CEDIA 2016: Middle Atlantic Makes Racks, Mounts and Power Management Sexy Again
Yes, even the lowly A/V rack can be sexy if Legrand's Middle Atlantic has anything to do with it. The new Universal DC Power Distribution system was especially awesome at CEDIA 2016.
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It seems A/V racks have lost their luster … if they ever had any. Black boxes are shrinking or disappearing, and systems are becoming more distributed and less centralized. Wireless is everywhere. So who needs a rack? Leading rack-maker Middle Atlantic Products (MAP), a Legrand company, makes a compelling case that we all do.
It helped that product management VP Tim Troast, my MAP tour guide at CEDIA 2016, might be one of the all-time best pitchmen, right up there with that guy from Shamwow.
Let’s start with one of my favorite new products at CEDIA: MAP’s Universal DC Power Distribution unit (PDU), available in 125W and 45W sizes.
The rack-mounted unit enables DC-powered devices such as extenders, scalers, converters, and media players, to lose their bulky transformers (wall warts). Instead, low-voltage jumper cable runs directly from the electronics to the PDU, and the PDU does all the power conversions automatically.
The box supports multiple voltage outputs -- 5V, 12V, 18V, and 24V – and the terminal connectors are color-coded for voltage and labeled for polarity, so it would be hard for even the most careless installer to mess up.
A dealer I stopped in the CEDIA aisles, explaining his favorite products at the show, named “that power thing from Middle Atlantic” as one of them.
CEDIA agreed, honoring the PDU with a Best New Product Award.
Who wouldn't love a Middle Atlantic rack when pitched by Tim Troast?
But Middle Atlantic thrived in other areas as well, including the tired old A/V rack category. The company’s biggest innovation here revolves around the rack shelves, which now are easier than ever to assemble and move – without tools – even when loaded with gear.
The sides on the new shelves snap into place, and the front faceplate is “decoupled” from the shelf so it can be removed -- again -- without tools. With this design, the entire shelf can be pulled out from the front of the rack for service, and then snapped back into place without disrupting the wiring.
Another nicety for the shelves: sections at the back with more slats to secure little devices like baluns and the aforementioned DC-powered devices that ideally would connect to the PDU.
Middle Atlantic proved in its demo that there is still a purpose for A/V racks. Electronic components may be shrinking, but these days they’re all digital, so they’re “more sensitive” to surges and overheating, Troast says. The more open space within a rack, the better the thermal properties.
And the best accompaniment to a Middle Atlantic rack? Why, a vertical IP-controllable power strip, of course. MAP introduced at CEDIA several new form factors for its surge-protected, smart power strips, including a Select Series PDU in a vertical form factor. The model features MAP’s RackLink technology for remote monitoring and control of individual outlets, as well as auto-ping and remote sequencing functionality.
If power goes out, the system can reboot devices in the proper order, with the proper timing.
New Categories: Mounts and Back Boxes
Middle Atlantic entered some new product categories this year, including mounts and back boxes.
Oddly enough, MAP has never offered TV mounts before, even though the category seems like a natural fit for a company that builds sturdy metal things on which to attach electronic goodies.
At CEDIA, the company launched its first mounts, which include perforated plates to hold little devices like baluns and Apple TVs.
As a complement, MAP also introduced the Proximity Series of in-wall boxes to mount peripheral devices that otherwise might require long runs of cable to a nearby entertainment center.
Middle Atlantic designed the products with slats and slots in all the right products to simplify installation and cable-management of all those little things that are best kept in the wall behind the TV.
The Proximity solutions are sold as complete kits that include two mounting plates that snap into place – no tools required – and a duplex electrical outlet.
The rest of Legrand, including Vantage, QMotion, NuVo and OnQ
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Julie Jacobson is founding editor of CE Pro, the leading media brand for the home-technology channel. She has covered the smart-home industry since 1994, long before there was much of an Internet, let alone an Internet of things. Currently she studies, speaks, writes and rabble-rouses in the areas of home automation, security, networked A/V, wellness-related technology, biophilic design, and the business of home technology. Julie majored in Economics at the University of Michigan, spent a year abroad at Cambridge University, and earned an MBA from the University of Texas at Austin. She is a recipient of the annual CTA TechHome Leadership Award, and a CEDIA Fellows honoree. A washed-up Ultimate Frisbee player, Julie currently resides in San Antonio, Texas and sometimes St. Paul, Minn. Follow on Twitter: @juliejacobson Email Julie at email@example.com
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