Hands On with Control4 T3: Long Live the Touchscreen for Home Automation!
Control4 to showcase fully-baked T3 home automation touchscreen at CEDIA Expo 2015, complete with rich SIP communications; Android platform is fast, but Joe Whitaker is wistful for Flash.
Joe Whitaker · September 23, 2015
Some years back it was debated whether the dedicated touchscreen for home automation was dead, to be replaced by reasonably priced, multi-purpose iPads and Android devices. Many manufacturers have attempted to combat this tablet-takeover with new features to justify their $1,000 UIs, but none has made a bigger argument for dedicated touchscreens than Control4 (Nasdaq: CTRL) with its new T3.
In my opinion, the T3 has been the biggest change to the smart-home interface in many years. Even without turning on the display, the T3 is beautiful.
The 7- and 10-inch in-walls ($900 and $1,200, respectively) have an edge-to-edge glass front like their predecessors but with a lower profile, making them appear to hug the wall. The look reminds me how a flat screen display should be mounted to the wall.
The tabletop version has one of the most elegant form factors I’ve seen to date. The stand reminds me of an Apple product with its coloration and shape. The touchscreen itself is slim, lightweight and fits comfortably in your hands. It’s built to be held.
One of the biggest things that should be noted is that the tabletop is also a portable. You can pick it up right off the base and you are now fully mobile. The stand is also very easy to use when docking the T3. The best way I can put it is that it just slides right into place. Battery life is much better than previous iterations of portables from Control4 and is more than acceptable in normal home use.
I thought this was a great move by Control4 as portables have been lacking in looks and function in the home automation market.
Powerful Processor, Mourning the Loss of Flash
Technologically this is the most advanced control device Control4 has ever offered. Moving away from a Flash-based interface to an Android platform allows for faster loading and a better looking GUI.
Page changes are almost instant, and when loading large media catalogs for movies and music, cover art shows almost instantly. I am assuming that Control4’s move to Android means we will see a lot more in the area of speed increases and gorgeous interfaces.
The few drawbacks by moving away from Flash are that the Control4 app-market apps no longer are available and a few items like “Favorites” and advanced screen saver functions are gone. While many of the apps were gimmicks, some like the amp eq and remote finder were valuable and will be missed.
I personally am happy trading those things for an improvement in performance, speed and smoother graphics for the GUI.
The big spot where the new touchscreens shine is the new communication agent. Control4 has brought to us real HD video intercom functionality with some added bonuses. With the use of the Control4 door station and the new T3 touchscreens, a full video intercom is finally possible in the home.
Using SIP technology the communication abilities can even be extended to mobile devices like the iPhone using the provided parameters from Control4. By using Control4-approved third-party SIP services, you can now bring your mobile device right into the home communication platform.
What’s even more interesting and exciting is this: Rumor has it that Control4 will be adding in third-party devices to the communication profile. I have confirmed that Invixium, the company that makes the amazing biometric fingerprint scanner for the home, is already Control4 compatible.
We can expect to see at CEDIA Expo in October a Control4 driver version that adds to Invixium all the communication functionality as the Control4 door station.
With the T3 Control4 has confirmed that the dedicated touchscreen will live on.
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With over 20 years of experience in home systems installation and design as well as being an award winning product designer, Joe Whitaker currently is principal of the integration firm thethoughtfulhome.com. He is a current member of the CEDIA board of directors first elected in 2013 and is a frequent contributor to CE Pro magazine. Have a suggestion or a topic you want to read more about? Email Joe at email@example.com
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