Building an automation nation—one house at a time.
I reviewed Control4’s first offering in February of 2006 (oh, those were the days, weren’t they?). The system—based around the company’s $599 Home Theater Controller (HTC)—could easily have been described as a universal remote control with grand aspirations. As the name implies, the HTC was designed to control the components in a home theater (including access to a stored digital music library) with a simple, highly intuitive onscreen graphic user interface. That by itself was pretty sweet. But behind the HTC’s deceptively blank faceplate was hidden a formidable engine capable of powering a sophisticated wholehouse automation and multiroom music system using a combination of Ethernet, Wi-Fi, and ZigBee communication to control things like lights and thermostats as well as distribute music around the house. All you had to do was pony up the extra bucks for the wireless ZigBee thermostats and light switches (up to 125 of them—but at $100-plus a pop, it was unlikely that you’d ever max out the system). You also needed some Control4 Speaker Points, plus the labor to install and program everything, and you were ready to command and conquer the homeland. I liked—no, I lusted after—that original system and was extremely reluctant to box it up and send it back. It couldn’t necessarily do all the amazingly complex things that a Crestron or AMX system could do at the time, but it was a fraction of the price.