The Valentine One detects lots of radar signals from an amazing distance - including non-police radar sources - even in its full logic mode, which is akin to Passport's AutoSensitivity mode. The Passport seemed much more adept at weeding out false sources. Of course, as Mike Valentine would no doubt point out, any radar signal is a potential speed trap. He's right: A savvy cop will run X band radar in a known "falsing" area. Some people want to know about all potential police radar; others would rather have fewer false alarms. Tastes great/less filling.

Criticisms? Only two. First, you can't mount Passport 7500 on a sun visor, condemning your Bimmer to a lifetime of suction-cup marks on the windshield. That's also a prominent location that draws amateur thieves (pros know to look at the visor, too). Second, the optional SmartCord® MuteDisplay™ ($29.95) comes either as a plug-in unit for the cigarette-lighter socket or in stand-alone form that hardwires into the car's electrical system and plugs into the main Passport 7500. Both keep the detector dark, but don't include the nifty display screen that makes the Passport 7500 so cool. I hate people being able to see my detector, so I like to mount it on the passenger-side visor with a remote display in a spot only I can see. However, unlike Valentine One's remote display, the Passport 7500's does allow the operator to mute a warning at the remote location rather than by reaching up to the detector.

The Passport 7500 is available from Escort (800-964-3138), www.escortradar.com for $229.95. That price includes a comprehensive owner's manual, a quick-release windshield mount, and a long coiled power cord with cigarette-lighter adapter. The company offers a 30-day test drive; if you don't like the Passport 7500, just send it back within 30 days and Escort refunds your money.