DISCLAIMER 1: Due to circumstances, this was a very quick and dirty evaluation of the unit. I would like to spend more time with it when I get the opportunity and at that time, my opinion might significantly change.
DISCLAIMER 2: I am being picky and holding this unit up to its reputation as a top-notch performer.
DISCLAIMER 3: Don't hurt me?
So, after quibbling with the manager of a local brick and mortar electronics store that carries the 8500 x50, he agreed to let me evaluate a unit without a 15% restocking fee for returns if I return it like new by the end of the day.... And I just got done doing that. I didn't bother getting the revision code and build date of this unit... I realize B&M stores aren't the best at this. But it was one of the units in the display case ad the salesman that got me the unit was unaware of its evaluational nature, so I doubt any foul play is likely.
I'm impressed by Escort's professional packaging/marketing image of this unit. It's very elegantly and cleanly done -- more professional than my V1, certainly more professional than my clamshell-plastic-case Whistlers. But anyway, that's just image. The instruction manual it comes with looks very detailed and informational like the V1's manual, but I didn't bother spending much time looking over it.
Oh yeah: The unit is big and heavy. Not ridiculously so... but just heavier than it looks. It feels heavier than my V1 and obstructs my vision just about the same (acceptable). Overall it's not a big deal to me, but it did lend to more bouncing on the slender mount than I saw with my Whistlers or my V1.
Well... First thing I noticed was, I plugged in only the X50 in the parking lot (parked perpendicular to the store door opener, at the far corner of the parking lot), the X50 powered on in HIGHWAY mode and was COMPLETELY silent. Puzzled, I took it off the holster and pointed it at the store: K (2 bars). Testing the V1 by itself, it consistently picks up the K-band signal at 1 dot off-axis in ANY orientation, peak direct signal was over 4 dots.
I did further testing driving perpendicular to the door opener, and found the 8500's "peripheral vision" was markedly lower than the V1 -- on the order of half the alerting distance driving perpendicular to a door opener right next to it. While an interesting point of data, it's a door opener, not a real-world speed trap, but this experience suggests the 8500 x50 would do worse against off-axis signals but be quieter.
On my test route, there is a K and Ka band speed sign -- the K band one came in pairs while the Ka band one is standalone (and now, thanks to the x50, I know it's 34.7!)
For each sign, I tested with 3 independent passes: For the 8500 alone, the V1 alone, and then a XTR-690 REV C alone (for kicks). Then I ran them all together to observe for any range differences. Interestingly, for the fake traps that I've been able to assemble, there seems to be no interference, though of course I'd never suggest driving like this in the real world.
K-band double-sign (100ft separation, first one pointing my way, second one pointing at oncoming traffic):
Valentine One alerted first by 10 seconds or so, then the X50 alerted, then the XTR-690 alerted about 5 seconds after that. There was a good 30 seconds or so from the XTR-690 to the point that I can visually identify the lit display of the sign. All 3 pass -- superb protection.
(1)In expert mode, the X50 failed to report two bogeys on K. I tried three times going back and forth... no luck. I don't know if it's because the frequency was too similar, or because the facing-back sign left its field of view too quickly for it to see both signals at the same time. But the V1 even 15 seconds BEFORE the sign sounded a bogey lock. THIS WAS A CASE WHERE ARROWS WORKED GREAT! The arrows in the middle zone correctly reported one bogey behind, and a blinking bogey still ahead, then two bogeys behind. Without arrows, both the Whistler and Escort reported a high strength K-band alert passing the sign, then the alert dipped or disappeared, then rapidly came and went as I passed the second time. Without arrows, this was confusing!
(2) I used a perpendicular side street a block from the sign to play with off-axis detection again. The V1 alerted roughly 50ft to the point that I started turning onto the street, then the alert went CRAZY as I turned onto the road. The Escort and Whistler behaved identically -- alerting just as I started turning the car, but not before. In both cases, the ramp-up was great at telling me this was a FAST-URGENT threat.
Ka 34.7, single sign:
The V1 alerted first for over 30 seconds, then the 8500 x50 and the Whistler alerted within 2 seconds of each other. Separately or together, these results were consistent across runs. Note that there is a slight hill separating the sign from line-of-sight. The V1 alerted continuously at 1-dot strength coming up to the hill, while the 8500 and Whistler both alerted right as I began ascending the hill. From the hill to the sign was 1 mile. So, I'm gonna say all units passed in terms of adequate alert, but the V1 in this case had a significant advantage due to its extra sensitivity or off-axis performance.
Ka 34.7, perpendicular side-street:
None of the detectors provided an alert before I began turning; all detectors presented urgent ramp-ups as I faced the sign.
Ka 34.7, Opposite-direction:
For fun, similar to the GOL test with 35.5, I came up to the sign in the opposite direction. Again, like before, the V1 had a significant advantage. All detectors were alerting within half a block of the sign. For an additional block before the sign, the whistler gave inconsistent Ka 1 blips. The V1 started doing the same half a block earlier, and within the block of the sign began to even ramp up raggedly.
I briefly pulled off onto the curb at the edge of where the Whistler began alerting, and examined the three detectors' behaviors: The whistler would blip once every 3 seconds or so, the Valentine would hold an alert for 5 seconds, lose it for a second, then pick it back up. The Escort stayed silent.
I'm guessing this is due to the filtering algorithm: The Whistler was on regular FILTER mode, and therefore responding to pulses over 100ms. The V1's guard I believe is at 300ms, while the Escort is said to be 700+ ms. I'm guessing the intermittent blips are transient reflections off traffic ahead, and the Escort "saw" it but the signal didn't last long enough to trigger an alert. I put the Whistler into FILTER 1 (+100ms filtering time) and saw no difference. However, in FILTER 2 (another 100ms), the Whistler failed to respond any longer. So Whistler users, take notice: high filter modes might actually lower your chances at weak or IO signals.
(1) Leaky Detector
I have everyone's favorite friend: Cobra XRS-9400 11-band detector, VG2-on. I believe the spec is that this thing parks on 1/3*33.8GHz for 50ms once in a while. (read: POP). Cobra was put facing the detectors at roughly one car's distance.
V1: No reaction.
Whistler: Showed PULSE, Ka POP9 bursts occasionally. FILTER modes made no difference.
8500 X50: POP alerts once in a while (but much longer silent intervals compared to the Whistler)
No reaction on all 3 detectors.
(1) City driving:
My route to the local supermarket passes through a lot of supermarket clusters. Now, we're talking valid radar sources but significantly off-axis.
XTR-690: Responded to a single CVS with a K-band opener virtually facing traffic, alert strength 1.
8500 x50: Responded to that CVS with strength 2, responded to a perpendicular X-band opener too at strength 1.
V1: In total, alerted to 5 supermarket clusters, at strength 1 or 2 (under little-L mute threshold), the K-band on-axis CVS did break threshold at 4 dots.
Commentary: The X50 looks hotter on X-band and K-band than the Whilster (to be expected). Despite the V1 alerting a lot, it was still good at alerting in a way indicative of a probable non-threat. Personally I did not find it bothersome or overwhelming, but some people with different tastes might find it less tolerable to have something beeping all the time.
(1) I didn't care for the alert tones. They worked, but the regular tones were hard to distinguish at times with wind noise, and the loud tones were way too high pitched and irritating. Whistler's assortment of musical tones were a lot better IMO, and even the V1's tones were simply identifiable without being annoying in a ramp-up kill-zone situation (which is, frankly, more important for the V1 than anyone else, given its chatty nature)
(2) I didn't like the UI of the expert meter. It is not as easily readable as the V1's bogey counter system... You have to squint hard at the unit to read the information it was presenting, and that distracted me for much longer than the V1's quick predictably-laid-out screen. If I had a shotgun "radar operator", this would be a lot better, so I doubt on long highway trips this would be a problem.
Final concluding remarks:
The 8500 x50 is indeed a top-notch detector that lives up to its reputation of excellent performance across all bands while not going beserk at every Walgreens along the way. I would recommend THIS unit the most to someone willing to shell out substantial money towards a detector, but needs to maintain a peaceful/civil/professional air in the car (or don't want to bother with training themselves with a more chatty detector). However, I should note that the tactics employed by the 8500 to be quiet are NOT rocket science, but do pose a trade-off particularly with IO or off-axis threats. In the end, there's not a single person to whom I'd DISCOURAGE getting this unit -- finding faults in this unit is pure nit-picking.
If people are wondering: What about me and this unit? Well, I am trying this new thing I learned called willpower. I walked out of the store this morning saying I'd go for a ONE DAY TEST, and that's what I'm doing today. Will I buy it in the future? Well my Jeep does have an outdated Whistler 1793SE, but I'm not quite ready to spend $300 on a new detector for it. Considering I live in an area where my primary threat is 34.7 Ka, I think I'd be happy with an upgraded Whistler unit -- so the XTR-695 is hot on my list currently.
P.S.: This is also the first Belscort unit I've ever operated, and it was a pleasurable experience.