Digitrax's new throttles

CXSBaltimore Jun 26, 2020

  1. CXSBaltimore

    CXSBaltimore New Member

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    Since digitrax just released new updated throttles that are very reminiscent of the new Zephyr my question is if you all think this will cause a shift in the market towards Digitrax? There seemed to be alot of people that were leaning away from them because their human interface was soo poor.

    As a newbie and an engineer, I was really enthused with the Digitrax documentation and how their eco system was put together. With that said I was leaning towards NCE because their human interface seemed so much better.

    This new throttle will llikely make me jump headfirst into digitrax now. Thoughts?

    John
     
    Last edited: Jun 26, 2020
  2. Dogwood

    Dogwood TrainBoard Member

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    Digitrax has slept for many years. Hopefully it's not too late ..... ????
     
  3. rray

    rray Staff Member

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    I just bought a full Digitrax EVO system, after 20 years of NCE, and for 1 reason...Transponding. I model in Z, and I want sound but there are no sound decoders for Z and likely never will. I had been watching the Surroundtraxx sound system for years hoping some day NCE would add a transponding like feature, and that Surroundtraxx could use it for around the layout sound, but it never happened.

    Now I have a brand new DT500 throttle that I will never use, in favor of using a cell phone or other WiFi throttle that is easier than those tiny knobs and Chicklet buttons that Digitrax has.
    DT500:
    2.jpg


    I would however use the new DT602 if they made a WiFi version, since there is no point going with proprietary radios when WiFi is everywhere and universal. I like the ergonomic shape, larger buttons, and larger knobs. It kind of looks like a barbie doll:
    DT602:
    0.jpg

    But ergonomics aside, it is a technology FAIL in that it requires either Wired Tether and $17 UP5 panels, IR line of sight and $46 UR90 panels, or proprietary Duplex Radio and $160 UR92 panels. For the Digitrax DT602D and UR92 radio wireless setup you are looking at $420. If instead you purchase their LNWI WiFi interface for $79, you can use a cell phone for wireless operation much cheaper, and expand your options to include all the new WiFi throttles that are coming out like the TCS UWT-100:
    1.jpg
     
    Last edited: Jun 26, 2020
  4. Massey

    Massey TrainBoard Member

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    So here we go with the WiFi again. I have been following this on the Digitrax Group and there are a few that have the same complaint. But ask yourself this and be honest here folks. If you were producing a product that would melt seamlessly into your own current product lines, and even promote your brand and current offerings would you build it? I'm going to say yes. Now if that product could be built to run on ANY other manufacturers devices with all YOUR features, what would keep your customers buying your products beyond that one new one? TCS doesn't offer a full DCC system so for them to make a throttle that has the ability to connect to ANY layout is the right move for them. Digitrax and NCE (largest full DCC manufacturers) both want you to buy their products only and be happy with the purchase. They want customers to keep buying their products and for that they create proprietary devices. It just makes good business sense. Does that please all consumers? No, but nothing will, someone will always complain. Should Digitrax offer a "W" version of this throttle? I say sure! But would that be cost effective? Well I don't know what Digitrax has to pay for FCC or CE licensing for the Duplex or WiFi but I can guess it is not cheap. What about the sales estimates? Well they may gain a few sales from users that don't own Digitrax command stations but there is nothing now to really cause them to want to buy a Digitrax command station. Also while WiFi is a common technology it is not an all inclusive technology. I have visited layouts in homes where a computer did not exist. The owner had never needed one, doesn't want one and will most likely live the rest of his life never needing it. So for him a new throttle that is easier to see and use may be just the thing, but only if he can adapt it to his current layout (which is Digitrax duplex already).

    This argument can go both ways and which is easier which is harder is a mute point as that is all dependent on the user in the end. I'm very tech savvy, my best friend is not. I can use all the functions of my DT500D just fine but he likes my UT4D much better, but when I tried to show him how to use his phone with LNWI he was so lost he didn't want to run trains any more... We were at a show, not just on my home setup. So for those tech savvy the WiFi is the way to go, for "Bob" simple is best, just turn a dial and go.

    Now my personal opinions on the new throttle. I love it! Well at least at the moment I do. I have not held one, let alone used it but it looks comfortable, I like the color screen, it's about time! (I wish I could find a decent DMM with a similar screen) and the streamlined buttons are great. It looks like the software is similar if not the same as the DCS52 Zephyr which means easier to read menus and soft programmable buttons to set for those seldom needed functions that had dedicated buttons on the older throttles. I will most likely be adding one to my collection of throttles. The thing I like the best about it is the 3 AA batteries! No more of those damned 9V things... except in my older throttles of course.
     
  5. Dogwood

    Dogwood TrainBoard Member

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  6. Massey

    Massey TrainBoard Member

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    I like the unit from ESU for the most part. I would rather have a small wheel to manipulate but that is a nit pick. For smaller companies like ESU I completely understand wanting to bite into the market (ie. layouts) where Digitrax and NCE live. Its a good looking throttle, adaptable, upgradeable, and on a platform many (but not all) are familiar with which is Android based OS. The price is about right as well for the tech involved.
     
  7. Dogwood

    Dogwood TrainBoard Member

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    It is also striking that ATLAS, KATO and others offer ESU boards ex works.
     
  8. rray

    rray Staff Member

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    That ESU throttle is another option that ends up cheaper than a DT602D/UR92, again thanks to the WiFi vs Proprietary Radio.

    Yeah, let's go with WiFi again. It's better, it's cheaper, it opens the doors to many more options. I already made my mind up, and ordered a Digitrax PR4 yesterday, that will be used with my old $20 WiFi router, netbook, JMRI, and phone running Engine Driver. The hardware is still cheaper, has much better screens offering lots more features, can be operated one handed, and it feels like I am part of the information age instead of the tube era. :D

    I'll be dumping my brand new unused DT500 ASAP while I can still get a couple bucks for it, or trade for a Digitrax BPX88 Loconet Occupancy Detector to the first person who shows interest. Digitrax Transponding technology and Loconet is all I am after, they can keep their radios and throttles to themselves.[​IMG]
     
  9. BigJake

    BigJake TrainBoard Member

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    Massey, I understand your argument, and it has merits...

    But why did they come out with the WiFi interface, and then introduce yet another incompatible wireless throttle?

    That's just schizophrenic. Who's running this circus?

    The development of any new product has to be paid for by increased sales revenue. Assuming you are not selling at cost or less, the more you sell, the more money you make, period. It doesn't matter whether some of those sales come from non-Digitrax system users, that's still more revenue that you would have from only Digitrax system users! It does matter when you invest the money to develop the product, and then limit it's market, and therefore limit its sales revenue.

    Especially if your main system competitor is NCE, and they don't even have a WiFi interface!

    The same tired strategy, of using proprietary barriers to protect market share, has been tried and mostly failed, repeatedly. Barriers to customers leaving also tend to be barriers to customers entering.
     
  10. Massey

    Massey TrainBoard Member

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    This is all speculation but this to me sounds logical. The LNWI is limited to 4 connections at a time. For a lot of us 4 is great as a supplement for your layout but not enough to cover a full operation crew. So if I were to release a WiFi throttle I would want the infrastructure to support said throttle to the needs of my customers, and that is going to be more than 4 connections. Granted using a JMRI interface you can have as many WiFi throttles as your router can handle but that is not a Digitrax product, and while common it's not everywhere. So here is where I am putting my guess on the whole new throttle thing. Digitrax isn't deaf to us, they have been making what we want and now we are running into new territory with the WiFi stuff. They are a small company so the R&D is limited in both dollars and personnel. WiFi throttles have only been out a short while, chances are the development of this throttle was going on way before the first WiFi throttle was built. Too much R&D to stop the current offering but this now allows them a new platform to build on. Also remember that the company was nearly destroyed just a short while ago which would have stopped any R&D, and caused a shift in priorities on rebuilding and returning to production (which took almost 2 years). Had Hurricane Michael not done what it did, we would have likely seen this throttle a year or possibly two earlier, and we may be seeing a WiFi version today. Remember Digitrax is a small Florida based company working out of one small shop.

    So now that a new throttle is out, maybe later than what was originally planned, we now have R&D time and money for the next thing. Our competition is making WiFi throttles, our offerings there are a bit lacking, so lets see what can be done. So we could just be needing to wait for the "W" version of the new throttle along with a new command station or fascia panel that supports WiFi.

    Take a look at what Digtrax has offered to us in the last few years. New transponding features, new power management, a complete new Zephyr system, and now a new throttle with (finally) a new more modern appearance. It seems to me that Digitrax is working on all things to make us happy, they are doing a good job IMHO, but being a small company as they are, they cant afford to do it all at one time.
     
    Last edited: Jun 26, 2020
  11. CSX Robert

    CSX Robert TrainBoard Member

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    It looks like the operation of it is mostly the same as the DT500 (which is fine by me because I don't have any issues with it).


    I was wondering if I was the only one who noticed the somewhat "feminine" look to it, I wonder if that's intentional :)

    Don't like it, I prefer physical buttons over a touchscreen for a throttle.

    Here are my overall thoughts on the DT602:

    I likes the bigger throttle knobs, larger more spaced out buttons, detachable cord, and rechargeable option.

    The color screen - I couldn't care less. I use the throttle to run trains, not play video games. 99% of the time all I need the display to show me is what engine I'm controlling, what speed it is set to and what functions are on.

    I'm also fine with the no wifi.

    It appears they have gotten rid of the speed + and - buttons. They could be taken care of with the soft buttons, but I looked through the manual and didn't see anything about it. If that is the case, that's a non-starter for me. When switching I use the +/-/direction buttons almost exclusively.
     
  12. drbnc

    drbnc TrainBoard Member

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  13. jhn_plsn

    jhn_plsn TrainBoard Supporter

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    It was disappointing that all these throttle builders did not develop a version of a diesel proto like throttle. Opportunity missed. Someone could create a line of proto throttles for each loco type. Diesel, steam, electric, trolley. Create a base handheld with interchangeable face plates. Anyway, getting off base here.

    I do like the looks of the DT602, but its still not enough to get the chump change out of my pocket.

    With sound creating a much more enjoyable and realistic experience its just not complete without a proper proto like throttle.
     
  14. BigJake

    BigJake TrainBoard Member

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    Massey,

    You may very well be correct, and Digitrax has simply been caught in an unfortunate situation.

    But the WiFi interface has been available for going on 3 years now (from the dates on their literature). And the experience in developing and bringing it to market means they've had over 3 years to put that WiFi experience into this new throttle, but they didn't.

    But if, as you said, they are limited in their ability to simultaneously develop so many products at once, I question why they spent so much of their limited capacity developing additional products in an area where they already have a dominant position (e.g. transponding, a relatively tiny market), rather than expanding their much more widely appealing product line in WiFi.

    I wonder how many Digitrax systems out there right now consist of a Zephyr and a WiFi interface, with iPhone/Android phones for throttles (in addition to the stationary throttle on the Zephyr)? Probably a lot more of them than systems with transponding. While this is information we can only speculate about, they have the facts in front of them.

    Their demonstrated plan of continuously updating the Zephyr suggests they might incorporate the WiFi interface into a future generation Zephyr. Or perhaps even a "headless" Zephyr (ala Pi Sprog).

    Also, your assertion that Digitrax (itself) supports only 4 WiFi throttles at a time is incorrect; from their own literature:
    • Up to 8 LNWI can be supported per LocoNet
    • Multiple LNWI units automatically resolve SSID with no additional configuration
    So clearly they have planned for and allow more than four WiFi throttles (at $20 ea) per layout. But they have not provided one such throttle.

    Yet.

    Let's hope part of what you surmised is true, and a WiFi version of the throttle is hot on the heels of this interim, less useful one.
     
  15. BigJake

    BigJake TrainBoard Member

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  16. BRS Hobbies

    BRS Hobbies TrainBoard Member

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    The TCS Mini Throttle should come in at a lower price and be a real game changer. I understand a company wanting to keep things proprietary but why not come out with a throttle conversion module that makes it compatible with other systems.
     
  17. rray

    rray Staff Member

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    I hope we see someone put together an Arduino Nano or similar microcontroller based WiFi Throttle and 3D handheld case files so we can make our own WiFi throttles in the $50 or less range.

    Commercial WiFi throttles need to be in the $100 range, not $300.
     
  18. Massey

    Massey TrainBoard Member

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    Each LNWI device handles 4 throttles, and the loconet can support 8 LNWI devices for a total of 32 total connections. It’s a bit misleading the way Digitrax states it in the literature.
     
  19. tjdreams

    tjdreams TrainBoard Member

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    I was checking out the TCS UWT-100 when they first came out and read that when used with the LNWI you could run the locomotive but some other functions like throwing turnouts and such were limited (Not Available) when connected by way of the LNWI.. Admittedly I lost interest at that point and stopped looking into it.

    Maybe I missed it but will the new Digitrax throttle support / have full function using the LNWI or will you need to buy the most expensive Proprietary Radio version to use all the functions?
     
  20. rray

    rray Staff Member

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    So far there is no LNWI version of the new Digitrax DT602 throttles.
    By far, and I do mean a very long stretch, Engine Driver ran on your cell phone, has the absolute most features of any WiFi throttle out there, as well as hands down the most attractive full color screens.

    Yes it's true there are no knobs to turn or buttons to press, BUT, remember that cell phones started with knobs and buttons, and advanced to the point of being completely functional with the capacitive touchscreen as the main user interface.

    In model railroading people are still drawn to the antiquated buttons and knobs method of controlling trains. I have been using Engine Driver for years on my cell phone, and can run it all day long with one handed operation of trains, only needing to look at the screen for turnout control.

    On the new Digitrax Advanced EVO system I just purchased for my TTZ module layout, it came with the "Advanced DT500 throttle" sporting an obsolete set of Chicklet style buttons from 1980's VCR remote technology, a tiny "Pager or Beeper" era LCD Screen, and a pair of tiny "Squlech Knobs from the citizens band radio era, all symmetrically arranged with tiny acronyms printed to identify function. That is most certainly NOT one handed operation friendly no intuitive. I find it so offensive an interface as to be comical. The DT602 is better, but needs to be WiFi to even be considered technology of the turn of the 21st century.

    Rant aside, Digitrax as a whole does offer one of the best selection of possible features in their DCC range, what with Transponding, Loconet, tiny decoders an all, you just have to be selective at putting together a total system.
     

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