ESU Navigator, or ...?

Re: ESU Navigator, or ...?

Postby railtwister » Fri May 06, 2011 7:44 pm

dileTTante wrote:My impression has been that sprog was not enough to manage a layout. From sprog web page --
DecoderPro includes a throttle for SPROG II allowing it to be used as a computer based command station/booster for small layouts with "one loco in steam". An external booster may be used with SPROG to allow larger layouts to be driven.
Sprog plus basic command station/booster gets us again up to $300 or more. And it's not clear whether one needs a computer interface for a booster such as Loconet or Expressnet, which is another $100. Your suggestion is the sort that I was after. Could you describe your use of sprog? From what you say it seems you use it for programming when setting up modules but not for running trains. Sprog looks very useful but its power supply is only 1 amp. Would that do for a couple passenger trains with lights on running at the same time?

dileTTante,

I should have mentioned that I purchased my SPROG II after I got a Digitrax PR3 and spent a couple of months trying to get it to work as advertised with it's own software and my then brand new netbook. Never did get it to work properly, although I did manage to get it to work with DecoderPro and my Mac desktop, just not with the Digitrax software (Digitrax doesn't support the use of JMRI or Macs). The only support Digitrax could offer was to replace it with a new unit still in it's packaging, which I had them do, hoping I could return the new unit for a refund. If you have any problems with their software, they will offer you no help to get it working other than to replace the unit. Unfortunately, the dealer I bought it from refused any refund, and he said he couldn't offer any support to get it working either. Obviously, I no longer deal with him, and I will be leery about purchasing any new Digitrax items as well. I will still use proven items from Digitrax, like their non-sound decoders, and I may even purchase a Zephyr or a throttle from them, but that's about it I still have the new PR3 sitting in it's package on my desk to remind me. The thing that annoyed me the most at the time was that in addition to the money spent on the PR3 and it's power supply, I had also spent almost $300 for the netbook, which was only to be used for DCC. The lack of decent support for the PR3 that wouldn't work had effectively cost me almost $400!

It was after all this grief that I contacted the SPROG II's US distributor in Oregon (his name is Bill, too), and he assured me that he would be able to give me full support if I had any problems, and even walk me through it in real time over the phone, if necessary. Fortunately, it worked as advertised the first time I tried to set it up, so his assistance wasn't needed. You might want to contact him and ask those questions, he tries very hard to be helpful. You may be able to hook the SPROG II up to a separate booster like the 7 amp ZoneMaster from CVP (in Texas) without needing a separate command station. If so, that might be the most economical way to do what you want.

Bill
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Re: ESU Navigator, or ...?

Postby CSD » Sat May 07, 2011 9:53 am

DileTTante, you may want to touch base with these guys: http://www.dcctrain.com/shop/. They sold me my ECoS and are a fountain of information. Plus they sell a number of digital systems and can give you a comparison. Unlike many stores, they actually carry stock of what they sell.
Mark
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Re: ESU Navigator, or ...?

Postby dileTTante » Sun May 08, 2011 5:45 am

Thank you very much, guys, for the helpful ideas. So much has been brought up for consideration that it's hard to know what to say about it. First of all, CSD, thanks for mentioning DCCTrain. Their web site has shown up often during searches and they have a lot of useful information.

All the information about SPROG was very helpful, too. I'm still evaluating the possibilities it offers. While it turns out to be the cheapest DCC with computer interface, I don't need to get the cheapest. I talk and think cheap out of habit because I am on a pension, but recently I sold off the last of my camera gear and have money for DCC.

The Navigator remains attractive. Although it's more than I need, later when I might need more it will still be adequate. I agree that the hand held control seems better suited for a video game. It's one reason I haven't bought it already, but it works, it's wireless, and the computer interface allows other options.

From your experiences, Bill, your liking SPROG and not liking Digitrax is understandable. At the same time I won't say anything about Digitrax, not only because I have no experience but also because Digitrax is the main system sold by local shop. They're nice people and one of their staff is interested in TT, so I want to remain on good terms with them. At any rate, whatever the choice of DCC, it won't be from ignoring the advice and suggestions given here. Just the opposite.

-Terry
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Re: ESU Navigator, or ...?

Postby railtwister » Sun May 08, 2011 9:37 am

Hi Terry,

I may not have made myself perfectly clear about my admittedly mixed opinion of Digitrax. I will not even consider one of their sound decoders because of the fact that it would require the use of a PR3 to do any manipulation of the sound files, and I have already discovered that Digitrax can/will not offer any support on the operation of the PR3. However, my first system was an original Digitrax Challenger purchased from AJ himself at the NMRA Valley Forge National Train Show in 1993, and I am still satisfied with it, though I have outgrown it's capabilities. Over seven years after I purchased that unit, I had an issue where it wouldn't recognize one of the newer decoders, and both Tony's Trains and Digitrax offered a free replacement of the booster, because while it met the proposed standards at the time it was made, it didn't meet the standards that were finally decided on shortly after that. I think that was excellent support, especially after that much time had passed. I still think the Digitrax button sequencing for programing is less intuitive and harder to remember than the Lenz, which is why I like my Lenz system better, but I admit that may just be me, and others may take better to Digitrax. With DCC systems, I think preference is probably 90% what you are used to. In my case getting used to one system has been difficult because when I visit friend's layouts they have so many different systems, I stay confused. I am still considering the purchase of one of the new Zephyr "Extra" systems, because I have a friend who has an original Zephyr that I have used and I think it is a really fine system. In fact, I think it is probably the "best fit" for most home layouts, and is the most "bang for your buck" of all the DCC systems on the market. I know of some shops (who are Digitrax dealers) that don't want to sell the Zephyr because they think 3-1/2 amps of output is just not enough output even for a home layout (nonsense). If you want a computer to interface with the DCC and run your layout, there is a unit besides the PR3 that can do that called the "LocoBuffer-USB" <http://www.rr-cirkits.com/> , and from what I have read, they offer full support. It is made in the USA (NC), which may be important to some. The big difference is that the LocoBuffer cannot work with the computer by itself as a stand-alone programmer, it must be connected to the Digitrax systems LocoNet data port. Since I wanted a stand-alone programmer for use at train shows, I chose the SPROG II and not the LocoBuffer. I'm not sure if the LocoNet is capable at this point of software manipulation with Digitrax sound decoders, but that is not an issue for me. I believe the QSI, Tsunami, and LokSound sound decoders are superior units, and they each have their own proprietary sound programmers. I have no intention of using either Digitrax or MRC sound decoders, anyway.

If the dealers in your area sell Digitrax, and they offer good support for their products, then personally that is what I would choose, even after my negative experience with the PR3. Also, I would be hard pressed to not choose the new Zephyr Extra (probably with a UT4 throttle) for anything other than a Mega club layout. Both the Digitrax 400 series throttles along with those from MRC and NCE look too much like TV remotes to suit me. Tony's everyday price on the Zephyr Extra is $179.95, but depending on the price your local shop wants, you would probably be better off to get your system locally, even if it is slightly more than Tony's price.

By the way, I have had excellent experience with everything I have purchased from Tony's, and (before you ask) I highly recommend their PSX line of auto-reversers and circuit breaker/DCC zone controllers above anything else I have seen on the market to date.

I know this is probably more information than you asked for...

Regards,
Bill Nielsen
Oakland Park, FL, USA
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Re: ESU Navigator, or ...?

Postby dileTTante » Sun May 08, 2011 2:20 pm

The more information the better so thanks again for sharing your experiences. I found that the Zephyr was very attractive for price and performance but the Locobuffer added the $100, making the costs similar to the Navigator, and the results still had no hand held throttle. That's just one way of comparing things. Last night, thinking more about SPROG I found that a local dealer sell it for about the same price as in US. They specialize in British railway models and import from the UK. They also handle the Hornby Elite which looks pretty cool but has generally poor reviews. The SPROG serves my immediate needs very well. Adding a booster later would serve future expansion, although I'm not completely clear about about that because some of the information from the internet is about the earlier SPROG which I think couldn't handle a booster. A little more learning about this is next. My (free from recycling) laptop can serve as the main control with big screen, and the little tablet which I rather impulsively bought will work as a hand held wireless throttle, I hope. It's not just about being cheap, there's also a bit of education and fun in putting together a system. That's the plan I'm considering at the moment. Thanks again.
-Terry
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Re: ESU Navigator, or ...?

Postby mmitchel » Tue Jul 12, 2011 11:53 am

I am also looking at a Tillig Digital Starter set.....I noticed in a Navigator manual at the ESU website that the power supply says 100-240V : / 50/60Hz. Would this mean I would at most need a European->US plug adapter?
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Re: ESU Navigator, or ...?

Postby ConducTTor » Tue Jul 12, 2011 12:13 pm

The system itself should only require 12 or so volts. You just need a power supply like one for a laptop or any other small electronic device. Someone correct me if I'm wrong.
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Re: ESU Navigator, or ...?

Postby mmitchel » Tue Jul 12, 2011 12:37 pm

ConducTTor wrote:The system itself should only require 12 or so volts. You just need a power supply like one for a laptop or any other small electronic device. Someone correct me if I'm wrong.


Thanks for the quick reply ConducTTor.

The power supply that comes with the set actually puts out a variable voltage between 14 -19 volts (you adjust this with a small screwdriver I believe). My concern is plugging the power supply into the wall. I emailed Reynaulds and was told the starter set included a 230V transformer but I noticed that the navigator literature states the input voltage is 100-240V. If this is the case, is it as simple as buying a simple plug adapter? I "think" that the answer is yes...the less stuff I have to buy the better

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Re: ESU Navigator, or ...?

Postby ConducTTor » Tue Jul 12, 2011 1:00 pm

mmitchel wrote:If this is the case, is it as simple as buying a simple plug adapter? I "think" that the answer is yes


I believe that's the case - just would like for someone to confirm.
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Re: ESU Navigator, or ...?

Postby dileTTante » Tue Jul 12, 2011 6:27 pm

As far as I know any ESU sold in N. America will have appropriate power supply. I can't imagine anyone selling a set which can't be plugged into N. American receptacles. However, while I thoroughly researched the Navigator, there was very little precise information available, and the situation might be different when buying the Tillig starter set rather than the Navigator alone.

The PDF instructions for the Navigator show the power supply but the picture doesn't include the plug on the power cord.

ESU make a radio control for their ECoS models and it looks much like the Navigator hand held throttle. The PDF of instructions show that an adapter from N. American to European plugs is included for the battery charger, so it may be that the Navigator power supply comes with N. American plug as standard.

The best thing to do when you buy the starter set is to insist that the retailer include whatever is necessary to make it work. The adapter may not be difficult to get but why should you have the extra hassle?

Also be aware that at one time the Navigator was sold in two versions, the lower priced one had no USB outlet. This is what was included with the Tillig starter set. The ESU website now says the cheaper version is no longer being sold. I don't know what is included with the Tillig set now, and another factor is whether the starter set is new or old stock. The local retailer didn't know about the difference until I asked a couple months ago and now sells the Navigator which has USB.

As an aside, I decided to get the Sprog II rather than the Navigator. The shop sold their last Sprog just before I called them about it and I've been waiting two months. They are nice folks so I'll be patient, and besides I spent price difference on a phono cartridge. Mmitchel, if you get the Navigator please post your impressions of using it. I'm still interested in buying one.
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