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  1. Hardware Review: Echoman EM05 Heads-Up Display

    by , 10-07-2015 at 03:12 PM

    What is it?

    The Echoman EM05 is an OBD-II based Heads-Up Display unit which places key vehicle information in the driver's immediate view.

    What's in the box?
    Included in the Echoman EM05 box is the display unit, A 5ft slim OBD-II connector, wireless remote, a sticky pad for both the display unit and remote, polarizing film for the windshield, and a handy instruction manual.

    The Verdict:

    For vehicles that don't have HUD displays from the factory, the EM05 is a great safety edition. It gives a wealth of vehicle information without causing driver distraction and is capable of providing diagnostic and alert information when needed.

    The Echoman EM05 is a heads-up display (HUD) device capable of displaying vehicle diagnostic information within the driver's view. The amount of information given at it's default setting is impressive, if not a little overwhelming at first glance. At it's default setting the driver is presented with vehicle RPM as a visual indicator, speed information, and a fuel consumption average. As the vehicle is driven, information is automatically updated. Through host of options available, you can have on screen reminders for other things such as water temperature, system time, and trip distance calculation.

    The EM05 also serves as an information alert notification system, with icons available for speed alerts, gear shift indication, battery voltage, engine failure notification, and more. When an engine failure state is scanned, the EM05 can pull engine codes for diagnostic and repair purposes. Another need alert feature is the tired driver alert, which can be set to wake drivers up based on miles driven on a particular trip. All of the warning criteria is customizable by the driver by either using the included wireless remote, or using the toggle-and-press switch on the display unit. An audible chime is available in addition to the visual alerts, but because the display is designed to setup within the driver's view, I found this feature unnecessary and even slightly annoying.

    The EM05 HUD should work with any vehicle manufactured in the USA after 1996, but information displayed could be limited by depending on manufacturer specifications that are outside of the OBD-II protocol. The HUD does have limited localization settings, being able to adjust temperatures between Celsius and Fahrenheit for each display mode desired. The limitation however comes from fuel consumption display, which can provide units per 100/km, or the measurement in liters, but will not convert to miles per gallon for US drivers.

    The Verdict:

    For vehicles that don't have HUD displays from the factory, the EM05 is a great safety edition. It gives a wealth of vehicle information without causing driver distraction and is capable of providing diagnostic and alert information when needed.

    The Echoman EM05 is available at You can buy here:

    Updated 10-08-2015 at 11:17 AM by Sonicxtacy02

    Product Reviews
  2. More on CES: Your automator is safely automated

    by , 01-11-2013 at 06:40 PM
    Another slice of the massive tech showcase known as CES was spent focusing on the trends that should have an immediate impact in the evolution of automotive automation. Many aftermarket manufacturers have inched past the practice of trying to safely deliver content to the car in lieu of using hardware systems to process content to create a more engagement and safe automotive environment. I spent the majority of Day 2 scouring the North Hall booths for demos of the gear that will bring some of the high end OEM systems to the aftermarket. The top buzzword from both OEM and aftermarket companies when referencing these systems is the "Connected Car" concept, a term that most people in the mp3Car community have run into in previous years.

    Among the coolest gear in this Connected Car category is Delphi's new OBD-II based Bluetooth 2G adapter. Developed in partnership with Verizon, this device not only has the ability to monitor car systems and control routine functions like car start/stop, but it also can harness available data received and provide users with recommendations on how to automate driving tasks. For example, the device can take user driving habit along with the power of the Verizon mobile network to suggest new routes based on time, distance, or even environmental impact. Of course, another key feature of the Delphi adapter is the ability to control car functions like locks, engine start, and geofences from anywhere. Accompanying apps for the web, Android, and IOS are already available. Unfortunately, the current iteration of the device is limited to 2G communications, making unable to be used as a infotainment hotspot.

    Globalstat's TR600 tracking system is another automation powerhouse. In short, the TR600 is a GPS, GSM, and CANBUS capable I/O device. The TR600 has a total of 9 I/O points (3 Input/ 6 Outputs), and with add on sensors can monitor most any vehicle event and automate tasks based on them. GSM capability means users can also remotely monitor and control I/Os. The TR600 can be used fully autonomously or as a standalone device to control relays via an included serial interface.

    The Mobileye Series 5 is a product aimed specifically at adding collision avoidance systems for any vehicle. The Series 5 is essentially a advanced camera which can identify objects and their respective distances from the vehicle in real-time. The camera can then relay information to either your Android or Apple smartphone, or to the included display module. Multiple data points are available and instantly updated including lane departure warnings, following time indicators, and road sign recognition and indication. On top of these monitoring capabilities, the Series 5 can also automate tasks such as headlight and high-beam control for an active safe driving experience. This is a fascinating system which can be easily tucked away behind the windshield of any vehicle.

    More from CES 2013 to follow.
  3. Hardware Review: OBDLink MX Bluetooth OBD-II Reader

    by , 01-03-2012 at 03:10 PM

    What is it?

    The OBDLink MX is the smallest & fastest bluetooth capable OBD-II device available today

    The Verdict:

    The OBDLink MX makes it all too clear that there's a large difference in effectiveness between generic and high-end OBD-II adapters. It's fast, small, and installs in seconds to any OBD-II capable automobile. Fact is, the OBDLink MX is the best OBD-II option to date.

    What’s in the box?

    The OBDLink MX comes with the OBD-II adapter, start guides for windows and android applications, and a licensed copy of OBDWiz software.


    In 2007, I ventured into the OBD-II adapter market in search of a simple device to read as much data as my car was capable of providing. There were many options, mainly of the USB variety, which did nothing in my opinion to differentiate themselves from a generic "cheap" reader. This idea in mind, I went on good old Ebay and purchased a generic ELM327 OBD-II module. To this day, it still works. It doesn't update any more than 3 sensors per second, is not compatible with my newer secondary vehicle, and isn't anything I'd show off at all, but it works. It wasn't until I got a hands-on demo of the new OBDLink MX that I realized the world of difference a high-quality OBD-II reader is capable of.

    The very first thing that jumped out at me is how small this device is. In my cramped Acura RSX cabin, the generic reader does its best job at poking my leg every time I go full throttle. With no heavy gauge wire protruding, and being just a smidgen over the size of the OBD-II connector itself, the OBDLink MX gives me no problems in this arena. I will note that the indicator LEDs (four of them, each a different color) on the device's face do somewhat light up the underside of my dash a bit at night, but the positioning of most OBD-II connectors will mitigate this small issue.

    Equally as impressive as the size of the OBDLink MX is just how fast it is. Despite my primary vehicle sporting the ancient ISO protocol, the OBDLink MX provides PID updates at a noticeably faster rate than my generic ELM module. It's not real-time, but the information i want from my OBD-II system comes at a rate that is 5 times greater than the generic device. When you consider that this increase comes over a bluetooth virtual serial port versus the higher bandwidth USB port of the generic unit, that's darn impressive. Connecting the OBDLink to my Android smartphone is equally as easy as installation with a windows PC, and seems to make the PIDs update even faster, though some of that may be software manipulation at work. Either way, the device provides OBD-II data at a far greater interval than the PLX Kiwi Wifi OBD-II device I reviewed some time ago.

    To attempt to truly gauge the speed and compatibility of the OBDLink MX, I borrowed a buddy's later model Mazda RX-8. Utilizing it's medium-speed CAN bus protocol, the OBDLink MX provides data in an absolute fury. This is the absolute manner in which I envisioned receiving OBD-II values back in 2007. Using the OBDLink over CAN bus appears real-time, indeed.

    On top of these benefits, the OBDLink creates a solution that several other OBD-II devices ignore. When connected, other OBD-II adapters will drain your battery while the car is parked. The OBDLink MX is programmed to automatically shut off if activity is not detected on the bus for 10 minutes. This is feature that should be considered invaluable to a person who wishes to install this device permanently but frequently leaves there car parked for days at a time. The device also has built-in encryption methods which deem it "unhackable" by its creators.

    It is hard to find a fault in a device which does what it intends to faster than it's competitors with a smaller footprint. The small quips I've encountered with the OBDLink MX include its current incompatibility with iPod devices, including the iPhone and iPad. I was unable to connect to and poll data from the MX despite using a variety of apps. The only other nitpick I discovered in testing isn't really a fault to the creator at all, but the Bluesoleil bluetooth stack. The device at times will have trouble reestablishing a connection after resume from hibernation. The windows bluetooth stack showed no problem what so ever however. Based on other experiences, I will chalk that up to a Bluesoleil problem.

    The Positive:

    • Fastest OBD-II device I've encountered, even with outdated protocols
    • Smallest bluetooth capable device on the market
    • Easy one-touch installation method
    • Fully compatible with PCs and android (without root)
    • OBD-II software included with visual gauge support and logging
    • Can be easily removed and swapped into any OBD-II vehicle
    • Battery saving technology built into the device
    • Hack-Proof encryption

    The Negative:

    • Resume issues with Bluesoleil stack
    • Not currently compatible with iPod product line
    • Bit of a light show in the driver foot well at night when connected

    The Verdict:

    The OBDLink MX makes it all too clear that there's a large difference in effectiveness between generic and high-end OBD-II adapters. It's fast, small, and installs in seconds to any OBDII capable automobile. Fact is, the OBDLink MX is the best OBD-II option to date.

  4. Hardware Review: PLX Devices Kiwi Wifi OBD Scanner

    by , 01-05-2010 at 12:00 PM

    What is it?

    The PLX Devices Kiwi Wifi is an easy to use wireless OBD-II scanner which connects to iPhone and iPod Touch Devices.

    The Verdict:

    The PLX Devices Kiwi Wifi OBD-II scanner is a handy device, which makes OBD scanning and code reading simpler than it’s ever been before. However, its wireless accessibility is both a blessing and a burden. I would recommend this device based on its code-reading abilities more so than its day-to-day data reading capabilities.

    See this product on the mp3Car Store HERE.

    What’s in the box?

    The Kiwi Wifi comes with the main OBD-II Module, a 6-foot OBD port cable, and a simple yet effective set of instructions.


    The Kiwi Wifi device is a plug and play tool used to scan OBD-II data from modern automobiles using either an iPhone or iPod Touch (not included). The magic in the device is it uses an 802.11x wireless signal to send the data read from your OBD-II port to the Apple device. This means you can simply connect the OBD-II cable to your vehicles port, and tuck the Kiwi away. The device has a switch to turn the Kiwi on/off. This may come in handy if you are worried about power consumption (the device does constantly pull power from the OBD port in its ON state), but for most applications it shouldn’t be necessary. The only other notable features of the device are a red light indicating the device power state and a green “LINK” light that indicates an iPod connection is present.

    To complete the setup, one need go to "settings" on your iPod or iPhone device. Turn on wifi, and a wireless signal named “PLXDevices” should display after a quick signal search. Connect to that device (no encryption needed), then click the blue arrow to enter that particular connection’s settings. Click the “Static” button then enter an IP address of and a subnet mask of Save, and the setup is complete.

    The Kiwi device is supported by various applications from the iTunes store. The instructions indicate that both popular apps, Rev and FuzzyCar, support the Kiwi. FuzzyCar supports all PID data and is quite a bit cheaper than the paid-for version of Rev, so that was my app of choice. Once installed, FuzzyCar ran a quick scan of my vehicles supported PIDs. Once the scan was done the information was displayed in a neat and clear fashion.

    The ease of use of the Kiwi Wifi when paired with an iPod is amazing. The instruction booklet reads “This Won’t Take Long” in bold print and it couldn’t be more correct. Still, there are two issues that need be mentioned. In order to use the device, you must first manually connect to the “PLXDevices” wifi connection each time you want to use it. It would seem the applications should automatically switch when they are started but this is not the case. The bigger issue is the speed at which the information is updated. A standard serial OBD-II port will update information at nearly once per second. The Kiwi Wifi appears to be hindered by the wireless connection, as the information updates at close to once per ten seconds in my testing with FuzzyCar. This obviously makes information such as RPM and engine load % worthless. Even still, the PLX Devices Kiwi Wifi handles OBD-II well and does an excellent job of adding a handy feature to an already potent Apple device.

    The Positive:

    • Super-fast installation routine
    • Supreme portability
    • Seamless integration with iPhone/iPod Touch
    • Wireless means less wiring and easier to stow away
    • Power switch to conserve energy
    • Bus (OBD-II) powered

    The Negative:

    • Requires an external device (iPod or iPhone)
    • Slow data updates
    • Requires manual connection of the wireless device
    • No free application. Adds to the cost of the device.

    The Verdict:

    The PLX Devices Kiwi Wifi OBD-II scanner is a handy device which makes OBD scanning and code reading simpler than it’s ever been before. However, its wireless accessibility is both a blessing and a burden. I would recommend this device based on its code-reading abilities more so than its day-to-day data reading capabilities.


    SSID: PLXDevices
    Port: 35000
    Range: 50 ft (line of sight)
    Antenna: Internal
    Power Consumption: 0.7 Watts
    Wifi Standard: 802.11a/b/g
    Operating Temp: -15 to 100° C
    Dimensions: 2.75x1.25x0.6 Inches

    See this product on the mp3Car Store HERE.

    Updated 01-05-2010 at 12:08 PM by Jensen2000

    Product Reviews
  5. Hardware Review: OBDLink by

    by , 12-23-2009 at 02:15 PM

    What is OBDLink?

    OBDLink is the latest in a line of PC based “scan tools” manufactured by A “scan tool” is a device which can be used to gain access to vehicle onboard diagnostics and engine management systems to acquire data on engine faults and real time engine running parameters and can also be used for data logging and dyno-testing (dependent on software application used).

    The Verdict:
    In my opinion OBDLink is a great device, in fact probably the best I have come across without having to spend lots of money. OBDLnk is compatible with a wide range of vehicles, can be integrated with a vast number of software packages, and can even be used on the new Windows 7 operating system. The device is very easy to set up and use. Great value product, excellent warranty and excellent product support.

    See this product on the mp3Car Store here.

    Package Contents (Basic package):

    Regular Price: $99.95
    • OBDLink scan tool
    • 1.8m (6 feet) USB cable
    • 1.8m (6 feet) OBDII Cable
    • Quick start guide
    • Installation CD

    The Plan:

    From the offset I was aiming to make this review as clear and informative as I could manage with the hardware and software at my disposal and also trying to think of any questions that someone may ask so….. Here goes.

    • Operating systems: XP and Windows 7
    • Software packages: (free), ScanXL Pro, Touchscan and ScanMaster.
    • The test vehicles: manufactured between 1997 and 2008 in the European sector.

    Specification (from manufacturers’ website):

    • USB Interface
    • Bluetooth (optional extra) up to 100m/330Ft
    • Baud rates from 9600 to 1.4M Baud.
    • Supports ALL legislated OBD protocols
    • Compatible with more software than any other scan tool
    • Extended command set allowing the tool to perform enhanced diagnostics that are not possible with ELM327 based scan tools.
    • User upgradeable via free downloads
    • Can be powered from OBD or USB for even easier firmware upgrades.
    • Improved automatic protocol detection algorithm
    • Smart keep-alive algorithm helps ensure a stable connection on ISO and KWP vehicles
    • Large CAN memory buffer allows the scan tool to receive large amounts of data
    • Greatly increased data throughput delivers faster screen updates and more graph points
    • Dimensions: 3.75" x 1.7" (95 mm x 43 mm)


    • Right angled OBD connector $4.95
    • Bluetooth transceiver (Integrated into OBDLink) $49.95
    • Bluetooth dongle (For the computer side) $14.95
    • protective carry case $39.95

    OBDLink Setup:

    Upon opening up the package I set about the first installation on a system running XP. Following the quick start guide I was able to quickly and easily install the drivers and the free software provided with no problems. This took approx 2-3 minutes to install, very quick and easy.
    I did however notice that steps 2 (Connecting interface to the car) and 3 (Finding the Diagnostic socket) were the wrong way around on the quick start guide. I informed Vitaliy and the quickstart guide has been revised..

    1. Insert the disc provided into the disc drive

    2. The disc should open automatically. If not, go to “My Computer”, right click “CD drive” and click “Explore”. Then, double click on “setup.exe”.

    3. When the opening screen pops up, select the OBDLink interface from the list on the left of the screen.

    4. The next step is to install the drivers, in the top right hand side of the screen under the “DRIVERS” menu select the system you are running.

    NOTE: If you are running Windows 7, then the drivers contained within the disc won’t work. I contacted Vitaliy who informed me that the Windows 7 drivers can be downloaded from and will be available soon from

    5. Click on the “next” button to install the drivers.


    In the case of any problems arising when using OBDLink there is plenty of help available to get the problem sorted.

    Available for download on the website is two flow charts to help diagnose connection trouble. These can be found under the download section or by using the links bellow.


    Also available for troubleshooting is two programs provided on the disc supplied with the interface. One of the programs is used to find he device “COM” port and Baud Rate to enable communication between the interface and the computer.

    The second program is used to troubleshoot ECU connection problems.

    Also on the disc is a link to the support forum where assistance can be sought from other members or staff.

    Assistance may also be sought from the forum.

    Firmware update

    Firmware updates are made available for download from the website to fix bugs, add new features, etc.

    These firmware updates can be found here.

    The firmware updates come as a compressed ZIP file, so the first step to perform the upgrade is to extract the contents of the ZIP file. To extract the files you can either click on the button at the top of the screen with “Extract all files” or you can click on the file with name “StnFirmwareupdater”.

    Once the files are extracted to a folder of your choice, open the folder and click on the “STNFirmwareUpdater” file and the updater application will launch.

    In order to perform the update you will have to specify the “COM port” for the device.
    If you are unsure of which COM port the device uses, you use the “STN Finder” utility on the disc supplied with the interface.

    Once you specify the COM port, click “Update Firmware” and the application will commence the update.

    The freeware:

    When you open up the free software package provided with the interface, you are required to select the COM port and baud rate for the interface.

    If you are unsure about either of these, the data could be found using the link on the driver CD. Click on “STN Finder” and follow the instructions.

    For some reason, I could only get the interface to work at 38,400 Baud with the free software. No faster, No slower.
    I contacted Vitaliy who came back with “The free software does not switch the device baud rate, like for instance ScanXL does. The bottleneck is on the OBD side, and we found that increasing the baud rate from say 38.4k to 115.2k increases performance only marginally (in most cases, not noticeable for the end user)”

    In the free software package the freeze frame and test data are not implemented in the current version. The free software is only useful for the basic reading and erasing trouble codes and viewing sensor outputs.

    Purchase software:

    I tested the OBDLink interface with additional software packages to test the functions, the packages I used were: ScanXL Pro, TouchScan and ScanMaster. All three of these packages worked fine with the interface. So although the free software provided with the device is pretty limited to what it can do, there are a vast number of packages available to utilise the full functionality of the device and to meet your specific needs.

    ScanXL Pro:
    Price: $119.95

    Installation: ScanXL Pro was pretty straightforward to install and register and only took a few minutes to complete. I also successfully installed ScanXL Pro onto my system running Windows 7.

    Details: ScanXL Pro has a wide range of functions (as shown in the screenshots bellow) to utilise the full functionality of OBDLink, these functions include:
    • View and record sensor data
    • Read and delete error codes
    • Read freeze frame data
    • Dyno and drag performance data,
    • Dashboard / gauges
    • Vehicle manager
    • Alerts to give audible indication when a specified parameter goes outside its normal operating range
    • Customizable graphs, maps and gauges

    ScanXL also has plug-ins to enable enhanced diagnostics on GM and Ford vehicles.

    When using the dashboard function the gauges move pretty smoothly, which greatly improves the appearance of the dash (jumpy gauges are very annoying).

    The Dyno performance data can only be used with vehicles with manual transmission. To use the dyno function you will have to enter the weight of the vehicle and the wheel sizes.

    Most parts of the software can be customized or configured enabling you for example to change the colour to match your dash, or scaling items into proportion for your screen.

    I have successfully installed ScanXL Pro onto a system running Windows 7.

    ScanXL Pro would be good for integrating into a carputer system; however it may be a little fiddly pressing some of the tabs along the top of the screen using a 7” or 8” touch screen due to the size of the tabs.

    Price: $69.95

    Installation is fairly straightforward; it only takes a few minutes to set up the package then register your license information.

    • Automatic, hands-off protocol detection
    • Real-time data, available in the form of tables, graphs, and gauges
    • Reads all generic and manufacturer-specific DTC's
    • Database of over 4200 generic DTCs, and over 3600 manufacturer-specific DTCs
    • Can be used to turn off the "Check Engine" light (MIL), and clear all emissions-related diagnostic information
    • Oxygen sensor test results
    • Continuous and non-continuous monitor test results
    • VIN, Calibration ID, In-Use Performance Tracking
    • Multi-language support: Croatian, Czech, Danish, English, Greek, Hungarian, Polish, Serbian, and Spanish.
    • Metric and English units of measure
    • Printable diagnostic reports
    • Data logging in CSV format
    • Dynamometer
    • Fuel gauge

    ScanMaster is a fairly basic package and does not include many graphics and not very driver friendly. Not suitable for use on a small touch screen due to the tiny buttons/tabs along the top of the screen. ScanMaster would be more suited for use on a laptop for diagnostic purposes only.

    The package offers a limited customizable skin where you can choose one of 36 colour schemes.

    Price: $24.95


    Description: TouchScan has a fairly limited set of functions, such as:
    • Basic reading/erasing of trouble codes
    • Logging vehicle speed and fuel rate (gal/hr)
    • Digital dashboard

    This software package could be useful for a dedicated digital Dashboard.
    The buttons/tabs on the screen are well sized for easy use on a 7” touch screen.

    Vehicle compatibility:
    I tested the OBDLink on several cars of different manufacturer, produced between 1997 and 2008:

    * 2008 Honda Accord 2.2 (diesel) * 2007 Peugeot 4007 2.2 (diesel)
    * 2005 Subaru Impreza 2.0 (petrol) * 2001 Renault Clio 1.2 (petrol)
    * 2001 Vauxhall Corsa 1.2 (petrol) * 2000 Toyota Yaris 1.0 (petrol)
    * 1997 Volkswagen Golf 2.0 (petrol)

    All the cars I tested the OBDLink on with exception of the VW Golf worked fine with the interface. The problem I found with the VW Golf was that it was not fully OBDII compliant.

    The right angled OBD connector and Bluetooth option would be useful for integrating OBDLink into a Carputer setup.
    In vehicles where the diagnostic connector is located under the dash you will find that when using the straight connector it sticks out close to your knee and the cable hangs down into the footwell. The right angled OBD connector will help keep the cable out of the way under the dash away from your legs etc also making it easier to hide away the cable/connector.

    By using the Bluetooth option the installation speed and ease is improved. You can save yourself time and effort by not having to rip off some of your trim to feed cables to your computer setup.

    The Bluetooth option would be good for use on a laptop to perform diagnostic tests. What I found when going to take the vehicle for a test run is, where the diagnostic socket sticks out under the dash, the cable hangs over the drivers’ legs and across the gear stick/handbrake to the passenger seat where the laptop is. The interface would still be in the foot well area but it can be tied up out of the way. It will also give you more mobility, e.g. you can have the laptop in the engine compartment when you are testing sensors etc.

    • 90 day unconditional money back guarantee
    • 3 year repair/replacement warranty
    • Compatible with a vast amount of software packages
    • Great customer support via forum
    • Great quality product
    • Easy to install and use
    • Works on Windows 7 (additional drivers required, see above)

    • Larger than ElmScan 5 serial

    The Verdict:
    In my opinion OBDLink is a great device, in fact probably the best I have come across without having to spend lots of money. OBDLnk is compatible with a wide range of vehicles, can be integrated with a vast number of software packages, and can even be used on the new Windows 7 operating system. The device is very easy to set up and use. Great value product, excellent warranty and excellent product support.

    I would like to send out a big thanks to for the opportunity to review this product, Vitaliy from for all the support provided during testing and to Palmer Performance Engineering (scanXL), WGSoft (ScanMaster) and OCTech (TouchScan) for donating some additional software to assist the review.

    If anyone has any queries regarding anything I have written or need assistance with something let me know and I'll help if I can.

    I will be carrying out more testing/ reviewing of OBDLink, ScanXL, ScanMaster and Touchscan and will post my progress on the forum. If anyone has any questions that they would like answers to, let me know and I'll do some testing to try and find out the answer.

    See this product on the mp3Car Store here.

    Updated 12-26-2009 at 09:15 AM by Jensen2000

    Product Reviews
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