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New NexStar Hand Controller Review

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#1 Eddgie

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Posted 04 October 2012 - 07:57 AM

My CGE hand controller died, so I took the hand controller off of my CG5 to put on the CGE and ordered one of the new hand controllers for the CG5.

Last night, I put the new controller on to the CGE just to try it out, and here are my impressions.

First, the good. I like the button profiles. The scrolling buttons have angles on them to make it easy to rock back and forth, and the direction buttons have small ridges on the outside edge fo the keys which is also helpful for making sure you have your fingers on the keys.

The text on the screen is smaller, and at firs I did not care for this change, but there is a "Bold" setting in the keypad utilities that greatly improves the readability. There is also an 8 step brightness controll and the keypad is now like my Alienware computer... It has two "Zones" so that the brighness for the keys and the display can be controlled individually.

Now for the bad.... And there is plenty of bad to be sure.

First, Celestron could have made the cable longer. This has long been a complaint of many people that I know. The stiff coil-wound cable will barely reach around the mount when using a C14, and the tighness of it causes it to drag and snag on the power jack and other cord connections. IT also attaches to the PC board inside of the handset, so rather than have a design where we could use aftermarket cables in place of the factory cable, we have to use extensions.

Next, Celestron did away with the Catalog sortcuts on the keyboard for NGC, Messier, Star (not useful anyway) and Caldwell objects. Now you are forced to go to the "Deep Sky" button and scroll through menu items to get to the different catalogs.

News Flash.. For many observers, the NGC and Messier catalogs constitute 80% to 90% of their targets. This used to be a big differentiator between the Celestron and Meade produces, but now Celestron has taken a step back.

Next and maybe more important. The numbers and text on the keypads are Tiny! On the old keypads, even though I wear glasses for reading, the numbers werer BIG, and BOLD. It was easy to see them even without glasses. The new numbers by comparison are almost impossible to see and you have to rely simply on their position! Miserable as compared to the old keypad.


My guess is that this was a handset that was designed by someone that is not an active observer, and perhaps not given to some "Beta" testers to see how it worked in the field.

The new handset steps back in terms of catalog access and plunges off a cliff in terms of readability of the buttons.

What were they thinking? Why don't they have amateurs test these things to see how they work in the field?

The readability of the buttons is particularly bothersome. It is the worst readability of any handset I have ever used.

Perhaps people will think I am being to harsh over what many might consider "Minor" issues.

I was one of the most vocal people regarding the tool setup of the CGE. When I reviewed the CGE many years ago, I blasted Celestron for requiring so many little tools for setup, and especially the requirement for one size Hex wrench for the mount assembly vs another size for the adjustment. And perhaps because of reviews like mine, Celestron stepped up and provided tool-less setup in newer mounts.

And maybe if more of us present our negative views in more public forums, they will listen to our combined voices, though maybe I will be speaking on this alone.

I dislike new handset, and at the worse case, maybe Celestron will re-introduce the old handset and keep it available for a few years so people that need replacements and want to be able to read the buttons will have an alternative to the new hard to read, more button pushing handsets.

Sorry for the rant, but as you can tell, I truely belive that the new Handset is a step back. It offers a couple of new features, but fails to address the cord length issue, deletes the short-cut buttons to the most used catalogs, and makes it mandatory to wear your glasses to read the buttons even if you didn't need them for the old handset.

This handset is a big miss and Celestron needs to address the key-pad readability issues.

Maybe they will give us the option to re-program some of the keys one day to act as shortcut keys, but to me, the smaller font on the keypad is something that need attention immediatly. They need to quickly re-screen the printing so that they can address what should have been a glaring fault to recognize as compared to the old handset, which is far more legible in the dark.

Attached is a picture.. Can you tell the new controller from the old one based on my review??

Attached Files



#2 A. Viegas

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Posted 04 October 2012 - 09:20 AM

Eddgie-

I have both controllers also. I find the older one more useful with the "M" and "NGC" buttons also. But I also like the raised ridges on the new one's direction buttons, useful in the dark. I agree the cord is way way too short. Matter of fact, do you know how can we extend it? If I plug in a traditional telephone extension (female/female), what kind of cable do I need, is it a reversed or the same as the DEC type cable that is straight through for the handcontroller?

Al

#3 Bob Griffiths

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Posted 04 October 2012 - 09:42 AM

Eddgie:

THANK YOU (caps intentional) ...

I have not heard to many positive things said about the new Plus Controllers and have never actually used one myself..

BUT it Seems like its true that Celestron took one big.. giant.. huge.. step backwards to me also

Bob G.

#4 mclewis1

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Posted 04 October 2012 - 09:46 AM

Al ... always straight through for extension cables.

Find a 6p6c (6 pin 6 conductor) connector and and RJ12 cable and your all set. Don't use a telephone extension cable or connector by themselves, they are wired as crossovers.

Ed, Thanks for the review. Your comments mirror my own. The other thing I don't understand is why Celestron didn't swap the position of the Menu and Deep Sky buttons on the new + HC, that way there would at least have been some commonality in going into the Menu for the 1000s of folks who are used to the original HC. Most folks who are used to the original will use those 3/6/9/Rate keys without looking.

#5 rockethead26

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Posted 04 October 2012 - 09:46 AM

I agree the cord is way way too short. Matter of fact, do you know how can we extend it? If I plug in a traditional telephone extension (female/female), what kind of cable do I need, is it a reversed or the same as the DEC type cable that is straight through for the handcontroller?

Al


Al, I just ordered this one from ScopeStuff. In the description, there is a bit about problems using standard telephone connectors.

#6 Eddgie

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Posted 04 October 2012 - 09:51 AM

I'm sorry, I don't know the answer regarding the cable. I believe I have seen an extension for sale somewhere, but I don't know if standard extensions are crossed over or not. Most have clear connectors, so it should be easy to look at the color coding on the wires.

I wish the Celestron cord where about a foot longer, and not as stiff.

#7 Stew57

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Posted 04 October 2012 - 09:52 AM

according to the software engineers the real improvements are on the inside. They have big plans supposedly for it in the future which the original was incapable of. I agree with the menu problems as I do find my meade controller requires too many button pushes. What was Celestron thinking?

#8 Eddgie

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Posted 04 October 2012 - 12:20 PM

Well, the improvments on the inside don't matter if you can't read the freaking buttons.

The picture above is blurry. That was not intentional, but just by coincidence, it kind of shows what I was talking about. Many older observers start to require glasses to read when they hit their late 30s and early 40s. They can read big, bold stuff, but newpaper print starts to get hard. The picture (again, by coincidence) illustrates this nicely with the big bold blurry print on the old handset still being much easier to read even though the picture is blurry.

And the buttons on the new HC are worse than newspaper print. This was a serious usability mistake. What where they thinking?

As for the internals, I did not really see any improvment in performance or anything else.

And why could they not have adopted the best best best best feature of the Meade, which is the great little built in LED flashlight!

Now that would have been cool.

Regardless of what is new on the inside, the new HC in my opinion is a barker. Harder to navigate and harder to read.

Some low paid 23 year old engineer did this to us, I am sure.

If they would offer the old handset or replacement purposes, I would be happier. I found it capable of doing everything I needed (except for that cool little LED light!).

#9 mclewis1

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Posted 04 October 2012 - 01:45 PM

Al, I just ordered this one from ScopeStuff. In the description, there is a bit about problems using standard telephone connectors.

That Scopestuff cable is a great option ... one of the only ways to get a nice black coiled cable to match the HC cable. The comment about connectors is likely because of the popularity of small flat 4 pin cables with an RJ11 connector. These will not work in this application. A lot of folks will see any modular RJ connector and assume that they are all the same. You want 6 pin cables and connectors (coiled or flat, it doesn't matter).

#10 rmollise

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Posted 04 October 2012 - 02:21 PM

What were they thinking?

Answer: "Nothing." ;)

#11 wolfman_4_ever

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Posted 04 October 2012 - 02:33 PM

There just engineers collecting a paycheck!

Geez... :p

#12 Starhawk

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Posted 04 October 2012 - 03:36 PM

This really answers my question: "Should I upgrade to new hand-controllers?"

Sounds like F&#& NO!

Sorry you've had to be guinea pigs. Maybe they have something really amazing in mind for later, but that sounds doubtful.

Let us hope AP doesn't go this route 8-O

-Rich

#13 freestar8n

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Posted 04 October 2012 - 03:41 PM

Here's a review of the original HC:

M? What's this M thing?

Where's the Help button? Info doesn't work.

CALD? What the heck? Does that tell me what an object is CALLED?

NGC?? Is that Nice Galaxy Colors?

What are all these numbers for? Can I use it as a phone or calculator?

Why don't UP/DOWN move my telescope like they say they will?

I want to see Sirius, but when I press Star it shows some SAO XXX thing.

I moved the telescope accidentally, but when I pressed UNDO it didn't undo like I expected.

===========

Like everyone else I didn't like the change in layout - but if you view it as a new user, particularly one not experienced with this stuff, you can see that the changes are toward a more generic interface with less jargon up front. I have no problem with small numbers since it is a normal keyboard layout, and the ridges on the direction buttons help in the dark. Up/Down were confusingly duplicated with the direction keys - and now they are just arrows tied to the word Scroll - to help disambiguate.

So - I think there is some thought behind it, and it's mainly a move toward new users and a more standard user interface that allows future extensibility. I don't think any action has a lot more key presses than before - I think just one typically. So for me I didn't like it, but mainly just because I had to learn something new. I liked just pressing M for a Messier object - but using Deep Sky isn't a huge obstacle.

Frank

#14 rmollise

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Posted 04 October 2012 - 04:23 PM

Whether you are a new user or an old user, having to navigate a menu to get to your "New Galaxy Colors" is NO EASIER. ;)

#15 freestar8n

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Posted 04 October 2012 - 04:35 PM

Yes - but since it remembers what you last did - if you do DeepSky you would scroll to NGC and then enter the NGC Number. Later, when you press DeepSky it is already pointing at NGC - so at that point it has only added one button press. (At least I think that's how it works - I don't have it with me now).

There were some other inconsistencies, like Moon and Sun being under Planets. And now, some people would even be irate because Pluto was found under Planets.

My main point is that I think it's mainly just a change that people will get used to quickly enough - and for completely new users - particularly those new to the sky and using smaller scopes with this same hc - it will be a more friendly and understandable interface without scary and confusing jargon up front. I think a sizeable number of new users would not know what ngc means - and those who do would figure out it is under Deep Sky. Same for M.

Frank

#16 rmollise

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Posted 04 October 2012 - 05:21 PM

- and for completely new users - particularly those new to the sky and using smaller scopes with this same hc - it will be a more friendly and understandable interface without scary and confusing jargon up front. I think a sizeable number of new users would not know what ngc means - and those who do would figure out it is under Deep Sky. Same for M.

Frank


So what? If they own the telescope and stay in astronomy for any length of time, they will learn about all them Ms and NGCs...

As for me? Like Eddgie, I wonder if the folks who designed this pea-picking thing ever got out on a dark, cold observing field and actually USED IT!

:shakecane:

#17 Alph

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Posted 04 October 2012 - 05:27 PM

Yes - but since it remembers what you last did - if you do DeepSky you would scroll to NGC and then enter the NGC Number. Later, when you press DeepSky it is already pointing at NGC - so at that point it has only added one button press.


If it works like the list button on the old HC (which I think it does), then it makes no difference to me since the most frequently accessed catalog by all us is named stars accessible only through the list button. No big deal.

#18 Mike X.

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Posted 04 October 2012 - 05:27 PM

I believe the worst parts are the numbers that are smaller and the cable lenght issue.
Probably the rest is only a matter of having just to get used to it.

#19 WadeH237

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Posted 05 October 2012 - 09:53 AM

If it works like the list button on the old HC (which I think it does), then it makes no difference to me since the most frequently accessed catalog by all us is named stars accessible only through the list button. No big deal.


Yeah, but if I remember right, it doesn't work at all like the old List button.

I don't have the new controller on any of my mounts, but over the summer, when teaching someone how to use their CGEM-DX, I encountered one of these things.

With the old List button, you could scroll through all of the catalogs. The new controller has no List button. It has separate buttons for Stars, Solar System and Deep Sky. Each of these buttons has a subset of what used to be on the single list. You have to know which of the buttons to hit to find what you want. There is no single button to get everything anymore.

As for the readability, Eddgie is correct that the readability is awful. In practice, this might not have been much of a problem. I don't look at the buttons at night anyway. I turn the brightness on them almost all the way down because I know what they do and don't need to look.

But Celestron has managed to make it as painful as possible to transition (or to have multiple mounts with different controller versions). Basically, they shuffled the buttons around for no apparent reason. They moved the Menu button from the upper right, to the third button down on the left. And they moved the Info button from the bottom left to the bottom center. These changes seem completely gratuitous and serve mainly to make switching from the old controller as awkward as possible.

-Wade

#20 artcarter

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Posted 05 October 2012 - 02:42 PM

Here's an idea. Make an HC with a touch screen and programmable keys for different functions, different font sizes, different brightness levels, etc. etc.

#21 mich_al

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Posted 05 October 2012 - 03:57 PM

I can't believe they would make the thing harder to read!!
99% of their target users are in the 'weakening eyesight' set. I'm already on the borderline trying to read the old one. The short cable issue really should have been adressed too. I bet the reason the cable is hardwired at the controller instead of having a connector there is purely cost driven. Hey Celestron, how about a bit of consideration for the people paying your bills (us).

Al






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