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Savant vs Control4 – Which is Better?

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Which is better, Savant or Control4?  Oh man! This question is always a challenge — and one we get asked a lot.

The trouble is that both systems are great Smart Home Platforms.  I once heard a dealer describe it like choosing between one of his two children.  That’s a pretty good analogy.

Savant and Control4 have different strengths that make them both attractive for different applications.  Ideally, you would find a place to experience them both.  But since you’re here, I’ll try and give you my honest thoughts about both systems.

When we’re working with a Client to try and determine the best fit, there’s four things we look at: 3rd party Integration; Application; User Experience; and Budget. We’ll take a quick look at all four here.


3rd Party Integration

As of this writing, Control4 integrates better with the popular DIY products like Nest Thermostat, MyQ Garage Door opener, Amazon Alexa, etc.  In this area, Savant is improving, but Control4 definitely has the upper hand.  For other products like your Home Audio, your TVs, your Lighting Control, etc, both Savant and Control4 integrate well.

Here’s a little history for you. A few years ago both companies released major updates.  Savant’s update was user experience driven.  They released a cleaner, sexier app, with a cool new user interface. Control4 focused on improving the ‘backend’ (the programming behind the scenes that’s doing all the work) so that Control4 was set up better than any one else for 3rd party integration.

Needless to say, Control4 has been the better system for 3rd party integration with popular DIY products in the last two years, but Savant is on its way.


Application

What’s the application? I know that sounds obvious, but the answer is significant.

  • Builders – Are you a Production Home Builder?  Right now we favor Control4.  A lot of our production builders already offer devices like Nest Thermostat, or MyQ Garage Door Openers.  With Control4, you don’t have to add or replace anything.  For $500 you can purchase a Control4 system that will easily integrate with all those smart devices you’re already offering in the home.
  • Retro Fits & Wireless Installs – Do you already live in a home, and the home wasn’t prewired? Control4 is a great solution for wireless installs.  We can do an entire home wirelessly with Control4 and Savant, and it will feel like the home was prewired and designed from the ground up.
  • Home Audio & Video – If your major focus with your Smart Home is your Home Audio and Video, then I favor Savant.  I’ve always preferred the user experience wth Savant for these features.  With their latest App release, they use a ‘heads up display’ similar to Apple’s remote for the Apple TV.  It makes it very easy to use your phone to control the TV and media.
  • Home Security, Lighting & Climate – If your hot button is Security, Lighting & Climate Control it’s a wash. Control4 integrates with door locks, and Savant doesn’t – at least not easily.  Otherwise it’s sixes. Both have compatible Video Doorbells, Cameras, Security Systems, and hoards of compatible lighting control and blind solutions.
  • Business – Are you looking to outfit a conference room, a restaurant, or maybe a Gym? I’d probably favor Savant. Again I favor it’s performance with Audio and Video, so it seems like the better fit in these applications.
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User Experience

The user experience may be the most important part of the whole deal, and this is where the answer is very personal.  Here’s my opinion on both.

  • Control4 – Control4 is easier to use initially. The app uses icons in a way that holds your hand through the process.  Because Control4 is so simple to use, we often recommend it for Clients who are scared of technology.  However, I think Control4’s app is a little tedious.  You have to drill down into everything, and then back out to the home page to change gears.  I’ve always wished it was more fluid.
  • Savant – Savant’s app is sexier looking.  If you want to show off your Smart Home app to your friends, Savant is superior.  I prefer the user experience for TV Control with Savant’s ‘Heads up Display’ feature. I think Savant is easy to use, but I’ve seen Clients take a few minutes to get use to it.  Savant’s app is more fluid. There’s less drilling down, and drilling out, but some of what makes the app fluid and sexy, also makes it bloated. It’s room based. So on the iPhone, if you have 20 rooms in your home, you have to scroll through all 20 rooms to find the room you want.
  • Remotes – Both Control4 and Savant offer a handheld remote.  Control4’s remote is great if you have onscreen display, which allows  you to see the App on your TV.  Without the onscreen display, the remote is just ok. Savant’s remote is one of the sexier remotes I’ve seen, and includes a touchscreen and voice control.  It’s new, and has promise, but it still needs some work.

Both systems support iOS and Android. So whatever your preference is, it will work.


Budget

We’ll cover cost in another post, but Control4 is usually cheaper than Savant. If the budget is the determining factor, Control4 usually wins.  This is especially true with Production Home Builders.

Clients always ask me which system I would put in my own home.  I would be really happy with either system, but If I had to choose, I would use Savant.  My favorite part of the system is the Audio/Video control, and here I prefer Savant.  If my preference were to Lighting Control, Climate Control and heavy automation, I would go with Control4. Regardless, I would have a lot of fun with either system.

My point here is that it’s personal.  Say what you want about budgets, applications, and the nitty gritty of each app, at the end of the day the better system is the one that you get excited about.  Both systems perform well, and you’ll be happy either way.


Learn more about Control4 here.           Learn more about Savant here.

NBCUniversal and Netflix Renew Multi-Year TV and Film Content Agreement Non-Exclusive Deal Includes Library Film and Television Content New To Netflix: Cost goes up $6

By | Highlights

In case you were wondering what the updated rates are buying, Netflix’s first step in making its case for your $7.99 a month in streaming fees appears to be a renewal of its content deal with NBCUniversal. The new deal secures availability of previous seasons of popular shows including 30 RockThe OfficePsychand other selections we’ve gotten used to seeing on the service for the next couple of years. There is one notable loss however, as the LA Times points out an arrangement that brought new episodes of Saturday Night Live to the service the day after they aired has come to an end. Rumors had swirled that Netflix could revive The Event after its cancellation by NBC, but while existing episodes will be available there’s nothing mentioned about putting it next to the streamer’s own House of Cards. Given Comcast (and now NBCU) leader Brian Robert’s reference to Netflix as the rerun TV and Netflix CEO Reed Hastings’embracing of the term this deal isn’t surprising, but our only question is whether it is enough to keep current subscribers around.

 

SOURCE Netflix, Inc.

Oma Monarch Speakers

By | Highlights

Oma Monarch Speakers

Oma Monarch Speakers

We’ve seen speakers shaped like eggsairships, and even, well, speakers, but we’ve never seen anything quite like these. Taking their form from mother nature, these Oma Monarch Speakers($TBA) use their slender legs and bodies — along with their large, wing-shaped wooden baffles — to create an unmistakable butterfly shape, while two 15-inch woofers, cast aluminum alloy horns, and compression drivers deliver sound that’s as unbelievable as the aesthetic.

Source: Gizmodo

 

Netflix bringing instant streaming to Latin America, global domination plan on track

By | Highlights

Netflix Expansion

Soon enough, most of the western hemisphere will be able to enjoy Netflix Watch Instantly without the need for proxies and work-arounds. Later this year the company will add 43 countries in Central and South America, and the Caribbean to its list of supported locales. It will also wrap up its North American expansion by streaming flicks into the heart of Mexico. When exactly folks in Brazil and Trinidad will be able to sign up, and how much it will cost when it launches are still up in the air at the moment. One thing is certain though — while Hulu is striking deals with the likes of Miramax and theCriterion Collection to bolster its library of feature length films, Netflix is building a global empire.

 

sourceNetflix

Apple AirTunes: How To Make Your Entire Home AirPlay Compatible

By | Highlights

How to Make Your Entire Home AirPlay-Compatible

— Apple’s new media-streaming technology, AirPlay, is a great way to stream devices across your home, but it only works on Apple-approved destinations out of the box. Here’s how to make your entire home AirPlay-compatible, so that whether you’re using Windows or Mac, Android or iOS, XBMC or another media center, you can stream media seamlessly between each.

On its own, AirPlay only streams media from iTunes or iOS to the Apple TV or AirPort Express routers. You could make up for this disadvantage by using alternatives to AirPlay instead, but AirPlay is so simple to use, and the most well integrated option, that it’s the best option out there for inter-device media streaming. With just a few third-party programs and tweaks, you can stream music, photos and video over AirPlay to nearly any device in your house—even the non-Apple ones. For a quick demonstration of how AirPlay works, see the video above.

What You’ll Need

When you stream via AirPlay, you have two devices to worry about: the source (that is, the device doing the streaming), and the destination (the device receiving the media). So at minimum, you’ll need one device you can set up as a source, and one device you can set up as a destination. Below, we’ll explain how to set up:

AirPlay Destinations:

  • A Windows PC
  • A Mac
  • An iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch
  • An Android Phone
  • A Media Center Running XBMC, Boxee, or Plex

Then we’ll walk through how to set up:

AirPlay Sources

  • iOS Apps Not Designed to Work With AirPlay
  • Desktop Apps Not Designed to Work With AirPlay
  • An Android Phone

Turning Unsupported Devices into AirPlay Destinations

 

In this section, we’ll detail how to set up Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, and XBMC to work as AirPlay destinations. Remember that you’ll need an AirPlay source, too, like iTunes, iOS, or one of the sources we talk about in the second section. Once you have them set up as destinations, all you need to do to play media on them is choose them from the AirPlay list on your source device, as seen at the left.

Streaming to Windows

 

If you have an iPhone but you use Windows on the desktop (or you just have a diverse house of Windows PCs and Macs), you can stream AirPlay music to Windows using free utility Shairport4w. It’s a completely portable application that sits in your system tray, broadcasting your PC as an AirPlay destination. Sadly, it doesn’t stream video, and there isn’t currently a working AirPlay video player for Windows, so this is all we have.

Streaming to Your Mac

How to Make Your Entire Home AirPlay-CompatibleTo stream media to your Mac,all you need is the simple, open source AirMac. It sits in your menu bar and broadcasts your Mac as an AirPlay-compatible device, so once you’ve started it up, it should show up in all the AirPlay menus around your house. Once you start streaming media to it, it will play in a new QuickTime X window.

Streaming to iOS

 

Streaming audio and video from iTunes to iOS is actually built-in to iTunes, but it isn’t under the banner of AirPlay, which might cause a lot of people to miss it. All you need to do is log into Home Sharing in iTunes on the computer holding all the media, then log into Home Sharing in Settings > iPod on your iPhone or iPad (on iPod touches, it’s in Settings > Music). Once you do, you should see a new “Shared” tab pop up in your iPod app (you might need to hit “More” to see it). From there, you can navigate to your iTunes library and play any music or video from that library, including videos that weren’t purchased on iTunes.

Sadly, if you want to stream from non-iTunes sources, you’re out of luck for now—Apple keeps pulling apps that let you do this from the App Store, and those developers have yet to put their apps in Cydia for jailbroken users.

Streaming to Android

 

If you’d like to stream music to music on your Android phone, a simple app called AirBubblewill set it up as an AirPlay destination. Just install the app (you’ll need to make sure “Unknown Sources” is checked under Android’s Settings > Applications), start it up, and you’ll see “AirBubble” show up as an AirPlay destination in iTunes, iOS, and other streaming devices. You can then stream that music right to your phone as you would to anything else. Sadly, it does not stream video at this time.

Streaming to XBMC, Boxee, and Plex

If you have a home theater PC running XBMC, Boxee, or Plex, you can use the AirPlayerPython script to use it as an AirPlay destination.. Installation is different on every system, so we won’t go too deeply into it here. Check out this page for more detailed installation instructions for Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux. If you’re running a Live XBMC installation like on our standalone XBMC media center, you’ll want to follow these instructions to get AirPlay up and running. Note that AirPlayer only streams video; it won’t work with music.

Turning Unsupported Devices into AirPlay Sources

iTunes and iOS will stream music and video just fine, but if you listen to music and watch videos using other apps or platforms, here’s how to turn them into AirPlay sources.

Streaming from Other Apps in iOS

While the Music and Video apps in iOS will stream over AirPlay out of the box, apps like Safari or VLC won’t. If you’ve jailbroken your iPhone or iPad, however, you can usepreviously mentioned AirVieoEnabler to enable AirPlay in other iOS apps. Just install the app from Cydia, restart your device, and you should see the AirPlay icon pop up in most other media playing apps.

Streaming from Android

How to Make Your Entire Home AirPlay-CompatibleOne of our favorite Android media players,DoubleTwist, can actually stream music and video to Apple TVs with its $5 AirSync add-on. Once you’ve installed doubleTwist and AirSync, open up doubleTwist’s Settings and go to “AirTwist & AirPlay”. Check the “AirTwist & AirPlay” box to enable it.

Now, whenever you play a song or video in doubleTwist, you’ll see a small Wi-Fi icon next to the player controls. Tap this to pick from a list of AirPlay-compatible devices and stream the video to them.

Streaming from Other Apps on Your PC or Mac

If you want to stream audio from, say, a non-iTunes music player or your browser to an AirPort Express (or other AirPlay-enabled device), you have a few options. The best option isAirfoil, which is a $30 app for both Windows and Mac that will sync and stream audio from any source to AirPlay-compatible hardware. If you want to do that for free, previously mentioned RaopX will do the trick nicely on OS X, albeit with a bit of extra work and a significant audio delay. Sadly, there doesn’t seem to be a good free option for Windows.


There are still a few holes in this strategy (like streaming video to Windows or streaming audio to XBMC), but overall it makes AirPlay much, much more versatile with just a few simple tools. Now, you can stream audio and video nearly anywhere in your house, all with just the click of a button. Got any of your own preferred methods for streaming media via AirPlay? Share them with us in the comments.

Source: LifeHacker.com