Q. In terms of reliability and compatibility, what would you recommend – Elan or Control4? I will have about 8+ zones, distributed music, video, Lutron lighting with the possibility of adding controlled blinds, security and HVAC. – Charles
A. Elan and Control4 are both very capable whole house entertainment systems. Elan has been making such systems for a number of years while Control4 is a relative newcomer to the market. First off, I should say that our company has a great deal of experience with Control4 but not much with Elan.
The Elan system has control interfaces ranging from simple keypads to LCD screens to full color touch screens. The Control4 system relies more on remote controls and color touch screens. User interfaces are very much a case of personal choice so I will leave it up to you to decide.
In terms of functionality there are a number of areas which you will need to consider when deciding on which system is best for you.
Digital Music and CD storage
Both systems allow you to store and access your CD collection around the home. With Control4, this ability is built into the central controller, whereas with Elan you need to purchase an external music server such as their VIA!dj system. Control4 also has the ability to directly access the Rhapsody music-on-demand service for around $15 per month.
Both systems are able to control lighting. Lutron is an integration partner with Elan and you can directly control the lighting from the interfaces. Control4 is also able to control Lutron lighting using a driver your dealer will be able to provide.
Elan has interfaces with HVAC companies such as Aprilaire which will allow you to control these systems. Control4 has wireless thermostats as part of their product range which allow you to control many different types of HVAC systems.
Again, both companies have interfaces for a number of different security systems such as DSC controls. This enables you to set and monitor your security system from your touchpanels.
This can be achieved with either system.
This is where Control4 really scores. They produce their own handheld remote control which looks and feels just like the remotes you are familiar with. It is also a true two-way device allowing you to choose music directly from the remote. This means in many rooms you do not need a separate in wall touch panel. The Control4 remote is very keenly priced too. With an Elan system, your dealer will need to provide a remote control from a third party. While there are many excellent remote controls available, your installer will have to program the remote in addition to programming the Elan system which can increase cost.
On Screen Display
Another advantage of Control4 is that the remote works with an attractive on-screen menu which allows you to control your entire home system using the remote. It makes it particularly easy for all members of the family to use.
It should be noted that Control4 had some software problems a few years back. These have been cured and Control4 offers a very reliable and flexible platform which allows room for growth.
Ultimately any system is only as good as the company that installs and supports it. I would recommend that you choose a CEDIA certified company that has good experience with whatever system you choose.