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Ted-ish

Roco Z21 vs Digikeijs DR5000 vs ESU ECoS

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Hi guys, looking for advice/feedback.

 

I currently have a Powercab and whilst it works fine, it feels a little archaic.

 

I thought I was sold on the Z21 until I started to see the other systems listed in the title.

 

The DR5000 seems to do everything the Z21 does (including using it's app) and more, which makes me think the Z21 is redundant?

 

The ECoS has a more traditional feel and appeal. A screen and haptic controls, which I think is nice, however it doesn't appear to the have the flexibility of the Z21 app where you can control a train and points on the same screen?

 

If any current owners of these systems could chime in with pros/cons, or even better if you've moved from one to the other, that would be extremely helpful!

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I was convinced that the DR5000 was better than the Z21 despite costing half the price and I purchased one from the dealer and tried it on my layout.

 

Like many others I found that it wasn’t a replacement for the Z21 because it wasn’t reliable enough for me, the Z21 just worked (and still does), I don’t have to do anything with it - in fact I never even look at it, whereas the DR5000 caused me to have runway loco - never, ever seen this before, and I had a couple of occasions when locos would creep along despite throttles being set to zero. Then there were the LocoNet issues.

 

i went back to my Z21 (which sensibly I had kept) and sold the DR5000 and my Z21 collects dust in the drawer because I never need to look at it or operate any buttons, plus it is fully configurable over the network.

 

the DR5000 is a good buy, but you don’t get all that ‘functionality’ at half the price without something being compromised and I couldn’t accept those compromises. I still use other Digikeijs kit and find it very good, but like many others I found the DR5000 unreliable and that isn’t something I was willing to live with.

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@Ted-ish I may have been unlucky, or perhaps I am more demanding as I use automation on my layout, though the issues weren’t related to the automation as they happened when using my WiFi MultiMaus.

 

Regrettably I know I am not alone in my views, hopefully some of the others here who experienced similar will post here.

 

Fir the record, there are 3 people I know that replaced their DR5000 with Z21s and their Z21 experience is similar to mine - it is bulletproof and does exactly what it is meant to with zero fuss - 2 off them run Exhibition layouts with them, both having exhibited at Warley.

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Not sure about that. My DR5000 has been excellent for the past couple of years. (Well apart from one Loconet issue that turned out to be the booster having a fault with one of the RJ12 pins. In my case the 5000 replaced a Digitrax Super Chief that dates from the 90s. (now configured as an extra booster) It has been pushed far more than the average home layout during that time. It has been used (as have others) in NMRA Freemo meets. These are large disparate setups with as many as 40 locos on several hundred feet of track at once. It isn't perfect as there are a few quirks that take getting used to but if I was starting again today from scratch, it would be the DR5000 + wlanmaus + JMRI. Unlike Iain, I'm the opposite from automation and prefer manual. Car sorting, (shunting) prototypical operations. At the last Freemo meet that I provided power for, the DR5000 worked with 2 Digitrax boosters, 2 DR5033 boosters, 3 people running Z21 phone apps, a multimaus, around a dozen people with either WiThrottle or Engine Driver, tethered DT402 Digitrax throttles, Digitrax radio interface and throttles, and an old Lenz throttle. There were over 50 locos registered to run with at least 10 in motion at any one time. Apart from the one Loconet issue that turned out to be a bad pin in one of the boosters, it ran flawlessly for 2 very long days. There are at least half a dozen other DR5000s in use for large modular meets. The biggest limitation seems to be in the built in Z21 protocol wifi capacity. 

Edited by AndrewC
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I chose the Z21 over the ECoS because I liked the WiFi by default approach. I have a large enough layout that being able to wander around it doing things to trains matters.

I have also found the system to be pretty much bullet proof. I particularly like the 'built in' speed matching software, which allows you to store the speed characteristics of each loco/mu and then automatically compensates when you run them in multiple. Or consisting without programming any CV's. I have not regretted my choice, but I haven't actually tried the other systems.

 

If you still want a more traditional control handset then you can always add a Roco Multimaus to the mix.

 

Regards,

 

John P

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I will second the Z21 as it is the easiest system to use either with a phone or an iPad and it can be updated online so can be said to be future proof.

 I have had mine for four years and previously used a PA2 for about 15+ years l have also used a Hornby Elink on an N gauge layout but find it a bit limited against the Z21 and the PA2.

regards mike 

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Hi,

I am also a Z21 user, albeit with rather more limited experience. I am still (4 years later!) struggling to love it for reasons unknown - it hasn't quite gelled with me yet even though I am fairly proficient with it and can use it with a (Fleischmann) Multimaus. Sorry to the other fans, I still love my NCE Powercab!

My good friend, James, has the current ECoS and even though I only have limited experience with that, I really like it. In hindsight, I should have gone for the ECoS too, it is really fantastic!

Cheers,

John.

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Z21 here as well (make sure you get the black Z21 not the white z21 for full functionality) Easy set up, A Good Gui interface on both android and IOS so you can use multiple tablets or phones as your controller, connect a  wired or wireless multimouse if you prefer that style of handset and also use jmri on your computer,or all of them at once if you wish !  I tend to use an Ipad as my master device to load in and program new locos or set up a new layout, and then export the layout via email to various other devices (Nexus 7, moto g5, huai phone ) so all the settings for that layout and its locos are updated. You can set up as many layouts as you like, so one for steam, one for diesel, one for . . Well as many as you want and each latyout has a unique list of locos, track settings etc.The base unit and App firmware and  software are updated through  the App when you connect one of the devices running the App, to the internet. So both are kept up to date with the latest releases. The grandkids love running trains using a tablet and you can control the trains they are running or kill the system to stop crashes from YOUR tablet  Instantly. Definately recommended. Been at least 2 pretty much trouble free years use here 

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I really like my ECoS, I use it with JMRI so I can still use my phone as a throttle if I want to. I personally like physical buttons and controls, and couldn't use a phone/tablet as my sole controller. I know you can use a Multimaus etc with the Z21, but still...

 

You can control a loco using the physical controls on the ECoS (the speed knob and the function buttons) whilst having the screen showing the mimic panel, but you have to go to another screen to select a different train, if that's what you mean? You can't have split screen with the loco selection on one side and the points on the other, for example.

 

Becuase you have the physical buttons though I've never really found this a problem.

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I'm an ECoS user, and I have to say it hasn't let me down at all.  It just seems to work.  I intend to start using the ECoS with iTrain at somepoint soon, but at the moment enjoy the walkabout freedom I get from viewing the ECoS screen via VNC on my tablet.

 

The only bit that makes me wonder if Z21 would be better is the cost of using Railcom feedback with the ESU products.  I look at the the cost of the Digikeijs Railcom feedback module with total jealousy.

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Thanks all, some really interesting feedback here.

 

You've given me plenty to think about!

(who wants to buy a lightly used Power Cab :lol:)

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On 21/10/2019 at 20:55, WIMorrison said:

@55020 and the DR5088RC work very well with the Z21 and iTrain https://www.rmweb.co.uk/community/uploads/emoticons/default_wink3.gif

Sorry bit off topic but my dad want's to use iTrain for his layout, currently trying a Digikeijs DR4088CS feedback through S88 to his ECoS, but wasn't sure if this will display the loco number in the block? Will he need Railcom for this? I have put in two touch screens for him a 32" which he runs the ECoS off via VPN, then a 55" touchscreen (bought for £200) for the iTrain switchboard works perfectly. I have looked into the DR5088RC and wondered if this could be used with the ECoS through the ESU Lnet converter?    

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Yes, it shoudl work with the ECoS - in fact slightly better as the ECoS can recognise the locos using Railcom+ - however you will need at least Railcom enabled DCC decoders on the locos to make this happen and DR5088RC to pass the Railcom and occupancy data via Loconet back to the ECoS

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Ive used all three controllers. Id say each has its strong points and weak points 

 

The DR5000 is good value for what it says it can do, and its a good choice if you intend to use other modules in the range 

 

Teh Z21 is very flexible and has support for lots of busses , including a sniffer bus , its my preferred goto unit within the three mentioned ( there are aspects of the app I dont like ) 

 

The ECoS unit is very well built , buts its pricey and the haptic features get "old" fast .  Its got a significant learning curve and is not a walk up and go controller 

 

I used Prodigy and NCE as well and would rate them behind the Z21

 

The drawback of the Z21 is there isn't a good non smartphone throttle choice , theWif MultiMaus is fairly awful and eats batteries 

 

All thre choices will run your layout , the choice is done to preference  and cost 

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49 minutes ago, Junctionmad said:

The drawback of the Z21 is there isn't a good non smartphone throttle choice , theWif MultiMaus is fairly awful and eats batteries 

 

 

Might depend if you "think outside the maker's current new items".   So, there is the old cabled MultiMaus.  Or different maker candidates could include Lenz LH101 (their new throttle, which I find to be quite good), or, depending on some of the obscurer aspects of LocoNet playing ball, the Uhlenbrock Daisy II.  

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56 minutes ago, Junctionmad said:

The drawback of the Z21 is there isn't a good non smartphone throttle choice , theWif MultiMaus is fairly awful and eats batteries 

 

I quite like the WiFi Multimaus, it's responsive and has a centre zero which makes it for me.

I use it more than the Z21 smartphone/tablet app.

I've installed high capacity NiMh batteries and it lasts long enough for me, I keep a second set ready (I'm using Eneloop, recommended by Iain, which have minimal self discharge.)

 

The Z21 IMHO is streets ahead of the DR5000 which I used before.

It just works, no iffy connection problems like the DR5000.

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1 hour ago, Junctionmad said:The drawback of the Z21 is there isn't a good non smartphone throttle choice , theWif MultiMaus is fairly awful and eats batteries 

 

 You can plug almost any handset into the Z21 that you want to - any XpressNet or LocoNet handset will work - I currently have a very old borrowed Digitrax DT400 plugged in and it works perfectly, co-operating with the WiFi Multimaus and iTrain.

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Well I went for the DR5000, I was a little tired of the limited ability with a NCE Powercab.    I Have bought the DR5000 supported by a 5033 booster and a simple cabled PIKO handset as backup.  (However the Powercab is still in use on my exhibition layout)

 

I did try iTrain for a couple of months which was excellent apart from you have to pay the pro price of over £300 to use its app.  You can use the Z21 app but it does not connect to the iTrain loco database, you have to load the Z21 app separately which is limiting.

 

I have since gone back to using JMRi and created a panel, loco database and can use the iOS app to drive the loco's from the central database (roster).

 

I have had no problems with the DR5000 other than the Z21 app freezing causing runaway trains, but that was only with that app.  I have not experienced any other issues with the DR5000 so far.

 

regards

 

Doug

 

 

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59 minutes ago, Dougjuk said:

 

I have had no problems with the DR5000 other than the Z21 app freezing causing runaway trains, but that was only with that app.  I have not experienced any other issues with the DR5000 so far.

 

regards

 

Doug

 

 

Yes that's one of the problems I found.

Another was it occasionally lost contact with a computer whilst driving trains, leaving the trains uncontrolled.

It's not a one off as I had two DR5000 and they both exhibited the same problems (Firmware 1.5.3)

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35 minutes ago, melmerby said:

Yes that's one of the problems I found.

Another was it occasionally lost contact with a computer whilst driving trains, leaving the trains uncontrolled.

It's not a one off as I had two DR5000 and they both exhibited the same problems (Firmware 1.5.3)

That’s very interesting, not had that happen to me as yet.  My firmware is 1.5.5.  

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As Keith knows that is also why I got rid of the DR5000 I had :( with the only difference being that I gave up at v1.5.4.

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