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USB serial converters from FTDI – how to select them and get rid of fake chips

Posted by jpluimers on 2018/06/08

Be sure to read the comments at USB serial converters from FTDI are quite popular – Thomas Mueller (dummzeuch) – Google+ [WayBack] as it tells more about how to set genuine and fake FTDI chips apart (often before buying them, you cannot tell) and how to replace fake ones buy genuine ones.

Getting back to original means de-soldering fake chips, and soldering new genuine chips on the boards.

Fake chips:

  • have limited batches of the same serial (although there are ways to reprogram the serial, see links below)
    • connecting multiple adapters with the same serial causes trouble
  • are mangled by various FTDI drivers (either their PID is reset, or fake-data is inserted in the serial stream)
  • have problems operating at higher data rates

Note that the workarounds for these fake chips mean you cannot use more recent chips.

Links from Thomas’s post and other relevant links on the various kinds of genuine/fake and getting fake ones work again

Fake chips can cause you a lot of headaches – and time – sorting out communication problems: [WayBack] esptool-ck, esp8266, and FTDI Bug Hunting – vilimblog

Two years ago, this shoot-out (with results on github) had a great conclusion:

Buy either an adapter with a genuine FTDI chip, or one of the Silicon Labs CP2102 chips.

The FTDI chip is the only one attaining 3M baud rates.

Overview articles:

SiLabs chips seem to be the only without much trouble:

  • [WayBack] SiLabs CP210x USB Adapters For The Win – vilimblog
  • Review of a Generic USB RS 232/485/TTL Adapter (“Winners” branded) – YouTube:
    • Almost anything with FTDI/Prolific chips that comes from ebay/aliexpress should be assumed to be counterfeit – easy way to test this is to buy 2 and see if their serial numbers match. You don’t really want to waste your time with fake ones, you’ll end up spending more on those if you try to get them for as cheap as possible. Itead sells an adapter for 6.8 USD with genuine FT232RL chips, but they aren’t in as convenient dongle form factor, but might be worth more than your own time replacing fake chips with genuine ones.Although not mentioned here, CH340/1 should generally be avoided, while they work fine for short periods of time, for longer use they seem to be as unreliable as the counterfeit FTDI/Prolific chips on Linux.

      I haven’t seen or recognized a fake CP210x chip yet, so my guess would be that these are generally fine no matter where you get them. One big advantage of those is the integrated voltage 3.3V regulator, which can save some space when rolling your own boards.

FTDI related:

Genuine FTDI seems to be the easiest to find:

Prolific has similar issues, driver v3.4.25.218 still works with fake chips:

–jeroen

Related posts where I mentioned some of the trouble with FTDI chips:

 

 

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