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Beltronics RX65 and Escort 8500 X50 Comparison (Updated!)

UPDATE (1/6/2012): This article previously referred to the original Escort Passport 8500 X50. This model has now been updated and replaced with the Escort Passport 8500 X50 Black.

We get to do a lot of cool things here at Buy Radar Detectors. When we are not conducting comparison tests, trying out new products, and running contests, we also get to do a lot of research. We try very hard to match up the best radar detector for the buyer. This involves more than just asking questions; we also pay attention to what people are buying, and also the range of products they are interested in.

Two radar detectors stand out in this regard. A lot of people out there are interested in the differences between the Beltronics RX65 and the Escort 8500 X50. So, we decided to do more than just a review of features, and a quick comparison. These are both great radar detectors, but are they as similar as they appear? Which one is better overall? Many of you know that Beltronics is owned by Escort, so are they all that different under the hood?

To find this out, we are going to open up the boxes, show you what you get with each one, give a rundown on their performance specs, and then how well they each perform in independent testing. Danny just now brought me both detectors still all wrapped in plastic. So what I find in the box, is what you as the consumer would find.

The Boxes
As you can see, they both come in boxes about the same size. Yes, I am even going to compare the boxes they come in! First up is the Escort 8500. The Escort Passport 8500 X50 has a lot of "awards" and review blurbs, and even a sticker on it telling us it is the "World's Best". It also has "Super Charged Performance". At the bottom, it informs us that it is a radar, laser detector.

Bel Escort Boxes
Ok, turning round the box. Crap! That is a lot of stuff back there. I am going to just skip over the fact that it has "new extreme radar detection", some performance chart versus "Average Detectors" and the other absolute nonsense.

It does have some nice pictures of what the detector's screen looks like when in use, it can be muted, three display modes (radar is near / radar is complicated / radar is in this band and may be near), ultra-bright display so I can use it on a sunny day, and it comes with stuff.

Everything else on there is just out to overload the potential buyer with information. If it has all these patents, detects all of these bands of radar, and has a lot of cool features, it has to be good! Just don't ask where the arrows are, really, that is not funny. Oh, and according to the back, yup. SUPER CHARGED PERFORMANCE!

A bit harsh, only about the packaging. I would hope that all of you by now know that a product should never be judged on the box it comes in. Just because the marketing department at Escort had too many skittles with lunch and got over enthused does not mean that there is not an well engineered detector in that super charged box.

Next is the Beltronics RX65 Professional Series. Ok, hold it right there. What is a "professional" radar detector? I doubt very much that most people that think about buying one of these drive for a living. They are not The Stig, and certainly not The Transporter. They may think they are The Bandit, or even The Driver, perhaps at best ...Mad Max. There are a few Steve McQueens in this world, but radar detectors are low on their shopping list.

The only type of "pro" driver that may be interested is a Gumball participant, or street racers that race for cash. I suppose "Our customers may participate in potentially illegal racing activities, and need to be warned to the presence of local law enforcement." Just does not look as good on the box. Er, Professional Driver Series it is!

Ok, back to the purple box.

Well, it does look nice, and if you ignore the naming conventions nonsense, it is rather clean. There is a small quote that while exaggerative, is not too ridiculous. At the bottom is the fact that it is ULTIMATE, and a radar, laser, safety detector. Good to know what it is, just like the Escort I suppose. Ultimate does mean there is nothing better, so it has to be the best, right?

Now we look at the back. Ack! Turn it back around!

Bel Escort Boxes Back
It claims to have the longest detection range of any detector, lightning fast response times, most advanced crap, etc. All things that can be tested, all things you are kinda screwing yourself by saying if you cannot back it up. Well at least there is a picture of what the display looks like.

Inside the Boxes
Once you get past the packaging, the fact that Beltronics is owned by Escort becomes rather obvious. They are packaged in a very similar manner. They both have a canvas storage case containing the detector, suction cups, and mount. Under the case is the user manual, and in a side section is the SmartPlug.

Bel Escort Cases
That is it. I think for the money a second set of spare suction cups would be nice. At least there are not several advertisements and flyers for hats or something.

The Canvas Cases
I like the canvas storage case they are using. Yes case. They are using the same one, except for a different logo.

I know some people like the hard cases, but the canvas one has just the right amount of flexible "give" while still protecting the detector. You can place it under a seat or in a storage compartment without it crushing everything else. They also seem to hold up well, since they just use a simple zipper. Some cases have a lot of clips and plastic hinges that just break even though the actual case will last forever.

This is one area where if you like the canvas case, you get something much nicer than what comes with "higher-end" detectors.

The Suction Cups and Clips
I think we are all waiting on something better than the suction cups that come with all detectors. There are ways to get a bit more life out of old ones, but in time you have to replace them. For the money, I think both detectors should come with a spare set of replacement suction cups.

Then the clips. Identical clips are used for both detectors. They are also rather good, at least they are not plastic. If you use a bit of care inserting them and also when placing and removing the detector they might outlast the detector itself. You could always get a dash pad, but it is not the best solution for every vehicle. Many people get tired of removing the detector and that tends to be the main reason they go for a more "permanent" installation. Can't say I blame them. (BTW send in pics of your installation and I will send a t-shirt to the coolest ones. Just send them to: contest @ buyradardetectors.com.)

The SmartPlugs
All nice and coiled up in its own section of the box is a SmartPlug. Again, this item is identical for both detectors. If you are looking for the reasons these detectors cost a bit more than others, this is one of them.

The SmartPlug does not improve performance, it is not for a "stealthy" installation, or anything like that. It does, however, add a new level of convenience. In many cars you can plug the cord into a lighter/outlet on the dash. You can then very easily mute it without having to reach up to the actual detector. It also has an alert light on the plug.

This can be great if the detector is a bit too vocal from time to time, or you are driving at night and place the detector in dark mode (and use the plug light for speed warnings). "Why hi there Mr. Police Officer, no there is no detector in this car at all!" Sometimes it is just too annoying to have to fiddle with the buttons on the detector to mute or dim the display. The fact that the SmarPlugs come standard with the detectors places them in a higher-end category over other budget detectors. This is a $29.99 option to buy a SmartPlug separately.

The Manuals
I have yet to encounter a radar detector manual that I think does a good job. The manuals that come with the RX65 and the 8500 are not absolutely terrible though, and do an adequate job of explaining the basics, and a bit on how to use the detector. They are also very similar. I would like to see the manuals a bit more thorough, but then again, I am one of the few people that will ever read one anyway. They come with a nice tear-out quick reference guide. You can check them out for yourself. We try to have a .pdf of all of the manuals we can find here on our site.

In fact, if you are comparing a couple of detectors, I would recommend that you give their manuals a quick look. You might find the one bit of information you need to help you decide the one that is best for you.

The Contents
Bel Contents
Both radar detectors come with a nice durable case and SmartPlug. The suction cups and mounts are as good as any, as are the manuals. So compared to a lot of other detectors, they do have some quality accessories standard in the box, and that is something they both should be proud of.

Escort Contents
Compared to each other. Well, they each have nearly identical accessories. I would hope you purchased a detector based on performance, but if the connects of the box were meant to be a tie breaker, it is all the same. Now if one of them came with a Buy Radar Detectors.com t-shirt... just saying.

The Exteriors
Bel Escort Side by Side
Here we have them side by side. I wish they both had a little less "model graffiti" on them. Just the name and model number and a bit more discreet would be fine. The cases are nice non-descript grey plastic. While they are not the tank of radar detectors, that is the Beltronics STi Driver, they are sturdy and do not feel like they could pop apart if you dropped one. On the plus side, they also will not create a 1/2 mile deep crater in the ground if you drop one like the Bel STi, either.

Radar detectors are going to get knocked around a good bit, and we seldom have any complaints from these. They are built to handle changes in temperature, constant motion, and being knocked on the floor from time to time. A lot of people do not realize what an achievement it is that detectors are as tough as they are considering the components jammed in there. There is more to a good radar detector than just an antenna, a speaker, and an on switch these days.

Bel Escort Side
I feel that all radar detectors are a bit too large, but they are dealing with some very real limitations. You can only shrink the antenna so much. I would be surprised, in fact, if detectors get much smaller than they are now without a very big breakthrough in antenna design.

One thing that is important. Both detectors are just the right size to fit in the center storage console of most vehicles. I may like the storage case, but realistically I am not going to use it every time I take down the detector. Being able to slip it into a storage spot is very nice. Some of the detectors out there are a bit on the big size and can be hard to quickly "tuck away".

Size wise, the 8500 is slightly longer and has a tapered front so the readout is turned toward the driver. This can be a nice feature for some of you. Not so great if you live where the driver is on the right side of the car though.

The Buttons
Most of the buttons for both detectors are on the top. If you place the detector on the windshield they can be annoying to try to get to but there is not really much of an option here. The big center mute button on the RX65 is easy to use, but so is the little, almost hidden one on the front of the 8500. For some of you it may be a lot easier to use the front button than the big snooze bar on the RX65. Hopefully you can use the mute button on the SmartPlug anyway.

The city and brightness buttons on the RX65 are going to be a bit difficult to use. You will probably find it easier to take down the detector to change them. The power button is also up next to them, oops. The buttons on the 8500 are a bit easier, since they are the only buttons on the top and have some nice ergonomic little tabs.

Volume control is going to be a matter of preference. The RX65 has this snooze bar style button on top that you use to mute and change the volume. The 8500 has a wheel style control on the side. Being able to adjust the volume on a detector is often the single most used feature. For some of you, the RX65 may be easy to get to; for others the side control of the 8500 is best. I would think about where you plan to place the detector in your vehicle, then how easy it would be to use a top volume button or a side wheel when driving.

Also, if you place the detector on a dash pad, the RX65 is going to be a lot easier to use. The wheel will be too close to the mat surface and you will just be picking up the detector to adjust it after a while.

In the top center for both detectors is a release button for the windshield clip. We recommend you use this and not just yank down the detectors. It tends to wear out the release. Yes, some people just snatch them down. Then one day you are frustrated because the detector keeps slipping off and falling down on the dash. Suction cups and clips are cheap to replace, but yanking it down messes up the actual case on the detector.

The Plugs
Both detectors are plugged in on the right side. The plug for the RX65 is on the front area, and the one on the 8500 is on the back area. Both use the same type of cord so this will again be a matter of personal preference. Sometimes the plugs toward the front are easier to connect and disconnect with one hand and are also easier to get to. If you are planning on hardwiring the detector or concealing the plug, then the 8500 might look much better.

The Laser Periscopes
The laser periscopes are used to redirect lasers from the rear of the detector towards the laser sensor. On the RX65 it is on the right side, and on the 8500 the left. You don't expect this to matter much, do you? Good, because laser warning for the most part currently is not very good. According to where you place the detectors, and if there are any obstructions when facing the rear of your vehicle, the placement of the periscope might give you .000000001 seconds quicker warning if you get hit by a laser from behind.

The Performance
Well this covers what the RX65 and 8500 come with, and how they look. The important thing is how do they perform! For this we are going to reference testing done by the Guys Of Lidar. They are not afraid to run heads-up comparison in controlled situations. Do not trust anything you read that was created from the manufacturers. There is a lot of misleading, and convoluted data used. Give anyone enough time and they can create all kinds of graphs and charts using made up numbers.

Bel Escort Detectors
Often the manufacturer will also use formulas based off of what the device should do based on the engineering specifications. When you are out shopping for a radar detector do not trust anything that you cannot verify. This includes the manufacturer, people who get paid for reviews or online stores (Even us!). There are several websites out there that conduct independent testing. They do not get paid to do it, they have no reason to try to promote any brand over another. While many radar detector dealers try to be as factual and honest as possible, you are your own best research team. If you visit an online retail site and they have lots of performance charts or 1-4 star ratings be a bit concerned as to how they are ranking their products.

This is one reason we do not do that here at Buy Radar Detectors. There are no nifty meters or 1-5 performance dots next to every detector on our site. People want to know "what is the best?" Truth is there is no "best" single detector for everyone. They all have different features that may be much more important to you than someone else. We prefer to work with you as an individual. This does not mean that we will not have a suggestion, or do not test the detectors ourselves. Trust me we do. So if you call and ask what is the difference between "X" and "Z", we will tell you what we have observed and also what others have found out in independent testing.

We are fortunate that GOL has just finished up a round of performance tests. Included was a Beltronics RX65 and an Escort 8500 X50. So which detector had the best detection range for the different bands?

  • K Band Test: RX65
  • Ka Band (33.8): RX65
  • Ka Band (34.7) RX65
  • Ka Band (35.5) RX65
  • Instant On (test one): Escort 8500 X50
  • Instant On (test two - the hard one): RX65 - barely

I heavily recommend that you go and visit their site for more details on the test. The first thing you will notice is that both detectors were very close in performance. The RX65 won in every category, but only by often small amounts. Again - go and look at the test for yourself!

If at this point I was completely indecisive about buying either detector I would have to favor the RX65. It was just slightly better than the Escort in everything except instant on detection. Another thing to note, both detectors are performing very well against models that cost $100-$200 more. From that perspective both are a great value. And if you figure in the quality of the items that are included with the detector, they are an even better deal.

The Specifications
Here are some specifications straight from Escort and Beltronics:

Escort 8500 X50

  • X-band 10.525 GHz
  • K-band 24.150 GHz
  • Ka-band 34.700 GHz
  • Laser 904nm, 33 MHz Bandwidth

Laser Detection

Quantum Limited Video Receiver
Multiple Laser Sensor Diodes

Radar Receiver / Detector Type

Superheterodyne, Varactor-Tuned VCO
Scanning Frequency Discriminator
Digital Signal Processing (DSP)

Display Type

AlGaAs 280 LED Matrix/Text
Bar Graph, ExpertMeter, or SpecDisplay
3-Level Dimming, plus Dark Mode

Power Requirement

12VDC, Negative Ground
SmartCord MuteDisplay Included


1.25" H x 2.85" W x 5.32" L

Beltronics RX 65

  • X-band: 10.525 GHz
  • K-band: 24.150
  • Ka-band: 34.700
  • Ku-band: 13.400
  • Laser: 904nm, 33MHz bandwidth

Radar Receiver/Detector Type

Superheterodyne, VTO
Scanning Frequency Discriminator
Digital Signal Processing (DSP)

Laser Detection

Quantum Limited Video Receiver
Multiple Laser Sensor Diodes

Display Type

280 LED Alphanumeric
Bar Graph or Tech Display
3 Levels of Brightness, plus Dark Mode

Power Requirement

12VDC, Negative Ground


1.25H x 2.75W x 4.75L

The Features
Escort 8500

  • X, K, Ka, and Super Wideband Ka Detection
  • 360 Protection against all types of Laser
  • Instant-On (Pulse) Detection
  • Selectable POP Mode Detection
  • SmartShield VG-2 Immunity
  • High Intensity Red Text Display
  • Bar Graph Signal Strength Indicator With 3 Modes
  • ExpertMeter Multiple Threat Display
  • AutoSensitivity Mode
  • Selectable Bands
  • City and Highway Modes
  • Earphone Jack
  • Auto and Manual Muting
  • Maximum/Medium/Minimum/Dark Display Settings
  • Auto Memory Retention
  • Software Upgradable
  • SpecDisplay Display Option
  • Fully Adjustable Audio Levels
  • SmartCord Power Cord Included
  • One Year Manufacturer Warranty

Beltronics RX65

  • X, K, Ka, and Super Wideband Ka Detection
  • 360 Protection against all types of Laser
  • Instant-On (Pulse) Detection
  • Detects POP Mode
  • Safety Warning System (SWS Alert
  • VG-2 Undetectable
  • Over 60 Digital Voice Messages
  • Detailed SWS Alerts
  • High Intensity Red Text Display
  • Bar Graph Signal Strength Indicator With 3 Modes
  • Multiple Threat Display
  • Ku Band Detection
  • AutoScan Mode
  • Selectable Bands
  • 3 City Modes and Highway Mode
  • Earphone Jack
  • Auto and Manual Muting
  • Bright/Medium/Minimum/Dark Display Settings
  • Auto Memory Retention
  • Software Upgradable
  • Tech Display
  • Fully Adjustable Audio Levels
  • SmartPlug Power Cord Included
  • One Year Manufacturer Warranty

Selectable Features
Escort 8500

  • Power-on Indication - 8 possible ways to configure the power-on display, including a voltage meter
  • Power-on Sequence - Standard/Fast
  • Signal Strength Meter - Standard/ExpertMeter/SpecDisplay
  • Auto Mute - on/off
  • Audio Tones - standard/loud
  • City Mode Sensitivity - Standard/Low X/No X
  • Brightness - Last/Minimum/Medium/Maximum/Dark
  • Dark Mode - Standard Dark/All Dark
  • Bands Detected - Bands Detected - Any individual band(s), including laser can be disabled

Beltronics RX65

  • Power-on Indication - Full Description/Letter/Voltage
  • Voice Alerts - on/off
  • Power-on Sequence - Standard/Fast
  • Signal Strength Meter - Standard/Threat Display/Tech Display
  • Auto Mute - on/off
  • City Mode Sensitivity - Standard/Low X/No X
  • Bands Detected - Bands Detected - Any individual band(s), including laser and SWS can be disabled.

Ok, so what is the difference between the two?

The Bel RX65 has the following features that the Escort 8500 X50 does not have:

  • Over 60 Digital Voice Messages
  • Ku Band Detection

The above reviews are for the 8500 and RX65 with red display screens. There is also an Escort 8500 X50 with a blue display ($339.95) and Beltronics RX65 with a blue display ($339.95) available. The only thing different from the detectors reviewed above is the display color.

Further Reading

Do not take our word on this though! Here is a review for you to check out:

Veil Guy's radar detector review.

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