Xexun vs Clone Travel Tracker Review
What are these devices?
You can buy these smallish form satelite trackers. It appears the original company to make them is called Xexun; then as they became a commercial success other manufacturers copied the design and function.
Xexun is a company from China who makes many satelite tracking devices. Now there here are lots of chinese Clone versions of these; the most well-known copy company is called Coban, but there are others.
Here I test a genuine Xexun vs. a clone. It is a head to head test; all conditions are equal bar the device. I took them with me on a trip to the city centre and on another day, on the school-run to the local town.
I checked the IMEI of the Xexun on their website; and it comes back genuine. The clone I can't determine who made it.
I used a server installation of Traccar to record the locations, both use the local phone company Andorra Telecom, both were overnight charged, in the test I initially set them to report their location every if they have been moved more than 50m since the last report, and then I set them to reporting 30seconds regardless of any change in location.
Setting the 30 second report does reduce the battery time considerably, and increases the data consumption (which is a bit of waste too as if you hang around in a location for a while, it still keeps reporting you there - resulting a mess on the result map), but if you keen to record every single step (or someone else needs to find your current location with a degree of timeliness) , then this is what you must do...
In any case neither device ran out of battery during the tests; so that part was not tested. The Xexun has a bigger battery, however I did notice that both devices turned themselves off (out of charge) when I'd finished the tests within the same day. Surprising really as the batteries are around the same size as older GSM Phone batteries - think mid noughties Nokia phones - and yet should be newer technologies, and these device don't have any bright lit screens to power like today's smartphones.
Head to head comparison Xexun vs. Clone
The clone is the green on the left, the Xexun the yellow on the right. You can tell by looking even at the sticker there is much higher definition in the logo around the American continent for example.
With the battery covers off the Clone (on the left) has a battery that doesn't completely fill the case, and doesn't feel as secure in the slot.
With the clone you have to slide the SIM card into the slot. This can present a problem if you are using a SIM-adaptor as the SIM tends to pop-out when it is put under strain in the SIM-adaptor housing. The Xexun has a opening latch where you place the SIM and then lock it back into place.
I bought myself an old LG Android phone (about 20GBP on ebay) to test the SIM cards before putting them in the devices; to make sure they had internet connectivity and to remove the SIM lock PIN. This old phone uses the same "Standard" size SIMs that the trackers take - avoiding the problem of having to pop out the small SIM format to do this.
Why am I recording my location?
I want to record where in the world I've been; maybe it's the programmer in me, or maybe its because looking back at photos is one thing, but knowing "where" as well as "when" the photo is taken reawakens so many more memories.
I wish I'd had something like this years ago. When my son was born in 2006, I had a old Discovery 2 and we drove from England to Spain (via Finland, Estonia, and even took in the Channel Islands), as you do - you figure our route?! It was a wonderful trip; took about 3 months to cover all that.
Here is a trip down memory lane - I do know exactly where this location is: It is Pyysalo camp Tampere, Finland, where my grandfather was the manager back in the 70s and 80s when it was a holiday camp for Finnish State Railways personnel; mainly retirees. Today it is a religious camp. But most of the photos e.g some here from Guernsey on the same trip - I have no idea!
Back in those days I had a little handheld Nikkon camera - so no GPS, no idea. I did snap off a load of photos, so I will be able to roughly place where we were on a certain day, and I know we had crossed the Artic Circle before the 21st of June, and there are some other memorable locations and dates that will help piece the timeline together.
But what would have been better would have been to have a little device recording our location continously. Add this together the EXIF data from pictures taken from a camera phone, and it will be possible to get a good idea of where we were on any particular day. This could be mashed together with routemaps to create a memorable "journey history" so that we could enjoy the trip memories.
The clone sadly has a major flaw: It turns itself "off" after some period of tracking. This, for me, is a killer issue - combined with the fact you can't see if it is "on" in normal daylight because the LED flashing is not bright enough. Anyway on with the tests..
You can set the devices to update the reported location if you move more than 50m from the previous location. This is good for data consuption (although it is very low anyway) and for battery life. The downside is that a "live" viewer of your location; say a friend or family member trying to find you only get the "last" reported location. If you've not moved for some time, the data will look "stale". If the device is reporting your location regardless the location will be "current".
Results: Mixed. I was driving along the Prat de la Creu street. Look at my track when driving the car through the town centre. The blue is the Xexun and the red the clone.
The Xexun misreports that I'm some distance away from the road.
The Clone is reporting at a distance of around 100m, whereas the Xexun is at big "over enthusiastic" and signalling at around 25m. Even though both were set to report at 50m in the settings.
Here the Xexun was doing better, again report more often that the requested 50m but at least it is keeping more on the road where I actually was.
Everything is not perfect with the Xenun
I went to the gym, and then drove into the city - a fair drive around 20mins. The Xexun was turned on the whole time. I checked the location of it once I reached the city on the server and it was report "live" that it was still at the gym. This is disconcerting as the location was clearly wrong, yet it was reporting it to the server.
(This was the screen capture. I was already at the 360 bar at this point)
After about 10mins on the window sill of the city bar it finally "flicked" and reported the location correctly. The clone by comparison had no such issues.
50m reporting Static Location
I remained in the 360º bar for quite some time. Even through they were both set to only report if I moved 50metres occassionly they would detect I'd moved (although I hadn't) and fire off a report.
The Clone does worse here, as it reported much more often and had me over the road in the petrol station car park. Somewhere I didn't go.
Continuous 30s reporting
I then set both trackers to continously report their location, not checking for the 50m distance. Here I was on the school-run driving.
Result: The devices are actually quite similar here, both keep good track of my location. There is little to differentiate if any.
Walking with Continous 30s reporting
I parked the car and walked down to the school yard. I waited there maybe 10mins and then walked back to car. We all set off round the one way system.
This is tracked again by both trackers almost identically.
Covered and inside tracking
Result: Here the Xexun has a major edge. I parked in an undercover car park, and walked to the butchers and then general store in the town. The Xexun is much more accurate here; whilst the clone throws out a couple of really random locations (the rightmost and bottom rightmost tracks)
Documentation & Packaging
If you buy items via Ebay or AliExpress direct from China you will know that most often, if not always, the documentation is terrible. Both these devices are no exception. Even the Xexun with it's high price tag, quality box packaging and better build quality still comes with a very poor instruction manual - it is a Xexun but has no company branding on it; maybe the outsource the documentation to the shipper? I am the owner and programmer of Red Planet Travel - and yet I couldn't initally make head-nor-tail of the instructions. Luckily there other who have gone before and there is lots of information available to google on the internet.
A particulaly useful PDF I found here which details the differences between then SMS command instruction sets depending on if you have a Xexun or most Clones including the Cobans. Seems that are small differences depending on manufacturer; so you need to make sure the commands you are sending match what your device is expecting.
Comes in a nice quality box, and the instructions are printed on a nice little booklet - shame the contents were still hard to understand!
Simple plastic bag packaging; and simple leaflet documentation, which is of similar; that is - hard to understand and written in very poor english, quality to the Xexun.
My Clone did come with a "all purpose" charger which is useful as you can vary the "pin" distance and charge other batteries like mobile phone batteries on it too, and it also came with a spare battery (note battery runtime I found was poor), and oddly a spare cover!
The Xexun looks and feels like the better quality device it is. The casing is soft plastic, and has a better feel than the clone.
It is a bit fiddly to get the SIM card into either device, but the Xexu has a flip lock where you slot the card; the Clone you have to slide and bend the SIM into position - this makes using an adaptor for a Micro > Standard SIM hard, as it tends to pop-out the Microsim from the adapator as it is being slid in.
The biggest and most important different is the green LED. On the Xexun is bright and clearly visible; the Clone - well you have to cover the LED to see if it is lit or not - a bit of an annoyance; as you need to see it pulsing to know it is on and working.
I lost some track positions the other day as it had turned itself off by itself and I didn't notice that - due to fact that the clone's LED has also "slipped down" inside the casing slightly (build quality) and as such doesn't align properly with the case; again making viewing the LED that much harder.
The clone's battery cover has a tendency to slip off; the Xexun has a must more secure latch mechansim.
However this was strangely a freak detriment to the Xexun: I lent my 11 year old boy the tracker when he went skiing. In the ski club minibus on the way home it fell out of his pocket - his friend picked it up and took it home; I guess intrigued as to what it was - the friend wanted to get inside and have a look and not knowing how to opening it, must have forced the case as the latch - as it was broken when it was returned to me! Doh.
The Xexun was significantly more expensive. At approx 55GBP it is a serious outlay. Even though it is much more expensive, and came in a fancy box, the documentation and instructions are typically-chinese: That is more or less useless. I had to resort to internet forum searches to get the thing working.
The cheaper ones are bound to be clones. There are lots of "Geninue" trackers.. yes is it geninuely a tracker, not a genunine Xexun though.
Again the documentation is poor; but since I'd already set one up, the second one is always going to be easier. The command set is slightly different however.
The Xexun has much better build quality and the ability to see the flashing LED in normal daylight condition is a deal-breaker for me.
The clone does perform adequately (particularly where the satellite signal is strong), and it is much cheaper, but the fact that I lost a lot of track because I couldn't actually see if the device was on or off means I cannot recommend it.
Review by the boss redplanettravelboss on the 6th January 2018