Futronix P400 – Review

The Futronix “P400” Lighting Controller is a feature packed unit capable of controlling 4 circuits of lighting by a compact wall mounted controller or by an infrared remote control handset.

It has the ability to store 20 preset scenes of lighting which can also be timed.  The unit contains the control circuitry for all 4 channels and is based around a 40 pin microcontroller. Each of the 4 channels is capable of controlling a 400 Watt Load which can be tungsten, tungsten halogen, low voltage, high frequency fluorescent or neon.

The P400 comes with its own custom wall box which is the same height as a standard UK wall switch but the width is about half way between a single gang and double gang box. At the bottom left hand corner of the P400 is a Red window behind which is located an infrared receiver and a 2 digit LED display. The display shows “oF”, “on”, or 1-20 for the relevant scenes.

The keypad has 4 buttons which are OFF Turns all lights Off ON Turns all lights full On Increment Scene number Decrement Scene number Each of the scenes is directly selectable using the Remote Control Handset.

To view larger version click on image The Remote Control is also used to program the system. From the handset individual channels are assigned to different zones, the brightness of each channel is set along with fade times for the different scenes. The P400 is neatly laid out and the connections are self explanatory, however from a personal point of view I would have preferred the unit to have been slightly larger so that it would have fitted a standard 2 gang box. This would have allowed improved heatsinking (the triacs are not fitted with any additional heatsinking other than the device tab). My own feelings are that the unit could get very hot if a fairly large load was operated for any considerable period of time. this would also allow more room for the wiring. I found the supplied box to be a little tight for space and I was using fairly flexible stranded wire for my test set-up. Had I been installing the unit in my house I feel that there would have been a fair amount of stress applied to the PCB from the solid conductors used in house wiring. Programming the unit is simple once you understand what to do, but the instructions can be confusing at times.

There are a couple of mistakes in the manual plus 2 buttons on the remote which are labelled incorrectly (Switch & Flash) but once you have got this clear in your mind everything is fine. In operation the P400 does everything it claims. A common failing with light dimmers is the minimum load requirement. Many of the cheaper light dimmers have a minimum load requirement of between 40-60 watts, below this load the dimmer becomes unstable causing erratic flickering, I tried the P400 with a 25 watt load and if performed superbly. Control was smooth without a hint of instability. Another failing of many dimmers is that when dimming you can get the lights quite low but as you go slightly below that point, the light goes out and will not come on until you reach a much higher level, again the P400 was excellent in this respect with smooth dimming both up and down. Setting the crossfade to 20 seconds provides very subtle transitions from one scene to another although I have to admit that I found it hard to think of more than about 10 scenes to program in. (There are only so many useful combinations of 4 lighting circuits!!!!)

While the unit provides the ideal lighting setup for anyone’s home cinema it can do much more. The commands from the remote can be taught to a learning remote and as there appears to be enough space to get a infrared mini-emitter beside the receiver inside the unit another alternative for people with a home automation control like HomeVision etc would be to use that to control/automate the lighting. This allows the Futronix P400 to form part of a whole house automated lighting system. As mentioned there are a couple of minor niggles with the units documentation and the unusual size of the wall box. However these are too small to spoil a great lighting controller. The unit is an elegant solution and is excellent value for money. I heartily recommend the Futronix P400. See also the review of the P400’s big brother the P410.

Approx £169 Available From…
Futronix Ltd
Unit 11
Charterhouse Works
Eltringham Street
SW18 1TD


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