Archive for September 2nd, 2016

Counterfeit FTDI USB-Serial Adapter Roundup

As part of the vacuum tube lighting project, I picked up a bunch of USB-Serial adapters, with the intent of simply building them into the lamp base along with a knockoff Arduino Pro Mini, then plugging in a cheap USB wall wart for power. An Arduino Nano might make more sense, but this lets me use the Pro Minis for other projects where power comes from elsewhere.

Anyhow, I deliberately paid a few bucks extra for “genuine” FTDI chips, knowing full well what was about to happen:

Assorted FT232 Converters

Assorted FT232 Converters

The two boards on the bottom have been in my collection forever and seem to be genuine FTDI; the one on the left came from Sparkfun:

FT232RL - genuine

FT232RL – genuine

The top six have counterfeit chips, although you’d be hard-pressed to tell from the laser etching:

FT232RL - fake

FT232RL – fake

In addition to the boards, I picked up the blue square-ish cable adapters for the HP 7475A plotter project and, again, paid extra for “genuine” FTDI chips. The other adapters, based on Prolific PL2303 chips, I’ve had basically forever:

Assorted FT232 Converters - Cabled

Assorted FT232 Converters – Cabled

Those two have chips with different serial numbers: genuine FTDI chips get different serial numbers programmed during production. The counterfeits, well, they’re all pretty much the same.

Display the serial numbers thusly:

Bus 002 Device 024: ID 0403:6001 Future Technology Devices International, Ltd FT232 Serial (UART) IC
... snippage ...
udevadm info --query=all --attribute-walk  --name=/dev/bus/usb/002/024 | grep ser

All the counterfeit FTDI chips report the same serial number: A50285BI. The PL2303 chips don’t report serial numbers.

For my simple needs, they all work fine, but apparently fancier new microcontrollers expect more from their adapters and the counterfeits just can’t live up to their promises.

For a while, FTDI released Windows drivers that bricked counterfeit chips; the Linux drivers were unaffected.