Canreef Aquatics Bulletin Board  

Go Back   Canreef Aquatics Bulletin Board > General > Product Review and Equipment Forum

Notices

Reply
 
Thread Tools Display Modes
  #1  
Old 04-24-2016, 01:38 AM
mrhasan's Avatar
mrhasan mrhasan is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Jun 2012
Location: Calgary
Posts: 2,893
mrhasan is on a distinguished road
Default Aquatronica ACQ140 (Touch Controller) Review

It has been quite a while since I have been using the touch controller from Aquatronica and I think I have enough insight to share with the community so that they can make any sound decision. As always, you are more than welcome to correct me if I wrote something wrong and infinite amount is questions are always appreciated

DISCLAIMER
I have bought this controller with my own money and have been using this on my own tank. Despite all the support and great deal on the controller, this is going to be an honest review and in no sense will be positively biased towards Aquatronica without reasoning.

OVERVIEW
I was planning to get an Apex since that was the only controller for which I wouldn't have to sell my internal organs (cough...Prolux...cough cough) and is not a glorified power bar (I am talking to you reefkeeper!). I was pretty much set to pull the trigger on an Apex (jr. with salinity) and then I saw the post from Oceanview Enterprise about aquatronica and that sparked my interest. After much research online, I couldn't find as many resources as Apex has, but whatever I found was enough to persuade me to get this. And I always like to be the black sheep when it comes to equipment.

INITIAL OPINION FROM ONLINE RESEARCH
Aquatronica was initially a part of a bigger corporation (cannot remember the name) which was involved with automobiles, aquarium business was a small part of the whole corporation. Few years ago, Aquatronica split itself and became an independent incorporation. At that time, their only controller was ACQ110 or ACQ115 (the basic controller that is available to this date) and they basically started modular controller design with those. Later on, other controllers followed their idea. Back in 2012, Aquatronica kind of stired the aquarium community with their touch screen controller, which generated quite a buzz and for good reasons, especially to geek hobbyists. This was and still is the only controller in the market that is based on linux platform which translates to unbound potential. I will talk about this in a later section.

The story was interesting enough so I started digging up reviews across the forums. I could find people writing about the old controller until 2011ish before Aquatronica went quiet and so did the forums. But whatever I read, people who were using this brand had glowing reviews about the reliability and how they never had any issues with the controller failing on them. And with so many horror stories about Apex (given that Apex has much more units on the market than Aquatronica so may not be a fair comparison), I decided to go with the Aquatronica.

MY REQUIREMENTS
My tank doesn't need a controller but I still wanted to geek up the tank and hence I had very specific expectation from the controller: internet connectivity, salinity and email alert. Rest of the functionality that I needed was kind of standard across all controllers.

IN THE BOX
Initially, I purchased the ACQ115 since it was within my budget. But later, I swapped 115 with the touch controller.

The first box contained:


Later swapped the head unit, ethernet module and pc interface with the touch controller.

I got the basic package (temperature, pH, float switch) along with the salinity/density probe.

The box contained:
1. The head unit + mounting bracket + power adapter
2. 8 outlet power bar + power bar holder
3. Tempeature sensor/prob + suction cup for attaching it
4. pH prob + probe holder + pH interface
5. float switch + float switch guard + probe holder
4. density probe + density interface
6. Ethernet cable
7. Data cable (male USB ports on both end)

POWER BAR
The power bar is very well constructed, has a very noticeable weight to it and it is white!



For aquatronica, everything is connected to the power bar via data cables. Each power bar can accommodate up to 6 data cables and if you ran out of ports, you will need another power bar or something called an active hub. The touch controller can support up to 15 power bars (based on the information on aquatronicastore website) which is a lot. Active hub can have up to 6 additional data bus. The temperature prob and the floatswitch does not require data connection and is a separate port on the power bar. For additional float switch, I think a separate interface will be needed but I am not too sure about that.

One thing that makes this power unit stand out is that if, for some reason, the head unit fails or turns off, the power unit still operates based on the program buffer that it is suppose to execute. So whatever program you have for the outlets are also saved within the outlets themselves. Seems like a very clever redundancy procedure. The power unit also has an internal clock but based on other reviews, the internal clock seems to loose 5 minutes or so every day. That is more acceptable than a none functioning unit.

Just like every Italian made/designed equipment, Aquatronica is no exception. The power outlets so packed so closely that two adapters or large plugs will not sit next to each other. I just bought 6 extension cords from hardware store to overcome this issue so not a big deal but it is there.

PROBES & INTERFACES
Similar to Apex's concept, Aquatronica requires separate interfaces for each probes. Each prob is connected to the interface and the interface goes to the power unit via data cable. Aquatronica comes standard with lab grade pH so that's one less decision to be made. One thing that makes the salinity/density probe of Aquatronica stand out from its competition is that the probe has built in temperature compensation and does not require additional temperature sensor for accurate reading.





The probe holders that come with the package is functional but ugly. If you have a hidden sump, they are very much usable but since I have an AIO, they were pretty much non usable.



THE TOUCH CONTROLLER
Now to the fun part: the controller itself. Let me tell you, its is quite large which is a good thing since it's a touch screen based controller and almost every major programming will have to be done via this. There is no PC interface for this and programming can be done via web, which I will talk about in a later section.

All the main connections (ethernet, data cable and power) goes behind the back plate of the controller so no exposed wire. On the side, there a place where you can either plug in an usb drive for firmware upgrade or a wifi module and sync the controller over wifi for around $10 (typical cost of those small wifi adapters) instead of spending significantly more over a wifi module.



At the top are four function buttons which can be assigned to temporary functions like water change. Quite handy!



There is also an SD card slot that can be used to update firmware. This is the suggested method since the USB drive can confuse linux and get into a boot loop. There is also a mini usb port beside the SD card slot which I am guessing can be used to access the linux kernel.



And it comes with a swivel mounting bracket.



The construction feels solid but due to the size of the thing, it does looks a bit flimsy but not to the point that would make me question the construction.

Now to the interface. The whole environment is based on Linux which is a good thing. If Aquatronica stays on track with this controller, a lot can be done. The interface is pretty straight forward and does not require much research to get going.

The home screen pretty much looks like any touch screen devices with blocks showing the probe readings and the power outlet status. It has 3 pages but more can be added to incorporate more status/readouts. These blocks can be clicked to change status directly from the home screen. The touch responsive is not awful since it is a capacitive touch screen but the response can be improved.



The menu is more in like with what we see for touch screen devices now-a-days: icons.



Programming is pretty simple too. List of programs look like this:


And a typical programming window looks like this:



All the programming will need an input from the probe or one of the four function keys to execute unless the program is done based on time/length of time.

During the programming for the heater, I was having trouble of the controller not executing the program based on hysteresis and kept on turning on and off whenever there was a temperature swing of 0.1F which was annoying. Found out that it is a bug in the firmware and works correctly for C. Aquatronica will be releasing a new firmware that will address this issue (and few others that I will discuss later).

So, for now, I am using C. Sensor page looks like this:



Via this page, you can calibrate the sensor, plot graph, change measuring unit and change name too. A typical graph looks like this:



Not the fanciest graph but hopefully Aquatronica will make it much more fancy down the road. Another issue that aquatronica is addressing in the new firmware is that the current one does not allow the Y-axis of the graph to change.

Overall, the interface is quite user friendly and does not have a steep learning curve. The touch screen makes this controller a lot user friendlier than reefkeeper; cannot compare it with Apex since I do not have any hands on experience with it.

ETHERNET
The controller can be connected using ethernet cable or you can get a wifi adapter and use that. Either way, the setup process is the same. I am a proponent of cabled internet and hence I have it connected to a switch which is then connected to a powerline adapter. This way, I do not have to pull wire all across the house.





The ethernet interface lets you setup the internet, setup an email address that will solely be used by Aquatronica to send email to your personal address, set personal address and setup remote access.



The controller supports SSL so you can use any email address that you want. Initially, you will have to create a new email address (mycontroller@something.com) with an email service and enter all the SMTP details in there. This is where the most annoying bug is sitting and we (oceanview, aquatronica and myself) were hitting our head trying to find out. With all the inputs correctly entered, the controller kept on giving email error and will not send the test email. Was annoying as hell but eventually, it was found that this is another bug in the controller which is being address and will be fixed in the new firmware. The email alert works perfectly fine but the test email does not work.

The last setup involved setting up the remote access. You will need to open a port dedicated to the IP address for the controller in your router. Since most of us are using auto IP, this can be issue based on when your router refreshes IP address and the IP of the controller and hence the port changes. Need to figure that one out. You will need to setup your account via controller and do a quick registration. There is also a password at the very top and that is the admin password that you will need to enter for full remote access. You can change this password to anything you want. Fairly easy process as long as you are familiar with port forwarding.

Once you have everything figured out, you can access the controller via the IP address within the network or remote access via aquatronica web page login. You can also access the controller directly using a simple trick: once you remotely log in (you must be in a different network), you can directly access the controller using that IP which appears in the web address. So this will help you skip the step of accessing remote login page from aquatronica website. This is what the page looks like:



The graphics are not great for what can be done but it is very usable and clean. Although you are accessing all the data, you won't be able to do anything to the controller (change status, program, etc.) until you click on the Login at the top left corner and enter the admin password. Just a quick tip: once you type the password, don't hit enter because "cancel" is selected in default and clicking enter cancels the login; always click. Had to learn it the hard way. Once you log in using the admin password, you can change/program the controller.

Email alerts work as expected too.

CUSTOMER SERVICE
Eric from Oceanview is a wonderful person to deal with. There has been hundreds of email exchanges, thanks to my curious mind and my ability to get into troubles with bugs and he has been nothing but pleasant to deal with. He has always been quick to response and have tried sorting out all the issues in a very timely and efficient manner.

Aquatronica technical service is based out of Italy so time difference has been an issue in solving few of the things that I encountered. Alongside, it is a fairly small company with few people dealing with multitude of duties and that did reflect in my experience with them. Nonetheless, they have done a great job at answering my questions within expected time frame. I am sure with time and as the controller gains momentum, the service will get more efficient.

On the other hand, the user manual is not very informative. Unless you are familiar with previous aquatronica models, you will have trouble understanding the manual.
__________________

You wouldn't want to see my tank. I don't use fancy equipment and I am a noob
Reply With Quote
  #2  
Old 04-24-2016, 01:39 AM
mrhasan's Avatar
mrhasan mrhasan is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Jun 2012
Location: Calgary
Posts: 2,893
mrhasan is on a distinguished road
Default

CONCLUSION
Overall, I am pretty happy with the purchase. Despite the few shortcomings of the controller (lack of modules, bugs and user manual), I do not have much to complain about. The user interface is great, very easy to setup and I didn't have to go through a step by step guide to setup the internet. Once the bugs get address, more modules are available and the interface becomes snazzy, Aquatronica should be able to stand strongly in the controller market.

Hope this review gives you a good overall idea about the controller
__________________

You wouldn't want to see my tank. I don't use fancy equipment and I am a noob
Reply With Quote
  #3  
Old 04-24-2016, 02:59 AM
Tiansho's Avatar
Tiansho Tiansho is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Jan 2014
Location: Calgary, AB
Posts: 36
Tiansho is on a distinguished road
Default Thank you!

I just got my Aquacontroller today! can't wait to set it up. This post helps out a lot.

You might get lots of questions from me in the near future.
Reply With Quote
  #4  
Old 04-24-2016, 05:26 AM
mrhasan's Avatar
mrhasan mrhasan is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Jun 2012
Location: Calgary
Posts: 2,893
mrhasan is on a distinguished road
Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by Tiansho View Post
I just got my Aquacontroller today! can't wait to set it up. This post helps out a lot.

You might get lots of questions from me in the near future.
Welcome to the club

Glad this post was helpful. Sure just post away the questions.
__________________

You wouldn't want to see my tank. I don't use fancy equipment and I am a noob
Reply With Quote
  #5  
Old 04-24-2016, 08:40 AM
Dearth's Avatar
Dearth Dearth is offline
No Cookies
 
Join Date: Aug 2012
Location: Prince George
Posts: 1,241
Dearth is on a distinguished road
Default

Very informative Raied very good review it definitely has some pretty big advantages over apex like updating via a SD card and easier to program I'll be looking for more updates sir
__________________
My aquarium is nothing but a smorgasbord for my cats.....
Reply With Quote
  #6  
Old 04-24-2016, 05:58 PM
mrhasan's Avatar
mrhasan mrhasan is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Jun 2012
Location: Calgary
Posts: 2,893
mrhasan is on a distinguished road
Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by Dearth View Post
Very informative Raied very good review it definitely has some pretty big advantages over apex like updating via a SD card and easier to program I'll be looking for more updates sir
Thank you good sir All the controllers definitely have their advantages and disadvantages over each other. Haven't use Apex but one thing that is for sure is that the internet setup is much more easier with Aquatronica than with Apex. I went through Apex's instruction for connectivity and oh boy that has loads of steps.
__________________

You wouldn't want to see my tank. I don't use fancy equipment and I am a noob
Reply With Quote
  #7  
Old 04-25-2016, 02:53 PM
OCEANVIEW ENTERPRISE's Avatar
OCEANVIEW ENTERPRISE OCEANVIEW ENTERPRISE is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Feb 2016
Location: Montreal, QC
Posts: 46
OCEANVIEW ENTERPRISE is on a distinguished road
Default

Thank you so much. I appreciate all the kind words.

I am proud to be associated with this great team in Italy who are really devoted to their products. Any responses are always appreciated as we can only grow from them.

At Interzoo in a month we will be launching some new features. I will keep CANREEF updated on the modules and software upgrade.

Please feel free to contact me if you need more information on AQUATRONICA.
__________________
Reply With Quote
  #8  
Old 04-25-2016, 10:18 PM
Bblinks's Avatar
Bblinks Bblinks is offline
Moderator
 
Join Date: Oct 2010
Location: Coquitlam B.C.
Posts: 3,028
Bblinks is on a distinguished road
Default

Thanks for the review bud!
__________________
Though a tree grow ever so high, the falling leaves return to the root.

300DD - 140DD



TOTM Fall 2013
Reply With Quote
  #9  
Old 04-26-2016, 12:00 AM
mrhasan's Avatar
mrhasan mrhasan is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Jun 2012
Location: Calgary
Posts: 2,893
mrhasan is on a distinguished road
Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by OCEANVIEW ENTERPRISE View Post
Thank you so much. I appreciate all the kind words.

I am proud to be associated with this great team in Italy who are really devoted to their products. Any responses are always appreciated as we can only grow from them.

At Interzoo in a month we will be launching some new features. I will keep CANREEF updated on the modules and software upgrade.

Please feel free to contact me if you need more information on AQUATRONICA.
You are very welcome Eric. Thanks for all your support too

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bblinks View Post
Thanks for the review bud!
My pleasure
__________________

You wouldn't want to see my tank. I don't use fancy equipment and I am a noob
Reply With Quote
  #10  
Old 04-30-2016, 10:52 PM
Tiansho's Avatar
Tiansho Tiansho is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Jan 2014
Location: Calgary, AB
Posts: 36
Tiansho is on a distinguished road
Default

Hey mrhasan, as per your pic all sensors are above water. Can the tempo sensor be fully submerged?

Sent from my SGH-I747M using Tapatalk
Reply With Quote
Reply

Thread Tools
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Forum Jump


All times are GMT. The time now is 06:45 PM.


Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.7.3
Copyright ©2000 - 2020, Jelsoft Enterprises Ltd.