Which OBD-II Bluetooth Adapters Offer The Best Value?

plx-kiwiBluetooth OBD-II adapters can help save gas, notify you of problems, among other features. With so many to choose from, which ones offer the best value?

First let’s cover the basics. What is an OBDII port, you ask? It’s the semi-hidden port in your car that garages, dealerships and sometimes even your local parts store can use to diagnose a pesky check engine light. Today’s OBDII systems have come a long way from the 1994 cars they originated in, and depending on your vehicles age, may be able to tell you about much more than that little light on your dashboard.

A recent flood of adapters has entered the market, making it easier to access this hidden info, and sometimes even add in their own special touches. The products below are some of the more “professional looking” models on the market today, each with their own pros and cons. We’ll try to run down some features to make your decisions a little easier.

automatic

Automatic Link –At $99.95, the Automatic is the priciest of the included adapters, but includes its own first party software for iOS with features such as:

  • Built-In Accelerometer (Tracks bad driving habits: rough braking, speeding and rapid acceleration)
  • Audible Alerts (Helps reduce bad driving habits)
  • Crash Alert (Automatically calls for help from local authorities and emergency contacts)
  • Trip Timeline (Tracks your miles driven, driving time and money spent with detailed reports)
  • Drive Score (Scores your driving habits to help set goals)
  • Push Notifications (Sends notifications to your smartphone for the “less observant”)
  • Parking Tracker (No check-in required)
  • Mechanic Search

Automatic seems to be designed not for the car-lover in us but for those attempting to curb their aggressive driving habits. The acceleration alerts could be a bit intrusive when starting from a dead stop and unfortunately this setting, like many others, is not adjustable. The software, while attractive and easy to use, is a bit lacking on a few important features. With no live feedback and no ability to export reports, it makes the device less than useful for other purposes than decreasing your aggressive driving habits and fuel spending.

Whether or not the Automatic eventually pays for its substantial price is really up to you and your driving habits, though if you’ve ever been called an aggressive driver, this might just be the device for you.

craven

Craven OBDII Connector – The $45 Craven Speed Bluetooth to OBDII Adapter offers up a Bluetooth version for Android, as well as a Wi-Fi version for iOS. Unlike Automatic, the Craven adapter utilizes the third party apps Torque (Android) or DashCommand (iOS) that offers a lot more flexibility in the information offered to drives.

This information includes:

  • Acceleration
  • Air Ambient Temp
  • Altitude (GPS)
  • Barometer
  • Coolant Temp
  • Engine Load
  • Engine RPM
  • Fuel Level
  • Fuel Pressure
  • Horsepower
  • Intake Temp
  • Intake Manifold Temp
  • MAF Rate
  • MPG
  • 02 Volt Sensor
  • Throttle Position
  • Timing Advance
  • Torque
  • Turbo Boost
  • Trip Distance
  • Speed (GPS)
  • Speed (OBD)

With a lower price and better flexibility, the Craven OBDII Adapter is less geared towards improving fuel economy, and more focused on providing as much information as possible. Information is displayed via your smartphone, adding a nifty feature to an OBDII-equipped car.

plx-1

PLX Kiwi 2 – The PLX adapter is the least compact but most full-featured on our list, coming in at $89.99 for either of the Bluetooth (Android) or Wi-Fi (iOS) versions. The PLX devices use third-party software, similar to Craven, but offer a wider selection of choices including such heavy hitters as DashCommand, Torque, Enerfy, Rev, Roaders and Speedport. The PLX Kiwi is a more functional option for backyard mechanics and car tuners. A port on the back adds additional capabilities with the purchase of their iMFD adapter.

Kiwi’s feature include:

  • Check Engine Diagnostics
  • Real-time Gauges
  • Fuel Efficiency and MPG
  • Engine Sensors
  • Customizable Dashboard
  • Real-time Dyno
  • Data Logging
  • GPS Track Mapping
  • Skid Pad
  • Video Recording and Data Overlay
  • iMFD Aftermarket Sensor Interface RPM
  • Vehicle Speed
  • Throttle Position
  • Engine Load
  • Absolute Engine Load
  • Engine Timing
  • Air Intake Temperature
  • Coolant Temperature
  • Ambient Air Temperature
  • Intake Pressure (MAP)
  • Air Flow (MAF)
  • Fuel Pressure
  • Fuel Pressure Relative
  • Fuel Level
  • Barometric Pressure
  • Catalytic Converter Temperature
  • ECU Voltage
  • OBD Type
  • Short Term
  • Oxygen Sensor

bafx

BAFX Elm327 Bluetooth OBD2 ReaderThe BAFX Elm327 is the least expensive option. A simple looking website with limited information other than this short list of features:

  • Read and clear diagnostic trouble codes (DTC)
  • display and read
  • engine data such as RPM
  • Vehicle Speed
  • Long Term Fuel Trim
  • Short Term Fuel Trim
  • Timing Advance
  • Intake Air Temp
  • Air Flow Rate
  • Oxygen Sensors
  • and so much more!

The Elm327 uses third-party software, making it safe to assume that it offers many of the same functionalities as the other models. What this unassuming website hides are its unexpectedly positive Amazon ratings. 1,817 reviewers gave a 4 ½ star overall rating to this $23.99 device. At this price, the device almost falls into the magical impulse buy range, making it hard to ignore as a viable option.

Wrap Up: While there are dozens, if not hundreds, of devices in this category, these 4 devices are the ones I would consider when searching for myself. If you goals lie in lowering your gas bill and driving in the safest manner possible, the Automatic Link is the option for you. If you want the most information about your car, the PLX Kiwi 2 is the road you want to travel. The optional $50 iMFD will add in even more performance sensors.

If you fear that someone is watching your driving habits, or are concerned with battery drainage, the mid-level Craven’s on/off switch might be an intriguing option. Lastly, if your interest is less than 100% the entry-level BAFX adapter may give you the features you need at a price that fits any budget.

Sources: Engadget | Amazon Reviews | PLX Devices | Craven Speed

 

Zachary Coffey

I'm a sociable computer nerd who can't wait to see what the future holds. A passion for technology that changes the world helps me maintain an optimistic outlook for things to come.