Control System Showdown, Crestron vs Savant

savant touchscreen remoteFor nearly a decade Crestron ruled the world of home automation.  They have a long history of highly innovative products and beautifully designed interfaces.  In fact the home automation would not be where it is today without the continued hard work of this impressive group of engineers.  But one big complaint among both dealers and customers was that programming the systems was far too complicated and time consuming.  These costs can quickly balloon out of control, wrecking the budget for an entire project.

Savant stepped into the industry with the intent of capitalizing on this dissatisfaction with many of Crestron’s products.  Rather than designing all of their hardware from the ground up like Crestron, they offered products that were based upon existing hardware.  They utilized Apple processors rather than designing their own processors.  They also integrated Apple devices such as the iPhone and iPad as their controls and touch panels.  This was a brilliant move as it offered an extremely stable platform integrated into one of the best user interfaces ever designed.

The Differences

When it comes to customization Crestron is the king of the hill.  Their systems can be designed to do practically anything.  From the user interface to the hardware behind it, everything can be dialed in to exacting specifications.  It is completely up to the integrator to determine the best way to program a particular system.  And so long as they designed the system properly within the specifications that Crestron sets forth, they would end up with a relatively stable system.

Savant’s system is designed more around a standard template.  They have far fewer equipment SKU’s.  The user interface graphics are generally per-determined.  There is some customization that is possible, but for the most part there is very little work that needs to be done on the graphics side.  Rather than having to learn a difficult programming interface, the Savant system is more work flow oriented.  In this respect it is very similar to Control4.  While it doesn’t offer unlimited customization, it does offer enough to fulfill most clients needs

How This Plays out for Dealers

When it comes to designing and installing home theaters and home automation systems, the more variables you can remove from the process the more smoothly the project will go.  While the customization of a Crestron system can be a big advantage for a dealer that is staffed to properly roll out implementations, those that don’t understand the time and money investment required to train a staff in this process can end up losing a great deal of money.

Let’s look at an example.  Dealer X is performs home theater installations in Orlando, FL.  He want’s to pick up Crestron as a product line because they offer high margins and very elegant products.  The problem is he has no one on staff that can program these systems.

The skills needed to install and calibrate high end home theater equipment are not the same as those needed by a programmer.  So the dealer may end up having to hire someone, or outsource the programming of the system.  This all costs money.  And on top of all this when you are unfamiliar with bidding programming work, it’s difficult to price a proposal properly to account for all of this time.

If anything goes wrong on the installation from a programming perspective it’s not difficult to imagine that your programming budget can quickly explode beyond what you originally proposed.  Client’s don’t want to pay for this additional time, so often the dealer ends up eating the cost.

On the other hand, for dealers that have the appropriate processes in place, Crestron can be a very elegant solution for just about any home automation need.

A Savant system on the other hand is more cookie cutter.  It still requires training a programmer on how to configure the system.  But the amount of time involved is significantly reduced.  This makes estimating programming time much easier.  It still offers enough customization to satisfy most customers, while enabling the dealer to still make their usual profit margin on the job.

So Which is Best?

This is a difficult question to answer.  For the dealer that is willing to establish procedures on how systems should be programmed and accurately tracking change orders Crestron offers the most flexibility by far.  Their products and support are second to none in the home automation industry.

But for dealers that want to offer home automation products without having to implement major changes in personnel and processes Savant could very well be the best choice.

Here’s a video highlighting some of the features of a Savant system.

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