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jimbob

NCE v Gaugemaster

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OK l have finaly lost my rag with my Bachman Dynamis system. When it works it's great but when it doesn't it makes you want to rip the whole lot up and take up basket weaveing!!Anyway fed up with it telling me l've got a short circuit or whatever l shall bit the bullet and go for a proper radio system.

So l know we have been here before but in the light of operating experiance what do you think is the better system NCE or Gaugemaster. Gaugemaster seems to edge it on price but the NCE system seems more popular.

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I recently bought an NCE system and am slowly getting the hang of it. Wouldn't describe it as particularly intuitive - rather reminds me of DOS-based computer days before Windows smoothed things out. But at least some friends also have NCE, so when they come round we can share controllers and compare notes.

But the slow speed controlability of DCC is fantastic. Wish I'd taken the step sooner. Pity I don't have more chipped locos...

Also, I'm looking forward to buying a USB interface and adding control from my smartphone (Talk is cheap!).

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I've been using NCE for 6 years and I've got on well with it.

I've not found it intuitive, but I'm the kind of person who will play with something until I find a way that works for me.

These days I don't find I touch the PwerCab much. I have the USB interface and I control my railway using computer and iPhones and iPads. Again, it took get it to the setup I have now, but it is a great setup.

One of the things that attracted me to NCE was the upgrade path. The PowerCab is a 2amp system and upgrading to a 5amp system is not expensive. But even with 6 trains looping round the garden I've not got close to the 2amp limit so I haven't upgraded.

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OK, so the NCE system seems to edge it but lets go the whole hog and does anyone have any thing to say about the Roco Z21 system? Top of the range price wise plus the add ons of smart phone or tablet make it an expensive option but is it any good?

Trouble is l start looking into things and looking for a resonable priced item it snow balls.

What about voice controlled systems.....

Think a day out to somewhere like Digitrains in Lincoln is in order.

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I hesitated to mention Roco Z21 as the discussion was about NCE & Gaugemaster but I have to say that I prefer it to anything else I have used. Of course you do need to already have an iPhone, or iPad (probably even an iPod) but if you have one or more of these available it is not too expensive, compared to say an ESU EcOS. Some android smart phones will also work but I have only tried one of those, an HTC Desire A8181 and I find the Apple system much more user friendly, especially when copying control data from one device to another.

I have tried Bachmann E-Z Command, ZTC511 (and 611), Hornby Elite, Hornby e-link and ESU EcOS which was a hugely expensive mistake. I do still like the ZTC611 with its nice chunky levers but this is not redundant as it will connect easily to the Z21 through its sniffer port. Only the black Z21 has a sniffer port though. The white z21 from the starter sets does not have this. Note the upper and lower case "zeds".

I bought my Z21 from Scograil in Ipswich and their current price is only £249.95 including delivery.

It is a good idea to visit Digitrains in Lincoln. Jeremy is very helpful but I don't think that a Z21 is connected to their demonstration track.

If you have an Apple device, download the Z21 mobile app and see how you like it. It's free at the app store (unlike Hornby's mobile download)

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Interested to see the comment by Riddles about linking the ZTC Controller [i have a 511] to the Z21 (which I have not yet purchased). I assume that the loco control can be either by the Z21 touchscreen app or by using the 511 Controller - whichever takes your fancy at the time. Is this a correct assumption? Is the 511 equally as compatible with Z21 as the 611?

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pammikebruno said:

Interested to see the comment by Riddles about linking the ZTC Controller [i have a 511] to the Z21 (which I have not yet purchased). I assume that the loco control can be either by the Z21 touchscreen app or by using the 511 Controller - whichever takes your fancy at the time. Is this a correct assumption? Is the 511 equally as compatible with Z21 as the 611?

The Z21 continues to work from my iPhone or iPad, when the ZTC is connected.

The ZTC, 611 or 511, uses its own power supply but the track output is connected to the Sniffer input of the Z21. Of course if you use a 511 you will only be able to operate functions 0 to 9 (possibly only 0 to 8) but the upgraded 611 will allow you to operate all the decoders functions.

The Z21 Sniffer should accept and pass through, all instructions from any make of NMRA approved DCC system. I imagine a Hornby Select controller might not work, but it might be worth trying if you have one.

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I always hear about NCE. It's sort of the work horse of all Systems, but learning curve sounds like a bit of a hassle.

I suppose my attitude may be a bit strange, but I find it hard to spend the kind of money that NCE costs. As you all know, I am a cheap skate.

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Its coming up 2 years since the last post here. As I am in the market for a DCC control system are there any new thoughts on the way to go? Anything new on the market since these last musings? We all have our preferences but I do like the thought of being able to control my shed part of the layout from in the shed and the garden part whilst actually in the garden. And whilst on the subject could you wise people explain what on earth a sniffer port is? 

 

Mark

 

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Funnily enough I was looking at DCC control systems only a couple of days ago and it's the first time I've looked at the Z21 mentioned earlier in the post. It looks quite interesting though it's the first time I've heard of a sniffer port.

I currently have the Gaugemaster Prodigy Advance 2 with one tethered and one wireless handset. It's been fine but the round knob for speed control has just about stopped working on both of them and I have to use the buttons instead. Is it called rheostat or something like that? I certainly think the handsets are the weak link but the system is a few years old now so perhaps it's time to look for something better. But there again, do I need something better for a mainly single track round the garden? I could send the handsets in for repair or I could put the money towards something new that might last a bit longer.

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I downloaded the Z21 app and had a play with it. Its all come a very long way from my old gauge master DS2 DC dual controller! When I bought that I thought it was the bees knees. Now it will be relegated to powering the accessories bus in due course. Could also use it on the car solenoid motors for my outdoor points in time. The Z21 is not cheap at all here in NZ. Nor do any of my local model shops have one to go and look at. When spending that kind of money I would like to see it first. It will soon me model show season here soon.

I think its worth getting a quote for repair Mick. The prodigy is still a system on the market so I am sure gauge master could be asked for repair or replacements. You never know. They may be sympathetic and replace them. Worth a try.

 

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On 15/08/2018 at 05:00, markgd said:

 The Z21 is not cheap at all here in NZ. Nor do any of my local model shops have one to go and look at. When spending that kind of money I would like to see it first. It will soon me model show season here soon.

I think its worth getting a quote for repair Mick. The prodigy is still a system on the market so I am sure gauge master could be asked for repair or replacements. You never know. They may be sympathetic and replace them. Worth a try.

 

I fully appreciate your reticence to order a Z21 without seeing it but to be honest there is not much to see apart from a very neat black box. There is also a separate power transformer and the wi-fi router. The main user interface is whatever mobile phone or tablet which you have to hand. Control can be remarkably fine. Altering the angle of your finger or thumb on the throttle can make a very slight difference to the speed. Android users seem to have had more problems than Apple users (iPhone, iPad etc.) because there are many different variations of the former.

Mike, I do agree with Mark that you should approach Gaugemaster to have the round knob controls repaired. They do have an excellent lifetime repair guarantee for their analog products but they may wish to promote a good reputation for servicing the digital range which they market. I suspect that they were reluctant to offer the same guarantee on the digital range until they gained some experience of what might go wrong and what the potential liability might be.

Mike, you mentioned the sniffer port in your posting on Tuesday. Just to avoid anyone being disappointed, this is only fitted to the full price black Z21 system and is not included in the white z21 controls supplied with some Roco/Fleischmann starter sets and which are sometimes available separately from split sets. There is no separate programming track output on those either.

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I also have a Roco Z21 and what I have to complain about it is the bad documentation and actually missing instructions.
At least as she goes on sale in Germany and Austria.
Roco does write something about self-explanatory symbolism and intuitive usability, but I do not find that self-explanatory and intuitive to use.
That may perhaps be attributed to my ADHD and Asperger and also the fact that I prefer on tablet and smartphone Android, but I still have to fight with the Z21 and still I find it in a system of this price range a bit of an impertinence that you have to google yourself explanations and instructions in case of doubt.

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