Tactrix Openport 2.0: a USA-made, non-flaky, onboard diag dongle works with Techstream

Discussion in 'Knowledge Base Articles Discussion' started by ChapmanF, Oct 12, 2017.

  1. ChapmanF

    ChapmanF Senior Member

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    Background:

    About a year ago, while I was feeling very indecisive about all the choices of cheap eBay dongles (mostly clones of the XHorse Mini-VCI) that might or might not work well with my car and Techstream, I was helped out by someone who had already been down that road, and picked out for me an old beater Windows 7 laptop and a Mini VCI and took care of all the installation for me. That really was helpful, and it has gotten me through all of the maintenance on my Gen 3 that I've needed to do over the last year. But there were a couple blemishes:
    • With the Mini-VCI, I could never, ever get the active data list for the engine control module. It would just say "lost communication with vehicle". Ironic, no? It would talk to all the fancy other ECUs in the car, but couldn't show me the engine rpm.
    • Last February, I almost threw the Mini-VCI down a well the fifth time in a row that it "lost communication with vehicle" 90% of the way through a brake bleed procedure that had to be restarted from scratch every time.
    • The original Mini-VCI was made by XHorse, but I don't think you can even get an authentic one any more. The counterfeiters drove XHorse right out of their own business.
    I've heard that other people with Mini-VCIs don't have the same problems I had. Sometimes they don't seem to have problems at all. Or they have different problems. Probably depending on which "Mini-VCI" they bought from which counterfeiter on eBay, and what their quality control was like.

    Tactrix Openport 2.0:

    From the earlier research I'd been doing, it seemed that the only real, moderately-priced, USA-made option that you can still buy straight from the people who designed and built it is the Openport 2.0 from Tactrix in San Francisco. (Even they face a counterfeiting problem; if you find something that claims to be an Openport 2.0 for significantly less, it's probably fake. But at least we have the option of ordering straight from the Tactrix store and being sure what we're getting. They haven't been driven out of making their own product yet.)

    You don't hear very much about the Openport on this forum, not nearly as much as the Mini-VCI that seems to be mentioned every fifth post. That might have something to do with its origins more in the Mitsubishi and Subaru tuner communities. But it is a standard J2534 pass-through dongle, and that is what Techstream calls for, and sure enough, it works.

    There were also some earlier PriusChat posts about the Openport suggesting that it lacked support for necessary protocols like K-line or KWP, or could not talk to some Prius ECUs that are behind gateways on the car's network. However, Tactrix themselves say those protocols are supported in the list of Openport 2.0 capabilities, and my test this evening was successful in contacting all the ECUs in my Gen 3.

    Unboxing:

    When you order an Openport 2.0 from the Tactrix store, you have a choice to add on Mitsubishi or Subaru reflashing adapters before placing the order. I didn't need those, so I chose None, and just got a minimal package. There is nothing in the box except the Openport 2.0 dongle, a USB cable, and a little card and decal that could go on my car (or, maybe, on the laptop). It's a more compact little package than the Mini-VCI shown for comparison:

    openport.jpg

    The USB cable is not made in San Francisco, it's made in China and purchased from Monoprice in Rancho Cucamonga (closer to Los Angeles). That's ok with me; I discovered Monoprice myself a few years ago as a reliable source of good quality cables at decent prices.

    Unlike the Mini-VCI's, the Openport 2.0's cable detaches. That makes sense, because the Openport has a Micro-SD card slot in back, and can function as a standalone datalogger, saving data to the card. (To use that feature, you probably need to download Tactrix's EcuFlash software, which I have not tried. My chief interest was in testing the dongle with Techstream, so I only downloaded the bare J2534 driver.)

    Installation:

    I expected this to be straightforward, and for the most part, it was, as the laptop already had Techstream installed and working with the Mini-VCI. First, just to see what would happen, I booted the laptop and plugged in the Openport. I got a Windows dialog saying no driver could be found.

    If the laptop had been on the internet, maybe it would have been able to search for the driver automagically, but I treat that laptop as a matter for quarantine, so I just used another computer to download the driver (a single EXE file under 6 MB), burned it onto a CD, and fed that to the laptop.

    When I launched the EXE file on the laptop, it started a typical installer program, and let me read through the license agreement. Here is where you notice the "open" in Openport. The license for the software is very short and sweet, you're basically agreeing to do whatever you like with it as long as you don't pretend you wrote it, and you use it with their hardware so they can stay in business.

    Then it asks a few usual questions about where you want certain files installed, and it's done.

    Use with Techstream:

    My next step was to start Techstream, go to the Setup menu, and choose VIM Select. Sure enough, the drop-down list of available Vehicle Interface Modules now included the Openport 2.0 J2534 as a new choice alongside the XHorse Mini-VCI. So I selected the Openport, plugged into the car, and gave it a try.

    It works!

    The first thing I checked was that I can now, finally, see the live data from the engine control module, which I never could with the Mini-VCI. Again, the problems with MVCI seem to be a matter of quality control—some apparently work where others don't—but this Openport works fine, and I would expect that to be consistent.

    I then tried all the other ECUs that are present in my Gen 3. I should mention mine isn't the top trim, so it does not have the parking guidance or radar cruise or headlight leveling ECUs, etc., but everything that's there, Techstream could talk to using the Openport. I tried a lot (but not all) of the active tests available for a lot of the ECUs, and some of the available utilities. Everything seemed to work except the active tests for rolling windows up and down, which never worked with the Mini-VCI either, and unless somebody tries with the Toyota-tested $495 Mongoose adapter and finds out they work then, I might guess those tests just aren't available. Everything else (lights, gauges, fans, pumps, locks) that I tried worked just as advertised.

    The real test may come one day when I decide to retry the brake bleed procedure, to see if I can now get through it without starting over half a dozen times. But so far, the Openport has seemed very non-flaky, so I won't be surprised if it passes that test too.

    Conclusion:

    At $169, the Openport 2.0 will never eliminate the whole market for sub-thirty-dollar counterfeit Mini-VCIs out there. But if you don't feel like the gamble with the highly variable quality of those things, you just want something that works and works well, and/or you believe in supporting the folks who design and build the product so they can stay around and keep improving it, the Openport seems like a good value. And it is still considerably less than the $495 Drew Technologies Mongoose that is Toyota's officially recommended dongle for Techstream.

    -Chap
     
    #1 ChapmanF, Oct 12, 2017
    Last edited: Oct 13, 2017
  2. ericbecky

    ericbecky Hybrid Battery Hero

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    Thanks for this writeup.

    Definitely will be ordering one.
     
  3. ChapmanF

    ChapmanF Senior Member

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    Just wanted to add this: Tactrix is also threatened by a counterfeiting problem. So far, they are still at work producing their own product, which they sell on their own web store for $169. They explain that they do not have any extensive reseller network legitimately selling at a discount. If you think you find a Tactrix Openport 2.0 somewhere else at a big savings, no matter how much it looks like a real one, it isn't.

    I'll put my (personal) plea here, to anyone who is aiming to spend less than $169 on a J2534 dongle, please accomplish that by buying one of the other, cheaper alternatives (VxDiag VCX NANO at $80ish, or the already-counterfeit MVCI or Mangoose at $20ish or less). Please don't save the money by buying a counterfeit Openport, because it's in our interest not to drive under what may be the last outfit that still actively designs/produces/supports a product we can buy for less than the $495 Drew MongooosePro.

    -Chap
     
  4. strawbrad

    strawbrad http://minnesotahybridbatteries.com

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    Thanks Chap!

    It's soooo nice to have a cable that works. So far it's connected to two Gen 1 and a Gen 3 that my other cables could not talk to. At $170 it's not for most DIY use. For me it's already paid for itself.
     
  5. ChapmanF

    ChapmanF Senior Member

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    The thing that often strikes me as funny is, well, I buy my cars old and high-miles, so I haven't spent much up front. Lots of people posting on PriusChat are driving Prii that they've spent tens of thousands of dollars more on than I have on mine.

    But then when it comes to taking care of the five-figure investment, people will quibble over whether $170 is too much to spend on a constantly-useful tool.

    -Chap
     
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  6. ericbecky

    ericbecky Hybrid Battery Hero

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    Also what kilss me is that these type of tools cost hundreds of dollars ( or a thousand?) more in the not too distant past.

    At $170 it is a bargain.
     
  7. LasVegasaurusRex

    LasVegasaurusRex Active Member

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    what all can we do with this cable?
     
  8. Figster10

    Figster10 Member

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    I am considering upgrading from mini vci cheap eBay product but don’t know if vxdiag or this Tactrix is what I need to finish adding used key fobs with new purchased seed codes from weboctupus. I have mini vci with version 7,10,13 but can’t seem to find the “smart access” tab to help generate codes to finish adding used key fobs. Can someone please confirm whether vxdiag or Tactrix have the “smart access” tab so I can purchase ASAP. It looks like everyone has Tactrix but I’m looking to see if that vxdiag has it. Thanks
     
  9. ChapmanF

    ChapmanF Senior Member

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    I wonder if it has to do with the dongle, or the license key used with Techstream? I think some of the Techstream features aren' t available when used with a "standard" TIS subscription, but show up when used with a "professional/diagnostic" subscription.

    AIUI, there are other features that are only enabled via the "security professional" subscription, which doesn't cost any more than the professional/diagnostic level, but requires proving to Toyota that you're a locksmith.
     
  10. Figster10

    Figster10 Member

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    I was emailed by a tech from weboctopus and they suggested going with version 2 since it’s the best one to use with mini vci. My next question would be where do I get version 2 to get it downloaded? Thanks again
     
  11. SFO

    SFO Senior Member

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    Good question. Unsure of that versions release date or if it even existed, but it could predate our Prii o_O

    You might try another inquiry to confirm the recommended TS version.
     
  12. Figster10

    Figster10 Member

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    I am just going to buy vxdiag with version 10 and see what happens. I just need to have the “smart access” feature and I’m good.
     
  13. ChapmanF

    ChapmanF Senior Member

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    I'm not sure, but this is a thread about the Tactrix Openport 2.0 hardware dongle.
     
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  14. a_gray_prius

    a_gray_prius Rare Non-Old-Blowhard Priuschat Member

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    I wonder if my old Tactrix cable I used for reflashing Evos and STis would work.
     
  15. ChapmanF

    ChapmanF Senior Member

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    Is it an Openport 2.0? They've been around for a while now.
     
  16. a_gray_prius

    a_gray_prius Rare Non-Old-Blowhard Priuschat Member

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    Nope, mine is from like 2007.
     
  17. ChapmanF

    ChapmanF Senior Member

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    You could try opening it with the bus analysis tool and see what it says about versions and capabilities....
     
  18. ChapmanF

    ChapmanF Senior Member

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    That day came today, and I'm happy to report the Tactrix completed the procedure with no issues.
     
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  19. NortTexSalv04Prius

    NortTexSalv04Prius Active Member

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    Questions
    I have several questions/issues/ concerns
    Okay I purchase the Tachtrix Openport 2.0 from webstore.

    Am I correct to assume that I would need / require a laptop to use / to access the information / software..

    Or what would one need to leverage the use of this.?

    Further
    If a person wanted to say work on a Gen2 Prius brake system bleed/ rebuild?

    If a person wanted to say work on setting parameters Gen 2 Prius engine for lean burn?
     
  20. ChapmanF

    ChapmanF Senior Member

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    Yes, one needs a laptop. The software typically used is Toyota's Techstream, which runs in Windows, and requires a J2534 dongle to connect to the car (that's what the Tactrix is).

    Techstream can be obtained through the official channel, and it will check for a current TIS subscription at techninfo.toyota.com before it will work. The subscription has to be at the professional/diagnostic level, currently $65 for two days of use, or $1295 for a full year of use. Two-day subscriptions can be allowed to run out, and re-upped later whenever needed.

    It is possible to find versions of Techstream, not through the official channel, that work without making the current-subscription check; for example, the vendors selling the really cheap dongle knockoffs will often throw in a copy of Techstream that fits that description. PriusChat users relying on that will usually describe running it on a dedicated beater laptop that they never put on the internet or use for any other purpose.

    This might be a good place for me to add that I'm driving a Gen 3, and so far I've had very good results using the Tactrix with my Gen 3, but I've had mixed results using it with a Gen 2. (I didn't get it until after parting with my Gen 1, so I have never tested it there). For the Gen 2, I think I have run into some operations where the Tactrix did not work, and a cheap-nice-person Mini VCI did. I have never delved into what might be going on at the protocol level to confuse the Tactrix there.
     
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