The HC-800 is a component-size unit that can also be rack-mounted. Beyond offering more processing horsepower, it has external ZigBee and Wi-Fi antennas for improved reception, and features more IR, serial, contact, and relay connections to handle larger systems. The HC-800 also features an eSATA port to connect an external hard drive, and it can handle four simultaneous audio outputs (2 analog, 1 digital coax, 1 HDMI) to drive a housewide music system. I installed the HC-800 in my main/theater system, connecting it via USB to a 4-TB Western Digital hard drive containing approximately 9,500 songs.
The HC-250 can either be powered traditionally or via Power over Ethernet (PoE), a standard that enables a single Cat-5/6 cable to carry audio/video and control signals and power to the unit. This is a pretty big deal from a wiring/installation standpoint. For my tests, I used the unit’s AC power connection and built-in 802.11n/g Wi-Fi to hook up to my network.
The HC-250 has enough control ports to handle most systems — up to 8 IR devices if using minijack splitters — along with a contact and relay connection. It can also control a nearly unlimited number of IP devices. This means that its capabilities will actually expand as more components offer this type of control. It also features a USB port, audio outputs, and audio inputs so that the HC-250 can digitize and route music to other listening zones.
Control4 systems can be controlled via iOS, PC, or Android devices. Users purchase either a $199 MyHome license for a single device or a site license (which supports up to 50 devices) for $499. Since I had at least two devices — an iPad and a PC — to use as controllers, I opted for the site license. The Control4 touchpanels also have an optional intercom feature that allows them to communicate with one another as well as with a new Control4 door station. An additional $399 license covers all capable devices at a site.
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