Submission by Steve Edwards – Over the last few years I have built up a fairly large collection of X10 equipment, this being one of the main things I like about X10, you can start with a very simple set up and add to it later. My own X10 system started with a mini timer and a couple of plug in modules.
Included in the box are the unit itself, power pack, power lead and a small but clear manual. First impressions are good, the unit is perhaps a little bit “plasticy” but it is a vast improvement over the previous unit. The old 80s style LED display has been replaced with a newer LCD backlit one, this allows more information to be displayed, along with the time you get the house code, battery low indicator (the batteries are to keep the memory intact in the event of a power cut) and an indication of the status of the four X10 codes corresponding to the hard buttons on the top.
For those with no previous experience with a mini timer it’s a combined clock and X10 controller in one, it gives direct control of up to eight devices from the buttons on top of the unit and also has an alarm function that, while sounding a buzzer to wake you up, can also send an X10 signal, so you can get it to switch your bedroom lights on for example. A snooze feature is also available.
What makes the timer pretty powerful though is the ability to program up to 64 events that can automatically fire off at given times. Programming is simple, for example: if you set your programmed time to 14:55, and then press the ON button for module 2, you will program the external module set to that unit code to turn on at 14:55 everyday. An additional feature is for security, the timed events can be randomised automatically to switch lights on and off at a slightly different times each day to give your house that “lived in” look.
I do have a couple of slight problems with the new design though, the first one is that the mini timer only sends X10 commands, it cannot receive them, this means that if you use any other X10 device to switch the devices also controlled by the mini timer the actual status of the units will not change on the display, this is also true if you use the all lights on/off buttons on the unit itself. The display is useful for programming though, it’s easy to see what you are doing so you don’t get lost in the 64 events.
The second design oddity is the button layout, the control buttons are quite small, this is in part due to the new smaller profile of the unit, and they are quite fiddly to hit without looking. There is one decent size button but, oddly, it is set to send and “all lights on” signal. In the manual it refers to this button as a panic button. I find it odd that a unit designed to be used every day as an alarm clock should have a panic button as it’s main control.
Fortunately, for those with a home automation controller like homevision this isn’t a problem, I’ve set mine to toggle the status of the bedroom lamp with a little bit of programming.
The last thing to mention is the brightness of the display, this isn’t a problem as such, but if you like your bedroom nice and dark it does light up the room somewhat.
Overall the unit does a good job of it’s various functions, as an alarm clock it has a nice loud buzzer to wake you up, as an X10 controller it gives you direct access to several unit codes and as a X10 scheduler it is surprisingly powerful, 64 events is a lot to play with.
Despite the couple of problems I have mentioned I do think this is a good upgrade to the old unit, it does look a lot better and the new display makes programming easier, best of all they have kept the price low, at £20 +VAT MT12 at Lets Automate it is a bargain!