Gary stopped by with a box of goodies for testing. Before
getting down to running trains we had some time for a BBQ.
I have now for the first time been testing the Hornby Elite and the Hornby Select (connected together) on my layout. I normally have a Lenz Set 100 running things with some Arnold Cab controllers and keyboards providing guests with their own control stations.
Some interesting points have come up. Firstly the Select IMHO is un-intuitive and has a limited display requiring the manual to be on hand. The Elite is better, but I'm not sure if the menu structure was designed my a DCC user. Before Hornby came along with their new DCC devices, I was not fussed about programming modes. I used a programming track for detailed CV programming and occasionally I'd use PoM to tweak a setting of one of the locos. What is all this fuss about Direct, Operational, Register and Paged modes?
I also have a large collection of decoders in my operating locos so some of them support PoM and some don't. My programming track is easy to get to and the locos can drive on to it under DCC and then a DTDP switch switches over to the programming track circuit.
We were thrashing about with the Select then the Elite on various forums as well as the Hornby loco decoder and accessory decoder and discovered that one had to use different programming modes to achieve different things. My Lenz did support these modes, but I had never had to use them before. I think that Hornby even used that fact that there were 4 programming modes supported in the marketing blurb as if it was a good thing. Well it has confused many...
The cyclic menus on the Elite are sort of logical, but frustrating when you get to know them and find that you are pressing far to many buttons repetitively to get to an embedded item. Lenz offers cyclic menus, but then offers direct access using a numbered menu system for direct access.
For some strange reason, it takes 5 or 6 seconds to program one CV with LED indicators flashing in a slow hypnotic fashion. To program the long address, it has to set 3 CV codes (CV17, CV18 & CV29) so it is a 3 x 5 second delay. 15 second for one address and it seems to take for ever. I like to dip into the CVs and modify things quickly and then test the outcome right away. The Elite makes this process very laborious.
What was the 1.1 firmware update meant to fix? Wasn't it the direction indicators on the device? Gary had some funny ideas about what they were meant to show. Because they are reversed and because most people will hook up a controller to a ring of set track and expect to see the trains go off forwards from right to left (why is this...?). So he and perhaps the Hornby designers thought that that was it all was well. Get the train and controller onto my layout where track goes everywhere, the direction indicators do not point in the direction of travel. Then should be showing right-arrow for forwards and left-arrow for backwards. They don't do that and it is confusing.
Hornby decoders do not reset to address #3 when the loco encounters an electrical short using the Elite. Based on this fact, the Hornby engineers let out into the world all their little decoders that do not work well with other systems. Testing Gary's locos on my Lenz DCC controller before we connected up the Elite, we had a slight problem with one loco and ended up having 5 locos on the track all on address #3 and all responding to one cab controller!
The Hornby Elite is not compatible with some reversing modules. We haven't tested it with a whole bunch, but the ones that I have from Tony's Train Exchange don't work. The reversing modules are used on reversing loops and on my turntable. With the Elite, the controller cuts out before the reversing module detects the short and switches the polarity. Perhaps I can find a way to either slow the response of the Elite or to speed up the response of the reversing modules. As they are, they work faster than my Lenz system, so the polarity is reversed before the Lenz cuts out.
The Elite does not connect to the LH100 Lenz. Sort of obvious, but we did try. The Elite does not connect to the Arnold cabs with their slightly older XBUS version of XpressNet. The Arnold cabs work perfectly with the XpressNet of my Lenz system. The Hornby Elite does not connect to the Hornby Select when using a flat 6-core telephone wire cable and RJ-11 or RJ-12 connector plugs. The Hornby Elite does connect to the Hornby Select however when using twisted pair CAT-5 Ethernet cable and RJ-12 connector plugs. 3 pairs are used and the inner pair is twisted, then the next two outer wires and finally the outermost wires - although they are not needed for XpressNet. We had the Select on a 5 meter long cable and are using it as a walk-around controller. It gives a good perspective of the track when you follow the loco instead of seeing it disappear into the distance from one position.
My overall opinion of the Elite so far is that it is an easy to use device. It is cheap. It is well made. It has a good feel and operating characteristics with the pair of rotary encoders. It is
intuitive and can be used without referring to the manual due to the well indicated menus. Note that the Select doesn't have a rotary encoder, but rather a dial with a min and max position.
I'm going to add to this topic with more findings over the next few weeks. More info and photos to come.
I was hoping that Bachmann could have sent over a Dynamis to run alongside the Hornby devices and my Lenz setup, but Bachmann is still not interested in supporting any web based publication - even one that has a tax registered company behind it and monthly readership similar to some paper magazine sales numbers.