Elm327 Scan Tool Review

OBD 2007 works with any Elm327 chipped scan tool or any scan tool powered by a chip that fully emulates all the AT commands of the Elm327 chip. There are many manufacturers of Elm327 chipped scan tools, so theoretically we support any scan tool powered by an Elm327 chip.

However, we directly support the scan tools you see on our main page, because these companies have proved to both reliable and supportive. We are confident in recommending any of these scan tools because we have observed the quality of the products and can vouch that these scan tools are all made to the highest standards. We have also extensively tested each of these products with OBD 2007.

We have created a table of features comparing each of the scan tools we directly support. If you are new to OBDII scan tools or even an experienced user considering an additional scan tool, we hope the following table will highlight the various features of each scan tool to assist in your decision making.

Elm327 USB Scan Tools
Features OBDPro ElmScan 5 Compact All-In-One OBDKey v1.3 OBDLink
Elm327 chip or emulation Yes Clone chip Yes Yes Yes
Support for all Elm327 AT commands Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Support for additional AT commands Yes No No Yes Yes
Chip version v1.3 Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
High speed baud rates to 500k Yes Yes Yes Yes  Yes
Very high speed baud rates to 2.0Mbps Yes No No No Yes
Advanced double buffering (eliminates Buffer Full errors) Yes No No Yes Yes
Supports all OBDII protocols Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Automatic protocol detection Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Performance Maximum Pid Rate (pids read/second) 55 49 49 65 50
Upgrade type Firmware upgradable Replace chip Replace chip Return to manufacturer Firmware upgradable
Upgrade cost Free Not known $32 $30 Free
Upgrade deliverability Instant via remote connection Not known Normal shipping times Normal shipping times Download
Price (USB unit)* $69.95 $79.95 $109.95 £ 73.20 $149.95
Serial version available Yes Yes Yes No No
Bluetooth version available Yes Yes No Yes Optional BT dongle
Warranty 3 years 3 years 1 year 2 years 3 years
Technical support forum Yes Yes No via email Yes
Website www.obdpros.com www.scantool.net www.obd2allinone.com www.obdkey.com www.scantool.net
*All prices are from the respective websites 4th October 2009 and are in US dollars, except OBDKey.

OBDPro

Without doubt this scan tool is the “Rolls Royce” of the Elm327 scan tools. The OBDPro scan tool is jammed packed full of innovative features as compared to the other Elm327 scan tools.

Specifically where the OBDPro shines is with the following 3 unique features

  1. Support for very high speed baud rates.
  2. Double buffered message queue.
  3. Remote upgrade capability.
High Speed Baud Rates and Double Buffering

The first two features are primarily aimed at the high speed CAN protocol, the protocol used by all new vehicles manufactured since 2008. When the CAN protocol was first introduced in vehicles during 2004/05, many Elm327 chipped scan tools suffered from BUFFER FULL messages, as a result of the high speed CAN networks of the vehicle over running the small internal buffer of the Elm327 chip. The OBDPro scan tool, overcame this limitation with its unique double buffer design, so that BUFFER FULL messages were eliminated even at low speed baud rates.

However, why use slow baud rates (9600 and 38,400 baud), when a USB port is capable of speeds of up to 2.0Mbits. The OBDPro scan tool in conjunction with OBD 2007 can exploit the very high speed baud rates of the OBDPro scan tool up to 4 times faster than the current Elm327 v1.3 chip. If you are seeking high speed performance, then the combination of OBDPro and OBD 2007 is the obvious choice.

Remote Upgrade Capability

This feature of OBDPro is truly unique. OBDPro is the only Elm327 type scan tool, which is remotely upgradable. Your scan tool investment is protected, because when any new firmware release is introduced, you have the ability to upgrade your scan tool, by running a free upgrade program from OBDPros, while your OBDPro scan tool is connected to your computer. Within a couple of seconds, your firmware is upgraded to the latest version, so your scan tool is always current.

To do the same thing with any other Elm327 chipped scan tool requires purchasing a new chip (~$US32), waiting days or weeks for delivery, dismantling/assembling your scan tool, removing the old chip and replacing with the new chip. Removing and replacing the 28 pin Elm327 chip is not for the faint hearted. Just don’t break or bend one of those 28 pins.

OBDPros is the complete one stop shop – they design their own chip, plus build their scan tools.

OBDKey v1.3

OBDKey v1.3 is a brand new design from KBM Systems. It is an extremely compact design (64x45x24mm) about the size of a matchbox and is available in either USB or Bluetooth configurations. OBDKey maybe small, but it is very big on performance. It is easily the fastest scan tool we have ever tested.

OBDKey v1.3 Bluetooth paired with a Smartphone running our OBD 2007 for Pocket PC is an ideal combination for any workshop manager who may be required to test multiple vehicles quickly to determine workshop priorities. Slip it out of your pocket, plug it directly into the OBDII port and complete a test in seconds, absolutely no cables required.

Please note OBD 2007 is not compatible with versions of OBDKey prior to v1.3

All-In-One

This scan tool is powered by the Elm Electronics Elm327 v1.3 chip. The scan tool is very robust and very reliable and the company have been producing OBDII scan tools for many years, so they have a proven track record in this market.

The Elm327 chip has evolved from the earlier Elm32x series of chips. As a software developer, I always think that maybe the Elm chip has reached the end of its useful life, but the clever engineers at Elm Electronics always continue to amaze me with the innovations they keep making to this chip. The v1.3 was no exception with the improvements they made for the CAN protocol. For the full description of all the details, see our Latest News page.

OBDLink

OBDLink is a first for Scantool.net. Previously Scantool.net was the manufacturer of the ElmScan 5 family of scan tools which are all based on the Elm327 v1.3 chip from Elm Electronics. OBDLink is their first scan tool of their own design and is based on a 16 bit micro.

OBDLink is fully compatible with the Elm327 v1.3a AT command set. OBDLink supports many of the advanced features first introduced in the OBDPro scan tool, such as very high speed baud rates (up to 2.0Mbps) and free updatable firmware. OBDLink is also available with an optional Bluetooth dongle.

Price wise OBDLink is very expensive when you consider it is more than twice the price of an OBDPro with no additional features.

ElmScan 5 Compact

There is really very little to say about this scan tool. It comes from a company that was once a reputable scan tool manufacturer. However now they have decided to power their ElmScan 5 with a clone chip. We no longer recommend Scantool.net products.

Clone scan tools – Pros/Cons

No discussion or review of Elm327 scan tools would be complete without touching on the Chinese clone scan tools usually sold very cheaply over eBay. We have customers who have used these scan tools successfully, but we have had many more customers not being successful. Buying one of these scan tools is pretty much a gamble. You may end up with one that works, you may not. Quite often the scan tool doesn’t contain the latest v1.3, even though they are advertised as v1.3 chips.

Typically they can work with one protocol, but not another protocol. Even we they do work, they can be notoriously difficult to setup because they are usually shipped with extremely old USB drivers. OBD 2007 and probably any other software packages will have difficulty finding the correct serial port and factory baud rate setting if the wrong USB drivers are installed on your machine.

The quality of construction appears to vary markedly between the various scan tools that are available on eBay. A couple I have seen appear to be very professional made and another I saw would appear to be put together by someone who took up soldering as a hobby the day before. The one thing you cannot tell is who the manufacturer is.

All Elm327 chipped scan tools support the Elm AT command AT@1. The AT@1 command should return the manufacturer’s name e.g. SCANTOOL.NET LLC or OBDPros LLC v3 etc. The manufacturer has the ability to write to the chip to insert their company name. If that is not done, then the standard response from the AT@1 command is the default “OBDII to RS232 Interpreter”.

I have yet to see one of these Chinese clones return a manufacturer’s name, other than the default “OBDII to RS232 Interpreter”. I suppose that is understandable, if you are going to rip-off another’s design, it would probably be best not to advertise who you are.

However that is precisely why we can’t directly support these scan tools. We have no point of contact to discuss whatever maybe a potential problem. If you do have a problem with a clone scan tool, please do email our technical support, we will attempt to provide support, but please bare in mind we may not have a fix for the problem.