Escort SmartRadar (iPhone Version) review: Escort SmartRadar (iPhone Version)

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MSRP: $449.95

The Good The stealthy and accurate Escort SmartRadar doesn't attract a lot of attention. A small, remote display allows it to be used without the app. The Escort Live app adds a database of recently reported Live Alerts and red-light cameras.

The Bad Specific hardware for Android and iOS compatibility. High sticker price compared with Cobra iRadar. Installation is semipermanent.

The Bottom Line It's pricey, but the stealthy Escort SmartRadar detector and the Escort Live app proved to be more accurate than the competition and triggered fewer false alarms.

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8.3 Overall
  • Design 7
  • Features 9
  • Performance 9

Review Sections

There are three parts to the Escort SmartRadar system: the SmartRadar detector itself, a separate display controller, and an app for Android or iPhone devices that is installed on your smartphone.

SmartRadar hardware
Let's start with the SmartRadar detector. The unit itself is a small, unassuming black box that is meant to be mounted near the top of the windshield just ahead of the rear-view mirror. It measures 3.2 inches by 3.5 inches and is 1.2 inches thick. The unit is affixed to the windshield with either a dual suction-cup mount or an adhesive pad, both are included in the box. The unit itself lacks any sort of visual indicators aside from a single, blue LED behind the power button. That power button is located on the driver's side of the device (when it's mounted sensor-forward) and is joined on the unit's edge by connections for the power cable, the display controller, and a data connection.

In the box, the our Android-specific SmartRadar unit shipped with two power cables (one short and one long) that need to be connected to the vehicle's 12-volt fuse box or tapped into 12-volt power. This version did not ship with a standard cigarette-lighter-type 12-volt power cable. When mounted using the strong adhesive pad, the SmartRadar is more or less a permanent installation.

The SmartRadar hardware is aesthetically less elegant than the Cobra iRadar. Antuan Goodwin/CNET

The bulky SmartRadar box isn't as slick-looking as, for example, the Cobra iRadar, but I didn't penalize the design score because this is a device that is designed to be mostly hidden behind the rear-view mirror and out of sight. Some drivers may enjoy the unit's function-over-form aesthetic.

The SmartRadar detector is able to detect X, K, Ka, and Laser bands and notify the driver with an audible beep and a spoken indication, such as "K band detected." Three sensitivity modes are available: Highway, Auto, and AutoNoX. Highway is, presumably, the highest sensitivity mode, designed to be used on the open road. Auto features a Traffic Signal Rejection (TSR) feature that automatically ignores interstate traffic sensors in areas where they're used. AutoNoX is the same as Auto mode, but with the addition of automatically ignoring all X-band alerts in areas where local law enforcement doesn't use the older method.

Display controller
Although there is no display integrated into the SmartRadar itself, the detector ships with a small, display controller that can be connected to the device and mounted in a visible and accessible location. I chose to mount the display to the top of my test car's rear-view mirror, which is both the location suggested by Escort's photography and the only location that the extremely short connection cable would allow. The tiny dot-matrix display shows the current detection mode and, in the event of a radar trigger, the band and signal strength. Users can select from three different display modes that get more and more detailed. There are also buttons for powering the detector on and off, adjusting the brightness of the display's red illumination, and changing the detection sensitivity mode.

The display controller mounts atop the rear-view mirror. Antuan Goodwin/CNET

Escort Live app
With just the physical hardware alone, the Escort SmartRadar is already shaping up to be a fully competent radar detection setup. However, there's still the matter of the third piece of this system's puzzle: the Escort Live app. This app (free to download, but subscription-supported) installs on your Android phone or iPhone. After a short Bluetooth pairing process, the app is able to communicate bidirectionally with the SmartRadar hardware, connecting it to Escort's database of user-reported speed traps, police sightings, radar detections, and speed and red-light cameras. Whenever the SmartRadar detects speed-monitoring radar or lasers, it uploads the location and band detected to the Escort Live database. False alerts are also noted. Now, when you approach a red-light camera or a known speed trap, the SmartRadar unit can alert you before you even get there, displaying something like "K-BAND LIVE" and giving you more time to adjust your speed. The idea is that with the help of an army of other SmartRadar users, the Escort Live service effectively extends the detection range.

The Escort Live app acts as a second, larger display for the SmartRadar hardware. Antuan Goodwin/CNET

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