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NCE DCC System Technical Spec Comparisons

Below is a summary of the Feature of each system.  There are two table of comparison since there is a lot of differences between all of the system.  By far most of the differences are in the DCC twin system.  There are many definitions and notes below the tables.

Some DCC systems have been able to get upgraded software which adds new features.  The software version identifies the capabilities for the given model DCC system.

With the sole exception of the "out of the box" basic DCC TWIN, all of the NCE DCC system support the following:

1) 1-127 "Short" Locomotive Address Range
2) 0-9999 "Long" Locomotive Address Range
3) 29 Functions (F0 to F28) 
4) Main Line Programming (Ops mode)
5) Radio Cabs with purchase of a radio system
6) Fast Clock
7) NCE Signal Support [3]
8) 1-2044 Accessory Address range
9) Macro Capability:  For comparative information about about each system, go here: NCE Macro System Specifications
To learn more about what a macro is, go here: NCE Macros

Feature Definitions:

Accessory Decoder:  Any DCC compatible accessory decoder device.  For NCE, that is the Switch-It, Switch-Kat or a Switch-8.  To learn more, go here: Accessory Decoders

Main Line Prog (Ops Mode):  Main Line Programming also knows as Operations Mode programming.  It is the ability to program decoders on the main line.

Signal Support: Support for NCE proposed NMRA DCC Signal Command Packets.  See note [3].

Short/Long Address Range:  The range of locomotive numbers available to address locomotives in each of these addressing modes.


TABLE OF FEATURES DIFFERENCES

There are two tables below of command station specs. 

Table 1: BASIC Feature Differences
Table 2: Advance/Expansion Features Differences
Table notes are at the very bottom represented by the  [#]  in the tables where # is the note number.

Table 1: BASIC Feature Differences
System
(Level)
Software
Version
Production
Status
Cost of adding Walk Around
LCD
Cab
Display?
Booster 
Current
Rating
(Amps)
#
Of
Cabs
 
Loco
#
Range
Max #
of
Consist
# of
Recalls
# of
Functions
&
Range
 Max
# of 
Running
Trains
DCC Twin
(Train Set)
V1.65
Current
Buy Cab + UTP Panels.
None
[9]
3A2 built in
Short
only
3, 4 
None
0
[8]

9
F0-F8
2
DCC Twin
+
ProCab
(Expansion)
V1.65
Current
Buy Cab + UTP Panels.Yes via
ProCab

[9]
3A1 - 8
2 built 
in +
6
1-127 Short

0-9999
Long

All Via
Procab

16
Advanced
Via Procab

6 Standard Consist.
6 Per ProCab.
Limited to 2 locos each
6
Via
ProCab.
[8]
29
F0-F28
Via
Procab

18
PowerCab
(Entry Level)
 V1.28DiscontinuedBuy Cab + UTP PanelsYes
1.5A
[6]
1 - 3
[1]
1-127 Short

0-9999
Long
16
Advanced

4 Standard Consist.
Limited to 2 locos each
2,4 or 6
[7]
29
F0-F28
12
PowerCab
(Entry Level)
V1.65
Current
Buy Cab + UTP Panels.Yes
 1.5A
[6]
1 - 4

1-127 Short

0-9999
Long 
16
Advanced

4 Standard Consist.
Limited to 2 locos each.
2,4 or 6
[7]
29
F0-F28
12
SB5
+
PowerCab
(Mid Range)
V1.65Current
Buy UTP PanelsYes via
PowerCab
5A1 - 61-127
Short
16
Advanced
2,4 or 629
F0-F28
18
SB3a
+
PowerCab
(Mid Range)


V1.65
DiscontinuedBuy UTP Panels
Yes via
PowerCab
5A
1 - 6
1-127
Short

0-9999
Long

16
Advanced

36 Standard Consist.
6 per cab.
2,4 or 6
29
F0-F28
18
SB3a
+
PowerCab
(Mid Range)



V1.28
DiscontinuedBuy UTP Panels.
Yes via
PowerCab
5A1 - 41-127 Short

0-9999
Long 
16
Advanced

24 Standard Consist.
6 per Cab.
2,4 or 629
F0-F28
12
 SB3
+
PowerCab
(Mid Range)
V1.28
DiscontinuedBuy UTP Panels. Yes via
PowerCab
3A1 - 41-127 Short

0-9999
Long 
16
Advanced

8 Standard Consist.
2 per Cab.
2,4 or 629
F0-F28
12
PowerPro
CS02
(High End)
March
2007
Current
Buy UTP Panels.
Yes via
ProCab
5A 1 - 631-127 Short

0-9999
Long 
128
Advanced

250 Standard Consist.
6 per Cab.
Limited to 4 locos
each.
2,4 or 629
F0-F28
250

Table #1 Definitions:

Software Version:  The version of software required to support the listed software features.

Production Status:
  The status of NCE production of this Hardware and Software version of the product.

Cost of adding Walk-Around:
The cost of adding Walk-Around capability to the system varies greatly from a little to a lot depending on which DCC system you chose.  The lower end system do not come setup for walkaround operation out of the box and will require the purchase of an additional Cab to gain walkaround capability.  All of the system will require you to buy low cost cab/throttle panels (Called UTP panels) that cost about $15/each.  How many you need depends on the size of the layout.  Typically one will need a UTP panel about every 12Ft or so or by common work areas.   HOWEVER the lower end system will also require you to by a second cab of some kind  (many to chose from)! This will add $120 to the cost of the system.

LCD Cab Display?:
  Does the system come with a cab that supports a LCD display.  A LCD cab will allow one to access all of the capabilities of the DCC system via it menu system.  Without it, you will be very limited in what you can do with the system.

Booster Current Rating:  The maximum current the booster can support.

Number of Cabs:  The number of cabs/throttles the system can support.  This is the same as the maximum number of operators/Engineers that system can support.

Loco # Range: Describes the range of locomotive numbers/addresses for both NMRA short and long format that can be used to control engines.  NCE offers a wider range of addresses than most DCC systems offering long addresses below 128 all the way down to 0.  Not forced to use short addresses format below 128.  (This greatly enhances the Advanced consisting capabilities of the NCE system.)

Max # of Consist:  The maximum number of Consist supported.  Varies with the method one chooses to build a consist with.  The two types are:

ADVANCED:  There are no limits on the number of locomotive per advanced consist.  This is portable "decoder based" consisting using CV19.  NCE's enhanced NMRA Advanced Consisting software makes it even easier to use with more powerful management and control features above any and all other DCC systems.  If you love consisting engines, this is what you want.   What is an NMRA defined Advanced Consist? Go here: NMRA DCC Consisting

BASIC: NCE calls this "Old Style" Consisting.  This is non portable "command station based" consisting.  The maximum number of engines that can be used with NCE's implementation of NMRA Basic Consisting varies with the system and there are no enhanced capabilities.  What is a NMRA defined Basic Consist? Go here: NMRA DCC Consisting

Number of Recalls:  The maximum number of preselected Engines or Consist that can be selected from a circular queue with a push of a button using a ProCab.

Max # of Running Trains:  The maximum number of unique moving trains the DCC system can control simultaneously NOT related to power limitations.

Note: In practice the maximum number of trains will be determined by the current consumption of each engine relative to the booster's current rating.  Example: If one assumes 0.33A per modern HO locomotive and a 1.5a booster (PowerCab), you will be able to run about 4-5 Engines (1.5A/0.33A = 4.5 engines).  Use of Advance Consisting does not impact the max number of running trains.  A given Advance Consist can have a infinite number of locomotives in it.  Again in practice the Booster current rating will become the limiting factor for the number of running engines you can power.

For note #'s, see note section at the very bottom.


Table 2: Advance/Expansion Features Differences

System
(Level)
Software
Version
Production Status
Accessory
Address
Range
Max
Number
Accessory
States Tracked
Number
of
Dedicated Cab Bus
Accessory
Devices
Supported
Accessory Cab Bus Addresses Range
Supported
AIU
Support
Mini
Panel
Support
Program Track
Support?
PC
Support
Number of Macros Supported & Number of DCC Accessories for each Memory Backup to PC & Advanced PC Memory Access Max Number of Advanced Consist SupportedMax Number of Old Style Consist & Number of Loco's each 
DCC Twin
(Train Set)
V1.65
Current
Not
accessible.
NoneUp to 38 - 10Yes
Yes
 Limited
Blast
Mode
 USB
Option
[4]
16 Controlling up to 8 DCC Accessories each.No164 with 2 Loco's in each
DCC Twin
+
ProCab
(Expansion)
V1.65
Current
Yes via
ProCab
1-2044
None
Up to 3
8 - 10Yes
Yes
 Limited
Blast
Mode 
USB
Option
[4]
16 Controlling up to 8 DCC Accessories each.No164 with 2 Loco's in each
PowerCab
(Entry Level)
V1.28
Discontinued
Yes
1-2044
None
0Must use Cab addressesNo
No
Yes
[2]
V1.28C
only
+
USB
Option
[4]
16 Controlling up to 8 DCC Accessories each.No164 with 2 Loco's in each
PowerCab
(Entry Level)
V1.65
Current
Yes
1-2044
None
Up to 3
8 - 10Yes
Yes
Yes
[2]
USB
Option
[4]
16 Controlling up to 8 DCC Accessories each.No164 with 2 Loco's in each
SB5
+
PowerCab
(Mid Range)
V1.65Current
Yes
1-2044
NoneUp to 38 - 10YesYesYes/No
[2]
USB
Option
[4]
16 Controlling up to 8 DCC Accessories each.No164 with 2 Loco's in each
SB3a
+
PowerCab
(Mid Range)
V1.65DiscontinuedYes
1-2044
NoneUp to 38 - 10Yes
Yes


Yes/No
[2]
USB
Option
[4]
16 Controlling up to 8 DCC Accessories each.No164 with 2 Loco's in each

SB3a
+
PowerCab
(Mid Range)
V1.28
DiscontinuedYes
1-2044
None
0
Must use Cab addressesNoYes

Yes/No
[2]
USB
Option
[4]
16 Controlling up to 8 DCC Accessories each.No164 with 2 Loco's in each
Discontinued SB3
+
PowerCab
(Mid Range)
V1.28
DiscontinuedYes
1-2044
None
0
Must use Cab addressesNoYes
Yes/No
[2]
USB
Option
[4] 
16 Controlling up to 8 DCC Accessories each.No164 with 2 Loco's in each
PowerPro
CS02
(High End)
March
2007
Current
Yes
1-2044
2044
0
Must use Cab addresses
Yes
Yes

YesRS-232
Port
[4]
[5]

256 controlling up to 10 DCC Accessories each. Yes127250 with 4 Loco's in each

Table #2 Definitions:

Software Version:  The version of software required to support the listed software features.

Production Status:
  The status of NCE production of this Hardware and Software version of the product.

Accessory Address Range:  Defines the range of DCC accessory addresses one can assign to a given DCC accessory.

Max Number Accessory states tracked:  Defines how many DCC accessories the command station will keep track of in terms of the given device current state.  Two purposes.

a) This is part of NCE's enhanced easier to use turnout control.  It allows one to have a faster shortcut to throw a given turnout you have selected (addressed) such that you do not have to remember both the address nor the position the turnout is currently in (Normal or Reversed) to use it again right away.  Just by activating the turnout, the command station will toggle it's current position to the opposite position what ever that is.  This feature works best with 100% cab controlled turnouts.  (No hardware control panels.)

b) Can be used to control DCC Signals Accessory Decoders.

Number of Cab Bus Accessory Devices Supported:  Show the number of cab bus accessory devices you can add to the system WITHOUT having to give up an operational cab to run trains.  If the value is blank or zero, then to add this device you will be required to give up a operator cab to run trains to use this device..

Accessory Cab Bus Addresses Range Supported: Shows the actual cab bus address that are exclusively assigned to and for Accessory devices.  These Cab addresses cannot be used with normal cabs/throttles that run trains.  PLEASE do not confuse this address range with DCC decoder addresses which connect to track power.  NCE cab bus accessories are NOT NMRA defined DCC accessories devices.

AIU (Auxilary Input Unit):  The AIU is a NCE "layout feedback" product that connects to the command station via the Cab bus.  Each AIU has 14 digital signal inputs that can be read by a PC running a program such a JMRI Panel Pro.  The devices connected to the AIU typically are an Track Occupancy Detection device (BD20), Supervisory/Monitory Device (DCC Circuit Breaker) or spare contacts on a Turnout Motor (Tortoise) to show switch position.

Mini Panel Support:  The system support NCE MiniPanel Accessory that allows one to build larger control panel to control turnouts.  To learn more go here: NCE Mini/Macro Panel

Program Track Support:  Offers a programming track function to program decoders.  Unlike Main Line Programing, this option offer the ability to read decoder setting from the decoder.  It also provides a limited current on the programming track such that a locomotive can be tested for short circuits without fear of damaging the  decoder.  Blast mode is a non NCE term but describes the system 

PC Support: Describe the interface connection options to a PC to connect the command station to a computer.



NOTES:

[1] = The first generation of the PowerCab using V1.28 software "officially"  supports only 2 physical cabs.  Itself and one external cab.  However the product has always shipped with an extra cab address that could be used to support a 3rd physical cab.   Why?  The reason for the extra cab address was to support a SINGLE throttle that had a toggle switch on the top.  This feature was found on newer version of the some of the small "Engineer" cabs (Cab04e and Cab05).  The toggle switch allowed the single cab to control of two trains simultanously by simply flipping the toggle switch back and forth on the fly.  No need to re-enter the locomotive address to change control of trains.   The consequence of using this feature was the "toggle" cabs required the use of TWO CAB ADDRESSES.   The PowerCab needed to support these toggle cabs so it needed the extra cab address.  HOWEVER if one did not use the toggle feature on the 2nd cab or used a 2nd cab that did not have the toggle switch (ProCab or Cab04p), one can use the extra cab address for a 3rd cab.  One can defeat the Toggle Cab feature on a Toggle cab by programming both cab addresses it supports to the same number.

[2]  = When PowerCab is used alone (without am expansion Smart Booster connected) and directly hooked up to a section of track to be used for programming.  The expansion Smart Booster assumes you have a PowerCab

[3] = Signal support means sending DCC signal commands to an accessory decoder that is designed to specifically drive signals.  However at this time, 3/18/11 the NMRA has not PUBLISHED A COMPLETE "signal aspect" command set" using DCC Accessory packets.  The version that is currently approved is incomplete and not usable in it current form.  There is nothing proprietary about them nor limited to a specific type of signal. (Search Light Target all the way to B&O CPL's are supported)  The only decoder that will accept these commands so far is the Unreleased NCE SIG12 signal board.  As soon as it is approved, it is hope that other DCC manufactures will adopt these "standard" signal commands.

[4] = The "NCE USB adapter" that does have some limitation in supporting all of these features.  To learn more about these NCE-USB adapter limitations, go here:NCE USB Limitations

[5] =  One can use a RS232-USB adapter with the CS01/PowerPro/CS02 system to connect to a PC that does not have any RS-232 ports.  Although many generic RS232-USB adapters will work, some do not.  The one part that has been proven to work consistently over time with NCE and JMRI is the Keyspan Serial to USB Adapter, Model Number: USA-19HS sold by TRIPP-LITE.

[6] =  Typical value.  The actual usable Booster current rating depends on the power supply provided with the unit.   In other words, the power supply sets the booster current rating AND overload shutdown protection.   The power supply itself has changed over time during production and/or if sold overseas.  The PowerCab by itself has a maximum current capability of 3Amps.  However any damage to the PowerCab cause by not using an approved NCE power supply will void the warrantee.  At this time NCE does not offer any power supply upgrade option for the PowerCab.   Upgrading power is done by purchasing a "Smart Booster".

[7] = Only 2 recalls are officially supported on the PowerCab.  There are known bugs with the other recalls beyond 2.  With the introduction of V1.65 PowerCab software going forward, the recalls now work up to 6. 

[8] = Only applies to external cabs purchase separately.

[9] = Out of the Box, the lack of a LCD display cab/throttle display means the system does not allow you full access to all of it capabilities.  To gain full access to all of the features will require the purchase of a ProCab or a PowerCab which have LCD displays.


Last Updated 4/10/2016
1/14/2017
2/1/2017