ESU Navigator, or ...?

ESU Navigator, or ...?

Postby dileTTante » Mon May 02, 2011 8:39 pm

After much research it looks like the ESU Navigator is cheapest way to get DCC with computer interface. The system is available locally but it appears that the N. American version doesn't have the USB connection which the European version has. The other attractive system is the Digitrax DCS 100 Command Station Booster. It doesn't have a throttle but I can run it from my old laptop. However the interface between Loconet and computer is a separate thing which adds to the cost. So back to the Navigator which not only has a built-in computer connection but also a wireless hand-held throttle all at a price lower than anything else with those capabilities.

If anyone is familiar with the ESU Navigator and knows a good reason not to buy it, or a better alternative, then I would appreciate your comments. For example, does the USB connection actually allow computer control? Software either RocRail or JMRI {free stuff).
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Re: ESU Navigator, or ...?

Postby CSD » Tue May 03, 2011 1:31 am

The Navigator comes with some tillig starter sets. I've heard that the combination of train, track and controller is a decent deal. You may want to compare prices. As for the Digitrax unit, I think you know what I think.
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Re: ESU Navigator, or ...?

Postby anotherTTnut » Thu May 05, 2011 2:44 pm

The Tillig starter set`s that come with the Navigator, have a downgraded version in the box that does not have the USB connection you are looking for. And it makes sense if you look at the price of the starter set`s (ca. 280 Euros) compared to the stand alone Navigator system (ca. 300 Euros). So you would have to buy the regular version if you looking for the Computer interface. Please ensure that you get the North America version to get the right power supply. Otherwise, I think you buying into the right system. I`m going to switch from Roco Locomaus to ESU Navigator or Command Station as well as soon layout work starts......
esu_navigator.pdf
Tillig flyer for Starter set Navigator
(181.52 KiB) Downloaded 788 times

3rd page note:
"Die in den Einsteigersets verwendete Version der ESU-Zentrale enthält in
Abwandlung zu der Serienausführung kein Computerinterface."

Translation:
The Version of the ESU Navigator used in the Starter sets does not contain a Computer interface compared to the normal version.
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Re: ESU Navigator, or ...?

Postby dileTTante » Thu May 05, 2011 5:19 pm

Thanks for the information. The Navigator for Tillig and N. America is ESU 50302 and is DCC only and has no USB. Navigator ESU 50300 has USB and works with Motorola as well as DCC and costs more. N. American shops sometimes describe the ESU 50302 as having USB and that adds to confusion. Local shop had Navigator at train show in November and lists only ESU 50302 on their web site. When I called they said they were out of stock so could not check for USB, but they can get ESU 50300. I'm waiting for reply after they ask ESU.

I knew about the differences in Navigator but I didn't think about the power supply, so thanks again for the warning. The local shop says the ESUs sent to N. America have the appropriate power supply but since the 50300 is not intended for N. America there may be an issue. I'm not too worried because I can build a power supply if needed.

Naturally the local shop would prefer to sell me the ESU ECoS Zentrale which is more than twice the cost of the Navigator. A man at our last train show wanted to upgrade to the colour ECoS but won't sell me his black & white ECoS until then, maybe November (CSD remembers him). Maybe I can wait.

Main question remains -is computer interface with Navigator successful? For example, Viessmann's command station which is very expensive has computer interface but the reports say it's only for software upgrade. Rocrail and JMRI information suggest only partial control of Viessmann unit. That is why I ask about computer working with Navigator.
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Re: ESU Navigator, or ...?

Postby ConducTTor » Thu May 05, 2011 11:13 pm

I'm interested in this as well. I'm currently using the Tillig / Lenz Compact which is as basic as you can get. At some point in the future I'd like to upgrade to something else (Probably ESU) and computer control would be a huge bonus.
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Re: ESU Navigator, or ...?

Postby dileTTante » Fri May 06, 2011 3:01 am

ESU Navigator 50300 USB, DCC & Motorola is 226 Euros from Modelleisenbahnwelt24. $318 CAD $330 USD, approximately plus shipping, etc. I tried to order last night but there was extra security added to credit card system which I had to sort out today. So I have an incomplete order waiting. May have to cancel and start over. No response from local dealer yet.

Many systems I've seen with command station/booster and throttle cost about the same as the Navigator. Computer interface adds about $100 for either Loconet or Expressnet. The few with interfaces built-in are more expensive.

CSD showed us his iPhone with TouchCab which which can run his ECoS. That was a revelation. I've got a desktop computer and an old laptop both with linux and have installed Rocrail and JMRI on both. I bought a 7 inch Android touch pad for $150. It's got lots of Chinese software on it and marginal performance, so its general purpose possibilities are disappointing but Engine Driver installed okay. Although the touch pad may not be needed with the infra-red control on the Navigator, the screen is bigger and so is the one on the laptop, and both in colour. Some comments on the internet point to infra red not working well under fluorescent lights -such as at a train show. On the other hand the train show venue has no wi-fi to connect TouchCab to DCC.

All this is speculation since I've never used DCC.

Later -- just received e-mail from local shop. He says 50302 has no USB and ESU USA has only one left. The shop web page now lists the 50300 at $340 CAD. With provincial tax it will cost more than getting it directly from Germany.
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Re: ESU Navigator, or ...?

Postby CSD » Fri May 06, 2011 10:05 am

Having the ability to connect with a computer has an even better use than controlling trains. Last week my ECoS received a software update. The improvements are excellent. Although ESU has moved on to their next generation of command station, they continue to support the product line.
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Re: ESU Navigator, or ...?

Postby railtwister » Fri May 06, 2011 11:48 am

Hey there dileTTante,

Before you spring for that kind of cash for something you must get from offshore, check out the British SPROG II. It can connect to a computer using JMRI DecoderPro and run a DCC loco without needing an actual DCC system using a virtual throttle on the computer. This feature is used by most for testing programming on the loco without going to the layout, but should work fine on a small layout as well. It's about $100US from the North American distributor in Oregon. I have one and use it with a netbook as a small portable programmer for taking to shows when we set up our modules. Works great, unlike the Digitrax PR3 I bought which never did work and Digitrax couldn't even support their own software.

For more details, see: http://bbmgroup.home.comcast.net/~bbmgroup/sprog/

Regards,
Bill in South Florida
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Re: ESU Navigator, or ...?

Postby dileTTante » Fri May 06, 2011 2:12 pm

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?
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Re: ESU Navigator, or ...?

Postby railtwister » Fri May 06, 2011 7:20 pm

Hi dileTTante,

I use the SPROG II along with a netbook computer, three or four sections of Atlas HO snap track with molded roadbed plus two plastic bumpers as a stand-alone programmer, so that programming doesn't interrupt the operation of the modular layout during a show. Most DCC systems can either program using the program track, or run trains on the main line of the layout, but they can't do both at the same time. I'm a member of two clubs that use different DCC systems, the HO club uses Digitrax, and the On30 club uses Lenz. I also operate on layouts belonging to friends which use NCE, so between the two clubs and my friends layouts, I am pretty much in a constant state of confusion about DCC. Personally, I prefer the Lenz system (I own both Lenz and Digitrax's original Challenger). Using the stand alone programming system with the netbook and JMRI DecoderPro software has helped, because the programming procedures stay the same. I'm not very familiar with the ECoS system, but isn't it similar to the Bachmann Dynamis? I believe the Bachmann EZ Command is made under license from Lenz while the Dynamis is from ESU. I'm not a big fan of the Bachmann systems myself, because their controllers look too much like something from a video game. I know the Texas On30 Outlaws modular group uses the Bachmann DCC system and seem to like it. Personally, I won't consider MRC because of some earlier negative experiences with their decoders (which I still think are crap), and I also don't like MRC's policy of not releasing their source code so that JMRI DecoderPro can be made to be compatible with it. However, I also know people who have MRC's Prodigy Squared DCC systems and are quite happy.

You are correct in that the SPROG II has a limited output amperage, so you won't be able to run a large layout with lots of locos. I thought you were looking for something cheap to learn and play DCC with TT, which I assumed would be on a small scale. If you are looking to build a large layout, or run the layout with signals using a computer, then you'll likely need a full blown system, but you could use the SPROG II for programming.

I question the wisdom of ordering a complex product like a DCC system from overseas which is not available in your home country, because sooner or later you will run into issues where you will need support. It would be better to check local dealers and model railroad friends to see who is knowledgeable with which systems before you choose, and visiting friend's layouts, you might even be able to try before you buy.

Good Luck,
Bill Nielsen
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