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  1. Hardware Review: OBDLink MX Wi-Fi OBD-II Adapter

    by , 09-23-2014 at 03:21 PM

    What is it?

    The OBDLink MX Wi-Fi is a professional grade OBD-II adapter that uses wifi to communicate.

    The Verdict:

    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.



    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.

    Description:

    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.

    The Positive:

    • Super fast connection and wireless communication
    • Secure communication
    • Smallest OBD-II adapter on the market
    • OBDLink app included in purchase is optimized for this device
    • Cross-platform compatibility


    The Negative:

    • Initialization and setup is unavoidably painful
    • Use of wifi communication is a constant inhibitor of overall usability

    The Verdict:

    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.


  2. 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 Scantool.net OBDWiz software.


    Description:

    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.

  3. Your New Product Friday brought to you by blood money

    by , 04-15-2011 at 08:00 AM