I was asked by the team at autotechnician to use the Launch X431 Pro 3 in the Technical Topics workshop for a few weeks and to provide an objective review of its operation and performance. I was interested to see how things had developed for Launch, as my previous experience of Launch diagnostic equipment was the first generation, monochrome x431. When the equipment arrived, the carry case looked the same as the original x431, however, inside the case was a completely different proposition. The host hardware was a smart, semi-rugged, android tablet, known as a X431 Pro 3. This was partnered by a relatively compact Bluetooth vehicle communications interface known in Launch parlance as a DBScarII.
The Launch tablet was light and compact and was very comfortable in hand. For such a compact package, the battery life was remarkable, due to the large capacity, integrated 6340 mAh battery. Another potential pitfall of a small host unit (the unit measures 205 x 275 x 52 mm) is the screen display, however, the designers have come up with a unit that is equally clear to view in broad daylight as it is inside the workshop, thanks to the screen finish and a good quality display. The software look and feel are both very good in terms of layout and size and the touchscreen operation worked flawlessly in conjunction with its large, clear icons, see Figure 2. The device was quick to get going from the initial power up and it was also quick to operate. The response in moving through the menus and executing tasks was immediate. Downloading and running updates (which is partly down to internet connection speed) was reasonable. The ‘services/update’ section of the software on the X431 Pro 3 notifies the user of pending updates, and it’s a ‘click and go’ procedure to set the updates running.
During general use I found that the Bluetooth communications interface connected reliably each time I used it. The communication with the car was quick when performing codes and data evaluation, and even when streaming live data it was reliable. During my testing the Bluetooth had a reliable connection range of around 5 meters. The designers of the tool have implemented a neat alarm feature which prompts the user to remove the communication device when each diagnostic session is completed.
How did it perform?
In terms of system coverage, the X431 Pro 3 has a wide and comprehensive system coverage, including all of the common makes and models. Obviously, the devil is in the detail regarding special functions, coding etc. A detailed report of software coverage was beyond the scope of my brief. However, I did use the X431 Pro 3 for a typical range of general workshop tasks (codes, data, actuators, special functions and adaptive resets) on a typical range of workshop makes and models, and it didn’t fall short on anything I asked of it.
One of the features I believe that a diagnostic scan tool should have is graphing a live data stream. The reason that this is so important is to enable the vehicle technician to examine the relationships between the various sensors, actuators and calculated values. This is critical for intermittent fault finding and for vehicle problems which don’t set diagnostic trouble codes. In this respect the X431 Pro 3 did a good job. The live data is selected from an array of available parameters and then graphed. The graphed data can be shown as separate graphs or combined in a job graph, see Figure 3. The scales are auto ranging and they can be reset to align them to the current operating conditions.
Personalised customer reports
Getting paid for your diagnostics is a common discussion for technicians. The X431 Pro 3 has an integrated reporting function. The business details can be set to appear in the header Diagnostic Report, and the report can be generated by the technician on demand, see Figure 4.
The reports are saved to the internal memory (which is a not insignificant 16 or 32 GB, depending on the hardware specification), for later review. The reports are able to be saved in PDF format, and as the tablet is equipped with WIFI, these can be emailed to the office or directly to the customer. Printing the reports directly is a little more challenging. The print button contained within the tablet is programmed to use the optional bespoke Launch printer. In my case, I had to install a separate PDF viewer and the android version of my HP ePrinter driver. This made getting the reports off the device a little long winded. My opinion is that it would be more convenient if the print button could be configured to call other installed printer drivers.
My overall impression of the X431 Pro 3 was very positive. I found the hardware very well suited to the purpose, rugged, fast, easy to use and light. The software was slick in its operation and it did all I asked of it during the test period. I made a couple of calls to the team at Launch and my queries and questions were dealt with promptly. This segment of aftermarket, multi marque diagnostic scan tools is extremely competitive. The Launch X431 Pro 3 is a highly competent product that discharges its duties very well.
I will be reviewing the Launch Golo telematics (or remote diagnostics) device in the September issue of autotechnician, for which the X431 Pro 3 is the host device.