Looking to buy a new scan tool?

Tool: Solus Ultra

Published:  02 May, 2012

Not so long ago, technicians would often debate the merits or otherwise of the various brands of chrome vanadium hand tools on offer. Actually, this is still the case, but you don't need us to tell you that the modern 'fighting ground' of the tool market has nothing to do with spanners and sockets. Instead, it is the take-up of scan tools where manufacturers hope to dominate each other.

Like many products in the computer market, most scan-tool manufacturers like to create a song and dance about the most fully-featured products in the range but will also offer a line of less expensive items with fewer features or a more basic interface. The difference between the top-end and entry level product is often just a matter of software - but there is little point in paying for unneeded features.

Snap-on diagnostics offers a number of choices, ranging from the entry-level Microscan code and live data reader up to the Verdict line-up of tablet-form scan tools. Models in the Solus range sit somewhere in between and it is the newest, the Solus Ultra, that we are looking at today.

First impressions

Perhaps the first point to mention is the screen. Compared with the older Solus Pro, the newcomer has a screen that is some 60% larger than the predecessor.  Like just about every gadget with a display on sale now, the new machine features a backlit colour touch screen that can apparently be used even with gloves on. Unusually, the tool can also be controlled with hardware buttons so techs making the transition from an older unit won't find it too unfamiliar. Our tester noted that he liked the screen but found it had an occasional tendency to lock up - something that we hope might be cured by a software update.  He noted that the hardware keys did not seem to be affected by this anomaly.

Our tech was pleased to note that the unit was easy to set up as it was supplied with a standard 16-pin cable and would work without any additional 'personality keys' that were required with some earlier versions of Snap-on scan tools. The tool booted up very quickly compared with other units - in fact it was ready to use in around 10 seconds. Once up and running it takes power from the DLC socket but it can also be charged with a mains adaptor.

In use

Our tester found the tool had a good amount of coverage for most vehicles in the parc, though as his workshop had a lot of Subaru cars (which are not covered by the tool), he advised would-be buyers to check the Solus Ultra covers most of the models they are likely to see regularly. Finding vehicles on the tool is straightforward but it lacks a VRM look up. Depth of coverage was noted as quite reasonable with the ability to graph live data noted as a good feature. The tool offers a 'troubleshooter' function where you can get help from a database compiled by other technicians. An interesting and unusual feature of this tool is that the software updates are supplied by a wireless link when in range of the Snap-on franchisee's van. This eliminates the need for physical media such as CDs or cartridges but means you are dependent on the driver showing up when you expect him too!

Price

The unit is expected to retail around £2,100. While clearly not a match for high-end equipment in terms of coverage or features, the price puts it right in the middle of the mid-range, so to speak. As such, it's up against a lot of competition, not least from its Solus Pro predecessor which remains on sale. With its speedy, modern interface and graphing features, the Solus Ultra looks set to be a completive product in a tough marketplace.

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