Pro Control is a division of RTI Corporation, a company that provides powerful yet cost effective programmable remotes and processors at a fraction of the cost of other similar products. The company leverages from the 20+ years the parent company, RTI Corporation has in remote development. Pro Control products provide advanced wizard-based software (Pro Control Studio) for extremely efficient programming with customizable graphics.
Unlike most remotes, the Pro Control system stores the macros in the control processor instead of the remote. This improves the reliability of the system by not relying on the remote to transmit the individual commands to the controller and then to the IR ports or TCP/IP devices. A simple command from the remote is used to trigger a macro to launch a series of commands from the control processor. All of this is transparent to the user.
Pro Control's product line is simple, offering three remotes and two control processors. The products are designed to offer the flexibility of customized screens on the remotes and Apple-based devices, while keeping the price low for the budget minded customer. Pro Control offers both one-way and two-way products depending on the needs of the customer.
We will be focusing on the two Zigbee products in this review (Pro24.z remote and the ProLink.z control processor), but it is worth mentioning the 1-way devices as they are less costly and provide excellent capabilities for those looking for 1-way control.
Pro24.r and ProLink.r
The Pro24.r and ProLink.r use 1-way (433 MHz) RF for reliable transmission of commands between the remote and control processor.
The Pro24.r remote features a 2.4-inch (240 x 320 resolution) touchscreen with 45 programmable hard buttons and a 5-way joystick. This 1-way RF remote has the benefits of reliable control without the cost of a 2-way device. For those not needing 2-way control, this is a great option. Unlike the Pro24.z, the Pro24,r does not include a recharging dock and will not work with the one designed for the Pro24.z.
The ProLink.r processor has four routable IR output ports each with adjustable levels. It also includes a voltage sense input, ethernet port, and a USB interface for programming. The RJ-45 ethernet port is designed to connect to a 10/100 Base-T Ethernet network (LAN) for one-way control of compatible components, but can also be used to program the control processor without having to use the USB connection. Network
settings such as the IP address are configurable within Pro Control Studio software.
The new iPro.8 is a companion remote for tablets and smartphones that overcome some of the inherent limitations of these devices when they are used as the primary controller. While tablets and smartphones offer added convenience, they are not always quick and simple. Rather than fumble through menus to get to commonly used controls, the iPro.8 remote is designed to provide reliable control seamlessly and inexpensively. In addition, the lack of hard buttons for tactile control on tablets and smartphones makes the iPro.8 a simpler human interface. The iPro.8 communicates instantly over 433 MHz (1-way) or 2.4 GHz (2-way) Zigbee RF technology and is compatible with both Pro Control ProLink processors with an activated ProPanel App.
The company's flagship remote, the Pro24.z includes an integrated 2-way Zigbee (2.4GHz) link designed to communicate with the ProLink.z control processor. The system provides complete 2-way communication capability with AV receivers, iPod® dock, lighting, HVAC, security and more using RS232 or ethernet. While the Pro24.z remote is an RF device, it does also include IR capability for direct line-of-sight for 1-way commanding. The Pro24.z remote has a 2.4-inch TFT LCD touchscreen with a resolution of 240x320.
Four soft buttons just below the display allow for custom labeling and the programmable 5-way joystick provides a fast and easy to use interface. The internal lithium-ion battery provides excellent storage capacity and the dock makes it convenient to charge the remote when it's sitting on the table. The built-in tilt switch automatically activates the remote's display and backlighting when the unit is picked up. The backlight works great in typical home theater environments and provides users with easy to read buttons. The number of commands, macros, and controlled devices is only limited by the memory. There are 48 hard buttons that are programmable and are spaced apart nicely. Whether the Pro24.z is used as a stand-alone remote (via IR commands), or as an advanced control system when paired with a ProLink.z control processor, it delivers. We always recommend using RF over IR to control components because of the consistent and reliable performance. The Pro24.z measures 9.8" x 2.25" and is about an inch thick and weighs about 8 ounces. The body of the remote has a good ergonomic feel.
The Pro Control ProLink.z Control Processor is designed to work with the Pro24.z and the iPro.8 remotes. The ProLink.z also integrates seamlessly with iPad, iPhone, and iTouch devices with an activated ProPanel app from iTunes®, and is fully customizable via Pro Control’s wizard-based software. Users can also use the PC control interface with full 2-way control interfaces. Indicator lights are provided for Power, Status, RF Link, RF Data, IR In, IR Out, Net Link, Voltage Sense 1 and Sense 2 inputs. There is a Micro USB port, ethernet port, two 2-way RS232 ports, IR Sense Inputs, six routing ports and an integrated 2.4 GHz Zigbee® antenna. Each of the IR output ports have a trim to adjust the IR output level. A recessed reset button is provided in the even a hard reset is required. The RS232 ports use RJ-45 jacks and can be wired to standard DB-9 D-Sub connectors. The universal power adapter accepts 100-240VAC and has different plug adapters for other countries. A mounting plate is also provided for wall-mount applications.
ProPanel iOS Support
The iPad user interface is so commonly used by customers that it is an easy sell. Pro Control allows installers to target not only iPad, but iPhone and iTouch as well. Android-based control devices are not yet available as of this writing. The ProLink.z control processor is fully compatible with the ProPanel products. Custom portrait and landscape panels can be created giving installers full control of the look of the interface. The system supports both WiFi and 3G/4G communication links with automatic switching.
While the Pro24.z is a fantastic remote, many will prefer to use their iPad for controlling and accessing their system. A ProPanel license is required to use this feature and must be activated in each Pro Control Studio software file. This is a two-step process, which involves purchasing a license code and then activating that license code on the processor being used.
Licenses may be purchased as a single connection, two-pack, or family 5-pack (any combination of iPad, iPhone and iPod touch) for use on a single ProLink processor. Two and five connection licenses can only be activated on a single ProLink processor and may not be used in another system file or processor. A maximum of 10 licenses per ProLink.z processor and 5 licenses per ProLink.r processor are allowed. The actual ProPanel App is available at no charge from the Apple App Store. It should be noted that R and Z licenses are not interchangeable, so only a Z license will work on a ProLink.z processor. ProControl licenses are registered to a specific processor MAC address. Once activated, licenses are not transferable to another processor. Therefore, it is important to double check the MAC address you are activating to avoid problems as this cannot be changed. If you plan to use ProPanel from a remote location it requires Internet access for the processor using a dynamic DNS service or a static IP address. This feature is particularly useful when controlling climate and lighting conditions from a remote location.
Local Weather on iPad
One impressive application included with the Pro Control Studio software is the local weather panel which has the ability to deliver the current weather to any of the control devices. This is part of the Pro Control Studio standard templates and simply requires a zip code to be entered on the weather properties screen. The frequency of the weather updates is also set in this configuration screen. The current weather along with a three day forecast is displayed on the screen. We tested this on the iPad, iPhone and Pro24.z and they all worked great.
Pro Control Studio
Programming the Pro Control system is easy and the Pro Control Studio software offers wizard and templates to shorten learning curve. The architecture of Pro Control Studio is similar to RTI's Design Integrator. However, it is different enough to require some learning of the features. Naturally, I found myself spending many hours updating the screens to my liking and still found ways to further improve the user experience once I put them to use. The ProPanel device will automatically update when changes have been made and downloaded to the control processor. Pro Control Studio is a very powerful software package that not only makes programming the devices easy, but also offers the ability to fully customize the screens as needed or desired. In addition, installers can re-use much of their work for future jobs making it time well spent.
Pro Control Accessories
Pro Control provides accessories to complement their remotes and control processors.
The Pro.ircb.4 IR Emitter
Connecting Block is designed to provide convenient infrared
expansion when used with Pro
Control processors. The unit is housed in a sturdy steel box and is completely passive with no additional power required. A 3’ cable with mono 3.5 mm plugs is
provided. The four
output ports are compatible
with most industry-standard
single or dual IR emitters. Pro Control offers the Pro.ire.1 infrared emitters (8-pack) that can be easily mounted directly over your components’ IR sensor window and plugged into this unit or any available ProLink processor IR port.
The Pro.relay.4 Relay
Control Module provides
four addressable relays for
controlling everything from amplifiers to window coverings. These relays can be controlled with both IR (input jack provided on unit) and Ethernet commands. The unit includes a micro USB port to update the programming and firmware and also includes a ethernet jack (RJ-45). Indicator lights on the top of the unit provide interface status.
The Pro Control system fills the need for consumers who want customizable control of their system without having to spend thousands of dollars on expensive equipment to achieve that goal. The 1-way and 2-way offerings from Pro Control are designed to fit the budget of anyone who is looking for custom remotes and opens the door for a really impressive system. This product addresses the limitations of so many of the entry-level programmable remotes from companies like Logitech (Harmony) and URC (Universal Remote Control) and has the ability to touch upon the high-end arena with full 2-way control. Users can also request the ProPanel feature from their installer to further increase the "Wow" factor of their system while minimizing cost increases. We hope that Pro Control releases an Android version of the ProPanel, much like their parent company RTI did a while back to further increase their user base.
When it comes to home theater environments, having full control at his or her fingertips is what every enthusiast dreams of. It goes beyond simple control of components, but also includes lighting and heating/cooling (HVAC). The new products offered by Pro Control certainly fill that need. Pro Control is a mature product that has leveraged from it's parent company RTI and it shows with the performance and ease of use of the products we reviewed here. Full TCP/IP and RS232 control gives installers and users capabilities that only high-end systems could achieve. The Pro Control Studio software gives the product the flexibility and power needed to become a product that installers can embrace. For those installers with customers balking at the price of fully custom solutions, there is now an alternative that many will find acceptable. Best of all, installers will still have full control of any updates needed in the future.