What's In The Box?
The OBDLink MX Wi-Fi comes with the OBD-II adapter and a host of platform specific start guides. A link to the included OBDLink application and a copy of the license number for that app are also included.
One of my favorite "high-end" products to review during my time at mp3Car.com was the original OBDLink MX Bluetooth
. Prior to using it, I always purchased the cheapest OBD adapter I could find, and it really took getting a high-quality product like the OBDLink to realize just how slow those bargain basement options are. When I heard that a new faster version of the MX line was available, I requested a sneak peek to find out if it was an even better option.
First things first, the OBDLink MX Wi-Fi is fast
. No matter the protocol, the wifi model was faster to communicate with my cars when compared to the Bluetooth model. The MX Wi-Fi also maintains all of the available features of the Bluetooth variant. The dimensions are the same, it works with every protocol including MS CAN, and the battery saver technology still powers the unit down when the vehicle is off. Using wifi means the MX Wi-Fi can take advantage of the super secure WPA2 encryption protocol, leaving little chance that an intruder can steal your signal and interfere with vehicle controls. Using wifi means that the device is compatible with nearly every Android/iPhone/Windows platform out there. Everything you'd expect from a wifi based OBD-II adapter you get with the MX Wi-Fi.
Then, there are the limitations that one might overlook when choosing this wifi OBD-II adapter. The first issue is found during initial setup. As expected, the WPA2 encryption that the MX Wi-Fi uses requires a key that is only found on the back of the unit. In order for your smartphone or tablet of choice to find the MX Wi-Fi adapter, you must install the device into the OBD-II port commonly found under the dash. After your smartphone finds the device, you just then enter the WPA2 key, and unless you thought ahead and wrote down the key or have a sequence of mirrors just hanging around your car, you'll probably have to take the MX Wi-Fi out of the OBD-II port and take down the key. Rinse and repeat for each new wireless device you want to use to communicate with the MX Wi-Fi.
Unfortunately, it doesn't really get easier from there. After establishing your wifi connection, you effectively lose internet service to your smartphone. Assuming you're following the start guide thats included with the MX Wi-Fi, you have already installed the included copy of the OBDLink software, and have now completed step 2 through 8 of the guide (summarized in the last paragraph). The first time you run the OBDLink application it requires you to enter your license key and register the software. Here's the catch, while connected through wifi to the MX Wi-Fi, so you have no internet access. You will have to hop off the OBDLink MX access point and grab another wireless source to complete this step. Internet access, or lack thereof, is a common problem to me while using the OBDLink MX Wi-Fi for anything other than on the spot diagnostics. Unlike the Bluetooth model which you can install in a vehicle and basically "forget" once is initially setup, the OBDLink Wi-Fi relegates a smartphone to a "dumb" phone while it's plugged in, and unless you manually take the time to open your smartphone settings and disable wifi while driving, you're automatically going to lose data access while driving. Even the OBDLink software that comes with the MX Wifi has an issue with internet access. One of the functions of the app is mapping diagnostic data over your current position, but without data access, the app cannot draw the map (see below).
Despite this, the OBDLink application is incredibly powerful. It has most of the features of competing applications like Torque, but is designed to work specifically with OBDLink devices. Its much smaller in terms of install size and seems to be a lot faster between screens than Torque. All that and free support and updates for life make it the ideal companion to the MX Wi-Fi, internet hiccup aside.
The OBDLink MX Wi-Fi is a great OBD-II adapter for someone who might be looking for a device to swap in and out of cars to do spot diagnostic data, but I wouldn't recommend for someone looking to do long term data-logging or something similar. If you have Bluetooth connection as an option, I'd definitely suggest the original MX Bluetooth as your option.
Super fast connection and wireless communication
Smallest OBD-II adapter on the market
OBDLink app included in purchase is optimized for this device
Initialization and setup is unavoidably painful
Use of wifi communication is a constant inhibitor of overall usability
The OBDLink MX Wi-Fi is a great OBD-II adapter option... provided you can't make use of the more user-friendly Bluetooth model.