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Control4 OS 3 Revamps Smarthome Experience More Ease and Power

by May 28, 2019
Control4 OS 3

Control4 OS 3

When I got an email about beta testing something new for Control4, I have to say it piqued my interest. After getting the NDA signed, the info and enthusiasm started pouring in.

This is Control4’s biggest launch to date, and has also been the largest beta group!

Control4 Smart Home OS 3 is not just an upgrade, it’s an ENTIRELY new operating system that doesn’t in turn wipe out every existing system running on Control4. Instead it gives dealers the opportunity to call on their existing (and new) customers to offer a beautiful and painless automation system that makes living with, personalizing, and controlling their smart home technology easier than ever before.

- Control4 Rep

OK I get it. Control4 has just updated their Operating System (OS) in a big way. It's been almost 15 years since the original OS was introduced. It was time for an overhaul.The goal was twofold; personalization and ease of operation for the end user. This is the 3rd generation of their OS hence the name OS 3. In this editorial we take a closer look at the Control4 OS 3 and how it has impacted the operation of their system integrated into the Audioholics Showcase Home.

Beta Test and Beyond 

Family OSDI was fortunate enough to be part of the Control4 Beta test program giving me a chance to play with the OS 3 weeks before the actual release of May 23, 2019. My first impression upon navigating through the screens on my touchpad was "Wow, it's like operating a smartphone!"  I found it much easier now to switch between rooms I wished to control or to add another zone of audio. When you start audio in any zone on your phone or tablet device, it shows the quality of the stream (CD, MQA, etc) if you hit that icon and it tells you the song title, file format, sample rate, bit depth, bit rate, and # channels. Hit the house+ icon in the upper right screen and you can instantly add any zone to the source playing. You can individually adjust volume for each zone and then slide a master that adjusts them all up or down simultaneously. The function of managing multi-zone audio is simply brilliant with OS 3. I can't stress how revolutionary it was to me to be able to now effortlessly do this in a pinch.

The ability to customize the background per room really came in handy to help quickly identify which room I was operating even before I looked at the top of the screen for the room identity. The true test of course was to have my wife and kids navigate around the system to see what they noticed. My 12 year-old daughter is a little wiz and the OS change didn't phase her. In fact, she was navigating and operating all of my systems at a rabbit's pace as if she was familiar with OS 3 her whole life. Of course she also instantly picked up Movavi Video editor tool on her own to produce Youtube videos. Watch out for this future Audioholic in the making!  My wife, was a different story however. She likes to take her time and study and usually is resistant to change. She's very visually oriented so I was curious to see how she would react to OS3.

OS 3 Experience by Berta DellaSala

Zones"I don’t consider myself a techie-driven person and always find ways to still go up to the electronics or device and lighting switching, knobs and handles to experience the control of turning or shutting off things. It has taken a considerable amount of changes in getting used to the pool of technology that surrounds us in our lifestyle now days. But I must admit that my husband and children have slowly allowed me to experience the benefits of wirelessly controlling not only our electronics, but our home.

Control4 gives you the option of having their current working remote control and/or tablet pad. Like any tablet, the ease of scrolling and touching the screen makes it easy to use for any one of any age. Different size modules of the tablet are also available for ease of handling and use; not everyone has large hands like our spouses. The one touch button on the upper right makes it easy to turn on and quickly the whole screen lights up; an even better perk is the fact that  wallpaper can also be added for your eye appeal.


10" Touchpad Streaming Music from Tidal

In the early morning a nice dose of Spanish Guitar will do the job of waking you up and David Bisbal is the right man for the job. An easy finger swipe as the selection for “Listen” gives you the option to choose from all the apps available in your system. Tidal, with its highest MQA resolution of sound, is the first choice (Pandora usually is next in line).  A quick touch of the finger and Flamenco and Spanish guitar melodies fill up the family room and kitchen since Control4 also gives you the option to expand the current selection to any room in the house by hitting the "house" symbol in the upper right corner followed by the icon of the room currently playing. Select what rooms you want to add and remove the others by hitting the filter option to more easily see what zones are active. Brilliant. I found this whole process to be very easy and certainly more so with OS 3 than the last generation UI."

 Video Overview of Control4 OS 3

What New Stuff Does OS 3 Bring to the Table?

The new OS 3 is all about personalization options. Personalization of any control system has always been a challenge for fear of the end user could potentially mess up the underlying programming of the system stressing dealers by causing field service calls as a result. OS 3 however doesn't allow this to happen. Instead, it provides users new and useful ways to tweak, personalize and reorganize the layout uniquely for each individual control device.

Personalization includes: custom wallpapers, a "Favorites" option that allows users to reorganize the UI based on their navigation preferences, MQA support for high resolution audio, active media bar that makes multi-room more intuitive for ease of use. Control4 Smart Home OS 3 is designed to unify hundreds of connected devices within the home, control them all from a single platform, deliver the personalization homeowners want, and facilitate the professional support smart home technology needs. It was truly impressive how easily I was able to switch between the touchpad, my smartphone or the SR-260 remote to control ALL of my AV systems and lighting.

The modern smart home made simple and intuitive.

Control4 Smart Home OS 3 is designed to simplify the use of many connected devices throughout the home, exceeding expectations for how people live with technology. OS 3 offers more than a thousand new features and capabilities including fluid, refined, and intuitive interfaces providing one-touch control for favorite devices and scenes, at-a-glance views for security and lighting, one-touch music and video streaming, and more, all in a singular platform across Control4 and third-party products.

It’s all just smart stuff without a Smart Home OS.

The industry is at a tipping point; pundits are forecasting by 2020 there will be 13 billion connected devices in today’s homes. The rapid introduction of these products fractures the smart home ecosystem and compounds complexity. Disparate smart devices don’t work together nor meet the promise of easy, convenient or better, and consumers and their families have been left frustrated.

“The Control4 Smart Home OS is designed to remove complexity. Every home is a mix of products from a variety of companies, a Smart Home OS embraces this reality, providing broad choice rather than creating a collection of tiny walled gardens that limit homeowners.”

- Control4 Senior Vice President of Products and Services Charlie Kindel.

Boasting a broad and deep ecosystem, Control4 OS 3 brings support for more than 13,500 third-party devices and 7,500 Control4 SDDP-embedded products. Built as smart home infrastructure, OS 3 scales to the needs of the family, whether it’s a single-room entertainment experience or a whole-home automation system in a mansion. 

Control4 Smart Home OS 3 enriches the real-life connected home experience. By aiming to encompass all of the home’s connected devices, it breaks through many of the barriers of smart home adoption.

“There is a delight—almost a sense of magic—when technology comes together and genuinely enhances our lives. And right now, only Control4 Smart Home OS 3 can deliver on that promise for the home.”

- Charlie Kindel.

Smart living is installed by professionals and personalized by owners.

Achieving the elegance and sophistication homeowners want requires the experience of a professional installer. But only a family knows the nuances of their day-to-day lifestyles. Control4 Smart Home OS facilitates professional installation to make sure everything works together, while empowering families to make their smart home experience uniquely their own.

“For more than 15 years Control4 has held steadfast in the belief that meeting the expectation of a true smart home requires professional installation. “We have relentlessly built a network of trained professionals, and today Control4 has more than 200 Control4 Certified Showrooms where consumers can walk in and experience OS 3. Control4 has nearly 6,000 Authorized Dealers, OS 3 leverages the talent and skill of tens of thousands of smart home pros around the world to install, update, and manage smart home technology for families.”

- Control4 Chairman and CEO Martin Plaehn.

ComfortControl4 Smart Home OS 3 Highlights:

  • Building on years of operational experience, Control4 Smart Home OS 3 brings new levels of thoughtful design to raise expectations for smart homes.
  • Introducing Favorites, OS 3 gives homeowners the ability to bring virtually everything in the home to the top of the room in the mobile app, touch screen, and TV. Favorites provides one-touch control and, more importantly, homeowners can now see whether the home is secure or lights are on anywhere in the home without tapping.
  • Favorites provide homeowners the flexibility to prioritize the devices for each room. In a living room, the news station can be at the top of the app, where the over-island lights show up first in the kitchen view.
  • Simply press and hold to Favorite a device, service, scene, or playlist in any room. Drag icons to reorganize or delete them from the screen with a simple tap, interactions any mobile user is familiar with.
  • Assemble whole-home dashboards for at-a-glance views of the most vital devices from any room. In the master bedroom, Favorite the front door lock, garage doors, and security cameras to ensure the home is secure before going to bed.
  • Easily see only the lights that are on, the blinds that are open, and the doors and security zones that are secure, a necessary capability required when you have many connected devices throughout the home.
  • Homeowners can personalize their system and tailor it to their needs as they live and grow with it. Edit or create smart home scenes, set schedules to automate devices, and modify how devices interact.
  • handheldOS 3 has reimagined multi-room entertainment. With OS 3 share your music throughout the home with an elegant look, crisp sound, and the ease of one-touch access to the most popular streaming services. Stream video with the same intuitive approach, just relax and watch.

  •  Music and video take a prominent position with Active Media located at the top of the screen, showing music controls, and track details right at the front.
  • Streaming music and video throughout the home is simple with all-new Sessions to easily add or remove rooms, adjust the volume everywhere or within a single room.
  • OS 3 adds native support for streaming high-resolution audio in Control4 systems with the addition of MQA (Master Quality Audio). Now homeowners can stream better-than-CD quality music through TIDAL Masters and listen to their own MQA-encoded music collection.
  • Advanced security system management — With unified lock management, lock users, and PINs are now easily managed through OS 3 for all locks (with no need to create and edit users for each lock). Create a user, assign a PIN and a schedule, and apply the changes to all locks installed in the home.
  • Coordinated shade control — New blind and shade options with more than 350 new icons that represent the wide variety of ways window coverings operate, let users easily see all shades that are open, and with one-button press, close them across the house.
  • Users can set a different wallpaper for every room, choosing from a variety of designer-approved images or their own photos matched to their home and lifestyle.
  • Dealer Tools — Control4 has always led the industry with tools that enable swift, easy, and reliable deployment. With OS 3, dealers will enjoy enhancements that further simplify programming, reduce repetitive tasks, and speed up deployment.
  • Thoughtfully refined and optimized, each interface is designed for the different ways a customer will use a mobile phone, a touch screen mounted on the wall, or a hand-held remote and a TV. The mobile phone is optimized for one-hand control in portrait mode, while the TV interface is focused on the entertainment experience from the couch.

The Final Verdict on Control4 OS 3

FavoritesSpending a couple of weeks on OS 3 proved to be a mostly positive experience. I only discovered a very minor bug when turning off a secondary zone of audio it would raise the level of the primary zone. I informed Control4 about this and they must have resolved it since it's no longer a problem for me. About the only thing I could say negative about OS 3 is how they removed lighting and comfort control from showing on your HDTV display devices. The main Control4 screen that shows on your display has been simplified by stripping it down to watch and listen meaning if you want to control lighting and comfort using an SR-260 you're out of luck. A quick fix for this is to use the Control4 App on your smartphone or their own Touchpad. The functionality is greatly simplified when using a touchpad or smartphone thanks to the filter option that allows you to either control all lighting in the home or just the particular room you are currently in. Changing wallpapers per room on your smartphone is pretty straight forward and useful to help train your brain as to what room your operating. Simply hit the 4 button in the upper left corner, then you hit the system at the bottom of the page and it pulls up a screen where you can select Wallpapers to customize for each room.

  Tidal Options  Tidal Albums  Tidal Stream

In order to take advantage of the higher resolution MQA streaming, I had to go into Composer Pro and enable it via the Tidal driver. Once this was done, a new tab in the Control4 driver appeared called "Tidal Masters". This option allows you to search albums streaming in MQA. Unfortunately there is no filter that allows you to search MQA only content so you either have to search by album in this tab or dig deeper into your favorite artists music playlists for tracks or albums that have an "M" next to them. I did this for Beyonce since my internet search revealed her Lemonade album has an MQA streaming option. The normal CD quality stream was sampled at 16bits/44.1kHz with a data rate of 630kbps compared to the MQA studio stream of 24 bits 1230kbps. I plan on doing a separate listening comparison editorial in the future to see how much "better" MQA streaming is over the standard CD quality stream so stay tuned for that. 

SpideyThe whole Control 4 user experience has been greatly elevated with OS 3. The UI is much more inviting and intuitive analogous to operating a smartphone. I really like how you can see status of the media currently playing when you're on a home screen. Changing rooms and adding zones to stream too has never been easier. The add Favorites option is great when wanting to navigate between the most frequently used rooms or source devices. Customizing each control device depending on how you plan on using them is very convenient. In my theater room, I have the 10" touchpad configured for my two systems in that room as favorites to easily navigate function between them. On my Smartphone, I have my family room, theater room and master bedroom configured as favorites which allows me to easily go between these 3 rooms used most frequently when I have my phone handy.

The fact that virtually anyone can pick up a Control4 tablet device or smartphone and instantly be able to operate the functions of your home demonstrates just how powerful and well thought out OS 3 really is. It's also a bit frightening that a visitor could pull a prank on you with such ease by blasting music to your zone while you're asleep. Yes I grew up in a household with four older brothers and believe me if they had this type of technology in their arsenal of bag of tricks, they would have used it. With great power comes great responsibility. Control4 has proven that they are on the path of becoming the most user friendly smarthome control solution on the market.

Control4 Smart Home OS 3 is available now through Control4 Authorized Dealers. Control4 Smart Home OS 3 information can be found here. Homeowners and professionals are invited to get hands-on with Control4 Smart Home OS 3 at their nearest Control4 Certified Showroom location for C4Yourself® Day worldwide on June 13 from 4:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. local time.

For more information on Control4 visit www.control4.com.


About the author:
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Gene manages this organization, establishes relations with manufacturers and keeps Audioholics a well oiled machine. His goal is to educate about home theater and develop more standards in the industry to eliminate consumer confusion clouded by industry snake oil.

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