• How to Spot a China Nexiq USB Link 2 Clone

    The Nexiq USB Link original adapter came out around 7 years ago and sold more than 130,000 units before it was discontinued and replaced by the Nexiq USB Link 2. The Nexiq USB Link 2 came out around mid-2014 and is the number one selling commercial truck adapter in the market. Besides the fact that Nexiq is worried about USB Link 2 clone, one of the nagging issues that Nexiq had with the original design was that several different OBDII cables were needed (Regular OBDII, Volvo/Mack HD OBDII, CAT in GMC/Chevy Truck OBDII, etc…). The other issue was that Nexiq never really sold a lot of these cables, along with the replacement cables. The reason was that they were trying to get $250 for a replacement 6/9-pin cable, while in the meantime a slew of China manufacturers were selling them for $30-$40 each, and they worked just as well. To make matters worse, China manufacturers were able to create “clones” of the Nexiq USB Link original, and sell them for $300 versus the $700 that a genuine one cost.

    Nexiq “fixed” these issues with the new USB Link 2. Inside the serial port end of each USB Link 2 cable, there is now a security and authentication chip. This chip does two things. First, it now means that Nexiq can use software instead of hardwired cables to take care of the problem of having multiple OBDII cables. Second, it means that the Nexiq USB Link 2 can now only be used with cables that have this authentication chip. China is no longer able to produce the cables since they can’t get the authentication chip, thus they can’t create a clone of the Nexiq USB Link 2. With a positive side for Nexiq, they are now able to charge whatever price the market will bear for the cables, since there are no other options for customers.

    However, the China manufacturers are smart people, and they figured out a workaround: Use the circuit board and cables from the original USB Link, place them in a case that looks like the USB Link 2, and sell it as the USB Link 2. So here we go again, a slew of China imports that are knocking off the Nexiq USB Link 2. We decided to purchase one of these USB Link 2 adapters from China so that we could compare and see how well it works. So here you, enjoy the post and feel free to ask questions in the comments below.

    The Packaging

    Let's start with the most simple way to tell the difference, and that is the packaging. This not only includes what the product looks like but the included accessories as well. Throughout this post, we will be posting side-by-side images, with the genuine Nexiq USB Link 2 on the left, and the china clone USB Link 2 on the right. As you see from the pictures below, the genuine USB Link 2 comes in a nice, hard plastic case. The image on the right is from the China clone, which comes with no case at all. The cables and adapter have been stuffed in the box.

    Genuine Nexiq

    Genuine Nexiq pictured above with the counterfeit pictured below

    Counterfeit Nexiq

    We also then take the contents out to compare. The original device, again shown on the left, comes with the adapter (with all the stickers attached), 6/9-pin long cable, a special USB cable (Which we will discuss more on this later), along with some paperwork. The USB Link 2 clone adapter comes with a HUGE assortment of cables, covering pretty much everything. It also has loose stickers to place on the tool, along with a 3-disc DVD set.

    Original Contents

    Genuine Nexiq pictured above with the counterfeit pictured below

    Counterfeit Nexiq

    In summary, the genuine USB Link 2 will come in a hard plastic case and will only come with the USB Cable and 6/9 pin cable. The fake and clone adapters from China and beyond will come with a large assortment of cables, along with multiple DVD discs.

    The Cable Connector

    So far, not a huge deal. You can save $400, and not just get a cheap plastic box, right? Well, there are many more differences, so let's start with the cables and the connector on the Nexiq USB Link 2. Again, the image on the left is what the bottom connector looks like on the genuine adapter. The image on the right is the china clone.

    Genuine Nexiq pictured above with the counterfeit pictured below

    In summary, the genuine USB Link 2 will come with a 26-pin male connector for the cables, while the clone USB Link 2 will come with a 15-pin male connector. Remember, Nexiq put an authentication chip in each cable, so how possibly can these clones be doing this? The answer is that the china clone adapters are simply Nexiq USB Link original circuit boards placed in USB Link 2 cases. We will continue to prove this point as we move on.

    The Cables

    One thing that people may like about the China USB Link is that it comes with a wide assortment of cables — 8 different ones. The original only comes with the standard 6 & 9 pin cable, which is used on commercial trucks. The first thing we notice is that the part numbers are on labels from the China device. Upon inspection of these cables, we find these are all cables for the Nexiq USB Link original, NOT the new USB Link 2. This further proves the point that the China adapter is just an original USB Link in disguise.

    The other issue is that the included 6/9 pin cable from the China clone is NOT the new green 9-pin that has been used in all model 2016 model year trucks. This means that this cable will not physically connect to any trucks built-in 2016 or newer. Even if you had the correct cable, we have serious doubts that this China clone is cable of handling the new 500k bus speeds that use this green connector.

    Genuine Nexiq pictured above with the counterfeit pictured below

    In summary, the USB Link 2 clone from China comes with more cables, yet they are cables for the original USB Link. The included 9-pin from China also will not fit or work on the 2016 model year and newer trucks.

    USB Cable

    The USB connection port is also different on China knock-off versus the genuine USB Link 2. With the USB Link 2, there is a fancy clip on the USB cable to prevent it from being detached from the adapter. On the clone tool, we find that it is a “regular” USB cable connector like you would find on a printer or larger USB device. On the USB Link 2 clone we received, this cable was actually very difficult to push in, and the plastic cracked a little when we did. Yet again, another reason to stay away from this tool and prove that it is a fake/clone.

    The other important item to note is that on the clone/fake adapter, you will see that there is a hole in the bottom. On the genuine adapter, this is an actual button that you would push.

    Genuine Nexiq pictured above with the counterfeit pictured below

    Circuit Board

    Now that we’ve explored all of the components, let's take a look at the actual circuit board inside the adapters. Again, we have a genuine adapter on the left, and the China clone on the right. Without being a computer engineer, you can see the differences in the boards right away. The clone adapter is actually 2 circuit boards, with wiring in between, while the original is a solid, once piece circuit board. The clone version also contains no Bluetooth chip, so it is USB only.

    Genuine Nexiq pictured above with the counterfeit pictured below

    NEXIQ USB Link 2 Clone Sticker Comparison

    We also thought it a good idea to show you the adapters side-by-side. In the first view of the front, you can see some noticeable differences. The sticker on the front, while the same size, has the order of the LED lights and also the size of the icons different. Both adapters will show the Bluetooth Logo, however, the China version does not have Bluetooth built into it. The genuine adapter also shows an icon for an iPad and iPhone.

    On the backside of the adapter, the sticker is a completely different size and much smaller on the USB Link 2 clone. There is also far less information, including the fact that says “Made in China”, while the original does not.


    In summary, we highly suggest staying away from the USB Link 2 clone adapters. Using a USB Link 2 clone will cause you nothing but problems, and just isn’t worth the hassle of saving a couple of dollars. There are plenty of other RP1210 adapters that are priced less then a Nexiq USB Link 2 and are also made by legit manufacturers in the USA. The following is a list of things you can look for if you are thinking about purchasing one:

    • It doesn’t come in a black plastic case
    • It comes with more than just the 6/9 pin “long” cable
    • The connector on the bottom is a 15-pin female
    • The 9-pin connector isn’t green
    • The USB cable doesn’t “clamp” into the Nexiq USB Link 2
    • There is a hole at the bottom of the tool where the cable plugs in
    • The sticker on the front looks different then it should

    If you’ve made it this far, and are looking for a 100% certain, genuine Nexiq USB Link 2, we carry this item in stock and ship daily.

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    Tyler Robertson

    Tyler Robertson is the Founder, Owner, and President of www.DieselLaptops.com. Started in 2010, DieselLaptops.com has become the premiere source of diesel diagnostic equipment for commercial trucks, off-highway equipment, marine, motorcycle, automobile, agriculture, and more.

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