EHX Thoughts - Hardware


Active Member
Control4 had a very big (two story) booth, with a fancy rotating stage. The demonstration was pretty good, but then they would be in pretty bad shape if they couldn't come up with a demo that looked like the greatest thing since sliced bread.

I wanted to attend the Control4 software and hardware classes, but my flight down Tuesday got cancelled, and by the time I got in, there was no way I was going to make it over to the convention center for 9 AM Wednesday. After missing the hardware class, I said the heck with the software class and went out with the HS crowd instead.

I have mixed feelings about C4. The price points and functionality appear good. However, from what I have read they are very big on marketing and press releases, but a big question mark for the quality of the hardware. The fact that it is a retrofit technology is a big plus. Another problem with C4 is that the backers have a VERY bad rep with many integrators. This was before my time, but evidently the backers tend to promise the stars to get everyone hooked up, then they would sell the company and the people who signed up get left with poor service and half filled promises. I'm going to look into C4 further, but I'm not about to hock my car so I can sign up with them.

I talked to several manufacturers about UPB. The protocol seems to be very robust, and getting a lot of manufacturer support. HAI is already supporting it in their panels, and will be coming out with their own brand of UPB switches. Supposedly, the only changes will be additional software to make tighter integration with the companies panels (On a separate note about HAI, Worthington was demonstrating the HAI OmniPad emulating a Russound keypad for Russound emulation. Very sweet).

I was extremely impressed with the Simply Automated UPB line. They have dropped the lower wattage dimmers, and only sell 1000-watt units now. Snap a different faceplate on, and you have two switches in the same footprint (the rep mentioned that they hope to have a unit that will support 2 loads in the same single-gang footprint). Snap another faceplate on and you have a four-button control. Snap a different plate on and you have a keypad. Don’t like the color? Just snap on a different colored plate. This has been one of my major peeves with the PCS/Smarthome/Lightolier products. If after the installation the homeowner decides that she wants a different color switch (and this is almost a 100% probability. Just ask any integrator), you are SOL short of swapping out the entire switch. Very time consuming and costly from the inventory standpoint. SA has solved this problem. They also were showing three phase couplers. One was sandwiched between the plug and receptacle on the electric dryer, while the second was a traditional unit wired in at the electric panel. The third (and neatest) was made to be placed inside the electric panel, plugging in like a 220v breaker.

On the downside, I heard several comments (and not all were from competitors) that UPB can be very difficult to program. Also, UPB is a communications protocol, and thus does not define the functionality that a switch includes. From what I’ve seen, all manufacturers are providing the same functionality, but that might mean that I haven’t looked deep enough.

JohnWPB and WayneW have covered this extensively, so I will only provide a few comments. As I mentioned elsewhere, Smarthome has redesigned the KeypadLinc to provide more even lighting across the buttons. They have also made the LEDs so you can snap on various color plates as needed. No more green LEDs next to a blue alarm console. A very good idea.
Did they show how fast UPB is? Several people have mentioned that the Insteon demo was instant, I am wondering how UPB compares with Insteon/X10.
Did they show how fast UPB is? Several people have mentioned that the Insteon demo was instant

I didn't notice. I didn't physically play with the HAI and PCS switches, and the lights controlled by Simply Automated ones were mounted behind pictures. They also had a non-zero ramp rate, which would tend to confuse the issue.

I will say that the Smarthome demo was slightly misleading on this. According to the rep, when you push the controller, it issues the Insteon command first, waits for the acknowledgement from the switches, and then issues the X10 command. Because of this command order, the X10 would appear slower (and Insteon faster) even if the two operated at the same speed. Insteon IS faster, but then, compared to X10, a quadriplegic tortoise would be considered fast.
SmartHome had a demo set up with button #3 activating an Insteon module, button #4 activating an X-10 module and button #5 activating both modules. Jim is absolutely correct in that using button #5 was a bit of a stacked demo... they transmit the Insteon command first, do its cleanup & acks, then transmit the X-10 command. I discussed this with John from SmartHome while playing with the system. They considered doing the X-10 first, but that would make the Insteon appear slow and they are hoping Insteon will takeover. They discussed letting the user select which one was sent first, but that was written off as needless complexity. The only thing that suffers with the current implementation is that it is a stacked demo. :lol:

When you play manually with buttons #3 and #4 you can see that the response times are significantly different (Insteon is much faster than X-10).

It is hard to compare Insteon with UPB or Z-wave timings, since they were in different booths, but any of them are better than X-10.
Speaking with the rep at the INSTEON booth, he agreed that the ZWAVE and INSTEON were similar in nature. The main difference being that INSTEON uses a signal over current wiring AND RF frequency combined to ensure the signal gets through. As for a notacable difference in speed, reliability or features they are both pretty close. As another note all of the INSTEON devices are 2-way.

What impressed me was that INSTEON is targeting the protocol towards affordability. The Modules, switches ect are going to be inline with the current X10 prices! (This is what I was tolb by the rep). He says the MSRP for the modules and switches was to be around the $20 price point. This alone is what I think sets it appart from the other protocols.

As I mentioned in a post on the HS site, to refit my Master Bedroom and replace X10, (Hall lights, bathroom lights, closet lights, lamps ect) with ZWAVE, would set me back around $300 For ONE room! On the other hand, With INSTEON, it would be more like $120 for the same room.

Another nice feature, is when the INSTEON device is connected to the computer, it can send both X10 as well as INSTEON commands, thus making the transition simple and doing away with the flaky CM11A at the same time.

This is certainly somethng to keep up with, and hopefully they can establish themselves as a solid competetor.