2016 is there, and European manufacturers have announced what’s to come…
No revolution, but clear trends
Digital model railroading won’t undergo a revolution in 2016. No new disrupting technology, no new protocol or fancy function. There are however a few trends.
Clear trend towards “touch control”
Released more than 2 years ago, he Z21 (and “z21”) command stations from Roco/Fleischmann confirmed we were entering the modern er. Tablets and smartphones are now able to control layouts.
This trend is being confirmed. ESU has released the Mobile Control II, an Android hybrid device. Piko markets a similar device as “Smart Control“, which I suspect is a rebranded version of the ESU device. However, Piko also sells a pack with a sort of “track connector”. As opposed to the ESU solution, the Piko one doesn’t require an expensive command station to connect to.
Some German manufacturers still expect you to bank for more “old world” devices though.
Uhlenbrock‘s Daisy II is great…or would have been, if it had been release in 1995. This brand is out of the game IMHO.
Zimo has announced the MX32 handeld control which is an interesting compromise between new tech and old control handelds for highly technical users; of course this is only for those using Zimo’s control system (which is very complex and expensive, but seems to satisfy some users according to forums).
In N scale, the Next18 interface is winning the war
There is a digital interface war going on. I explained it here. The Next18 interface seemed like the best alternative to me, see my post about Next18 here. It seems I was right, this interface is gaining traction.
More manufacturers are announcing models with a Next18 interface, instead of the old NEM651. This includes Arnold (Horby International), Fleischmann, Graham Farish/Bachmann Europe Plc.
There are exceptions though, the digital plug wars are not over. Exceptions include:
- Piko, who keeps releasing N-scale models using the Plux12/Plux16 interfaces.
- Minitrix (Märklin group) still annoying us with its mTc14 interface, which is compatible with nothing and basically forces you to buy decoders at Minitrix. Hopefully, mTc14 will go the way of the dinosaurs this year, and Minitrix will be forced to adopt Next18 someday.
There are a few noticeable new products.
ESU decoders are great. But the manufacturer from Ulm was missing a very small model, fitting in the smallest N scale models. Manufacturers like Ct-Elektronik (Tran) from Austria are known for their much smaller items.
ESU if filling the gap, announcing the LokPilot Nano Standard. They are also releasing soon the equivalent Function Decoder, the LokPilot Fx Nano.
Doehler & Haass
I know Doehler & Haass is not very well known outside of Germany, but they’ve become my brand of choice (despite their website still being, unfortunately, only in German). The function decoder FH05B is replacing the FH05A, with even more outputs and RailCom support. This makes it a great function decoder for N scale and even now for HO models who often have room for more gadgets to power in cars.
They are also releasing a new sound decoder, the SD10A. I’ve already reviewed the SD18A Next18 sound decoder here and installed the SH10A sound module in many models, for example here in an Henschel-Wegman train.
Decoder testing benches are a thing for digital experts or DIYers. ESU is updating its bench in Q3/2016, to keep up with newest decoders, see here.
Zimo is releasing 2 decoder testing benches, the MXTAPS and MXTAPV. Also, they are now selling a “discount” decoder, the MX600, for €21.
This is just a very small list of things to come this year in the digital model railroading scene in Europe. Beware that many products are just announced, and may not see the light before the end of 2016. In fact, it’s a sad practice by German manufacturers to sometimes be one year late on their announcements.
Did I miss anything important? Don’t hesitate to comment!