Author Topic: Stick with Digitrax or Switch to NCE  (Read 4253 times)

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wmcbride

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Stick with Digitrax or Switch to NCE
« on: June 29, 2016, 11:33:53 AM »
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I've had a Digitrax Radio Chief set since they first came out I'm using a DT402R throttle and have had the DCS upgraded whenever Digitrax has offered that option.

My biggest gripe with Digitrax is that the throttle is not too intuitive. It's not easy for kids (and most adults) to pick up and use.

Now Digitrax has just announced a new DCS 240 command system:

http://www.digitrax.com/products/command-stations-boosters/dcs240/

I would appreciate anyone who has actual experience using both systems commenting on their user friendliness. I'm very familiar with Digitrax but have no NCE experience. I am especially curious about the ease of accessing higher numbered decoder functions from the wireless throttles.

I'm thinking of making the jump to NCE but don't want to make a mistake -- especially an expensive one.

Thanks,



« Last Edit: June 29, 2016, 11:46:54 AM by GaryHinshaw »
Bill McBride

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Re: Stick with Digitrax or Switch to NCE
« Reply #1 on: June 29, 2016, 12:13:46 PM »
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I know quite a few people who have made the jump for almost exactly the same reasons as you, the easier and more intuitive NCE user-interface. I know nothing of the newer Digitrax systemsocan add nothing tothe conversationon that point.

More expensive or an expensive mistake??? I guess thats subjective .....depends on how large a layout you have,how much you have spent on your existing Digitrax system and how much you could sell it for....and is the cost of a new NCE unit worth the benefit to be gained by having an easier, more intuitive system and fun layout for both yourself,visitors and kids versus the cost of the NCE unit.   The mechanics of the actual change over should be fairly simple and quick.

wmcbride

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Re: Stick with Digitrax or Switch to NCE
« Reply #2 on: June 29, 2016, 01:20:08 PM »
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Good points.

Another option is the ESU Ecos which is attractive since it connects to your home WiFi network and one can get a a smartphone app to turn your phone into a throttle. I've seen $600 street prices for the Ecos and it has a built in power source so no separate one to add as with other systems.



Bill McBride

RBrodzinsky

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Re: Stick with Digitrax or Switch to NCE
« Reply #3 on: June 29, 2016, 02:05:40 PM »
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You can enable WiFi with either Digitrax or NCE, by using JMRI.

One consideration on moving away from Digitrax is whether you have any other accessories that rely on communicating with the command station via LocoNet.  TeamDigital, TamValley, etc, all have accessory boards that can work off the LocoNet rather than relying on DCC signals on the track.  I do that to allow operation of all the switches, whether or not track power is on.

Another is if you use Address 0 for DC-only locos (even if just for quick testing)

From what I have read, the new Digitrax command station is simply that -- a newer more powerful CS.  Won't change the basic operating process.
Rick Brodzinsky
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reinhardtjh

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Re: Stick with Digitrax or Switch to NCE
« Reply #4 on: June 29, 2016, 02:23:14 PM »
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From what I have read, the new Digitrax command station is simply that -- a newer more powerful CS.  Won't change the basic operating process.

Pretty much. It's mostly a beefed up DCS100 with a PR3 added.  I think it's aimed toward big clubs and NTrak use with the 400 loco slots.  The other big thing new is that it has user upgradeable firmware so if any changes come along (perhaps LCC bus) or bugs are found then it's easy to upgrade.

The other questions have to do with environment - the standard things about where you go for help.  Are there more/better NCE people around to ask questions or is it a Digitrax area?  If people come to operate, do they bring throttles?  If you change then they may not be able to.  Or do you bring yours to others?  If you change then you may not be able to.  Minor, but niggling things.

In the end it depends on what you feel works best for you.  Have you been able to operate on a layout with NCE? Or at least use a NCE system someplace?  It may not be what you think (or may be exactly what you think).  Around me is mostly Digitrax. I've operated once on a layout with NCE and I can't remember it being easier. Just different.  Then again I just used one of the UT4 equivalent throttles for road work.

The ESU ECOS systems are nice.  They get a lot of praise. But they are as expensive as !@#$. 
John H. Reinhardt
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peteski

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Re: Stick with Digitrax or Switch to NCE
« Reply #5 on: June 29, 2016, 04:12:31 PM »
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I'm a Digitrax hater, I wouldn't own one even if it was given to me for free. So I really can't give you an unbiased opinion.  :D

I operate Digitrax-controlled layouts (not having fun) and I own the NCE Power Cab (which I find easy to operate).

It is true that this non-intuitive Digitrax system seems to have most additional features available (like signaling), but most layout owners never need most of the extra functions.

There are more esoteric systems out there too, but to me many seem gimmicky (and very expensive).

In the end to me the functionality of the throttle and ease of programming are the most important factors. I realize that with JMRI and WiThrottles that is no longer all that important, but I still prefer to have a non touch-screen speed control, and being able to intuitively program the decoders without needing JMRI.

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ednadolski

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Re: Stick with Digitrax or Switch to NCE
« Reply #6 on: June 29, 2016, 04:55:38 PM »
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I'm a Digitrax hater.... <<snip>> ....  In the end to me the functionality of the throttle and ease of programming are the most important factors. I realize that with JMRI and WiThrottles that is no longer all that important, but I still prefer to have a non touch-screen speed control, and being able to intuitively program the decoders without needing JMRI.

Ditto, in terms of the UI,  I found Digitrax completely non-intuitive ... like something only a hardware designer could have come up with  ( :trollface: )

However I would add that I do use Digitrax decoders almost exclusively.

Ed


wmcbride

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Re: Stick with Digitrax or Switch to NCE
« Reply #7 on: June 29, 2016, 05:15:59 PM »
+2
In the 15+ (???) years I've used Digitrax, I have always been very impressed with the manuals. While the system is unintuitive, the manuals make up for it by being clear -- NOT.

I was swayed early on by the Digitrax LocoNet open architecture etc. I later thought about SurroundSound or whatever Soundtraxx was developing for aeons but , as Peteski, points out, I never needed it. Never did signalling either.

I'd just like to have a system where an 8 yo kid can be handled a throttle and make some sense out of it fairly quickly. I know the Digitrax throttles have a little whistle and bell icon by the function buttons but the rest of those buttons give it the appearance of a high school calculator electronics project from the 1970s and can be pretty opaque to someone not used to Digitrax.



Bill McBride

peteski

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Re: Stick with Digitrax or Switch to NCE
« Reply #8 on: June 29, 2016, 06:31:12 PM »
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Bill, you had me rolling my eyes with your statement about clear manuals, but the second sentence took care of that. Except for being rich in features, Digitrax has nothing else going for it. Manuals are as bad as the throttles.

Ed said that it appears to be designed by some hardware geek. Having done some hardware design (and hanging around hardware designers too) I would say that his statement is doing a disservice even to hardware geeks.  Digitrax seems to have been designed by someone who lives in their own unqiue twisted world.  :|

Having said that I also agree the the Digitrax decoders are decent - I also use them.  But, even in the 6th generation Digitrax still hasn't done a good job making their lighting FX look good with LEDs. WTF?!  One thing they have going for them is the low price.  The motor control is decent, but not very tunable.  TCS has better handle on the BEMF tunability.  With most standard 3- and 5-pole motors and smooth-running mechanism these decoders perform well. But watch out if you have a coreless motor. Both Digitrax and TCS do not handle them well (especially for low speeds). 

I'm slowly migrating towards using European-made decoders (like ZIMO or ESU). Europeans seem to be years ahead of American engineers when it comes to handling coreless motors.  And the prices are in line with what TCS charges for their decoders. 
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jmarley76

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Re: Stick with Digitrax or Switch to NCE
« Reply #9 on: June 30, 2016, 12:20:03 AM »
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I currently power my modest-sized layout with a Digitrax Zephyr. I have pondered upgrading, so it's good to hear what everyone thinks.

I will say the Zephyr is way easier to operate compared to Digitrax's Super throttle. I was asked to bring it several times to an area N-Trak club to help program decoders because it was much easier to use. Also, I have two of the UT4 Utility throttles, and as far as kids go, my 5 year old uses with no issues (has been since the age of 3).

Given the testimony thus far, maybe I will keep my Zephyr and not worry about upgrading until it is absolutely necessary...

Ron McF

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Re: Stick with Digitrax or Switch to NCE
« Reply #10 on: June 30, 2016, 08:23:45 AM »
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While the system is unintuitive, the manuals make up for it by being clear -- NOT.

+1  Absolutely agree with this statement.

I have a Digitrax duplex system, and I also operate on several layouts with NCE systems. You say that you're familiar with Digitrax, so now that you've done the hard yards I'd recommend that you stick with it.

I'd also strongly recommend that you use JMRI for programming.  JMRI will operate fine on an older PC/laptop and makes programming a breeze compared to using a DT402/R/D.  For example, I have 17 Atlas GP7s (and counting) - each time I add an extra one I simply copy the settings for the first one, change the loco number, and write all pages for the new loco.

Regards,
Ron
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wmcbride

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Re: Stick with Digitrax or Switch to NCE
« Reply #11 on: June 30, 2016, 08:54:24 AM »
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+1  Absolutely agree with this statement.

I have a Digitrax duplex system, and I also operate on several layouts with NCE systems. You say that you're familiar with Digitrax, so now that you've done the hard yards I'd recommend that you stick with it.

I'd also strongly recommend that you use JMRI for programming.  JMRI will operate fine on an older PC/laptop and makes programming a breeze compared to using a DT402/R/D.  For example, I have 17 Atlas GP7s (and counting) - each time I add an extra one I simply copy the settings for the first one, change the loco number, and write all pages for the new loco.

Regards,
Ron

Thanks.

What I am looking for is an easier understood throttle. You make a valid point that I have 15 years of corporate memory with the quirks of Digitrax. I don't want to switch just to learn another system's quirks.


Bill McBride

wmcbride

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Re: Stick with Digitrax or Switch to NCE
« Reply #12 on: June 30, 2016, 08:58:14 AM »
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Bill, you had me rolling my eyes with your statement about clear manuals, but the second sentence took care of that. Except for being rich in features, Digitrax has nothing else going for it. Manuals are as bad as the throttles.

Ed said that it appears to be designed by some hardware geek. Having done some hardware design (and hanging around hardware designers too) I would say that his statement is doing a disservice even to hardware geeks.  Digitrax seems to have been designed by someone who lives in their own unqiue twisted world.  :|

Having said that I also agree the the Digitrax decoders are decent - I also use them.  But, even in the 6th generation Digitrax still hasn't done a good job making their lighting FX look good with LEDs. WTF?!  One thing they have going for them is the low price.  The motor control is decent, but not very tunable.  TCS has better handle on the BEMF tunability.  With most standard 3- and 5-pole motors and smooth-running mechanism these decoders perform well. But watch out if you have a coreless motor. Both Digitrax and TCS do not handle them well (especially for low speeds). 

I used to use Digitrax decoders because there was little real competition, they were inexpensive, and they did the job. i then tried some TCS decoders which worked well but then the prices went up there quite a bit from his first days of establishing his business. Ihad a real spate of dead-on-arrival Digitrax decoders (the NEM651 plug-ins for FVM GEVOs) over a several month period. I had them replaced under warranty but it took a while. So, I shifted to TCS and now use ESU decoders whenever I can.


I'm slowly migrating towards using European-made decoders (like ZIMO or ESU). Europeans seem to be years ahead of American engineers when it comes to handling coreless motors.  And the prices are in line with what TCS charges for their decoders.
Bill McBride

Genetk44

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Re: Stick with Digitrax or Switch to NCE
« Reply #13 on: June 30, 2016, 09:14:31 AM »
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Thanks.

What I am looking for is an easier understood throttle. You make a valid point that I have 15 years of corporate memory with the quirks of Digitrax. I don't want to switch just to learn another system's quirks.

From your original post I thought you wanted a system that was easier and more intuitive for kids and visitors, not you so much...the NCE throttle,system and user-interface is very easy and intuitive and has so few quirks that it is virtually quirkless.

GaryHinshaw

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Re: Stick with Digitrax or Switch to NCE
« Reply #14 on: June 30, 2016, 11:06:05 AM »
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Also, your original post referred to the new Digitrax command station.  As far as I know, the throttles and UI are unchanged, so your decision is really independent of the DCS 240.