Control4 Home Theater and Home Automation System Part 2 Page 2

The system that Luxul sent, the Pro-WAV Range Extender Kit with a dual antenna option, included a Netgear WG103 wireless access point along with two Luxul X-WAV Circular Polarized antennas. The SOHO Shop mounted the Kit in the center of the northern wall of the house and aimed the two antennas 90 degrees apart toward the two upstairs areas. After some tweaking, the wireless signal went from, “Eh, what’d you say, sonny?” to, “Turn that blasted music down!” Without it, it would have been difficult to get the Wireless Speaker Point in the upstairs bathroom to consistently get a good signal (and thus play uninterrupted music). It also improved overall signal strength throughout the rest of the house. That’s a big benefit when it comes to using an iPad or iPod when you’re walking through the house.

Luxul’s Pro-WAV Range Extender Kit with the dual antenna option isn’t cheap—about $765. But I’d wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone with significant Wi-Fi distribution problems in their home, especially in a large home where you’d otherwise have to use and administer multiple access points. (Oh, the horror.)

A Remote in the Hand…
So how do you take control of all that processing power: a theater, lights, locks, shades, and eight zones of audio? In this case, numerous ways. For starters, there’s the SR-250 remote that comes with Control4’s HC-300C system controller. It’s a traditional handheld remote that has a large red button with a Control4 logo on it. When you press this button, it turns on the HDTV and brings up the main Control4 GUI on the screen. From there, you point and click your way to what you want to do using the ubiquitous Control4 icon-based menu system. Once you’ve selected an activity, such as watching the satellite, the SR-250 works like a traditional remote with standard function/transport buttons. At the top is a bright OLED window (a light sensor varies the brightness depending on ambient light levels) that you can use to navigate through the system without the onscreen display. Control4’s SR-150 remote control works similarly, except it lacks the OLED window. On both remotes, a press of the Control4 button always brings you back to the main menu screen.

Control4’s 7-inch Wi-Fi touchscreen is a nice luxury to use in my theater because it replicates the onscreen GUI and lets me control things in that current zone—or elsewhere—without turning on the HDTV. Even more seductive is Control4’s InfinityEdge 7-inch in-wall touchscreen. In addition to looking gorgeous in the wall, you can upgrade the InfinityEdge to include intercom capability. Less seductive but more affordable are Control4’s six-button in- wall keypads. Although they don’t provide a display, you can program each button to do up to three different things.

Another way to control the system is through your computer. A 4Sight subscription gives you access to a Web client that lets you operate your system as if you had a touchscreen in front of you. Control4 likes to stress one aspect of the onscreen GUI, the touchscreens, and the Web client. All of these ways of interacting with your Control4 system use the same Flash-based GUI layout. So no matter which method you use to interact with the system, the interface operates virtually the same way, even from home to home (for those with multiple-home syndrome).

Control4 also sells MyHome licenses ($199/each or $499/household) that let you use iPod touches, iPhones, iPads, or PCs as touchscreens. You might ask, why on earth would someone buy a dedicated touchscreen controller from Control4 when they could use an iPod touch or iPad and be a heck of a lot more hip and trendy? As a matter of fact, I asked that question myself and bought three refurbished Gen 2 iPods ($149 each) to use—along with the iPad I already owned—as touchscreen controllers for the system.

I did the math, and those refurbished iPods with the licenses to fire them up for use with the system came to $348 each (new ones, of course, would have run at least $70 more). At $199, Control4’s SR-250 remote is definitely less expensive, but it’s not a touchscreen. Interestingly, I prefer to use the SR-250 in my main theater because I always use the onscreen display on the HDTV. However, in the rooms without an HDTV, the SR-250 is more cumber-some to use—especially when I’m picking music selections from the NAS (network-attached storage) drive. I much prefer the iPod’s full screen to display cover art.

The dollar comparison is more dramatic when it comes to using the basic iPad with a Navigator license ($698), since the iPad has a larger screen and is about $300 less than Control4’s 7-inch portable touchscreen. On the other hand, in-wall touchscreens are a bit more of a toss-up. iPort’s new in-wall Control Mount Series brackets can turn an iPod touch or iPad into a built-in touchscreen; but there’s the additional cost of the bracket to consider. For instance, an iPort Control Mount/Navigator license/iPod touch combo will set you back approximately $600—almost two-thirds the $899 invoice you’ll get with Control4’s 7-inch InfinityEdge touchscreen. But the screen on the iPod is smaller, and you’ll lose the option of adding the intercom feature. For about $1,100, you can supersize your touchscreen experience and use an iPort Control Mount to mount an iPad in the wall (but still no intercom option). Of course, if you have three or more iDevices, opting for the $499 MyHome family license will cut the cost per device significantly.

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