New Tuner Reviewed: SCT Touch Screen Extreme

Forty years ago when you talked about tuning a car, there wasn’t much more involved than twisting the distributor or turning a screw on the carburetor. Now, computers are a big boon for us gearheads, and a revolutionary new product lets you tap into the potential of your ECU like never before: SCT’s new Touch Screen Xtreme. The best part? No wires required. How 21st century is that? Let’s take a look at the Touch Screen Xtreme in the powerTV Garage.

Check out the full video we produced on the SCT Touch Screen Extreme:

Let’s Talk TSX:

The Touch Screen Extreme, or “TSX” as we call it, is a pretty trick device. First off, the whole wireless thing is a really cool deal. Car guys love mobility. With the Touch Screen Xtreme, using Bluetooth technology, SCT has eliminated the need to tie the tuner to the car, while offering the capabilities of programming, tuning, data logging and performance monitors in a touch screen format. All told, it is very neat, but not surprising coming from SCT.

Here’s some of the highlight features of the TSX:

  • 4″ color touch screen display with automatic day / night modes.
  • Pre-loaded with dyno proven performance and fuel economy tune files.
  • View & record or monitor your vehicle’s PCM data
  • Internal rechargeable battery for complete wireless operation. USB charging cable included.
  • Flashes & data logs the vehicle using wireless technology
  • Displays estimated 1/4 mile & 0-60mph ET, HP and TQ!
  • User adjustable background graphics/ gauge sets.
  • Reads & clears OBDII diagnostic troubles codes quickly & easily.

Carry case is really nice. The TSX is sleek, slim, and looks just like a GPS device, only better.

Founded in 2003, SCT busted out at full tilt with their Chipper tuning device, and Advantage Custom Tuning software. Since then, SCT has always danced along the leading edge of tuning.Their products are universally useful, from towing and fuel efficiency aficionados to hardcore racers who prefer fuel injection over carburetors. That is because their handheld tuning programmers like the X3 & Livewire allow control over almost every aspect of your car.

When they announced the TSX last year at the 2008 SEMA Show in Las Vegas, Tim Roi, Marketing and Media Relations of SCT told us the response was overwhelming. With total control over every aspect of your car, pre-loaded tuning software, and the ability to get up and walk away without putting the tuner down, who wouldn’t be excited?

Easy Is As Easy Does

“We wanted to make the Touch Screen Xtreme very easy to use and understand..” Tim explained. And easy it is. There is perhaps no easier automotive modification with such far reaching ramifications for the performance of your engine.

The wireless adapter plugs into the OBDII outlet, often located beneath the dashboard.

The Touch Screen Xtreme comes in two parts; the wireless adapter, and the touch screen tuner.

The adapter fits up under your dashboard, and plugs into your vehicle’s OBD diagnostic port. This port is that little computer outlet that lets dealers and mechanics plug into the car, so they can figure out what is wrong with it. Can’t do that with a carburetor. SCT has taken full advantage of that plug, and loaded their programmer with ability to instantly recognize the vehicle it is plugged into. This includes 99% of Fords lineup from 1996 to 2010, from Powerstroke diesel F-350s to the Shelby GT500.

This auto identify feature is an important part of streamlining the ease of this product, but it hardly stops there. There is no wiring involved; just plug the wireless adapter into your vehicle’s OBD port and you’re all hooked up. If you plan to charge the TSX’s internal battery in the vehicle, SCT provides a 12v adapter that plugs into your vehicles cigarette lighter or Accessory socket. From there, you turn on the touch screen device, setup up the wireless connection and your ready to tune. Now, it is time to play.

“We listened to customer feedback, our customers stated they wanted a smaller device and a lot of them wanted a touch screen. People weren’t too excited over a dial or buttons,” said Roi. So SCT designed the tuner to be easy to use as well as attractive to look at. It isn’t much bigger than most smart phones, and fits handily on to a windshield mount, also provided by SCT. Most people might mistake it for a GPS device at first, but they won’t make that mistake for long. Plus, with a 4-5 hour battery life from its internal rechargeable battery, you can tune to your hearts content for quite a while.

You can upload a custom tune, a pre-loaded tune, or tweak certain options yourself.

Tuning Time

Computers control pretty much everything that goes on inside cars today. The only thing they don’t do is drive, though if The Terminator is any guide they may one day rule us rather than drive us. The Touch Screen Xtreme taps into your factory programmed computer, allowing you to upload one of SCT’s pre-installed tunes, and even adjust / tweak your vehicles tune yourself. The TSX also has the ability to be uploaded with up to 3 custom tunes from an authorized SCT custom tuning dealer.

The User Adjustable Options lets you tweak a lot of things so your car runs just how you want it. You can play with things like what octane fuel your engine is tuned for, at what temperature the fans should come on, and even the gear ratios in your vehicle’s rear end. You can also set speed or RPM limits, advance/retard timing, and even add or subtract how much fuel, though it would be wise to know your car’s limits before going too crazy with the tweaking.

As for the pre-loaded tunes, Tim explains “The pre-loaded tunes have been dyno tested to provide a safe maximum power & torque increases and are designed for vehicle with minor performance bolt on’s such as exhaust, cold air kits etc.” This allows you to get the most horsepower out of a relatively few, low-price enhancements. But to really exploit the Touch Screen Xtreme means taking advantage of having your vehicle custom tuned by one of SCT’s custom tuning dealers.

By going to an SCT custom tuning dealer, you can load and save up to three custom tunes. Say you’ve got a daily driver that just so happens to have a nitrous system installed, and you run race fuel at the track. You can get the most out of your run by uploading a nitrous tune before your race, and then returning the car back to stock (or another tune) for the ride home. Yes, the TSX features a “Return To Stock” button, and can be used on up to five different vehicles, albeit one at a time. After that, it has to go back to SCT to be unlocked.

But tuning your car only scratches the surface of what the TSX can actually do. This all inclusive device not only allows you control over how your vehicle runs, but it also feeds you information about how well your engine is performing. Kind of like Big Brother from 1984, only cooler.

See All You Can See: TSX Guages

The Touch Screen Xtreme device has the ability to monitor and record (using SCT’s LiveLink Software, free and included) ECU data from various sources.

Data logging software lets you peak inside your engine and see exactly what is happening.

The data logging feature allows you to monitor pretty much all of the major parameters of your engine, from RPMs and spark to the engine load, or Mass Air Meter data. This gives you an inside look into just how well your car is performing. Fuel mixture leaning out too much for comfort during acceleration? You’ll know about it. Engine getting too hot at idle? It will tell you that too, and oh so much more.

The TSX can also monitor information coming from external sources by plugging them into one of the four analog ports on the wireless adapter. Say you have an air/fuel wideband or EGT temperature sensor; just plug it into the wireless adapter, and it will log all that information with access being just a button touch away.

All of this information can be displayed on your TSX touch screen, or uploaded to a computer so you can e-mail your authorized SCT tuner the data, avoiding a trip to the shop. It will also let you analyze the information for yourself, allowing you to try out different tuning options of your own and comparing them against each other.

Data logging is important for getting the most out of your car, but you need to set a baseline first. If you’re like me, the nearest drag strip isn’t near at all, and essentially becomes an all day event. Pre-empting this problem and noting the success of similar devices like G-Tech, SCT wisely included an extremely accurate accelerometer in each TSX device. An accelerometer is exactly what it sounds like; it measures acceleration.

Your very own staging lane, courtesy of the TSX.

That means you can find out your quarter mile speed, 0-60 performance, and even braking distance. The quarter mile calculator even features staging lights. How cool is that? And according to Tim, it is accurate to within three-tenths of a second. All this, without ever having to go to the track. Of course, this requires plenty of open road (especially the ¼ mile calculator) so make sure nobody is looking when you test out your new tune.

Practical Performance

“When we originally came up with the idea a year ago, we were going to market it towards diesel trucks,” Tim explains. “But we showed it to some Mustang guys, and they were really into it, so we decided to expand it across the Ford line.”

SCT went with Ford first, because historically they work with the Blue Oval before the Bowtie, but even that is changing at SCT (they just released their pre-loaded / custom tuning devices for the 2010 Camaro and Duramax Diesel Trucks). The idea was to give the guys in diesel trucks a way to get the most towing capacity and torque without a lot of expensive, and complicated modifications. Another nifty feature on the TSX is the ability to read and wipe OBDII diagnostic trouble codes, something usually reserved for mechanics.

The TSX lets you read and clear OBDII dianostic trouble codes, saving a trip to the mechanic.

The idea soon took off, and having listened to customers’ feedback about their previous Livewire device, SCT knew that they wanted a smaller, easier to use device. “We took the time to perfect the TSX, to get it right,” Tim says. “We had some issues with the wireless signal meeting with interference, say we fixed that.” The extra six months of research and development allowed SCT to polish the Touch Screen Xtreme, delivering a more-complete tuning device.

Updating the TSX

While it sounds easy, updating a device or tune for some consumers can be a very complicated process. It’s easy – but some people aren’t that computer savvy. As such, SCT made it easy for the TSX to receive updates, expansion packs, and free downloads. Since the TSX is wireless it is easy to update, and as new cars and calibrations are released, all one has to do is log onto SCT’s site to download the latest updates for the device. You can expect that the TSX will be regularly updated with new tunes, new software, and new options that will allow the consumer to customize their product. One plan SCT has for the TSX is to allow users to select the “look” of their monitoring or performance-testing gauges, free of charge. Nothing like a bit of customization to really make a product feel like yours.


The TSX is, in short, a really impressive tuning system wrapped up in a sexy little wireless package. As SCT has released the product to the eager public, it’s time to think hard about about upgrading.

The Touch Screen Xtreme represents an important step forward in tuning software with its wireless connectivity, range of options, and built in performance gauges. Plus, this device will never grow old, as you can count on SCT to provide consistent updates. The TSX can help get the most performance out of just about any Blue Oval product, whether you’re just looking for a little more fuel efficiency, some more power, or a lot more towing.

About the author

James Lawrence

James started working on a Nostalgia Top Fuel drag racing team in 1992, and the rest has been history. A life-long automotive enthusiast, James is in fierce competition to see whether he can collect more cars or cats. Right now, the cars are winning. James co-founded the NMRA and NMCA Drag Racing Series in 1998 and continues to be an avid and passionate fan on everything 1320. He also thinks he can drive. Thinks, is the key word.
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