I’m building a new house and plan to use an HDMI matrix switcher with HDBaseT (Cat6) to the 8 TVs. Similar setup for whole house audio using a source selector. Dealer products like Savant and Control4 are great for all of this but way too expensive and managed by dealers who know too little about the products. I just found Roomieremote and it feels like it might be the alternative I’m looking for: inexpensive and user configured. In general, do I have the concept of RR right? Also, as a software developer, are there options to add features I create to RR, similar to how Smartthings could be expanded by creating your own drivers, etc.? Thanks for you feedback.
Welcome to the forum, Terry!
I waited a couple days to reply because I am opinionated on this matter, and people here have seen me express my opinion in this area numerous times, so I wanted to give others an opportunity to reply first. But, since nobody has, I will chime in.
I have a unlimited perpetual license to Roomie and have been using it for about four years through a few different versions going back to 4.5, so I am invested. First, I am a fan of the app. There really isn’t anything else out there like it. It’s the best home automation app I have used. As you have pointed out the only real competitors are proprietary, locked-down, dealer-controlled platforms like Control4. I was strongly looking at Control4 when I discovered Roomie (then known as Simple Control) back in 2017 or so.
Your use case sounds similar to mine except I have four TVs instead of eight. I do have an 8x8 HDMI matrix switcher with all components centralized in a media closet. So each room has a display and nothing more. I also have a large investment in HEOS for audio. Lighting is all Insteon. And ten or so Echo devices.
Roomie is able to handle all of this to one degree or another. The display and source control is all top notch. No complaints at all. The HEOS and Insteon support is there, but sometimes I find myself in native apps for those. Actually, the best app for HEOS is Amazon Music. Insteon I mostly control through Alexa and Roomie, but still have a need to go into Mobilinc app on occasion.
I don’t think you will be disappointed with the app. And it is a small investment even if you end up not liking it, though I would be surprised if you ended up not liking it.
That said . . . here have been my complaints:
Lots of customization within the confines of how the app thinks customization should work in a Roomie ecosystem. But if you want to do some thing outside those confines then that just isn’t the philosophy of the app.
Limited API exposure. This is a big one for me. And I am sure Will will be sick of seeing my post about it yet again. There is a limited API exposed to users. Basically you can control the state of an Activity and you can send commands to devices. But activity-level controls are sorely missing. For example, no API for activity-aware volume, playback, or shuttle control. It’s unfortunate because the APIs are developed and available since commands you may wish to perform via API can be performed by Alexa, so they exist.
Application is not open source. I don’t think that is a bad thing, but there is also no plugin framework where you could enhance the application for yourself or contribute to a library of components that others could utilize. I feel like there is a real opportunity to open up some interfaces in the app so the community can contribute open source features, but I have suggested this and, again, just don’t think it aligns with the philosophy of the app.
Hard button remote support is lacking. This is the one major thing that makes it fall just a bit short of Control4 in overall capabilities. But, of course, it also is much more reasonably priced than Control4, and you do have way more control over RR than over Control4. There is some support for hard buttons, but I view it as a mixed bag that comes up short. The best solution right now, though I haven’t used it, appears to be the integration with Harmony hub. You can read about that here in other posts, but it definitely is not a native solution. Plus with Logitech ending further sales of Harmony, that future seems uncertain. There are other options like game controllers that I think fall short on the WAF or in guest situations. BUT!!! There was recently a user poll on future feature development and the #2 or #3 request was for a better hard-button option, so I am hopeful on this front!
FYI, reverse engineering app-to-hub communications as an alternative to using a public API is also not an option since communication between the app and the hub are encrypted. While this was a bit disappointing, it was also a sign that RR takes security seriously, which I appreciate.
Despite my concerns I still recommend RR. And I continue to advocate here for the features I think would make the product better and would expand it to more people. I truly believe an API, hard-button remote support, and an ecosystem that allowed community software contributions could explode the use of this app.
Give it a try, see what you think, and maybe join my chorus in advocating for these more technical, developer-friendly features!
Thanks! I will take some time to digest this. Appreciate the comprehensive response.
Here is my experience… I bought RR about five years ago to replace a Savant system that had come with my house. I, too, found it ridiculous that the Savant contractor needed to get involved every single time I added or modified a piece of hardware in my system, and they also noted that my system was “old” and should be upgraded, with a starting price of around $5k. The house also has a Lutron Homeworks QS lighting system that was run through the Savant server, so I was also looking for compatibility with that. In addition, my home also has a remote rack containing all the AV equipment-- three AV receivers, BluRay players, Apple TV, etc., and uses HDbaseT for connectivity to the three TVs in the house (no coax is run anywhere except to the rack.
Yes, you can add your own codesets for unsupported hardware, if you need. I have done so for a couple RS232 devices, such as an old Atlona switcher and the two Velodyne subwoofer amplifiers that I have. It is relatively simple to do. You can also do more advanced things, but I haven’t needed to and have not tried it.
As for the HDbaseT-- I would suggest that you take a look at SDVoE. While the initial costs may be higher, it can handle a 4k/HDR10 signal, which HDbT struggles to do (or just can’t), and eliminates the need for the switch matrix.
I’m also a long time Simple Control/Roomie user. I also tossed a Savant system (well, I scavenged the Mac Mini’s first). I also had 4 rooms using Harmony Hubs but was constantly frustrated by 1) no customization and 2) no IP control that was user accessible.
I did my theater first, as it was the most complex. I had a number of items that I had to define custom XML for (this was before you could do it directly in the Roomie app). I found there was really almost nothing I couldn’t do with an IP addressable device, as long as I could get an API manual.
The three issues I’ve had (some of which others have mentioned) are:
- lack of hard button remote. Not only for wife or guest but even I get frustrated when trying to set up a new streaming app that requires Id and password entry via an unscreened keyboard and the app doesn’t recognize the Roomie keyboard. It’s really hard to watch your finger on the virtual control pad and at the same time watch the screen to see where you are.
- lack of anyway to view or respond to responses on a custom device. Roomie is a great way to send IP commands but if your custom device provides a response (such as a new value for the volume level), there is no way to capture and display it unless Will creates it, at which point your device is now a compatible device, not a custom.
- this isn’t Roomie’s fault but if you want to use IP to control many TVs that are more than 4-5 years old, a lot of them have no way to control power on over IP, Newer TVs will use Wake on LAN but older models don’t have it, so you either need to use IR, if available. I ended up replacing some perfectly good Samsung LEDs due to this factor. Again, this isn’t Roomie’s fault but something you need to watch out for.
Just for the record: while others internally do not post here, it’s not actually just me behind the scenes. At least one other engineer has been with us since nearly day one. He does at least half the coding as I’m too often caught up in everything that isn’t engineering.
You’re right. I should have said, unless Will determines it is worth doing!
I can also add that I worked with you directly on adding the Trinnov support and it was a good relationship and I learned a lot.
I did some reading on SDVoE and it sounds like a great solution, more mature than Video Storm. Would you mind sharing what products you’re using, say, the TX and RX gear as well as the network switches? Have you had any issues with the control of any of it?
I went with WyreStorm products, specifically the NHD-600 line:
You’ll need one TX for each source, one RX for each sink (or TV), the NHD-000-CTL controller, and the network switch. MSRP is around $1800 or the RX/TX units, and $450 for the CTL (depending on who you go with, there may be some savings off of that). Wyrestorm has documented a number of recommended switches; I went with the Netgear XS708T because it was by far the cheapest, although only 8 ports.
I have one issue with my current setup, due to my wiring. I can get 1080p, but not 4k, until I upgrade the cable between my rack and my family room, which I plan on doing this weekend. With the increased bandwidth of the proper cable, I expect to be able to do 4k.