Control Systems vs. Automobiles
I will start this off by admitting that I am not a writer. At all. I don’t think I have written anything substantial since high school. Even then, I was a solid C student. Warning. This may be a tough read.
I am writing this blog post to throw my two cents into the differences and nuances of the various control systems available currently, I will even try to rank them. I will likely garner some haters and hopefully some followers too. I mean no offense and I am by no means the final word on any of this. I’m just a guy in the industry with an opinion. I’m going to make some general analogies and comparisons based on my experience. I will try to remove bias but I for sure have some. Get ready for the ride as the premise here is to compare these control systems with the humble automobile.
- Crestron Custom Solution – Ferrari LaFerrari
I need to preface this by explaining that this rating is only achieved by leveraging a reputable and qualified team. Unfortunately, there are many Crestron Custom Solutions out there that are better compared to the Flint mobile or Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. We will ignore them for now and assume that the system was compiled by an experienced and qualified programmer and user interface developer.
I compare a Crestron custom solution to the Ferrari as the possibilities are endless. A custom user interface can look and feel however you like, and the programming is so flexible it can accommodate almost all requests no matter the ask. Crestron’s Hardware is second to none. It may be introduced a little early to the public, but all manufacturers are guilty of that. Once the bugs are ironed out you can be certain you will have a house full of equipment that will serve you well for many years. As with any Ferraris, these systems are not in any way affordable. They are really meant for the client who wants something unique to call their own. The custom solution customer doesn’t want to go to a friend’s BBQ and see the same system at their place.
- Savant – Acura NSX
I am the first to admit that I am not an expert in Savant. I attended a training several years ago and I’m aware they have progressed significantly since. Savant is a limited ecosystem and that’s why it falls second to a Crestron custom solution. Unlike Crestron, you have limited input into what it looks like and how it acts. With reference to my Flint mobile comment above, however, this can be a very good thing. Savant is beautiful. You are still somewhat at the mercy of a reputable integrator and programmer but nowhere near as much as a Crestron custom solution. Savant takes a lot of the control here to ensure quality. If you’re after something beautiful to match your elegant sports car but don’t care to have it completely customized to your lifestyle Savant is the best option going.
- Control 4 – Tesla Model X
We are really getting into the out-of-the-box solutions here. Control 4 did some good things (agree or disagree I love the TV user interface). They have a very easy programming environment which has meant they feel comfortable opening dealerships to basically anyone. Whereas Crestron and Savant are very careful about who they award dealerships, Control 4 is a lot more open. To the point where we could use the Wheaties box analogy. In my opinion, this has hurt Control 4. While their market share may be great due to price point and dealer saturation there is a high percentage of these systems that simply don’t work. Call me an elitist but I don’t really fancy the guy running the wires to be programming the system.
When programmed by a reputable programmer, however, Control 4 systems are solid. Their hardware is a lot more reliable now than in previous iterations and they do a very good if not basic job of handling control. As with above and basically all systems other than Crestron custom, you have limited say in where anything goes or how its acts. Control 4 was the first legitimate lower-end control system to come to market and they have done a great job upping their quality and user experience since. It is for that, that they get the Model X rating.
- Crestron Home – Tesla Model Y
Crestron Home is the newest system on the market in our analysis here. It has the benefit of leveraging the same robust and award-winning hardware that Crestron custom solutions use however the software is completely different. At this stage, Crestron Home is the most limited of the options. A lot of this is merely due to its age. It is very clear Crestron is pouring a wealth of resources into Crestron Home, and it looks to be here to stay. As with Control 4, what you see is what you get with regard to the user interface. Furthermore, the integration compatibility is rather low and requires either Crestron or 3rd party programmers to provide drivers to support a lot of gear. In a well-designed system, Crestron Home can be an amazing solution however, if you’re getting outside the box, either in hardware or programmatic expectations then this is not for you.
There are many systems I have omitted here, mainly due to redundancy and admittedly my unfamiliarity. Elan and RTI I would place in a similar category to Control 4 or Crestron Home whereas Google Home, Alexa, and all other consumer control systems are in a different category entirely that I would label DIY and maybe compare to a Toyota Corolla. If there is one common element to all these systems you need to make sure the team supplying, installing, and programming them are competent. The lowest on the totem pole when done well can eclipse the more expensive solutions when executed poorly. The best thing you can do when choosing a control solution is to find a great team to look after it. Do your research and beware of the lowest quote.