[Review] SmartHome ControLinc Maxi X-10 controller


Staff member
Review: SmartHome ControLinc Maxi X-10 controller
by electron

Click the thumbnails to zoom in

I am sure that most of you by now are familiar with the X-10 Maxi Controller, a device designed to provide you with control of your X-10 based home automation equipment, and doesn't require a transceiver or RF receiver. While it did the job, the looks of the device are pretty outdated and the device is pretty big for what it does. Many of us have been hoping that someone would come out with a device which offers similar functionality, and who’s looks don't force you to hide the unit when you have guests over. It looks like SmartHome has stepped up to the plate, and have released their ControLinc Maxi X-10 controller.

X10 Maxi Controller

They always say that the first impression is the most important one, and I am happy to report that the ControLinc Maxi generates many positive first ones. This greatly differs from the X10 Maxi Controller in that you can now control ANY X-10 house/unit code with the touch of a button, without having to get your screwdriver out and rotate a dial or having to move a slider switch.

This controller has two modes of operation: Cover Closed, and Cover Open (refer to the pictures at the beginning of this article to see the difference). When the cover is open (the unit knows if the cover is closed or not, so you don't have to push any buttons to switch modes), you can access every single button; but, the device really shines when you use it in "Cover Closed" mode. This mode allows you to access 5 pairs of buttons (one pair has 1 on and 1 off button) which can be assigned to control up to 5 devices, or you can assign them (each on and off button) individually, allowing you to control up to 10 devices. Additionally, you can customize the "All lights On/Off" buttons to only send that command to certain house codes, and there is a Dim/Bright set of buttons as well.

Programming this device is probably one of the easiest things to do, since there is a button for every house & unit code. For instance, to have the first pair of buttons turn on/off device A2, you simply execute the following steps:
  • Close the cover
  • Push the Dim and Bright button simultaneously for 3 seconds
  • Select the top button of the first button pair
  • Open the cover
  • Push the A button and push the 2 button
That's it! The great part is that the controller will provide audio (beeps) and visual feedback (LED) letting you know what's going on, including any potential screw ups.

The ControLinc Maxi also allows you to manage your Scenes, providing you have SmartHome switches which support this. You could also use this device to trigger events in other devices, such as the Ocelot, Elk M1, PC, and it also makes a great backup in case the RF interface goes down, and your palmpads become useless. The ControLinc also allows you to configure some of its on-board options such as the status LED, audible sounder and the 'polite mode' feature. The polite mode feature forces the ControLinc to wait until the line is clear of other X-10 traffic. Unfortunately, in certain conditions, line noise could be interpreted as X-10 traffic, and thus would cause some problems. Turning this feature off would prevent such an issue, and is strongly recommended if you have a noisy electrical system. You can use the status LED light to find out if you have this problem. If it blinks continuously, you have noise problems and should turn this feature off.

Last, but not least, I have to mention how SmartHome made it easy to print out new labels. Since the label isn't rectangular, I was trying to figure out how to print a nice label instead of writing the label by hand, until I found a link to SmartHome's label software on their product page. Simply download the installer, execute it, and a shortcut will be placed on your desktop. Double click the shortcut, and the software starts up, allowing you to select the ControLinc template. The interface is very simple, and is WYSIWYG based. The software is free, and definitely a nice touch.


The only thing I didn't like about this controller is that the 5 pairs of buttons are not backlit, making it pretty hard to find them in the dark; but, I consider this a minor issue. I would definitely recommend this controller to anyone who is tired of replacing the batteries in their palmpads, or likes the idea of access to all house & unit codes (even for testing purposes) in one controller, without having to get your screwdriver out of your toolbox.

SmartHome really tried to think of everything, the controller even has an adjustable stand, and can be wall mounted with a special wall mount that SmartHome.com sells. The wall mount replaces the base of this unit, providing for a clean installation.

I would also like to note how the manual is very detailed, and easy to understand (especially if you are used to the "manual/cliff notes" which X10 provides with their products).

Quick Specs:
Product Name: SmartHome ControLinc Maxi
Price: $39.99 USD
Manufacturer: SmartHome
Power: 120V AC
Where to buy: SmartHome.com, AutomatedOutlet.com
Keep in mind that the biggest benefit of this device (in my option) is that it allows for a much easier programming of Smarthome Scenes. If you use Smarthome Scenes much, I would definately recommend this unit!
The manual does make it look pretty easy, unfortunately, I don't have any SmartHome switches installed, so I couldn't test this functionality.
Yeah, because when doing Smarthome Scene programming, a lot of it requires you to send a pretty lengthy string of commands to get the devices ready for programming. This new controller makes it much easy to do by combining some of these steps.
I use HCA to program my Smarthome and PCS scenes. Doesn't HS have a function to program scenes also?
jeffx said:
Doesn't HS have a function to program scenes also?
HS has the ability to program ramp rates and such, but not scenes. Might be a neat idea for a plugin, though - perhaps a scene and device management plugin that use TTS that tells you went to push a button on what module and then sends the appropriate commands).
Anyone know if a wireless version of something like this is in works?
I currently use a RC5000 for almost all of my control. But it is limited to one house code. It would be nice to be able to program each button to toggle rather than having to create macro's in my automation software.

codemonkey said:
Anyone know if a wireless version of something like this is in works?
I currently use a RC5000 for almost all of my control. But it is limited to one house code. It would be nice to be able to program each button to toggle rather than having to create macro's in my automation software.

My understanding (from Smarthome) is that this is the last x10-only device that they will be producing and there is no wireless version in the works.

I think that's a shame because I'd really like a wireless version.