QUOTE(mysticrider92 @ Feb 21 2009, 06:32 PM)
Expect to spend no less than a few thousand dollars for a good one though.
I agree with you completely except for this.
professional race bread stand-alone systems can cost you a couple grand... but you can get a good piggy-back ecu or factory ecu reprogrammer for $600-$800... even less if you're buying a used one or going with an option source solution like Mega Squirt.
there are 3 types of REAL "chips"
1. those that reprogram the factory ecu, this device might be as simple as plugging a PC into your car and reprogramming the computer, or as invasive as opening the computer module up and physically swapping out a chip... basically it reprograms the computer for some new set of parameters... don't under estimate the benefits that can be hand with this.. some factory computers are VERY well built... most people who tune Chevy LS1s use the LS1edit software which can setup the computer to do just about anything you'd want it to do... most shops that work with these motors will setup your computer to your parameters using this application for a couple hundred bucks. This is the cheapest option costing about $100 at the low end and $800 at the high end.
2. "piggy-back" systems... factory ECUs that aren't reprogrammable (either they're locked out by the manufacturer or designed such that they can't be reprogrammed) might use this type of system, it's a section car computer that attaches to the main computer, it basically acts as a converter taking certain functionality away from the factory ecu and just feeding it enough data to keep it happy. These are good because they can let the ecu handle stuff like cold start, Air Conditioning and other "comfort" features that might be controlled by the computer while the piggy back handles the actual engine tuning. The one I see used the most is the greddy e-manage, which is fairly cheap and easy to program. it's not the most feature filled but it's a great platform to get your feet wet with. This is option is priced typically between $600 - $2000 depending on the system and the functionality.
3. "stand-alone" systems... these replace the factory ECU completely... and in general they're built for strict racing applications... these systems typically wont include the functionality you'd need to drive the car on the street, rather they'll assume you've stripped out all of the car's creature comforts and work specifically for running the motor and nothing more... in general these offer the most flexibility in terms of HOW you tune your car and they use extremely high speed processors so that they can react quicker. these systems cost typically between $1200 and $10000 depending on the system and the functionality
I had a WRX and used the Cobb tuning Access ECU which is a handheld device that can reprogram the factory computer, it cost me about $600 and they had "maps" on the website that I could download for different part configurations (for instance I had a turbo-back exhaust, and bigger injectors so that matched the stage 2.5 map that I was able to reprogram) if you had a setup that didn't match up with a map on the website then you could take it to a tuner who would create you a custom map for about $400-$500)..
with this I got an extra 85hp at the top of the powerband and an average of 15tq across the entire band... worth every penny IMO.
With the LS1 I'm building the factory computer is actually designed like a stand-alone system so I'm going to have it reflashed with a pre-determined map for about $150