I still can't decide what to buy.

Discussion in 'DCC & Electronics' started by KentBy, Feb 16, 2008.

  1. jwils1

    jwils1 New Member

    Jan 24, 2007
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    I feel a little uncomfortable commenting on NCE (although I used Power Cab for a brief period of time) so I hope that a more experience NCE user will comment on your questions and clear up anything that I may not be correct on.

  2. pgandw

    pgandw Active Member

    Jul 9, 2005
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    The NCE Power Cab recall stack is limited to two locomotives on each cab. That is not a limit on the total number of locomotives, just those that can be accessed with the recall feature. To operate a locomotive outside of the two in the stack, you simply call it by its address. At that time, it will replace one of the locomotives in the stack.

    The number of cabs (throttles) that can be used with Power Cab is two.

    Some of these limits are expanded by adding the SB3, which adds a lot of the functionality of the Pro Cab to the Power Cab, plus the extra power. There are a couple of new limitations with the SB3, mostly to do with programing modes and the programming track, I think. You can have more than 2 cabs/throttles, and I believe the recall stack grows to 6. But if you eventually move up to the Pro Cab, the SB3 is no longer of any use - the booster in the Pro Cab takes over and runs things. To me, when you go to expand the Power Cab, you need to decide which will be your eventual end state, and choose either the Power Cab or the SB3, so you don't end up buying both.

    More experienced users of NCE products can correct any mistakes I made in the above.

    I have been looking over NCE, MRC, and Digitrax, and am leaning towards the NCE product. But the drawbacks of the NCE are:
    • lack of a USB interface to date (supposedly coming). The Pro Cab has a serial interface for use with Decoder Pro, or I can buy the SPROG.
    • inability to use zero stretching to run a DC loco on DCC (Digitrax)
    • inability to use my DC power packs as "jump throttles" (Digitrax Zephyr only).
    • Free-mo and other moduluar standards using DCC almost all use Digitrax (actually Loconet in the case of Free-mo). But with careful wiring of the plug-in jacks, I can use NCE at home if desired. But I would still want at least a Digitrax throttle (and possibly system) if I ever take my module to a Free-mo set up.
    • SB3 and Pro Cab are divergent upgrade paths.
    The disadvantages of Digitrax for me:
    • Digitrax radio currently requires plugging in to acquire/dispatch locomotives
    • Zephyr starter package does not have a walk-around throttle. However, I could use one or two of my DC hand-held throttles as a walk-around jump throttle for a cheap start to walk-around throttles.
    • Digitrax walk-around/radio throttles are not as easy to use with one hand as NCE. This frees my other hand for throwing turnouts, manual uncoupling, holding uncoupling skewers, car cards, etc.
    The disadvantages of MRC to me:
    • Prodigy Express does not have a good upgrade path - not fully compatible with rest of Prodigy Advance line. Need to start with Prodigy Advance2 or Radio.
    • computer interface has just been announced - for $280 MSRP! Of course, SPROG is available.
    • throttles are not easy to use with one hand like NCE.
    • no zero-stretching operation of DC locomotives on DCC.
    • no jump throttles like Digitrax Zephyr.
    • not compatible with Free-mo and other modular standards using DCC.
    To me, it's a matter of figuring out which drawbacks are going to annoy me the most, and which I can live with.

    just my thoughts, your choices
  3. MasonJar

    MasonJar It's not rocket surgery

    Oct 31, 2002
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    As a user of Digitrax at a modular club, home, and friends' layouts, I can hopefully address these. The only other system I have used is Lenz with their push-button style throttles (which I did not like at all) so please take all this with a grain of salt! Note also that Fred said they were a disadvantage for him, so you may not feel the same way.

    - Having to plug in the throttle to acquire the loco is not normally a problem, as you have to put the loco on the layout (modular set-ups) anyway, and/or approach the layout at some point. The only situation where this might be a problem is the emergency "steal" of a loco if needed to prevent it from falling to the floor or something equally disasterous.

    - I agree that the walk around capability "out of the box" would be nice, but when you do spring for it (receiver and wireless throttle) it at least is simply plug and play thanks to LocoNet.

    - My wireless (radio) throttle is the UT-4R, which has a directional toggle switch and a single large knob. It is very easy to use one handed. I agree that the other "DT" series throttle are harder to use with one hand.

    Kent - A couple of points for your further consideration:

    Try out the systems if at all possible. As noted above, I really don't like the Lenz push-button approach. You might love it. It just depends...

    Consider getting whatever your friends or local club has. I am not saying you have to follow blindly, but local support/knowledge of the Digitrax has saved me on a couple of occasions! ;) I don't know anyone personally in my area who I could ask about NCE or MRC systems.