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Post by ChiefPenguin » Tue Jun 22, 2021 10:14 pm

This review was originally posted a couple of years ago. The images became corrupted & I have deleted the whole post.
Here is the text ;

Basic overview.
Please note that this is an updated review – there are a couple of earlier reviews already “out there”.
The Piko SmartControl is a fully featured DCC system using WiFi for the SmartControl handset to communicate with the SmartBox Base unit. It is Railcom Plus enabled.

There are far too many features available to list in this review, but included is the ability to add & use additional Smart Control Handsets & Boosters. The set chosen was the Piko “Premium Train Set” which contains the DCC control system, a double oval with crossovers, a 4-car ICE-3 EMU a G1206 Diesel Locomotive & 4 freight wagons. The ICE-3 power car & locomotive are both equipped with ESU sound decoders – a very good value for money set.

The SmartBox is simply an injection moulded box (that can be fixed if required) with all the necessary hard wired connections to the power supply & track.

The Handset itself is nicely constructed with an aluminium case giving it a quality feel & it is easy to use single handed.

Time for “hands on”.
The first thing I did was leave the handset connected to a USB charger overnight to ensure that the batteries be fully charged. This gave me time to study the manual to gain an insight into the basic functions of the system.

After charging the handset the next step was to change the language from German to English. This was as simple as changing the language settings on an Android Smartphone. The menu system is virtually the same as any Android powered Smartphone.

To carry out a basic check I set up a length of track, connected up the SmartBox, put the G1206 on the track, powered up & could not get the G1206 to do anything at all. No track power, then I realised that I had not turned the WiFi on in the handset settings. Once corrected the handset soon “found” the locomotive & I had sound, lights & movement. To be honest, the locomotive could be smoother at first but it is new & no doubt will improve with some running in.

First impressions are good. The next stage was to set up the double oval track, connect the SmartBox to the track & power supplyWhen the trains were on the track I powered up the system, entered the menu, pressed <list locomotives> & on the display were the G1206 & the ICE-3 together with the screen icons. As with the G1206 the Railcom Plus “found” the ICE3 & displayed the available functions on the handset.

I selected the G1206 & the screen displayed the icons for the locomotive functions. The bottom of the screen displayed a thumbnail of the locomotive, directional arrows & a speed graph.

Select lights – on, engine – on. Tap the speed graph in the centre & the locomotive eased away as soon as it had completed the start sequence. The engine note changed under load (the speed knob being motorised “mimicked” the speed graph). Now, decrease the speed with the knob & the locomotive slowed, the speed graph “mimicking” the knob setting. Reduce the speed to zero & the locomotive slowed & stopped with accompanying brake squeal. To reverse direction you either touch the direction icon or turn the knob just past the <zero> position. There are many sound effects including horns, radio messages, compressors, flange squeal & so on.

Time to try the ICE-3. Same procedure, but very different sounds, including some station announcements.

After about an hours playing both the G1206 & the ICE-3 had settled down & ran very smoothly indeed. In due course I will adjust the acceleration/deceleration/top speed settings & reduce the volume of the sounds – they are a bit on the loud side !

I have only scratched the surface of what this system can do. It uses smartphone (Android) technology & typically with DCC can be as simple or complicated as you wish to make it. Point & accessory control is of course possible. Additional SmartControl handsets can be used & there is the facility to use other wired handsets as well as computer control.

The system is excellent & initially I had decided to use the system to control our under construction exhibition layout “BelmontBahn”. Unfortunately, after a couple of months the handset refused to power up, not even as far as the “Android Man” so it had to back to Piko.

Whilst the system was away I purchased a Roco Z21 Black & will be using that on “BelmontBahn” for evaluation.
On it's return the system performed well but after a short time failed again. Back to Piko it went, this time with a request that the handset be replace with a new one. Piko, to their credit supplied a new handset & I had no further problems with it.
However, I had lost confidence with the product & sold it on, the buyer having no further issues with it.

Brian Considine
Brian Considine

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