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    cjvitek's Avatar
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    Default Review: X10 Commaner, by Melloware

    X10 Commander, by Melloware
    $9.99, **1/2


    • Control X10 units with your iPhone

    • Expensive
    • Not universal binary
    • Clunky interface

    Home automatic is a technology that is slowly making its way into the mainstream. One of the companies that is working on this is the X10 company. They sell various plug in units that work with power lines to send signals from a base “control unit” to the various modules. This allows a user to program things such as when a light will turn on or off, when an appliance turns on and off, motion sensors. The X10 company sells a huge assortment of modules – light sensors (with dimming capabilities), appliance modules (on/off), motion sensors, security modules, wall switches, garage door openers, etc.

    This is all well and good, but they have limited control option. You can use an RF remote control, you can use your computer…and that’s about it. Well, enter the X10 Commander by Melloware. By installing a server side program on your computer, you can use your iPhone (connected to your wifi network) to control your various X10 units. Depending on what you have programmed in your control unit, you can see those modules on your iPhone, and control them from there.

    It is easy to set up – simply plug in the IP address from the associated server software (running on your computer) along with the password you choose. You can also choose which modules from your home automation setup appear on the iPhone – so if you have some you just want to leave alone, you can remove those from the view.

    Unfortunately, that is just about where the good news ends. Yes, you can see your units. You can turn them on or off from your iPhone. If you have a dimmable unit, you can even control the level it will dim or brighten to. But unfortunately, that is all it does. You can’t reprogram devices to a new schedule, you can’t use your iPhone to view any security cameras (although X10 does have a separate iPhone app for that!), you can’t even work the system if you computer is turned off! This very limited control base is somewhat disappointing.

    On top of that, the interface itself is far from elegant. You are presented with a turn wheel showing your various units. When you stop on a unit, you can hit the on or off button (or dim/brighten, if available). That’s it. I would love to have seen more information about the layout (an ability to include a map of the house, for example), current information about how the module is programmed…ANYTHING else more than as simple switch. The dim/brighten option isn’t even clearly explained – it took me a couple of tries to figure out how to use it (turns out you have to turn something off, then brighten, then dim…just confusing).

    If this app were available for $0.99, that would be one thing, but the app itself (not affiliated with X10) costs $9.99 – a ludicrous price for the minimalistic design and options that it delivers. The only real reason that you might look into getting this app is if you feel an absolute need to be able to control you home automation in a limited fashion from you iPhone.

    All in all, I would say avoid this app. It’s poor interface, lack of features, and high price combine to make it barely worthwhile. Save the $9.99 and instead buy another X10 unit if you want to work with home automatic. Two and a half out of five stars.

    Rating scale:

    * = No redeeming qualities or features, probably not worth it even if it is free
    ** = Few redeeming qualities, or is simply isn't worth the price
    *** = Some good features but also some clear flaws.
    **** = A solid app, worth the money if interested, a few flaws or problems or slightly overpriced
    ***** = Top of the line app, no problems or drawbacks.

    Price is factored into the ratings. Ratings are lowered if I feel the price of the app outweighs the benefits/enjoyment/features it provides. Likewise, an app that is a good value for the money will have a higher rating. 

    Please note, a couple of the images were taken from the X10 Commander description on iTunes.

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