This is a review and analysis of the ELM327 v1.5 USB OBD adapter that has recently been flooding the market online. While it is not a ‘performance chip’, it is a tool used by automotive enthusiasts to diagnose and monitor their vehicles. There have been MANY fakes and counterfeits from China flooding the market recently. We wanted to try to spread the word on how to identify them and prevent users from falling for these copies. If you are looking for a REAL ELM327 adapter review, then this is for you! What is this product and what does it do? Let’s take a look:
The manufacturer is an unknown company, but we already have our suspicions on this product’s origin due to its performance – or lack thereof.
The cost at the time of this review was $8 USD on ebay. This price is very suspicious, as no genuine ELM327 product can be manufactured this cheaply.
The ELM327 module claims to interface with all vehicles and protocols, and appearance-wise is very convincing. A dead giveaway in the above photo however, is the small blue CD-ROM – this almost always is provided with cheap products from overseas (China). Also beware there are several other forms this module comes in, which use bluetooth and wifi connections, and are essentially the same thing as this module:
We purchased one of these USB ELM327 modules for analysis from ebay and looked inside:
There are some surface mount transistors, other small components, and two surface mount ICs. The one on the left is a CH340C, or a USB to UART interface ic, which is consistent with the device’s usage, converting signals from USB to the board level. However, the chip on the right is a 36-pin smd ic which has the label removed by sanding or some other means. There is a 16MHz crystal beside it which is also suspicious, because the original ELM327 genuine product had a PIC microcontroller, and did not have copy protection. The code was quickly stolen and cloned in China, and many fakes released. The genuine pic microcontroller does not have the 36 pins that this unknown chip does, so this is a bad sign. It appears so far that this may be a clone, given the price and board evidence. Here is a photo of the previous generation of a Chinese ELM327 clone beside the genuine one:
So far, we assume this is a clone and a newer generation of the version on the right. The parts have been changed from the older through-hole design to the smaller surface mount components to make it look more genuine. Let’s see what it does when we try to use it…
We connected the ELM327 module to our test vehicle’s OBD port and the other end to our laptop, having already installed the USB drivers and software provided. We fired up a terminal program and issued a few standard ELM327 commands:
We first issued the command “ATI”, which asks the ELM327 board to identify itself. It responds with ‘ELM327 v1.5’. This may seem correct, but it presents one problem – there is no such thing as a genuine ELM327 version 1.5. This is a Chinese clone version. We issue more commands to the unit to check the response – we receive ‘OK’ as a response, so it allows us to set the protocol, etc. Let’s issue a few more commands:
We issued the command “ATMA”, which tells the module to monitor all traffic on the bus and echo it to the screen. It responds with ‘?’, meaning it does not recognize the command. We now have definitive proof that this is a copy and not a genuine ELM327 module. Most cheap copies will work to a point and provide basic data, but when the user tries to do advanced commands, they usually are not compatible, because they run a modified pirated version of the original ELM327 software, called v1.5, etc. We now know our suspicions were correct. This is useless for our purposes as an automotive test tool.
It is clear from our analysis so far that the ELM327 v1.5 USB tool is a Chinese clone, and does not perform as advertised. On the web, others reported similar results, and some even reported damage to their vehicle, so be careful when choosing any product which connects to your vehicle!
We attempted to contact the seller, best2shop15, on ebay about the inferior product, and did not receive a response. It seems they do not want to even try to defend this poor quality product.
Another red flag is the seller’s feedback, which shows MANY users are receiving items from them that are either broken or do not work as advertised:
From our research and review, it is our opinion that the ELM327 v1.5 module is a scam. It may also cause damage, as reported by some users on the net, so we suggest avoiding it at all costs. It is a very basic tool at best, damaging at worst. When looking for a genuine ELM327 module, look for these red flags – low cost, seller location and reputation, software version, etc. There are also apps available such as ‘ELM327 identifier’ to help identify counterfeit modules. You want to pass on these cheap counterfeits!
FINAL GRADE: F
Company Communication Cost Design Operation Power Gains Safe for Vehicle Total Rating
The original creators of the ELM327 ic can be found at elmelectronics.com. The ELM327 identifier app can be found at https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.applagapp.elm327identifier&hl=en
More details on the differences between the genuine and imitation modules can be found here: