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Thoughts on Prodigy Express

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Thoughts on Prodigy Express
Posted by Allegheny2-6-6-6 on Sunday, May 4, 2008 9:47 AM
I know the Prodigy Express is a "lower end" or entry level DCC system but over all do you guys think it's worth buying? Reason I ask is I have a chance to pick one up for 50% off whihc works out to $80.00 from a local store going out of business. It's being held for me so I'm not worried about anyone buying it. I have heard  if you do have problems MRC is pretty liberal about repairs and I was also told that it could be upgraded to an Advance squared unit. I don't believe this to be true. I think that can only be done to a Prodigy Advance unit. I figure for the price it might be worth it to use on either my test track or for a small N gage switching layout I have in my office at work. Yup have an N gage 12 track switching yard complete with structures and scenery on a large window shelf in my office. A very popular place at lunch time for the model railroad nuts in the company.  I think they would have frowned about the lift out bridge or we would have gone round the room.
Just my 2 cents worth, I spent the rest on trains. If you choked a Smurf what color would he turn?
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Posted by Ibeamlicker on Sunday, May 4, 2008 6:53 PM
I have the express and it works great for me,some people might find it limiting,but it does everything i need it to.As for upgrading to advance I dont know anything about that.For your small work layout and eighty bucks you cant go wrong.
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Posted by Phoebe Vet on Sunday, May 4, 2008 7:10 PM
Sorry, I have never used it.  I have Digitrax Super Chief, but If it's new, it sounds like a deal worth risking.

Dave

Lackawanna Route of the Phoebe Snow

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Posted by selector on Sunday, May 4, 2008 7:17 PM

You might find Joe Fugate's thread on DCC enlightening.  It should be near this page if not directly on it.  Try page two.  He goes into a lot of useful detail that may dissuade you even from this apparently sweet deal.  Or, if you have firm requirements in mind that are met, today and tommorow, by the PA, then enjoy the purchase when you have it.

-Crandell

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Posted by jfugate on Monday, May 5, 2008 4:49 PM
 davidmbedard wrote:
 selector wrote:

You might find Joe Fugate's thread on DCC enlightening.  It should be near this page if not directly on it.  Try page two.  He goes into a lot of useful detail that may dissuade you even from this apparently sweet deal.  Or, if you have firm requirements in mind that are met, today and tommorow, by the PA, then enjoy the purchase when you have it.

-Crandell

He is looking at the PE, not the PA.

I personally would look beyond he PE.  At the same price point you can get the Zephyr, which has more features and far more upgradeability than the PE.

David B

I think it's useful to compare the PE to its nearest competitor in form factor and price -- the NCE Powercab. Here's a summary comparison.

Tonys Train Exchange's prices:

MRC Prodigy Express: $139
NCE PowerCab: $150

Features:

Maximum current
NCE: 1.7 amps MRC: 1.6 amps

Read decoder values on the Programming track?
NCE: Yes MRC: No

Decoder-based consisting?
NCE: Yes MRC: Yes

Command-station consisting?
NCE: Yes MRC: No

Yard-mode throttle?
NCE: Yes MRC: No

Built-in fast clock?
NCE: Yes MRC: No

Handle accessory decoders?
NCE: Yes MRC: No

Maximum Function keys
NCE: 12 MRC: 16

Comments: The MRC Prodigy Express DCC system is a low-level DCC
starter system with basic DCC fuctionality, but is quite limited when
compared with the likes of the NCE PowerCab system. For an extra $11,
you get a full-featured system in the NCE PowerCab.

Also, even though the "specs" for the MRC system says it will handle
up to 20 cabs, the system as delivered will only handle one additional
cab (same for the NCE PowerCab), and with regard to capacity, both
systems will handle 3-5 locos (assuming a max current draw of 0.3 -
0.5 amps per loco).

Not being able to read back decoder values with the PE system is a major
shortcoming. The first time you need to debug a problem, you will want to
know what the CV (configuration variable) values are in the decoder.  With
the PE system, you're stuck -- you can't read them.

Another shortcoming with the PE system is the inability to do command
station consists. Consisting is how you create multiple loco lashups, like
double headers or diesel A-B sets. While the PE does decoder consisting,
the most flexibility comes when you can also do command station consists.

IMO, it's no contest. Spend the extra $11 and get yourself a PowerCab.

It's also true that for a few dollars more than the PowerCab, you can get a Digitrax Zephyr and have a system capable of handling up to 10 throttles, plus two ordinary DC powerpacks as throttles, plus will run one DC loco without a decoder.

The Zephyr has a stationary power pack form factor (can't take it to a friend's layout easily) and has a bit less friendly user interface, but in terms of the features you get for the price, the Zephyr is pretty amazing. 

Joe Fugate Modeling the 1980s SP Siskiyou Line in southern Oregon

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Posted by fwright on Monday, May 5, 2008 6:10 PM

The OP is talking about buying a Prodigy Express for $80, not $139, $150, or $169.  So the NCE and Digitrax competition is close to twice the price.  So the real question is whether or not the OP is going to need the extra features provided by the Powercab or Zephyr.

Although one cannot read CVs, I've heard nobody state you can't write CVs with the PE - which is one of the major drawbacks to the Bachmann.  You have to record what you have written to each CV - a recommended practice for the more featured system as well.  You have 4 digit addressing and limited consisting - the basics for a small layout.

For $80, if the PE limitations can be lived with, it looks like a great improvement over the Bachmann for not much more money.  And later on, when more features are wanted, the PE can be used as a second throttle with the Prodigy Advance2 or Prodigy wireless.

If I were offered a PE for $80, I'd be hard put not to get started in DCC that way.

just my thoughts

Fred W

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Posted by jfugate on Monday, May 5, 2008 7:44 PM
 fwright wrote:

The OP is talking about buying a Prodigy Express for $80, not $139, $150, or $169.  So the NCE and Digitrax competition is close to twice the price.  So the real question is whether or not the OP is going to need the extra features provided by the Powercab or Zephyr.

If I were offered a PE for $80, I'd be hard put not to get started in DCC that way.

just my thoughts

Fred W

True enough, Fred, but that's not a typical situation and I was thinking of information that would be of help to more than the OP. The OP can read between the lines, which should not be hard to do.

The other issue is going with a cheapie MRC system kind of puts you in the MRC camp longer term if you want to expand later on. That is, unless you want to just later chalk the $80 up to learning and start over with another vendor's system that has more of an upper-end track record. MRC's newest upper-end system still needs some time to "bake in" to see how well it will hold up long term, and to see if the robust features like a computer interface and wireless will be price competitive and reliable.

I tend to think more in the big-picture, long-term view. I wonder "if I waited another month or two, I could have $160 saved up, and I could get a Zephyr" and why that isn't a better option than just throwing $80 at first thing to come along right now?

I'm not sure one could get $80 worth of education out of a PE system in just a couple months -- and would you not also get the same education out of a more full-featured starter system if you just didn't let that $80 burn a hole in your pocket?  What's the rush? Why not get a non-throw-away system with more expansion options?

Only the OP can answer these questions for himself. But for the larger population on this forum that don't have $80 MRC PE systems falling in their laps, the more typical price point of the MRC PE system makes it even less of a good buy. 

Joe Fugate Modeling the 1980s SP Siskiyou Line in southern Oregon

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Posted by Allegheny2-6-6-6 on Monday, May 5, 2008 9:05 PM

Fred thanks for understanding what I was trying to say. It's not about comparing Apples to Oranges but rather for $80 is it a fairly decent entry level DCC system. I know it's not a NCE power house pro but then again I also know it's not an Atlas or a Bachmann system either.

I figure worse case scenario is I use it in my shop on my test track or eventually give it to my son for his railroad. At any rate for $80 it's not a bad deal I would never pay the $160 normal selling price.

Just my 2 cents worth, I spent the rest on trains. If you choked a Smurf what color would he turn?
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Posted by Mailman56701 on Monday, May 5, 2008 9:10 PM
 davidmbedard wrote:
 selector wrote:

You might find Joe Fugate's thread on DCC enlightening.  It should be near this page if not directly on it.  Try page two.  He goes into a lot of useful detail that may dissuade you even from this apparently sweet deal.  Or, if you have firm requirements in mind that are met, today and tommorow, by the PA, then enjoy the purchase when you have it.

-Crandell

He is looking at the PE, not the PA.

I personally would look beyond he PE.  At the same price point you can get the Zephyr, which has more features and far more upgradeability than the PE.

David B

 

 

  Not at $80 he can't (get a Zephyr).  Great price on a fine system; no brainer, get it.  

 

"Realism is overrated"
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Posted by Mailman56701 on Tuesday, May 6, 2008 7:42 AM
 davidmbedard wrote:

 

  Not at $80 he can't (get a Zephyr).  Great price on a fine system; no brainer, get it.  

 

Hold on a second there.....he bought the PE on Ebay.  I have seen some Zephyrs go for the same pricepoint.

Look at the MRSPs.  The Zephyr is 10 dollars more.

http://www.modelrectifier.com/train-controls/dcc-prodigy.asp

http://www.digitrax.com/prd_zep_basic_set.php

Yes, the PE and the Zephyr are at the same price points.

David B

 

  Really ?  I looked for a Zephyr on Ebay for over a year recently; never saw one (and I saw many) go for less than $150........

 

  And since, once again, he didn't pay MSRP for the PE, comparing MSRP price points between it and a Zephyr is irrelevant.

   

 

  

"Realism is overrated"
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Posted by jfugate on Tuesday, May 6, 2008 10:43 AM

 Mailman56701 wrote:
And since, once again, he didn't pay MSRP for the PE, comparing MSRP price points between it and a Zephyr is irrelevant.

Only for the OP, but not for all the rest of us here on the forum ... unless you know a good source of $80 PE systems in quantity. Smile,Wink, & Grin [swg] 

Joe Fugate Modeling the 1980s SP Siskiyou Line in southern Oregon

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Posted by Mailman56701 on Tuesday, May 6, 2008 2:23 PM
 jfugate wrote:

 Mailman56701 wrote:
And since, once again, he didn't pay MSRP for the PE, comparing MSRP price points between it and a Zephyr is irrelevant.

Only for the OP, but not for all the rest of us here on the forum ... unless you know a good source of $80 PE systems in quantity. Smile,Wink, & Grin [swg] 

   I'm sure that anyone else on the forum who was PE hunting would find out soon enough on their own, if they hadn't already, when shopping, that the going rate for a PE is not $80.

   Besides, it stated right in the OP's post, "Reason I ask is I have a chance to pick one up for 50% off which works out to $80 from a local store going out of business."

   Seems plain enough to me.

 

"Realism is overrated"
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Posted by davekelly on Tuesday, May 6, 2008 2:47 PM
Pretty happy here with my PE.  Yup it is entry level, but since then I've added an 8 amp booster (100 bucks from wholesaletrains.com - I think trainworld has em too, although a couple bucks more) a PA throttle (which has CV readback for about $65) and a couple of extension plates.  So for about $300 I have a two throttle walk around system that suits me pretty well.  Key words - suits me.
If you ain't having fun, you're not doing it right and if you are having fun, don't let anyone tell you you're doing it wrong.
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Posted by CNCharlie on Tuesday, May 6, 2008 8:42 PM

 I have a PE and find that it suits my uses fine. I wanted a handheld throttle with a dial speed control and a large display.  The PE has it while the others at a similar price don't. Also for $25 MRC will upgrade the system to 2.5 amps. I sent mine to them and had it back in 2 weeks with a 3.5 amp power supply. 

It seems that it all depends on what you want that will determine the best system for you.

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Posted by wjstix on Wednesday, May 7, 2008 8:39 AM

I posted a question the Atlas forum about buying a Prodigy Express system, and upgrading with the wireless / radio control add-on. (Doing that is actually cheaper than buying the new stand-alone MRC wireless system.) Anyway, someone mentioned that there is an MRC DCC users group on Yahoo, they might have some more insights and info for you!!

http://groups.yahoo.com/group/MRC-DCC/

Stix

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