It is amazing how many times this simple question gets repeatedly asked by mechanics and enthusiasts alike. The answer unfortunately is not as simple as the question, because to answer the question properly each person needs to understand their strengths and weaknesses as it relates to diagnostics and more importantly how it relates to their skill in using a PC.
To understand what is required let’s present some basic information that can help decide which one is right for you. We will examine scan tools only and not code readers as they really are not acceptable to professionals as they present no usable data to perform a proper diagnostic.
In trying to simplify the scan tool offerings there are two basic types;
the first is the scan tool that is totally self contained, has an internal
operating system and literally guides the mechanic into their diagnosis.
They are typically designed for the mechanic that needs a helping hand
guiding them through diagnostics or are not proficient with computers.
Some are designed to be upgraded via additional purchases of hardware and
or software. These are the tools sold by companies like OTC, SPX, Miller,
Kent Moore, Snap On, Mac, Matco, etc. This includes the handheld type scan
tool typically sold by parts stores and all of them can be considered “Plug and Play” to coin an old Microsoft term.
The second is the scan tools that are designed to be used with a laptop.
These require proficiency with computers as it typically requires
installing drivers, identifying the communications port assigned,
installing the software and user IDs or registration IDs. It also requires
a certain amount of configuration so that the extra software functionality
can be accessed. These scan tools are typically used by mechanics that
are more versed in diagnostics and ordered thinking. The mechanic that
uses these type scan tools realizes that this tool is something that he
has control over its upgrade requirements, portability from one PC to
another and offers more function such as road dynamometer, plus there is
significant savings not only in money but in time.
An examination of pricing differences and what this offers the mechanic is worth exploring. The latest Solus as a base unit costs about $3500.00 and for this the mechanic gets the ability to view enhanced data and perform bi-directional testing on vehicles so enabled. As a comparison lets examine 3 PC based versions;
A professional quality obd ii automotive diagnostic kit such as the 2X80S USB scan tool and professional quality obd ii scan tool software package can be purchased from $100.00 to $150.00. This package gives the professional the ability to view all the generic data from Modes 01 to 09, graph sensors , clear codes, etc. It requires the ability to install USB tool drivers, verifying the Com port, installing the software, configuring the Com port, and installing the software registration ID. These tasks are not difficult but for someone that has never done it, even with instructions it can be a little daunting.
An enhanced data scan tool like the Vehicle Explorer / Car Code by Alex Peper can perform all the testing that the self contained tools can and offers functions many of them do not, such as monitoring and reading network data and Crash Data Recorder modules. This tool also requires the ability to install USB tool drivers, verifying the Com port, installing the software, configuring the Com port, and installing the registration
Both of the above tools can be moved from PC to PC as the need arises. They both typically connect to the vehicle is under 5 seconds, and software upgrades are currently free.
The last is Auto Enginuity which is an enhanced data scan tool that has a decent reputation as a diagnostic system, plus it has capabilities like a road dynamometer testing, data logging etc. The tool when purchased as a full enhanced data costs about $2000.00 and requires software upgrade licensing as the versions change. The configuration of the tool is similar to the above and requires inputs of the year, make, model etc which slows down its time to connect with the vehicle because of operator input required. This tool can be moved from one PC to another, but requires contacting support for another registration ID and it is believed that this change is only allowed once per year.
There is a clone called ACI that includes all the enhanced data functions of the Auto Enginuity tool for about $700.00. However when purchasing an ACI tool be cautious as to which clone tool you acquire as some purchasers have reported hardware failures with very little use.
As you can clearly see your choices are not limited, except by your skills and how much money you are willing to invest into a scan tool. The decision should be one that you are comfortable with.
Comparing our 2X80S to competitors
|Controls Data Corruption|
|Improved Data Speed|
|Enhanced Software Included|
|Phone Tablet PDA Capable|
|Multiple PC Applications|
|Multiple Phone Tablet PDA Applications|
|2 Wheel Vehicle Applications|
|Legacy OS Support|
Yes or Included No or not included Some or limited
|All above information is based on published information as of 01/2015 or products purchsed to confirm|