Control4 and Savant – Two powerful options for home automation. They can both control your AV, lighting, shades, security, HVAC… and can do so from iPad / iPhone apps, or their own in-wall or handheld controllers. But there are many differences you should be aware of.

Price

control4

For our market (new construction residences and board rooms in Manhattan), Savant usually ends up being approximately 25% more expensive. Generally speaking, expect Savant to be pricier for 2 reasons:

  1. Savant piggybacks on Apple products, requiring a separate Apple device to power many of its pieces. For example, you need a Mac Mini behind each TV you want to control, and some of their remote controls have an iPod touch embedded into them. This results in fabulous performance, but naturally drives the cost up.
  2. The peripherals used with Savant tend to be more expensive. Savant’s video switches are very high quality but pricey. Control4’s video switches work almost just as well but are significantly cheaper.

Small Scale Solutions

Control4 is much better at smaller 1 and 2 room solutions. If you want to control a home theater with 1 light and a thermostat, and you want a technician to be in and out in half an afternoon, Control4 is ideal. Savant has their eye on the entry-level market as well, but its a forte of Control4.

Conference Rooms

savant-true-conferencingSavant has the upper hand here with Savant True Conference, a perfectly intuitive way of controlling a conference room that anyone can work. Control4 requires you to cook their residential theme to look like a commercial theme, which results in a less intuitive interface. Savant also currently has better integration with video and audio conferencing devices.

User Interface

savant truimage

While Control4’s interface is intuitive, Savant has the upper hand here. Zone control is a breeze with Savant, allowing music to be sent to multiple rooms and controlled with more ease than Control4. Savant’s TrueImage iPad app will map controls over a picture of your room. When looking at an image of the room you’re in, you can just touch the lights to turn them on or off. It doesn’t get easier than that. For the more advanced, Savant’s video tiling provides the best solutions for combining and splitting video sources across multiple TVs.

Savant also has the upper hand here in terms of volume control. On touch screens, Savant’s slider volume control allows quicker adjustments to the volume you want, while Control4 requires multiple presses to move the numeric volume number up or down. On their TV remotes, Savant’s displays the numeric volume while Control4 depends on you hearing the difference in volume. Perhaps most importantly, volume adjusts instantly with Savant while Control4 suffers from a slight delay.

That being said, the Control4 hand held remote is fantastic, very fast and with a superior battery life to Savant’s.

Honestly, both interfaces can be learned easily by someone who can navigate, say, a smartphone. Both systems utilize “scenes,” allowing multiple events to take place with the touch of a single button.

Music

Control4-Music-BridgeIt all depends on where you keep your music. Savant has the better integration with iTunes, with the ability to manipulate and feed up to 8 music streams from a single iTunes installation. Browsing your iTunes library and sending music to different rooms is a dream with Savant. Control4 has a native Rhapsody integration that works very well. Streaming 3rd party services requires extra gear on both platforms. For Savant we recommend the Autonomic Media Player (expensive but can stream just about any service.) For Control4 we recommend Sonos.

Both systems have the workaround for the 3rd party debacle: Airplay. Control4 and Savant both allow you to play anything from your iPhone or iPad via Airplay.  Control4 has a slight edge here as they have a wireless music bridge designed specifically for Airplay. Savant relies on Apple Airport or Apple TV, which doesn’t give as much feedback.

We like to have our clients sign up for iTunes Match. That way when new music is purchased it shows up on all of their Apple devices. Once it’s in iTunes, a few minutes later it will show up in your home system as well.

Lighting

lutron lightingIf you have a decent lighting budget and are dealing with a new construction, its a wash. The best solution for Savant is to use Lutron Homeworks. The best solution for Control4 is their own panelized lighting system. Both of these solutions house all of the dimming loads in a panel in a closet or the basement, and all you see throughout the house are keypads to select your lighting scenes.

It the budget is tighter or opening walls and ceilings for electrical is not an option, Control4 has the upper hand with a great wireless lighting system. Floor and table lamps can plug into a Control4 dimming outlet, and fixed light switches can be replaced with Control4 dimmers, all communicating wirelessly. Both Savant and Control4 work with Lutron RadioRA, a comparable solution that actually has a better offering in terms of colored faceplates and aesthetics. Savant has also rolled out a WiFi lighting system that promises a lot of the same, but we don’t have experience with that solution yet.

Control4’s overall advantage in the lighting category is for 2 reasons:

  1. The mesh network used to control lighting (Zigbee pro) is the same network used to control handheld remotes for everything else. This means that every Control4 light also serves as a node that strengthens your network, giving you stronger performance when controlling everything else.
  2. Control4 lighting allows you to program it within Control4 itself. This is faster and easier to program than anything else in the industry and will drive the programming costs down.

The only disadvantage to Control4 lighting is that the lighting and control system are dependent on each other; if the control system goes down it becomes harder to control your lights. Conversely, a control system and Lutron will talk to each other but aren’t dependent on each other.

Shades

We’re a fan of Lutron shades which come in wired and wireless versions, have high quality fabrics and super quiet motors. Both Savant and Control4 are great at integrating with Lutron.

HVAC

Savant has the upper hand here with both a great WiFi solution for retrofit, and the only panelized 8 zone thermostat in the industry. Control4 does have a very reliable Zigbee thermostat.

Security

Both Savant and Control4 can display a camera feed in their GUI. A nice perk with Savant is that you can set 3 levels of permissions on the controllers, limiting certain users from controlling certain devices.

Third Party Compatibility

Control4 has a bigger 3rd party ecosystem, with an open protocol (Zigbee) and an impressive selection of drivers for 3rd party compatibility.

We believe Savant and Control4 are the two best options for home automation. We find that the best way to decide between them is to experience both. If you’d like to set up an appointment at our showroom to do so, get in touch with us.