Say you have a misfire in cyl. #3, does it tell you, Misfire: Cylinder 3.
I recently had SES Lights on and had to (once again) make a trip to see a friend w/ an Actron scan tool to find out why the SES came on. Luckily, his tool tells you what is wrong, other than say "P1440". Get what I mean?
It is not very hard to look the codes up on the net or in a book. I have a cheap scantool also that says what the problem is. I was looking at a used 1996 saturn and it was warmed up but the computer was running on 115 F. I thought it was neat to see the common temp sender failure right on the scangauge. I don't know if the scantool would have been any more useful. The car was not setting any codes.
I don't read enough codes with mine to make looking up the code a big deal. I suppose if I did it for a living I would like a nicer one. The standard verbiage can be misleading, i.e. my saturn returned a code for "camshaft position sensor malfunction", My saturn doesn't HAVE a camshaft position sensor and this seemed an odd time for the computer to start noticing it. A google for the code and my car model led me to the cause of the problem, the ignition coil was going south.
Yes, I have an actron as well as a scangauge, and no the scangauge doesn't "interpret" the readings like the actron does.
Giving a number and an interpretation is useful because you can basically get a gist of what is wrong. I mean yes, I can just look it up, but how about just knowing what is basically wrong? I mean there are certain things like if you get a p0420, if you've run into it before, it's something bad with emissions in the catylytic converter area. So at least you know not to go digging into the intake for cat problem.