I was recently asked by Loxone to do a review of their mini server. Right off that bat I’ll say they didn’t pay me, I got no swag, they didn’t give me any free stuff. I just did it because I wanted to check it out and they were nice enough to ask. I also owe them a huge apology as due to other unexpected obligations in my life I wasn’t able to do this in a timely fashion. Same reason why other projects I’m posting in the near future have yet to go up and my site hasn’t had any new content this year.
The videos(below) pretty much speak for themselves. I did one long, monolithic video that’s about 40 minutes, but I’ve also broken it up into smaller digests. However I’ll try to sum up in a bit of text what the Loxone Mini Server is.
The Loxone server is a lights controller, a thermostat, a security alarm, a remote door bell with camera and two way audio support. The Loxone server is a window blinds controller, a garage door controller. It’s a multi room temperature sensor. It’s a media controller. It controls door locks, RGB light strips (with amazing granularity and responsiveness). I could go on.
The software is quite robust, it has all of the built-ins you would hope for. You can take all sorts of inputs like time of day, weather, indoor temp, if you’re home and who you are, and in turn control all kinds of outputs.
Let’s not all be silly here, you obviously need to buy all the things to interface with it.. the camera, the RGB strip, the window blinds. But this is one hardware/software combo that’s able to handle whatever your demands are.
I was a little skeptical about products like this because at face value it looks like a raspberry pi with a bunch of add-ons. Something that any nerd could easily build themselves. True enough, I say to myself, this is a DIY Home Automation website isn’t it? But after using this unit it was clear that the sophistication of software provided for this system is a on completely different level than anything I’d have the time to write myself or any open source home automation solutions I’ve tried.
The mobile application itself is very nice. I was really impressed by the functionality and the responsiveness from the input to output. I also enjoyed a few key features like saving new scenes on the fly, and being able to schedule macros from the mobile app itself. The on-screen feed back of things like window blinds and RGB light strip color selection was a nice touch.
Considering the cost of around the $500 US range, I really don’t think I’d save that much money by building the hardware myself, and after which I’d still have to author all of the software. Although I’m pretty set for my base functionality at my current home, I think going forward in my next home I’ll be looking for a professional solution, that isn’t tied down with propriety. The Loxone Mini Server may have its own line of products to add on, but it doesn’t back you into a corner.
If you’re intrigued, take the time to watch the video as this write up doesn’t scratch the surface. But be for I go on I have to say beyond the software another selling point for me was the support. I spent 3 hours on the phone with their support to get oriented. Granted they were willing to invest the time with me as I was giving them some free publicity, but that did give me the impression that support with this company was not a bunch of crickets on the other end. It’s free and it’s comprehensive. I’m actually not sure if they have circumstances in which they charge.
I’ve also broken the full review out into shorter digests:
Additionally, Loxone also has a sizable library of general overview and support videos on their youtube channel https://www.youtube.com/user/LoxoneUS. Quite frankly they do a better job than I at explaining what their system is. I also suggest checking out their blog. It’s updated regularly and has some good articles, http://blog.loxone.com/enus/.
- Cost – very sophisticated offering considering the price
- Very sophisticated offering 🙂
- Flexible configurations and purposes
- Free and real support!
- Powerful configuration software
- Great mobile application
- Very responsive software
- Losts of cool functionality baked in
- Save scene from app
- Schedule macros from app
- Not locked in to propriety
- Platform dependant
- No OSX or Linux configuration tool
- No Windows Phone or BlackBerry mobile app
- Web client compatibility issues
- Doesn’t scale well on mobile (requires pinch zoom)
- Broken on one current-gen browser tested
- System was unresponsive once
- I’m guessing it lost its DHCP lease and didn’t grab a new IP
- Cost – I’m cheap, if it was in the $300 price range I’d be all over it
- You might notice I listed cost as a pro as well…
Overall Arbitrary Scoring
Hardware – 6/10
- 8 wired lights out of the box, fewer if you want to run something else off the relays like a furnace/AC.
- If you choose to go pure wireless for lights that’s not an issue, in fact frees up the relays for things like.. thermostats, maybe even sprinklers. All kinds of things you can accomplish with relays.
- I’d like to see a USB port and software support for common solutions for retrofit purposes (zwave transmitter for example)
- Addon modules are a bit too pricey for my liking
- But you can solve some problems without their addons
Software – 8/10
- Platform dependent (stated already)
- Few minor bugs
- Themes would be nice (maybe I missed it, but the default is far from ugly anyway)
- Steep learning curve on config software
Support – 9/10
- ’nuff said, it’s rare these days to expect much here, so it’s a pleasant surprise to find out they have a practical level of support.
What does it take to get a 10/10, I have no idea.. magic maybe?
I’m pretty hard to impress when it comes to hardware, I suppose I’d have to be shown something that I hadn’t considered before or seems alien to me. However, regardless of the hardware score, I believe great software trumps the actual hardware. Really awesome hardware with garbage software is a paper weight.