Most "smart home" automation systems require a significant investment in additional equipment in order to smarten up your otherwise not-so-smart gear.
Sony and Control4 want to simplify the buying process, and bring home automation to a much wider audience, by integrating a full Control4 "brain" into Sony's new ES line of receivers.
This is the first time a smart controller of this power has been integrated into a consumer product. Both the 7.2 $999 STR-DA2800ES and the 9.2 $2,099 STR-DA5800ES have the Control4 software built-in.
If you just want the receiver, and aren't sure how much automation you're really going to use, you get some basic control features and automation included with the receiver. Control4 assisted Sony in making an extremely user-friendly interface. At a CNET-exclusive demo at CEDIA, I was shown one of the better designed setup interfaces I've seen on a receiver. As no receiver can truly be considered "easy" to set up, this step-by-step wizard seems a huge step in making these complex devices more widely accepted.
User-assignable modes let you configure your audio-visual system so it does exactly what you want with the touch of a button. A mode for watching a movie, for example, might dim the lights and switch to the Blu-ray player. A party mode might turn on the second zone's speakers and switch to Pandora.
If you want to go to the next level, there's a $300 license fee attainable from a Control4 dealer. This opens up the platform to work with any Control4 or Zigbee-friendly product. It's highly likely you already have gear at your house that would work with this system.
If you don't, integrating lighting and shade controls, smart thermostats, electronic locks, is easier, as the brain is in the receiver.
It's about a $300 savings to include the Control4 software into the receiver instead of a standalone box. But it's not just the savings of the software, it's also that the receiver is an audio/video switch, an HDMI switch, an Ethernet hub, a media streamer, and amplifier all in one -- a true central hub and brain of a connected home.
The promise of one remote to control an entire home is something I think a lot of people want. Including that potential in something that many people are looking to buy anyway (a receiver) is a logical step in making home automation more accessible to a wider audience.
Click through the gallery above for more examples of what the system can do.
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