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Question Which digital system in 2020 - The benefit of your experience

Hi, everyone - this is my first post to any forum anywhere! So please forgive any protocol deviations! Also, I know these questions have been asked before but often this was before ArcPro was released.

So, I bought a Scalextric Digital GT Pro set in around 2010, My pals and I really loved it and I added the C7042 APB. Then life got in the way and I only occasionally brought it down from the loft.

I now have 2 kids - 5 and 3 (too young really I know) and my little boy saw the box in the loft so we had to get it down. Now I’m hooked again (in lockdown there isn’t much else to do!)

The issue I have is that the C7042 is quite unreliable and keeps rebooting (it’s still on firmware 0.84) but I need to use it to slow the cars down for the kids and tbh 50% isn’t  really enough for them.

I’ve not updated the firmware because I don’t have a PC and the cable is £30 although I love the idea of running SSDC or similar and it appears I can get my MacBook to run Windows with BootCamp at no extra cost.

So - here is the question: Spend £60 on a cable and SSDC and use my C7042. Hopefully I won’t need to spend any extra on Windows etc.

Or - Buy an ArcPro power base and use that with my existing track? Yes £120ish is more expensive but the technology is newer. I guess I’d have to factor in 4 wireless controllers and a straight lane changer (although my curved lane changer has just packed up so I’d need one for either option)

At first glance it seems obvious to go the C7042 route but I’m a little concerned about spending more money on outdated tech. How reliable are the C7042s? If mine packs up and I can still get another, they seem to be around £160 at the moment. The ArcPro with the Magic app would probably do everything I need but it also seems nuts to just ditch the C7042!

To add even more confusion I’ve just picked up the Carrera Digital Night Contest set cheap on eBay. 

It seems a lot more ‘solid’ than Scalextric and you can control speed direct from the Control Unit but there is no ‘race mode’ or lap timer! Of course it’s a lot bigger and we don’t have loads of space but the cars ’sound’ great on the track! - I’d need to spend about £200 to get it where I’d want - an extra lane changer, 2 extra cars and controllers, the bluetooth box to use app control. (The original set cost me £90)

But that seems nuts as we’ve already invested in the Scalextric system!

Any thoughts, ideas, advice, experiences would be much appreciated!

Thank you!
[+] 2 members Like Lurcher's post

Welcome aboard. Wavegreen 

I'm afraid I don't know much about digital, but I'm sure one of our digital guys will drop in to give you some advice.
[+] 1 member Likes JasonB's post

Welcome Lurcher Wavegreen 

And a great question... You certainly have the basis for three excellent digital systems there - which one to go for?

I have to say that I am a fan of all three.
  • The APB + RCS64 offers the most complex and 'grown-up' game play available. It never fails to delight me. The APB + RCS64 combo does require more technical know-how and confidence to set up and to trouble-shoot any problems, but no digital system is truly plug & play. The controllers are old, but okay. There are options to upgrade, such as the Truspeed SSDIII throttles which are very good value at £45 each.
  • ARC Pro really impresses me as a fully-featured out-of-the-box entry-level digital system. In terms of race management, the ARC app is much simpler than RCS64, but easier to use. The Magic app is more complex, but not so user-friendly. It still isn't anywhere near RCS64. I really like the ARC wireless hand controllers and extra throttles are about £20 each.
  • Carrera Digital is solid and robust - and big. The cars are very tough and fun to drive. It's a good entry-level system, but can be expanded a long way with official Carrera accessories and third-party stuff like the SmartRace app and the Truspeed Carrera-D VI 'trigger' controllers. I'm not a huge fan of the standard thumb controllers, but they do the job. You're right that the power levels are set in the Control Unit - a better arrangement than the APB and ARC Pro. Although ARC Pro's power adjustment goes from 1 to 100%, it is set in the software and only available during a race.
I am assuming that you're in the UK. That means picking up Carrera parts is more of a challenge, but not impossible to find bargains - as you have found. Buying new in the UK means paying full price from the few retailers that stock Carrera track and accessories. However, finding new Carrera bargains from German retailers is very possible via eBay - they will often split sets and sell the components unboxed. Or look out in the UK for another cheap used set.

I also assume that you are fully 2020-compliant with a nice big iPad or Android tablet. If so, that sets you up for the Scalextric and Magic apps for ARC Pro, plus the excellent SmartRace (link here) for Carrera Digital. Your Night Contest set would need the AppConnect Bluetooth dongle. I have heard of people running RCS64 on a Mac with a Windows emulator, but I would always be more comfortable using it on a Windows PC - it could even be an old XP laptop.

One thing I will say is that, ultimately, you'll need a pit lane and race management system to fully enjoy the digital experience - whatever system you choose. The strategy around pit stops is a big part of the digital game play. If you already have a pit lane with your Scalextric set, that's good. The Scalextric pit lane track is cheaper than Carrera, but is still a significant investment.

It's very true that you can fit more Scalextric track into the same space. If you are thinking of a permanent or semi-permanent layout, that will be a consideration. If you're racing on the floor for an afternoon or weekend, it is probably less of an issue.

Thinking about the future and expanding your digital system, it's important to remember there are the official manufacturer-released accessories and then a range of enthusiast-developed hardware and software upgrades. Both the APB and Carrera Control Unit have been around for a decade or more, ARC Pro is just two years old. The third-party accessories for ARC Pro are limited. For example, there are no pit lane sensors yet (nice, but not the end of the world) and the only controller upgrade is the expensive SCP3 (or SCP 2 + oXigen cartridge). ARC Pro seems to be selling well, so I suspect more third-party upgrades and accessories will appear over time.

It's also worth saying that the early ARC Pro powerbases have been upgraded to iron out some glitches, so it is important to check what you are getting (see here).

So what's my suggestion? I would be tempted to thrash that £90 Carrera set for a while. It's ideal for younger digital racers and might be the best way to get them into racing. You will probably only need to get an extra car and controller so all three of you can race.  A few months down the line, you could then decide whether to stay with Carrera - and buy a pit lane and the AppConnect and SmartRace app - or go forward with Scalextric. If you decided to go for the simplicity of ARC Pro, I am sure you could sell the APB for a decent amount of money. Keep the power supply as it will fit ARC Pro as a second power supply for running four to six cars. If you decide to go with Carrera, it doesn't need to be more expensive - do your research and hunt systematically on UK and German eBay.

Any help?
[+] 2 members Like woodcote's post

Thumbup Thanks for the welcome JasonB and thank you for the advice Woodcote.

Woodcote - you've actually been more helpful than you know as I've been studying your posts in other threads and you always seem to have wise words, I and I'm sure many others out there appreciate your willingness to help out, even if it means answering a variation on same question many times! (like mine I know!)

Yes, I'd definitely like to add a pitlane. What rekindled my excitement for slot racing was the introduction of digital, the ability to have more than 2 racers and being able to change lane for me adds loads more fun when racing with others and the pitlane would add to that. It adds a level of tactical thought which I appreciate.

It's very hard not to get sucked in when looking at what's available and wanting to get everything, but you're right - there is no rush.

What's a little frustrating is that I can't quite do what i want with what i have right now, I can slow things down on the Carrera set but can't count laps and have a proper 'race' (my little boy likes to win something as you can expect). I can run a race on the APB but can't dial the power down low enough and it's unreliable. (Am I correct that on the 1.09 firmware you can go down to 25% power?)

Maybe I'll do some more research on the Mac Windows Emulation. I could pick up a USB cable, borrow a PC if BootCamp doesn't workout and just update the firmware at least on the APB. I can always live with the demo versions of SSDC and RSC. I'm sure if I later choose to sell the APB having a USB cable included will at least make it easier to sell?

Then, come Christmas, I'll keep an eye out for any reductions on ArcPro sets in case it works out cheaper than buying things individually whilst adding some track and cars. (The upcoming ArcPro Platinum GT looks terrific but a bit rich at £499)

I am quite taken with the Carrera set tho, but again you're quite right, we only need one extra car and one extra controller and if I hunt around I may find something second hand just to get things going. Does anyone know whether the Carrera App adds any kind of 'yellow flag' function like the APB? As you say controllers aren't great although the coiled wire seems a lot less prone to getting tangled up than with the Scalextric ones.

I know what's going to happen, I'll end up keeping all three and then also getting into 1/24 scale racing on the Carrera and then my wife will kill me.

Thank you again for your thoughts and advice!
[+] 1 member Likes Lurcher's post

Yes, I'd forgot that - the APB firmare updates does add extra power-limiting options on the 'tower' menu - 17%, 20%, 25% and 33%. Using a software program gives you 1-100%.

Getting the APB to USB cable and upgrade the APB firmware also gives you the option of running SSDC software (link here). That was my introduction to digital simulation racing and what we used at WHO/digital for the first 2-3 years. It has a really clear race screen and is simple for new digital racers to pick up. Although SSDC only has fuel and KERS /push-to-pass features, the underlying simulations are quite complex - more than the ARC and Magic apps. It hooked me - and our club members - and then set us up nicely to 'upgrade' to the even more realistic RCS64. Had we gone straight to RCS64, it might have been a steeper learning curve for some and the race screen takes some getting used to. I looked back and I see quite a few Mac users have successfully run SSDC on a Mac using either Boot Camp or various emulators (eg Parallels Desktop + XP), but you may need to move installation files to a C:\ extension for them to install.

The best thing with having an APB already, is that all you need to add is the APB to USB cable and then you have a 30-day free trial on the software. A pit lane should be an urgent purchase to enjoy the software properly... Jadlams have some half-price unboxed Right-Hand pit lanes for £24.95 at the moment here. Plus you will need some C7016 single-lane half-straights, which aren't cheap at Jadlams! Adding pit lane sensors (Pit Pro or SmartSensor) and upgrading controllers can follow if and when you want to.
[+] 1 member Likes woodcote's post

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