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Old 11-28-2004, 12:56 AM
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I went to Electronic Home Expo in Long Beach a week and a half ago, primarily to see what Control 4 was showing and try to make a decision whether to plan on using it for my home theater and rest of the house. Here’s what I saw.

Control4 booth had three distinct areas:

The first area was a static display showing all announced products. Basically, everything that is on their website (http://www.control4.com/products/com...s/lighting.htm) was shown in display cases: speaker & audio points, dimmers, central controllers, keypads, etc.

Next to static displays was a pc system set up running Control4’s Composer software. Composer software is used to set up a house: define available hardware and configure system agents (macros). Composer looks like a well-written app. I got a chance to play with it at a demo station. With a C4 engineer talking me through it, I added two dimmers to the sample house by dragging & dropping from palette of available devices to ‘rooms’ where they’re located. I then created a scene with one dimmer at 50% and other at 100% and assigned the scene to a button on a 6-button keypad. The whole operation took < 5 minutes, including me fumbling around.

While doing that, I looked at what 3rd party components C4 has drivers for. C4 drivers are either serial or IR or both, depending on what the other component supports. I was primarily looking for drivers for B&K receivers to integrate with mine. Unfortunately there are no drivers for B&K. Receivers I did see were more mainstream, several Sony, Pioneers and others. You can, however, write your own driver. This is also done via Composer, but I’m not sure how. The rep said you start with a similar serial or IR driver and modify it to suit your needs. One of the reps said Composer can also import Pronto files from remotecentral.com and use them as starting points for drivers.



The second area was a stage/demo area with overview presentations running practically non-stop. Each one drew a standing crowd. The demo utilized a rotating stage – one side of the stage was a bedroom and other was a living room / home theater. They configured the ‘home’ during the demo to show how a C4 dealer would configure a client’s house.

The bedroom had two light dimmers and a 6-button keypad already ‘installed’ in the walls. They added these devices to the Composer software and s et up a scene triggered by a button on the keypad. They also configured a ‘Wake Up’ scene that turned on lights and started a Norah Jones track playing from the Media Server Controller. The wake up scene was assigned to another button on the keypad. There was also a ‘bathroom’ door in the bedroom, apparently with a contact relay on the door. The configured the bathroom light to turn on automatically when door is opened.

In the living room, they configured a one-button movie watching experience. They added the receiver and DVD changer to the C4 Media Controller. They added DVDs from the DVD changer that allows selecting movies to watch by cover art (actually they pre-added these ahead of time ‘cause it takes a bit of time, 30 sec, to scan each DVD). They added a living room dimmer controlling a light load and a contact relay controlling the fireplace. Then they set up an agent that dims the lights, turns off the fireplace, turns on necessary components, and starts the movie playing when a DVD is selected by cover art. The whole sequence was initiated by a button press on the C4 Remote Control. (They had an audience member to press the remote button to start the movie sequence.)

Again, all this was done during the demo, with one rep talking us through it, and the other assembling and configuring different pieces via Composer software that we could see on a side screen. The was a small hiccup – when the Remote Control button was pressed, there was a delay starting up the movie-watching sequence. The tech explained that the very first time a program was run after initial setup it took time to ‘initialize’ the program.


The third part of the booth was a demo wall with some (not all) C4 products up and running. I spent a fair amount of time trying these out. The demo wall had two dimmers and one switch controlling 3 light loads, two Mini Touch Screens, a 3-button and 6-button keypad, a Media Controller with TV display controlled by either the Mini Touch Screens or Remote Control. All these were up and working and communicating with one another. (I inferred from one of the rep’s comments that devices that are up and running will be the first ones shipping.)

My (poor) photo of working mini touchscreens, dimmer, and button keypads: http://www.eeeyore.com/C4EHX/PDRM1478.JPG

Media Controller (http://www.control4.com/cp/37-12D8A7DA/index.htm): This
guy was sitting with his back towards us (see photo). It was controlling all the various devices on this wall. Its hard disk had a number of CDs that were available to listen to. Without being firm on the prices, actually being kinda vague, I found out the Media Controller will retail for around $1500.

The Media Controller (one with wires): http://www.eeeyore.com/C4EHX/PDRM1479.JPG

Photo of a Media Controller's insides (non-working static display): http://www.eeeyore.com/C4EHX/PDRM1482.JPG


Wall Dimmers & Switches (http://www.control4.com/products/com...s/lighting.htm): The wall light dimmers and switches are great. Very good feel, an ‘organic’ curved design of the on/off paddle, by which I mean that the top of the paddle is convex and bottom is concave. The two lights on the switches are tri-color LEDs and can be programmed to be any color. The ones on display were a brilliant blue. I love these dimmers! They have a better feel than Lutron RadioRA and a way better feel of anything PLC. The rep told me each wall dimmer should retail for around $100. I’ll be installing many of these.

Button Keypads (http://www.control4.com/products/components/keypads.htm): I liked the 3- and 6-button keypads as well. They have a similar solid feel of the dimmers and utilize same tri-color LED. The rep said he wasn’t sure of the price, but thought the button keypads would be somewhere in the $150 range. I can see using these around a typical house a lot – basically to invoke predefined macros. It will be possible to engrave the buttons on keypads somehow.

Mini Touch Screens (http://www.control4.com/products/com...uchscreens.htm): There were two of these connected to and controlling other devices. Basically, you can find and control any and all devices that make up your house. From the main menu you can go into lighting, comfort, music, etc.

In the music area I was able to scroll through available music stored on the media server and call up desired tracks by touching the screen on cover art. This is kind of slick, though I wasn’t immediately obvious whether I should use the touchscreen to select something or the wheel selector. You do figure it out rather quickly. When scrolling though available tracks, the display sometimes flickered and jumped. I pointed it out to one of the reps and he said they’re aware of it and will improve prior to shipping.

I switched to the lighting area in the touch screens. Recall from a previous post that a touch screen is a full-fledged controller. I was successfully able to create a lighting scene (see photo) and execute it. The upside is that you can do it, but I’d rather use Composer software to define scenes and configurations. The main point is that from the touch screen you can navigate to and control any C4 controllable device. (If you imagine one of these on your home-office desk or in the kitchen or by the sofa, you can drive the whole house – way cool.) The price on mini touch screen is over $500 and under $1000. In my house I can envision one or two of these.

Photo of mini controller with scene I set up: http://www.eeeyore.com/C4EHX/PDRM1483.JPG

Another way to control everything is via the Remote Control and TV interface connected to a Media Controller. This works rather well. The remote is very well designed, important buttons fall naturally under your fingers. The TV interface was configured on the same wall controlling the same devices. The user interface is very similar (maybe even identical) to the one on touch screens, so I was able to perform same functions as on the mini touch screens – you look at the TV screen and drive with the remote.

TV Interface photo: http://www.eeeyore.com/C4EHX/PDRM1480.JPG

The remote (http://www.control4.com/cp/34-AF53B11E/index.htm) also has another mode of operation, without requiring a TV. The remote has a 4-line LCD display that runs what C4 calls a ‘list navigator’ of their software. Basically, you can still get to and control all devices on the C4 network – call up songs off the media server, control lights, invoke any predefined macros, etc. Instead of pictures as on the mini-touchscreen or the TV, you get a textual, list-based interface. This could work rather well, considering that each remote is approximately $120 or so. It’s inexpensive and can do a lot.

(Note that the LCD button keypad (http://www.control4.com/cp/28-BCA88827/index.htm) will have the same list interface as the remote. According to C4, it will ship in Jan / Feb, in the second phase.)

There were also two 3rd-party thermostats that were interfacing with C4. The was a model of a door, which, if opened, turned on a light.


Conclusion: In a nutshell, I’m excited. What I saw working was very well designed, and worked quite well. The price point is right, at least for me. The whole system is intelligently architected. Of course some parts will be baked more than others initially, but that’s the nature of product development. For me the trip to EHX was worth it – I saw Control 4 product in action, talked to C4 people, and left with a positive feel about the company. I will be installing C4 in my house, starting slowly and proceeding cautiously.

Feel free to ask if something doesn't make sense.


Keep in mind that standard disclaimers apply. I’m simply reporting what I saw and what I think I understood from demos, conversations with C4 reps, etc. Use this info at your own risk. :)

Max
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Old 11-28-2004, 08:39 AM
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Excellent report Max . Finally someone has seen it working and it sounds very encouraging . I'm also impressed that they went through the steps of setting it up in a live demo .

I have a feeling that they are raising the prices on the components from what they initially announced because of how much hype they've received . Either way, it's still very attractive . Now we just need a few of the pros to really test it out and tell us what they think .

Thanks again Max.
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Old 11-28-2004, 08:48 AM
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thanks Max
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Old 11-28-2004, 09:54 AM
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Thanks for the report! This looks very interesting & I hope that the product will be readily available soon...
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Old 11-28-2004, 09:19 PM - Thread Starter
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Hello everyone,

Things have been rocking here and I enjoyed reading Max's report.

The MSRP's we announced at CEDIA will be maintained as we launch this year.

We have been in final lock down on feature for the software for sometime and have a team of over 50 engineers and testers pounding on the software everyday fixing and enhanceing.

It is coming together great.

This week we have our first 50 dealers coming in for training and after the training they will get their product.

The hardware is also coming along great.

We have nearly 30 beta sites up and running and have been adding and updating equipment weekly.

Please feel free to contact me directly with any questions you might have!

See you at CES.

Jim
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Old 11-28-2004, 09:21 PM
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Jim

What exactly do you CURRENTLY have shipping if any?

Dave
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Old 11-28-2004, 09:28 PM
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Thanks Max for the great detailed report. This sounds very promising, it is nice to hear that this is not ALL vaporware.

I spoke with one of the Control 4 regional sales managers last week. Being an end user, I asked timing of their initial rollout and about their dealer network.

I was told they are currently rolling out in a limited way with a broader rollout coming in early 2005.

On the dealer front he said they are just about to have their initial training with 50 dealers. I was told they do not yet have a dealer contracted here in Tampa but he says they are close. I asked that he call the custom installer I'm working with on my new home (they are one of the larger companies in the Tampa area). About half an hour later my installer called me and said Control 4 had just contacted him. He said this stuff sounds great and and they are sending him information, pricing, etc. As soon as he gets it he'll share the details with me.
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Old 11-29-2004, 08:30 AM
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Hi Jim,thanks for taking the time to come and talk to us. I am not a dealer, but a potential customer, and according to your site the prices are much lower than anything currently available.What will MRSP be for a controller and the display device, I just want to know a ballpark figure so that I can decide what to do
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Old 11-29-2004, 12:10 PM
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Anthony, my writeup has prices on some of the devices you mention.

Note that there are several controllers and several display devices.

Max
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Old 12-01-2004, 08:18 AM
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the simpelest controller for controlling devices. I would guess that would be Control4® Home Theater Controller

and the display
Control4® Wireless Touch Screen-10.5
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Old 12-01-2004, 08:42 AM
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Max,

What are you going to do next ? Is there a dealer yet in your area ? Did you ask about the prospect of doing it yourself ?

Even once they start shipping in large quantities, I'm expecting it to be at least 6 months before it is established well enough for me to go for it . I would wait at least that long to hear from some of the pro's and get their opinions on how well it works .

BTW, even though I'm a die hard DIY'er, at the prices they're talking about, I might be inclined to just have it installed by a pro installer . As long as they don't start gouging because the cost of C4 is so much lower than tha alternatives . (No offense to the pro's on this forum whom I'm sure would never do such a thing :) .)
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Old 12-01-2004, 05:10 PM
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AJF, I'm gonna start small. Start with a couple of dimmers. Add a keypad or two. Splurge on the Mini-Touchscreen. See how it all works. Then add the Media Controller & tie everything together with Composer Software. I'm still building out the HT & remodeling.
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Old 12-01-2004, 06:06 PM
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That sounds like the way to go . Doing a whole house system all at once would be scary with such a new product, wheteher you're doing it yourself or having it installed .
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Old 12-02-2004, 09:06 AM
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Are there any plans for integration with MCE?
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Old 12-04-2004, 01:07 PM - Thread Starter
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Hey guys,

Here are a couple of answers:

the lowest point of entry is our home theater contoller.

It comes with our wireless handheld zigbee remote and has 6 IR outs, 1 contact, relay and serial and USB as well as ethernet.

You can pull your media from somba drives via USB or over the network and the HTC will display your media collection on screen via it's on screen GUI system. you can also connect the HTC to a Sony 777ES DVD/CD changer and the HTC will automatically load all your media and give you and on-screen interface with jacket art.

The retail will be $595.

In regards to MCE - We can port to it and have a version running on WCE but it's not in our launch plans as of now do to cost.

Jim
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Old 12-04-2004, 10:39 PM
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Hi Jim,

Question on LIGHTING:

Can Control4 integrate with the Lutron Homeworks RF (Homeserve) system. In other words, if the dimmers from Control4 are NOT utilized. can the "system" integrate the same way with the Control4 remotes, wireless tablets, and wall monitors??

Will it the lighting scheme still pull up using the same graphical interface??
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Old 12-05-2004, 07:58 AM
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thanks jgist
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Old 12-05-2004, 08:46 PM - Thread Starter
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Hi,

We are working on an interface for Lutron currrently.

The interface for lighting will be the same as using a Control4 dimmer.

Good questions

Jim
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Old 12-08-2004, 05:04 PM
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Jim,
I've been reading this thread and have a couple of general questions:
1) Will the wall-mounted touchscreens be able to display CCTV via modulated channels? To what extent would several channels be displayable? Multiple views?
2) Intercom capabilities for the wall-mounted units? (I'd like to be able to see and talk to whoever's at the front door)
3) Remote access via the internet for web based management?
4) Will Media Controllers be capable of displaying the user interface in 16:9 format to take advantage of HDTV screensize?
5) Will Media Controllers be capable of viewing photos, playing MP3's, home movies, etc. off a remote harddrive located on the network, for viewing and control via a television?
6) Are bottons on handheld remote backlit or is just the lcd display?
7) Will I be able to browse internet from the 10.5" wireless touchscreen?
8) Is it possible to tie in Control4 to my Ademco security alarm?
9) Software on the horizon for control via PocketPC with Wifi? (That would really have a lot of geek appeal.)
I apologize if I missed the answers to these questions in prior posts. Also, when are you guys going to post an online demo so I can see this thing in action? FAQ?
Justin
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Old 12-09-2004, 11:41 AM
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I have some of the same questions as j_fo. Specifically, can the controller access the wma files and playlists I have stored on a seperate server?

Additionally, say I have your dimmer switches installed throughout my home, can I have a three button controller at the front door that turns on all the lights in the family room and kitchen and then have a six button controller in the family room that dims all the lights when I sit down to watch tv.

Also, can I program the light controls into a universal remote like the Harmony line-up? Do the light controllers allow timing options, for instance dim a light to a preset level over 30 seconds then turn off after 1 minute?

Thanks!!!
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Old 12-09-2004, 12:57 PM
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According to the Media Controller Product Sheet (http://www.control4.com/documents/br...Controller.pdf), the MC supports uncompressed WAV/PCM audio and MP3.

Yes, you can access WAVs or MP3s from a server on the network or a hard disk attached via USB.

Yes, I you can use button controllers to control dimmers, invoked scenes, etc.

I don't know about Harmony remotes, but you can use Control4 remotes. They allow control of all Control4 devices.

Max
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Old 12-09-2004, 03:01 PM
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Thanks for your reply Max. After reading the document I am still a bit confused. What I want to do is rip my CD's in a Windows Media Lossless format to a server with a raid controller (so I don't lose my music if a drive fails).

The document says that the controller can IMPORT from a connected usb drive or via a network but does the controller download the music onto it's 80 gig drive or just read the files accross the network. I hope it just streams the files. It also says nothing of using the playlists I will have setup in windows media player (not to mention it only list the MP3 format and not WMA).

Am I missing something or do you have additional info that the pdf document doesn't contain?

Thanks for all your help!

Ryan
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Old 12-09-2004, 03:09 PM
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I have no additional info.

MC understands MP3 and WAV. Not WMA.

As I understand it, the digital music files, wav or mp3, can reside on the 80G internal disk or streamed from an attached disk or from network 'somehow'.

It does too talk about playlists. From the PDF file: "Customized playlists — Easily create playlists for every occasion and mood."

I plan to use uncompressed WAV from a remote file server.

Max
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Old 12-09-2004, 03:56 PM
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I am NEW to home automation... been living in a tiny condo in San Francisco and am now moving into a "real" house in Austin, TX. The house is new, but already built.

I've been reading up on home automation and definitely want to move forward with some kind of solution. I emailed Control4 before I found this thread about Austin installers, and got the following reply:

"We will begin shipping products late January 2005 with a full product
rollout by the end of March 2005. We anticipate have our dealer locater
tool on our website by mid January 2005. I hope this helps to clarify
this with your timeframe."

I only recently realized how expensive it is to route HD video. I was hoping to have a media server in our 'game room' that would be able to send HD video and FLAC and/or MP3 audio throughout the house. I also wanted a couple of CC cameras that I wanted to be able to monitor from any room.

Anyway, no real question. :) Just thought I'd say hi and let everyone know another HA newbie has entered the fray.

I'm moving next week and will speak to home automation installers in Austin. Looking forward to finding out which ones get Control4 authorized.

snagabag.com - just a click away
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