February 12, 2014 10 min read
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Our Apex System is the best-value aquarium controller on the market today. Dollar for dollar you will not find a higher-quality controller that gives you more features, is easier to use, or has a larger and more active user base than the Apex. If you haven’t done so already, please read our Why Apex?page to get a high level view of why the Apex is so important to your aquarium.
The Apex System comes complete with:
The Apex Base Unit is basically the brains of your entire Apex System. The Apex Base Unit (ABU) is far different than from what any other controller at this price level is offering. The ABU is basically a small computer whose only job is take care of your aquarium. It has a 32-bit microprocessor and a built-in web server. The web server makes it possible for your to configure and operate your Apex from any network-connected computer or mobile device – no software to install on a PC – it also means it’s Mac compatible!
The Apex runs at up to 10x the speed of other controllers in its class due to its advance processor technology (most others use 8 or 16 bit microcontrollers). It also has enough memory on board to store nearly a years worth of complete tank data in non-volatile RAM. Even with a power outage, your tank history and all configurations are safe.
The Apex Base Unit is Internet-ready straight out of the box. Just plug it into your router and you are good to go – no software to install! This means that you can control your tank from any computer (or mobile device) in the house. There is no need, ever, to connect it directly to a computer to monitor your aquarium or update its firmware. And, once you set up external access via port-forwarding on your router, you can easily access your Apex from anywhere in the world via a web browser or via our iOS or Android apps!
And, with Internet Connectivity, the Apex can be configured so that you will get an email or text message whenever something is not quite right with your system – whether that is an over-temperature condition in your tank, the pH is out of whack, or there’s a leak on the floor!
Hands down, the Apex has the most feature-rich, field tested software of any controller on the market today. It all starts with the onboard web server inside the Apex Base Unit. This web server is part of the Apex’s firmware and is truly the secret sauce to it’s success.
Built-in wizards allow even the most technophobic person out there to be able to program the basics like light timers and heater control in a matter of minutes. Then, as you build up confidence and engage the awesome Apex user community, you will be taking it to the next level in no time.
The Apex has a powerful yet easy to learn programming language. This enables every user to get creative and come up with new cool ways to use their Apex…from creating storms in their tanks, to complex dosing of additives, to unique mixing of colors on their DIY LED lights. The possibilities are pretty much only limited by your imagination. And again, the Apex community is out there to help you along as well.
The Apex has a full-featured graphing engine built right in. As an example, you can very easily compare the cycles of your outlets with temperature and pH, identify ongoing patterns of trouble, and even discover ways to cut costs like being able to visually see when two external devices (such as a heater and a chiller) are on simultaneously when they really shouldn’t be.
The Apex is the only controller on the market that has manufacturer-written, full-featured applications for the computer browser (Mac or PC), iPhone, iPad, and very soon Android phones and tablets (currently in beta). Now you can take your Apex with you anywhere and check in on your tank, reprogram your lights, or even feed your fish remotely from the touch of your phone!
The Apex Base Unit is equipped with the following monitoring ports:
This is a topic other controller companies like to avoid. Why? Because not all monitoring ports are created equal. Galvanic Isolation is key to getting accurate readings on pH, Temp, ORP, and Conductivity. Some controllers either do not do it well (they are still figuring it out) or possibly not at all.
So what is Galvanic isolation? Well, the tech-answer is that it’s where two or more electric circuits must communicate, but their grounds may be at different potentials. It is an effective method of breaking ground loops by preventing unwanted current from flowing between two units sharing a ground conductor.
Now of course that is all geek-speak to most of us so let’s just put it this way: on a controller without galvanic isolation, your readings of pH, Temperature, ReDox (ORP), Conductivity/Salinity, etc. will be completely inaccurate. Of course it costs us more to add this circuitry into the Apex, but what good is a controller if it doesn’t give you accurate readings?
The Apex Base Unit comes standard with four channels of 0-10V control. These outputs are controlled in the Apex software and are most commonly used for LED dimming or Tunze speed control pumps. By using one of our optionally available cables, you can connect any Apex Ready 0-10V device to these ports. This means you can do cool things like have your LED lights ramp up and down to simulate sunrise and sunset!
They can also be used for various DIY purposes like controlling the dimming level on Meanwell LED drivers. Should you need additional channels of 0-10V control, no problem, simply purchase our VDM module and get four more – and also get a connection for Apex Ready+ LEDs!
The Apex Base Unit comes with an external 12V power input. With an optionally available wall transformer and a second Energy Bar, this enables you to configure your Apex for power-outage mode. You just plug the 12V transformer into your Apex and then into a UPS (uninterruptible power supply) along with your extra Energy Bar. You then plug a powerhead and an air pump with stone into this Energy Bar. If the power should ever go down, your Apex will sense the problem, and will activate the powerhead and air stone potentially saving the day for your fish and corals!
The Energy Bars available for our Apex systems are much more than a glorified power strip. In fact, this component of your aquarium controller equipment is far more important than most people realize – and not all systems are created equal!
It is obvious that this component is key to controlling things on your aquarium, but what is not so apparent is how it is critical to preventing catastrophe in your aquarium. Here’s how.
We have put a lot of thought into the construction of our Energy Bars. Unlike our competitors and simple power strips, our Energy Bars are made out of 16 gauge, powder-coated aluminum. They are built to be bullet proof – almost literally!
Sure, like our competitors we could have gone with a slick, inexpensive plastic enclosure, but that would not provide you with the best protection against catastrophic failure. You see, plastic timer powerstrips and power bars used by some of our competitors can easily catch fire should saltwater enter them and cause a short. With our solid metal Energy Bars, if such a short did occur, it would be far less likely to spread to the tank or your home.
Each of the independently controlled outlets on the Energy Bar are independently switched and easily carry the current load specified on the label. In fact, we intentional underrate our outlets just to provide that extra level of security. So, depending on which Energy Bar you purchase, each outlet is rated from 5A to 10A at 120V AC or 8A on our 240V European model.
The Energy Bars continually send their information on their present current drain to the Apex controller. This is incredibly useful information for a number of reasons. First, it enables you to recognize what the overall power consumption is on any Energy Bar so that you can better distribute the load across your multiple Energy Bars. Also by having this feature you can accurately determine the power utilization of your tank to compare different lights, pumps, skimmers, etc.
Imagine revving the engine in your car and dropping the shifter from P to D. That is exactly what happens when many controllers turn on the power to your pumps. Just like in a car, this kind of instantaneous application of power to your return pump after a feed cycle or to your power heads will certainly lead to early failure. With the Energy Bar, power is slowly ramped on so that every motor is safely brought up to speed without the damaging torque.
Each Energy Bar outlet can be configured to be either in an off or on state if the power were to fail and then come back on or if there was a communication failure with the Apex base unit. This means that if, for instance, your heater was on when the power went off, you could have it programmed to be off until control was reestablished with the Apex base unit. Or, as another example, you could program your main return pump to always be in the on position in case of failure.
This feature is very important as many other controllers on the market may leave the outlet in its last position or possibly default all of the outlets to off or on. This is even true if they simply lose communication with their base unit due to a system failure, software bug, communication issue, lightning strike, etc. Not good. Imagine if you were away from home and a storm took out your Apex – the Energy Bar would just fall back to the Failsafe state you had programmed for such an incident. No worries.
One additional advanced feature is that when you use an additional Energy Bar on a UPS (uninterruptible power supply) you can have key lifesaving devices (low power power heads and bubblers) on there that will automatically go into their Failsafe State once power failure is detected. This can keep your tank alive and healthy for hours on a good UPS until the power comes back online. This will run completely unattended and is ideal to give you peace of mind when you are away from home whether out for the evening or on a two-week cruise!
It is easy to see the importance of this one small feature that differentiates the Neptune Systems Energy Bars from the rest and how once again Neptune Systems is looking out for every possible way for you to avoid catastrophe in your aquarium.
Each Energy Bar has additional connectors so that you can easily expand to other modules. This is very helpful for those that want to use one Apex to control multiple aquariums. The Energy Bar becomes an AquaBus “hub” at any location you choose – allowing you to connect more modules in that area. This is called a “star topology” and is unique to the Apex. Many other controllers require you to daisy chain together every module or they require you to buy a separate “hub” to connect everything together.
The Apex Display module is a sleek and compact way for your to interact with the Apex Base Unit and control nearly every aspect of your Aquarium.
Our Display Module uses high-quality, mechanical buttons. So what you say? Well many devices out there make use of what are called capacitive touch pads. This type of membrane button is just fine for your toaster oven, but in a saltwater environment it is highly susceptible to failure. So, even though the cost to us was higher, we went with mechanical buttons for our Display Module ensuring your product a much longer life.
While some may tout the importance of a color display, we disagree. We believe the most important thing for our customers is ease in readability and size of the display. What good is a color display if it is barely larger than a postage stamp. That is why we went with the backlit graphical display we did. It was the perfect match of function and value for our customers.
Inside the Apex Display Module is a tiny speaker with a big heart. This speaker will play one of many alarm sounds and tunes that are built into the Apex. These alarms are perfect to alert you of a water leak, over temp, or whatever you condition you desire to program into the Apex.
With the Apex Display Module you are not limited to having just one control panel. With the Apex (as an option) you can add one, two, even three control panels all to the same Apex. And, these are not watered down, smaller versions of the main control panel, all modules will have the same display and functionality.
Neptune Systems manufactures our own temperature probes in-house. Why? Because we saw the level of early failures due to using off-the-shelf temperature probes like those used in stand-alone digital thermometers as well as those used by other aquarium controllers. These probes often fail because they were never designed to be permanently submersed in saltwater. We custom build our temperature probes using a proprietary method that encapsulates the business end of the probe itself from the corrosive effects of long term saltwater submersion.
We tested many probes until we finally selected an manufacturer that would provide long life as well as consistent and accurate performance. We do not cut corners on the probes we supply. They may cost a little more than the bargain-basement probes you might see out on the open market, but there is a difference.
The Apex System can be fitted with two pH probes or one pH Probe and one ORP (Redox) probe. Go to our probes page to read more about what probes are available to add to your Apex Lite System.
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