A nice package arrived - in fact a somewhat delayed Christmas gift - in the form of this Roco multiZENTRALEPRO system! My new DCC system is here! The main attraction for me to this system is the wireless hand-held (not infrared, with which I had an unfortunate experience years ago). It was also a consistently highly regard from other users of the original Multimaus (which is important) as well as including a lot of other features that would allow me to grow beyond my original Trix Mobile Station set up. These sort of decisions are not easy....the cost of the system is a huge factor, in addition to the 'opportunity cost' of not choosing another systems that - in many ways - have other advantages (for example, I looked at Digitrax, which would be a lot easier in terms of support here in the US given its wide adoption, and also considered the command stations from EsU and Viessmann, as well as the new Mobile Station from Trix, among others). Well, I've made my choice!
The Multimuas Pro (seemingly identical to the traditional Multimaus except its wireless...and blue) is packed with the multiZentrale (the actual command box), a disc with the Rocomotion software (which seems to be a port of the Railroad & Co. software, which I didn't know) a couple of cables, and a manual.
The multiZentrale (err...command box) seems small based on all the functions we've come to expect from these little boxes, but I suppose that's the way things work in the digital world. This Roco system is also compatible (as far as I know, I'm still learning so I'll find out) with Lenz's X-Bus system, which seems to offer a lot of interesting expansion opportunities. I also like the fact that it has a dedicated 'output' for a separate programming track which will come in handy. Programming with the Mobile Station was an exercise in futility (I've been using a Sprog II for programming duties to avoid the MS)
Unfortunately both the main and the programming output jacks require some sort of proprietary jack, and only one cable is provided for output to track, so I'll need to go and buy another cable that will work if I'm take advantage of the convenience of the programming track output. Strangely, the cable Roco provided is very specifically designed for the HO gauge track, which seems sort of narrow-minded on their part. Easy to fix with a snip and a little soldering. It also comes with a USB cable. If your like me, you probably have a billion of these already from all the other computer junk we've all been buying the past several years!
Of course, the real star of the show for me is the controller. This is a huge shift from my Mobile Station, and is a radical departure from almost every other DCC controller/throttle out there. Yes, you could say its toy-like, but I actually like the color. So far, it seems to be the most ergonomic controller I've ever seen...can you say one-handed operation?
A new controller also means getting used to the menu structure and navigating my way through the various options. So far, it has felt quite comfortable. There was a moment of tension as I finally got to the point with everything connected and my first locomotive entered to see if it all works...and I let out a huge sigh of relief when it did work! So far, no signal issues and really exciting, almost liberating, feeling as I can now walk completely around my entire layout without having to leave my controller on the other side of the room (or plug my controller in once I get to the other side of the layout). One of my debates about this investment was some question about how much I really needed a wireless controller for such a small layout....well, I have to say, I'm glad I made the jump because this wireless operation is pretty awesome!
This system also features turnout control and route control options (and with the Rocomotion/Railroad & Co software, PC operation!), which were interesting to me for potential in the future, but I just couldn't 'get' the idea of having to switch back and forth between 'engine' and 'turnout' modes. That opinion has changed given my brief experience with this unit and I can totally imaging converting my turnouts so that they can be controlled with this unit.
While I wish that the display offered a bit room for more than 5 characters for loco identification, I suppose that will be something I can live with. I do like the fact that they are very large and visible characters! The dial, with its 'center stop' and forward / reverse controlled by turning the dial either left or right is something I'll have to get used to. The other strange thing is the power requirements (18-24VDC; 16-18VAC)...seems a bit high for N Scale, but since I'm also able to use my Trix transformer to power this system (it does not come with a power transformer), I'm not as concerned as I should be since this is the amount of voltage that I've been using for several years (still seems high....glad I put in a bunch of extra circuit breakers!).
So, despite a somewhat hefty price, I have to say I feel pretty happy with my investment. I've only spent about 90 minutes or so running trains (mostly discovering that all my ballasting and rail-painting has still left a lot of residual gunk on my rails, so more cleaning is clearly needed) but it was a very fun 90 minutes. More on this in the future!