Control4 is unveiling a new round of updates at this week’s Integrated Systems Europe show in Amsterdam, and to be blunt there’s so much cool stuff that I don’t even know where to begin telling you about it. The gorgeous and brilliant revamp of comfort controls? The new high-definition video intercom experience? The new touch screen interfaces? The newly redesigned system remote control? Control4′s newly acquired line of AV distribution products? My job would be so much easier if I could just do an information dump straight into your brain containing all of the cool new stuff that Control4 is planning to roll out next month. But, alas, we need to do this in an orderly fashion, so let’s start with the big update: Control4 has announced the release of its latest massive software update, OS 2.7.
Stay Cool, Control4
You may remember that in addition to revamping its music interface in this past fall’s OS 2.6 update, Control introduced a really cool new animated control screen for pools and spas. Now the company is bringing that same look and feel to heating, cooling, and humidity control as well.
I had a chat with Control4 VP of Lighting & Comfort Products Paul Williams last week, ahead of the announcement, during which I asked him about the origins of the new interface and what his team was shooting for in terms of look at feel. Unsurprisingly, intuitive programmability was way at the top of the list. Most people, he told me, simply don’t want to bother with the hassle of setting schedules on your typical programmable thermostat. And that’s hardly news.
Control4′s goal was to make thermostat programming so easy that even your granny could do it, while not skimping on the ability to dig deep into your heating and cooling systems’ capabilities. And the main way they’ve done it is with HVAC “Scenes.”
You’re probably already familiar with lighting scenes—systems like Control4 make it really easy to adjust the brightness of different lights to precise levels, then capture the exact state of those lights so they can all be recalled later at the touch of a single button. Control4′s new HVAC presets work pretty much the same way. You create categories—like “Wake Up,” and “Away,” and “Home,” and “Bedtime”—give heating and cooling values to each of those blocks of time, and then drop them into your daily schedule.
And just like lighting scenes, these HVAC presets can be automatically triggered by other events. Say, for example, you’re usually away from home between 7:45am and 5:15pm. Normally that block of time would be covered by the “Away” preset. If, though, you take the afternoon off and arrive home at 3:15, the mere act of unlocking the front door could put your HVAC system in “Home” mode.
Nest, of course, does something similar, but it uses occupancy sensing mechanisms like motion sensors to detect your presence. And unfortunately that’s not always reliable, given the Nest’s limited range. With Control4, every connected, controlled device in your home could be turned into an occupancy sensor.
Of course, I’m not saying you should ditch your Nest. In fact, the world’s most talked-about thermostat is fully compatible with Control4 OS 2.7, as are thermostats from Carrier, Aprilaire, Heatmiser, Cool Automation, and others, with more to come.
One of the other neat things about Control4′s new HVAC control screen is that, like the pool and spa controls before it, the UI is animated and provides color feedback as to the current state of your system. It also introduces a really intuitive way of manually adjusting the temperature, in the form of little teardrop-shaped buttons around the perimeter of the temperature readout, which you can touch and rotate clockwise or anticlockwise to adjust heating and cooling set-points.
A Touch of Elegance
That’s not all. OS 2.7 also introduces support for several new bits of hardware, including the gorgeous new touch screen user interface you see blow. In addition to being slim and sexy (a huge improvement over Control4′s previous touch screens), the new touch screen is way faster and more responsive thanks to its 1.4 GHz Quad core Cortex-A9 processor and 8GB of Flash memory. It also boasts twice the resolution of previous models and is primed and ready for Control4′s new high-definition video intercom capabilities.
The new touch screen comes in 10″ and 7″ in-wall models (which can be quickly retrofitted into the back boxes for previous-generation touch screens) as well as a 7″ table top version that looks like this:
The goal, Williams told me, was to make sure it looked gorgeous from every angle. I’d call that a success.
Here’s the thing I’m super excited about, though. With the launch of OS 2.7, Control4 is also introducing a new handheld System Remote. In my first review of the Control system (years ago, for another publication), the only genuine criticism I had was about the SR-250 remote. I mentioned at the time that I couldn’t find the play, pause, and skip buttons, etc., without looking down at the remote. And nearly two-and-a-half years later, that’s still true.
The new Control4 SR-260 System Remote addresses every single concern I had about the SR-250, and even throws in a few fixes that I didn’t know I wanted: custom buttons, for example, and more easily accessible red, green, yellow, and blue buttons (which I use constantly for my Blu-ray player and Dish Hopper).
You can see that the transport buttons are not only more logically laid out, but they also nicely mimic the traditional Control4 circular layout. The SR-260 will also be available in two versions: one with text on the buttons and another, for international markets, with iconographic buttons. The screen itself has also been revamped with the ability to display characters in 27 different languages. You’ll also now have your choice of font colors.
One Step Closer to World Domination
I’ve mentioned on several occasions that Control4′s coup in acquiring Extra Vegetables was the talk of the town at this past year’s CEDIA Expo in Denver. And now the company is at it again, with a new acquisition that promises to make it easier than ever before for Control4 dealers to design and install complex audio-video distribution systems.
In the past, Control4 has sold select products manufactured by Leaf here in North America. By acquiring the company, Control4 will now be able to provide its dealers the world over with a wider variety of AV distribution gear.
Content courtesy of: Dennis Burger, Editor in Chief, HDLiving.com