moving into our current home about a year ago, I have been taking some
well-earned grief from my wife about bringing my iPhone to the dinner table.
Normally, this would be totally unacceptable behavior for our nightly family
meal but, having moved into a smart home based around both Crestron and Sonos,
the only way to get a reasonable musical soundtrack in the kitchen was to use a
phone or an iPad.
To be clear, as soon as I got something mellow (such as The
Thievery Corporation Station on Amazon Music or a classical guitar channel on
Pandora), I turned my phone upside down and muted it, but that didn’t keep me
from getting a technological beating for bringing it to the table in the first
first solution was an expensive one, and unsuccessful, as I bought not one but
two Apple iPad Pro tablets and installed the $99 Crestron app on them. This
solution worked really well in our last home, with our iPad kitchen running the
Crestron App as we were able to control lights, HVAC, the swimming pool, sound,
shades, and cameras from one pretty slick installation centrally located in the
kitchen. For some reason, the two iPad Pros, complete with stands that keep the
iPads charged, just didn’t do the trick, either in my media room or the
upstairs living room. We were picking the latest Crestron handheld remote over
the iPad Pro every time for TV, movies, and even Sonos.
During a conversation with a golf buddy of mine, he hipped me to IPORT’s LUXE
series of products that are an interesting bridge between the limited success
that we’ve had with the new Crestron handheld remote and the simple use of the
Sonos application on seemingly any number of mainstream Apple devices. I ended
up going for a more installed yet hybrid solution, which includes the IPORT LUXE
WallStation ($375) and the IPORT LUXE Case ($270), all in white and designed to
wall-mount an iPad Mini for use with the Sonos app, as well as the much more
complicated and professionally programmed Crestron application. I make a note
of this, because people often think “Hey, I have heard of Crestron – and for
$99, I can use their app to automate my house,” which is pretty far from the
truth. You need the Full Monty Crestron system installed and programmed before
the Crestron App means anything to you. With that said, there are so, so, so
many other apps of importance, such as (but far from limited to) the aforementioned
Sonos app, which work on any number of devices that can also be run using this IPORT
installed solution that it is relevant to nearly every AV enthusiast on one
level or another.
me call an audible here and suggest that this project is work for your
electrician or AV installer, unless you would consider yourself at least a 7 out
of 10 in the handyman department. You need to be able to connect low-voltage
power to the core WallStation unit that serves as the mount for the LUXE Case.
You need to be able to patch, sand, and paint your drywall, too. If you think
you can do all of this, by all means, go for it. Personally, I had the handyman
and electrician do the project, which came together pretty easily. The same
could be said for snapping the Apple iPad Mini into the white (they have silver
and black too) IPORT case, which can be easily mounted on the WallStation. It
was important for me to have the WallStation centered on my Crestron keypad,
thus we had to make some adjustments to the keypad below, so that everything
looked very polished when done.
the failure that we had with the implementation of the iPad Pros using the
Crestron Application versus the hand-held Crestron remotes, the IPORT LUXE
solution was an immediate upgrade. It took my AV guys little time time to put
the already-programmed Crestron App onto the iPad Mini, but they also made it
possible to access the Sonos app by itself. I found that taking a few minutes to add
some of my favorite channels/grooves into the Sonos App proved to be a smart
investment of time, as I had some junk in there, dating back to when we started
with Sonos, that needed to be removed. With the junk gone and the A-list
channels pre-programmed, I had easy access to music, not just in my kitchen,
but also in the adjacent dining room and, more importantly, on my ocean-view
balcony, where I often make my phone calls during my workday.
Gone was the need to have any i-device at the dinner table. Plus, I could
control the HVAC, which is vented directly onto the kitchen table. This has
received good reviews from the family. Lighting control is still a work in progress
at my house right now, but having that control on the wall in touch-pad format
is a clear winner with the IPORT solution. Adding more rooms of music is a
breeze. Finding different musical themes is not hard to do, either. Overall,
things are easier and better because of the IPORT LUXE suite of products. Yes,
I can take the iPad off of the WallStation, but that isn’t why we bought it.
Perhaps I will take it with me to the balcony if I want to do some reading out
there, but I haven’t yet, as I’ve been able to set the levels and the mood just
as I like it, and it has been fantastic.
- The ability to pull the iPad off of the wall and use it like a table for
home automation is cool as hell.
- Mounting the iPad using the IPORT LUXE product on the wall has solved a
global family technology problem that I understood, but couldn’t fix without
the IPORT products.
- You rarely have to worry about charging your controller-tablet-iPad with the IPORT
system, as it is almost always plugged into the wall. Moreover, it is unlikely
that you will be using so many apps that you will be aggressively draining the
battery. My installer was able to turn off all of the core applications,
other than Crestron and Sonos, which massively simplifies the iPad, as I don’t
need, or in any way want, email, text, FaceTime, or other voodoo on this iPad.
I have other computers and devices for that – when the time comes.
- The installation isn’t a DIY project except for the savviest handyman,
and the cost of getting the unit installed needs to be factored into the
value proposition, which is likely more expensive than the world-beating iPad
- It would have been much slicker to have the iPad mounted into the wall,
meaning a flush mount. It is cool to have it on the wall but, in a perfect
world, I would have rather had the unit in the wall, as it would have
looked much more polished in the final installation.
Comparison and Competition
There aren’t too many other competitors out there for the IPORT suite of
products, but one comes from IPORT themselves, which is the IPORT BaseStation.
This is a $435 USB-C docking station, similar to what I used at my old house,
that can turn an iPad into a controller, without it being wall-mounted, a very
cool twist. You can charge without wires or plugs, which is super-cool, and it
comes in all of the core iPad colors: black, white, or silver.
Another solution for a wall-mount kit that is somewhat more permanent is the
Vidabox tablet enclosure. It has a bit more security and mounts more closely to
the wall, but it isn’t as easily accessible if you want to liberate your iPad
and start walking around.
The in-wall solution that I was lusting after is offered by a company called
iWalldock, which mounts your iPad in the wall and surrounds it with fancy
finishes, such as wood veneers or carbon fiber. Its micro-thin bezel makes the
iPad recess into the wall very nicely. This product starts at about $199, but
needs some additional accessories to get rocking. It is still a lot less
expensive in its basic form than the IPORT solution.
are always core tablets from your home automation company, be it Crestron,
Savant, or Control4, which have a lot of key advantages, but they can be
expensive and have no relevance to people outside of the said home automation
bubble that one might choose. The IPORT solutions represent a good balancing
act between price and performance.
The IPORT LUXE iPad solution, using the WallStation and Case, has been a
really nice tweak to an increasingly fine-tuned home automation system. We get
the flexibility of having an iPad that we can pull off the wall when we want it,
or we can mount it on an IPORT LUXE BaseStation, or we can leave it on the wall
like a traditional home automation touchscreen. That flexibility, the limiting
of devices at the dinner table and the increased control over the whole-home,
smart house, makes this a winner of a product.
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