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Following on from a previous post where I was looking at the NCE Powercab due to issues around my Dynamis a friend asked if I had considered the Gaugemaster Prodigy.
I haven't seen much in the way of reviews and it's dearer (£220 compared to £130), but has anyone any views on it?

Many thanks.

Mark.
 

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Mark,

At that price point you should be getting full DCC system capability. When I did my shop around three years ago it was similar in price to the Lenz 100 system I bought which has given complete satisfaction (don't know how the relative prices have shaken out in the ensuing financial turmoil) yet was much inferior in specification. There are several traps like this in DCC, so take your time to research what is available. Have you looked in the DCC quick links in the header par of this section, there are user reviews of a fair number of systems available?
 

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Hi
I have a Prodigy Advanced system which I have owned for around three years now.
I have not had any problems with the system at all and its very easy to use.
It is around £100 to £130 cheaper than a Lenz 100 system when you add on the cost of the power supply to the Lenz kit.

However, if I were now to be going out and buying a DCC system, I would be torn between a PA2 or the NCE PowerCab or even the more expensive PowerPro. The NCE kit is initially cheaper for the basic system, but can be added to, to increase its power handling to Pro level. The NCE kit does receives some very good reviews from users.

The NCE PowerCab doesn't have a separate low powered Programming track output provided, which the PA2 does, but an 'add on' unit can be purchased to allow a separate section of track to be used for programming. But the NCE does offer PC connection which the PA doesn't. If you want that option?

While the Lenz 100 is (or was) perhaps the market leader in many areas it isn't the only system to consider. Especially where budget constraints exist, as they do for a lot of of us now!
 

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QUOTE (digger1962 @ 31 Mar 2009, 09:23) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>Following on from a previous post where I was looking at the NCE Powercab due to issues around my Dynamis a friend asked if I had considered the Gaugemaster Prodigy.
I haven't seen much in the way of reviews and it's dearer (£220 compared to £130), but has anyone any views on it?

My view, having used both but owning neither.
Gaugemaster has inferior user interface (both physical button layout and software) to the NCE and costs a lot more. You can buy quite a few NCE upgrade/enhancements for the £90 difference in price (eg. second handset plus computer interface), or a new loco, or several decoders, or....

The Gaugemaster is a re-badged Model Rectifier Corporation product. No computer interface should you ever want one.

- Nigel
 

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Although MRC have just introduced a Computer interface for their version of the PA2 so it may only be a matter of time before gaugemaster start offering it as well. especialy if someone tries the MRC one and find it works on their PA2.
 

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I switched from Dynamis to Lenz, the main reason being a well documented computer interface. Several bits of software exist already that use this feature to make controlling trains vastly better than most handheld controllers on the market. The Lenz system is slightly more expensive, but you get what you pay for. Comsumers in the UK get a LIFETIME warranty with free firmware upgrades. One of the other advantages of the LZV100 is that you can connect up to 29 controller handsets to it at the same time (this really is only an advantage on bigger layouts), but it does allow you to connect a handset for accessory control separate from loco control, easily. To add the extra plugs to connect additional handsets, you just have to make a box with the additional plugs (no circuit involved, just wiring).
If you are interested in JMRI or Loconet then Lenz supports it best as it implements full ExpressNet (being the original designer of ExpressNet).

A new product will be launched soon that provides an even better handlheld solution, targeted specifically at Lenz command stations(but might work on some other ExpressNet based systems).
 

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*** (edited to add prodigy comment)

Prodigy - the MRC system. It works fine with the latest software revision but as noted its not as good ergonomically as it could be. They tried to emulate NCE but got it wrong - having the control knob at the bottom makes it a 2 handed controller... a shame.

It has no computer interface and won't be easy to upgrade either... So its an OK price for an OK system but limited in future potential. It does have readback of CVs and programming track though, so has some important positive features. Do you ever want to have a PC in the system? if not, then its possibly worth considering as its not bad value.

ALL the discussed options are better than Dynamis by far - Dynamis has some drawbacks such as no ability to read CVs without the added expensive Pro-box.... again, a shame.

Re the two major "other" contenders in this thread.... Lenz and NCE are both competent products.

The handset support post made me smile.. What??? Lenz only supports 29 handsets!!!!.... :) :) :) NCE offers 60+ from memory. Totally irrelevant of course in both cases and redundant for all but the largest club layouts world wide, but an interesting comparison.

I'd personally go for the NCE - Start with the PowerCab and if needed, upgrade by adding the PowerPro system box later.

Powercab can have a computer interface added for quite low cost - but the power pro has a computer interface built in and is about the same price as a lenz 100. The lenz has good features but is updated less frequently with new features than the NCE. The real upside of the NCE is a much better and more instinctive usability and much clearer and more easily understood owners manuals.

The built in computer interface is a big issue when you realise that the lenz needs one added - at about GBP100 extra cost over the system just for the interface.

Without wishing to sound contradictory, there is nothing at all special about Lenz Expressnet compared to the NCE bus or any other bus for that matter - both are fully supported by JMRI and all other major software. Its just the "control bus" for Lenz. The similarities in the nature of NCEs bus and Expressnet are remarkable actually - both are based on precisely the same standard computer communication format, and only the software written for them is proprietary/slightly different... Its just that Lenz chose to give it a special name, while NCE calls it what it is - a command bus!.

NCE has one very under-publicised but VERY significant advantage now by the way - a very very clever little PCB called the "Mini-panel" that plugs in like a handset and can be every easily set up to control shuttles, train automation and the like without needing any computer at all... controlling many actions/macros/locos at once... and all for less than 40 quid..... Its a real gem that really should see much more public acclaim.

regards

Richard
 

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I pretty much agree with Richard's comments. Particularly the "minipanel" for NCE which looks to be incredibly useful and one of the real bargains in DCC control. (I have a scheme to use a couple of them to park trains in storage roads after a single button press, and present trains from the storage road to the end of a layout).

Correcting Shumifan50. LocoNet is a Digitrax protocol and nothing to do with Lenz. LocoNet is Digitrax's solution to networking their devices. Essentially does the same job as the equivalents from NCE and Lenz, though networking nerds can have hours of fun arguing which protocol is theoretically superior. Originally JMRI worked best with Digitrax because the core development team started out on Digitrax hardware. However, these days there is little, if anything, to choose between the JMRI interface to Digitrax (LocoNet), Lenz (XpressNet) and NCE (Command Bus) provided the hardware actually implements the protocols in full.

As I understand MRC, they have announced a computer interface, but wish to produce a proprietry product without interface to other software products. MRC have some basic software (looks like it was developed with "my first Windows98 interface programming kit"), but there is nothing else. There were posts on the JMRI board over the winter indicating that MRC were not interested in collaborating to make their interface work with JMRI, so whether it is added will be down to someone deducing its operations from outside rather than having documentation to work from.

- Nigel
 

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The rstriction of 29 handsets is inherent in the ExpressNet protcol as it only allows 30 addresses (plus a broadcast address=0). The protocol would have to be extended to allow more devices. I cannot imagine anybody needing more than 29 handsets, even clubs!

Also note that Hornby is now supporting ExpressNet. Time will tell how this develops; it might fill the gap at the low end of the market.

One of the main advantages is that Lenz is manufactured in Europe, as far as I am concerned.

Sorry I meant RocRail not loconet.

As far as ExpressNet is concerned, you can build your own computer interface, details at www.terdina.net. This is an Ethernet interface allowing you to connect through a wireless router and get rid of some of the cables. Cost is around £58 for all the bits and it is really easy to build. The SBC65EC and daughter board can be oredered from skpang.co.uk the rest from rs components or farnel. The firmware can be downloaded from terdina's website.
 

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***Actually in practical terms, nor can I really - hence the smile with the comment, as its far, far beyond the normal...

But clubs with a need for more than 30 simultaneous cabs / operators AND a major computer system do exist in reasonable numbers, at least in the USA - and most of those will be NCE's excellent Duplex radio cabs so no wires either... All reasons why NCE is coming to replace a lot of Digi and Lenz installations in the US club scene as there's nothing thats able to do what it does in the way it does it... and stay understandable for the average user, a benefit which extends from the entry level PowerCab to the full system with all the fruit...

Back to the more average user though - feature wise they all do a reasonably good job at a reasonably similar price, and so its down to preferences in the end

regards

Richard

QUOTE (shumifan50 @ 1 Jul 2009, 21:22) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>The rstriction of 29 handsets is inherent in the ExpressNet protcol as it only allows 30 addresses (plus a broadcast address=0). The protocol would have to be extended to allow more devices. I cannot imagine anybody needing more than 29 handsets, even clubs!
 
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