With MACNA 2016 just around the corner and the new product season starting to heat up, Neptune Systems got back in the game on May 23 and released a video highlighting their next gen Apex reef controller. From the video, we can see tweaks in the web based app, new modules, and overall refinement to the design elements of the world’s most popular reef controller. Let’s take a closer look at some of the things that we can see from this video and ponder some of the things we don’t see.
Redesigned Energy Bar 832
In the video released by Neptune Systems yesterday, one of the biggest visual differences we can see in this new Apex product line is the redesign of the 8 outlet power module. The new name for this is the Energy Bar 832. Gone are the block shaped energy bar 8 looks, replaced instead with a sleek rounded look, some added ports, and intelligent visual indicators.
The energy bar 832 now comes standard with 3 1Link ports which enable those who use Neptune’s DOS, WAV pumps, and “future products”. This will reduce a good amount of the complexity that it used to take to hook new accessories in to an existing Apex.
There is also a new set of LED indicators, one for each outlet which will show you at a glance if any one port is on/off, as well as if one particular port is taking up too many amps of energy and is risking overload. This is a feature I know I could have used many years ago when I was running multiple metal halide ballasts off my EB8’s! Overall, this looks like one of the biggest upgrades that this new Apex controller is bringing to market.
New Apex Control Module
What appears to be the master control module on the new Apex, contains many of the familiar ports that many of us have on our existing controllers, but at a much higher density and with a few more bells and whistles than before. This newly designed control module also has the ability to pivot from its mount, allowing you to face the ports so you can see where to plug things in. This is a minor, but UBER helpful feature for those that reef keep in small tight spaces (ahem, as in all of us).
There are also more ports built in to this single module than we have seen in prior Apex controllers. You can now plug in to a single module, your pH, Temp, ORP, Aux Power, and Salinity probes withOUT having to purchase more PM1, PM2, etc modules. This is something that we have been hoping Neptune would do for years now as it breaks down the barriers of entry for many new reefers who are contemplating getting an Apex. We hope that Neptune builds on this concept and creates new ADD-ON modules in this same format. For those of us with multiple tanks and systems, placing these all in one modules at each tank will increase Neptune’s probe sales, while also keeping our reef footprint clean and clutter free from daisy chained PM modules.
Another enhancement that we can see on the new controller is the addition of WiFi, ending years of reefers having to run a cat 5 cable over to where your reef tank is setup. There still appears to be an Ethernet jack on the main apex module and a pair of 2 more Ethernet looking ports that were not described on this video. What would a reefing press release be without a little mystery!
From what we can see on the video, it looks like Apex’s Fusion web app is getting some enhancements as well. In the video, Terrence Fugazzi VP Sales and Marketing describes some of the new layouts that give a more clear visual representation around the new EB832’s power usage and even allows you to track this over time. This is a simple but nice addition as we should all look at ways we can reduce our electrical usage in a hobby that definitely can drain some juice!
We also see Terrence talking about new dynamic updates that you can do to your controller. From what the video shows, this is also being done from an app and not from a browser, interesting. We also see that they are running what is probably the new beta code 5.00_5L16T that will eventually release to the public.
What we didn’t see
This initial release shows some tweaks in addition to some major enhancements to what has been the leading reef controller for well over a decade. There were still a couple items that we didn’t see or would like some clarity on as this product gets ready to come to market.
First up would be the accessory modules. While not showing how to expand or add to the main controller might lead us to believe that apex will still rely on the old PM1, PM2, VDM type modules for future expansion, Neptune’s past history of product updates does make you wonder if they are just keeping some fun little nuggets like that up their sleeves as we get closer to MACNA. Maybe there is a magic module that looks very similar to the new controller, just without the CPU that we will be able to use as a slave in our other tanks.
Next, just what were those 2 additional ethernet ports for on the Apex controller? Are they going to be the new way to connect modules instead of USB? Will they be for some new type of module or light controller?
Outlet naming is something that has probably had many a reef keeper sitting, staring at their Apex controller late at night, trying to abbreviate in 12 characters of less what they are going to call their “ATI 6 bulb 2 Blue Plus 2 Purple +” outlet. It might be a limitation of the code Apex is using or something to do with the OS that limits each outlet to 12 characters, but it sure would be nice to have a little extra room to name things or at least a sub menu or line to describe them that would show when you hover your mouse over it ( hint hint Curt ;-).
Overall, as we come in to the new product season, we are excited to see Neptune debut a new product. We have been using their gear since 2002 when it was X10 based and it is exciting to see how far they have come over the last 15 years.