SmartlincTouchlinc V4.0 – Review

“Smartlinc’s innovative Touchlinc 4.0 Touchscreen controller lets you easily control all of your home systems” Well that’s what the marketing says anyway…

My Objective: To install a simple to use touchscreen that would allow my family to enjoy the benefits(??) of X10 technologies, without having to leave my laptop permanently connected to the HomeVision controller. It must be clear, easy to set up and look pretty cool (but not too flash). I really wanted it to be wall mounted. Therefore I opted for the Smartlinc Touchlinc V4.0

Equipment Ordered: I actually got the Touchlinc V4.0 (white frame with blue backlight), Touchlinc flush mounting kit, 14′ single cord solution and 25′ extension to the single cord solution.

First Impressions: The quality of the Touchlinc and flush mount kit was very good, the documentation was less impressive. Three floppy disks containing Smartlinc Suite v1.01 were included. The equipment was well packaged in two boxes and came with the usual warranty/registration card.

The Owners Manual has a Quick Start, Introduction, Setting up Control Menus, Setting up Message Screens, Final Options and Downloading and Troubleshooting sections.

Flush mount Conversion: The Touchlinc arrived in its native surround, that is to say I had to remove a number of screws, metal backing plates and white face before installing into the flush mount kit. The instructions for this operation were clear and easy to follow. Five minutes later, the Touchlinc was ready to be mounted in the wall.

One point of note: It was implied by the sales representative and website that a 2-gang junction box was required for the wall mount. I had some difficulty in obtaining a US junction box that would fit, but finally managed. It was immediately obvious however that by using the flush mount kit a 2-gang junction box was NOT REQUIRED. The Touchlinc fixes into the wall by four screws.

Initial Set up: One of the disadvantages of the flush mount kit (see below) is that once located in the wall, configuration is not possible without removing it again. Therefore I needed to set it all up first. I installed the Smartlinc Suite v1.01 on my laptop and connected it to the Touchlinc via a programming cable (supplied).

Powering up the Touchlinc, displayed six icons (LIGHTS, AUDIO, VIDEO, TEMP, CLOCK and MORE). The manual gave minimal instructions on setting up the LIGHTS, TEMP and MORE icons, but nothing on the others. Touching any of the LIGHTS, TEMP and MORE ICONS presents a grid with 15 spaces for you to configure. The Clock is simple a digital clock, with day and date. The AUDIO and VIDEO have “virtual keys” that cannot be configured.

I started the Smartlinc Suite v1.01 only to find that of the three applications installed on my laptop, only the Touchlinc application was any use. A demo file existed to show basic set up and a quick mouse click took me to set up of LIGHTS, TEMP and MORE – but I could not configure the other three icons. Setting up X10 light and appliance control was straight forward. You simply type in the type of X10 unit (e.g. LAMP, APPL), its address and name to appear on the Touchscreen. Adding menus and sub-menus was also quite easy.

Downloading to the Touchlinc took a few minutes, but once loaded, control of X10 lights/appliances was easy. Because you can configure LAMP, you can actually dim X10 lights, however touchscreen control of this takes some getting used to. A brief touch on the left side of the named unit turns the light/appliance on and the right has the opposite affect.

Now to the AUDIO, VIDEO and CLOCK. The clock is simple a programming option in the MORE icon. Press the relevant “virtual keys” and you have set the date and time. It’s not that intelligent though because you have to supply the day as well as date!!

The AUDIO and VIDEO were something different. They are represented as “virtual keys” – AUDIO has CD and RECEIVER and VIDEO has TV and VCR, plus both have a numeric keypad, power on, channel up/down etc. The Owners Manual gave no clue as to using these icons. The help text with the Smartlinc Suite v1.01 suggested that I needed to connect Touchlinc to a Smartlinc controller via a null modem cable. There is also an IR set-up wizard, but I could not get this working – again no real documentation (I need to spend more time looking at this).

I could not figure it out at first, but then noticed that when pressing the AUDIO and VIDEO keys, a X10 signal was transmitted. After a quick read of the HomeVision manual, I realised that I could use X10 Sequences to capture the signals from the Touchlinc and initiate HomeVision actions, such as transmit an IR signal. Once I understood this, a lot of configuration of HomeVision and Touchlinc took place.

There are a number of other options such as: SCENE, MACRON, MACROF, DROP-IN APP, MENU, APPL, LAMP, X10 DEVICE, PREDIM and KEYPRES. As each one is pressed, a small black graphic indicates whether the device is on or not. I have not tried them all yet and the documentation is poor.

The Touchlinc can also display messages upon receiving an X10 signal. The message will remain displayed until the screen is touched. There is also an option to temporarily disable the Touchlinc for cleaning purposes.

Things to Consider:

1. Once wall mounted, you cannot re-configure the Touchlinc without first removing it from the wall, as the programming cable connects underneath the Touchlinc box.

2. I mounted the unit at about my chest height so that my son could use it. Because of the viewing angle for me I have to bend slightly to see it. You can adjust the contrast (I have not tried it yet).

3. The VIDEO and AUDIO settings are pre-configured with X10 address (starting at D1 and ending around F4). If you have already allocated these, you may have a lot of re-work to do.

4. Touchlinc only sends one X10 signal at a time and does not queue, therefore you have to watch the green LED flash off/on if you need to send multiple commands.

5. I needed a 25′ foot single cord solution cable, but had to but the 14′ extension cable as well because the former cannot work by itself.

6. If you configure an X10 address that does not exist, the Touchlinc will normally hang when you try and turn it on. The Touchlinc must then be powered off/on

7. The grid is quite narrow and it is easy to press the wrong item

8. The date appears in MM/DD/YY format and cannot be changed

9. When you name items to control, you can use 12 characters on the left of the Touchlinc grid, but only 11 on the right

10. The Touchlinc had some problems sending X10 commands with the newer/rounder type of TW7223 interface – but none with the square one

Summary: Whilst the Touchlinc is far from perfect and the documentation is rubbish, the unit works quite well and rarely hangs or fails to send the right command. It does take sometime to get used to the sensitivity (especially for dimming). It would be better if the Single Cord Solution was just that and did not require a programming cable. However, my objective has been addressed with the Touchlinc, as my family is beginning to use it and it does indeed look very cool. I have also thought of several applications that I had not considered before. For example using X10 as a wake-up call (lights/audio etc.) – because we often get up at different times, setting a standard 6:30am call was not really practical and having to set-up HomeVision each night was not an option. Now I have a sub-menu with different times (starting at 4am) and we can simply select the time required (I still have a normal alarm clock just in case though!!) .

Approximate Price Prices start around £350.00. Available From Lets Automate

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