Alden Netmaster 90

Discussion in 'TV & Satellite' started by vava1, Feb 25, 2008.

  1. vava1

    vava1 Read Only Funster

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    Is anybody using the new ALDEN NETMASTER 90 satellite TV and internet access system?

    I've read a review on both the Vanbits and Roadpro sites (written by the same guy) but would love to hear experiences from some REAL users, not people connected with the distributors!

    The system sounds almost too good to be true :Wink:

    Cheers
     
  2. Jim

    Jim Ringleader

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    It does sound really good, Andy of RoadPro is a member here, he has just finished his trip around Europe testing it. As soon as i have a spare 3k I will be getting it:thumb:

    The only reservation is that it is TV OR Internet and not both at the same time.
     
  3. olley

    olley Funster

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    Hi jim by using a slingbox you can get both at the sametime

    olley
     
  4. Jim

    Jim Ringleader

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    Ahh never thought of that:BigGrin: Are you getting one Olley?
     
  5. olley

    olley Funster

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    hi jim would love to, just can't justify it at the moment with the amount of time we spend abroad. When I can get her to ease up a bit, and if roaming charges are still high abroad then definately.

    Being able to get eastenders for her, will mean no bother convincing her of the cost. :BigGrin: Only snag is I will be left with a hole in the ceiling from the maxview. :Sad: so maybe I ought to look at ceiling mounted LCD screens to cover it. :BigGrin:

    So many gadgets, so little money. :cry:

    Olley
     
  6. RoadProAndy

    RoadProAndy Read Only Funster

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    Reviews

    Vava1 says

    "I've read a review on both the Vanbits and Roadpro sites (written by the same guy) but would love to hear experiences from some REAL users, not people connected with the distributors!"

    Why on earth would you think that a reviewer is connected with the distributors? His only connection is that he bought the system from us and then reviewed it. That's it!

    Do you think that all the people who review products on websites are friends or family?

    RoadProAndy (connected with RoadPro - M.D. actually)
     
  7. vava1

    vava1 Read Only Funster

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    Now now Mr Managing Director, no need to snipe!

    At the time i wrote that post there was only a review by somebody who had TRIED the system and was giving his report on it

    I merely wanted to hear from a 'real' Netmaster user, that's all

    Sit back down now it'll all be ok :)
     
  8. Ivys

    Ivys Read Only Funster

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    Yep, and I'm a real user (no links to RoadPro or Alden). It's a very good system and the backup is excellent. I don't (yet) use a slingbox but plan to. Skype and MSN work very well. General web stuff also works well.

    The only downside so far is that my VPN connection to one of my clients is quite slow for some reason - but not so that I can't work effectively. It just means that I can't download my usual 800MB file in a few minutes - a good excuse to go for a walk.

    It finds the satellite fairly quickly and even in a fair wind will hold the connection. Not too hard on the batteries.

    The Alden solution is the first to meet the following criteria:
    1. Reasonable setup costs
    2. Reasonable ongoing costs
    3. Easy to use
    4. Acceptable speeds

    If you want more info let me know.

    Rog
     
  9. xyz

    xyz

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    Background
    In 2006 I moved into my motorhome and have lived and worked in it ever since. In December 2006, I arranged to have the Datastorm F1 system fitted as I required internet access for my work. Until it was fitted, I bought a USB modem (dongle) from Vodafone as a backup.
    In mid-2008 I finally took the Datastorm off my roof. It has cost me in total around £12,500 in buying it, paying for bandwidth, and paying 3 companies to try and make it work. The idea of Datastorm is excellent, and when it does work it works so well. However in the time I had mine the longest period of uninterrupted service I got from it was 3 weeks. In total, I probably got around 5 weeks of working from it over the year and a half period.
    I don't believe there's anything wrong with the hardware, which is why it is still carefully stored in a friends garage. Datastorm in my opinion is simply an extremely unreliable service.
    I'm happy to offer more information to anyone who requires it if you email me.

    So, as I need the internet access and had planned to explore Europe whilst working, I bought the Alden system last August from Vanbitz, who also installed it.
    Here's my opinion on it.

    Installation
    The installation took less than a day and it's a professional installation as far as I can tell, with cables neatly routed, equipment well secured and unlike my other system there was no damage to my van by the fitters.
    There's the dish on the roof, and in the cupboard I chose they fitted the Satellite Search Box which controls the dish and a modem, which takes the signal from the dish and routes it to your computer.

    Operation
    They explained how to use the system and it's incredibly simple. Switch on the Satellite Search Box, switch on the modem and wait. Within a minute or 3 (depending where you are geographically) you will hear a double beep which indicates that the Search Box has 'locked' on to the satellite. Less than a minute after that, the modem lights indicate that data transfer is now live. You are connected to the internet.
    I have a wireless modem that I could have used with this system, although I chose not to use it. I have fitted a network point to the sidewall of the cupboard, so I plugged my laptop into that and hey presto, I had internet.

    Initial glitches
    3 weeks of flawless operation later, and the Search Box failed. You can read the story, or skip to the next paragraph if you like.
    As I understand it, IPCopter who run the satellite wanted to change the frequency of data sent and received. Doing this would of course mean that the Search Box would not be able to find the satellite as some of its parameters had changed. When I realised my system wasn't going to work I contacted Vanbitz who forwarded me to Roadpro (the importers) who explained all of this and said they would fit a new search box for me which had the new parameters in. I went down and they did just that and it worked. My only real complaint about this was, why not email all Netmaster users and tell them what was going on? Instead of waiting for people to phone in? I'm sure there is a reason, but I'm not sure what that reason is. Anyway it works again now, although Roadpro tell me that once things have settled down, they may have to swap the search box again, keeping the new working electronics, but basically putting them into a new smart looking box. That's a non-issue for me.

    In use
    So, in use I have found the system to be reliable, quick to setup (typically 2-3 minutes in total), and fast enough for most uses. Don't expect it to operate at the stated 1 Meg line speed all the time though, that's rare. To be fair, most home broadband is the same. They might say 8 Meg line, and the line may well support that, but that is not the speed you will get.
    Upload speed is good, I've had no problems sending photo's and other large files to the internet.

    If you use online games, you may have to check your ping to make sure they will support it. From memory I think my average was something like 660ms, which is quite healthy for satellite, although not healthy enough for some game users.
    Speed is a very difficult thing to measure. My own rule of thumb is, if you can get BBC news home page in less than 5 seconds then it's fine.
    It operates natively on 12v with a direct (fused) connection to the batteries, and it's current draw is very small.

    It's all ready for TV too needing only a Freeview type box to connect. I don't have TV but have been told it is simple to setup.
    The dish is designed to stow itself away if you turn the ignition on. That's a neat trick as I did forget once. It's just as well that feature is there as the dish does not like wind.

    It is worth using some insulation tape to secure the power lead into the modem. If it gets knocked out as mine did, it can short against the casing. This blows the fuse which is not the end of the world as it uses a standard 10 amp blade fuse. It is however an inconvenience.

    The ground station that supports the system is in Germany, therefore when you're surfing you may see odd things happening. For instance, connecting to BBC news I had to click on the UK button for the first time, to tell the site that's what version I wanted to view. It had detected that I was non-UK based. Some BBC content will not work as you are not a UK resident.
    Targeted ads are often in German too. That's not such a bad thing.
    There are ways around all of this but that's beyond the scope of this review.

    When I am parking, I have an onboard compass so that I know where south is. This is important. The satellite that the dish points to is Hellasat, which sits in geo-stationary orbit above Greece. Therefore the further north you go in the UK, the lower the satellite appears in the sky. So you need to make sure that there is nothing in the direct line of sight of the dish. Buildings will block the signal and prevent it from working. It works fine with very light tree cover, but during summer when foliage is thick, no trees in the way is best. If you're prominent, such as on the top of a hill you should be fine...as long as there's no wind.
    The netmaster hates wind. The weatherman may say that it is only 15 mph, but if there's slightly faster gusts this can prevent it working. The Netmaster is good at finding it's signal again if it is lost and it does this automatically. However the mount and dish unit is not very robust at all and I would recommend that if winds are above 15-20 mph, or if it's a gusty day, then you don't use the system.
    When you first start the system, you can just say hear the motors. My rule of thumb is, if you can hear the 'note' of the motors change clearly as the dish is going up, it's probably too windy and is not worth risking damage.

    I can't use it in places such as the Lake District as there are very few places where I can get high enough to see the satellite. It does not work just north of Carlisle, or at Berwick-upon-Tweed, unless you find high ground with no obstacles. It will not work at all once you're in Scotland unless you can find a very high point with high prominence.
    This system is very much centred around usage on the European continent.

    You must bear in mind that I have never used this for TV reception, and some buy it principally for that reason. My whole review and experience is about it's usage for the internet.

    Maintenance
    I'm told you never need do anything to it, although I did once hose the dish as it was covered in road dirt during the winter. I did this not because it wasn't working, but because it looked unsightly. However I'm sure there's a very good reason not to hose it!
    The dish itself is held onto the supporting arms by 2 nylon shear bolts. These bolts are designed to break if the dish has too much force on it, preventing substantial damage to the mount. I would recommend that if you buy a system you get some extra bolts as they 'will' break at some point. They are cheap enough to buy though at a couple of £'s per pair.

    Cost
    Mine was £3450 and £250 to install and there are various methods of paying for bandwidth. There will most likely be a method that suits you.
    I personally think the cost is too high for what you get, but I was happy to pay it and here's why.
    The equipment is not robust at all. Risking using it in poor weather might eventually cost you burned out motors.
    However if you use common sense, then it is quick and reliable and to date gives good internet service within 3 minutes of parking up.
    If you don't use it, you don't pay bandwidth: if you do it's less than £1.50 per day (or part thereof).
    If you're travelling Europe than it will be easier to locate the satellite as you are closer to it, so there's less chance of obstacles being in your way.
    I am currently in Berwick-upon-Tweed and the dish is pointing slightly down from the horizontal. I can get no service here. If you're in eastern France, the dish will look higher in the sky so obstacles such as buildings and trees will be less of a problem, so you have a much greater chance of getting a strong signal.

    Conclusion
    If like me you travel the UK a lot, I would definitely recommend this system if you require internet or TV, but internet now and again for non-essential purposes, and if you have the money to spend without missing it. However, if you really need access I would not recommend it.

    It's not robust enough, it does not receive internet in parts of northern England and there is no internet cover at all in Scotland unless you're in a very high location with high prominence.

    If you wish to travel Europe as I wished to do, I would heartily recommend the Netmaster but again, only if you will not rely on it. Wind is it's downfall.

    So far over the last 2 and a half years I have relied on my USB modem, which was only supposed to be a backup. It works almost everywhere (and in built up areas is far faster than satellite) and if the cost of using it abroad was much less, I would not even think of a satellite system. I believe there has been 2 occasions in the last 2 and a half years when I relied on the satellite internet system when I was unable to use my USB modem.

    However as my job relies on internet access, I won't even trust the Netmaster in Europe, although only for the one reason that it cannot be used if it's windy (over 15-20mph) and weather is so unpredictable.

    So, a real review from a real life user you asked for? Here it is warts and all.
    If you have the money to spend get it, it's a reliable system and you'll get lots of pleasure from it.
    If you need it, or have a budget, forget it. There are much better alternatives for internet access.

    I hope this has been of use. Feel free to message me if you wish.
     
  10. vava1

    vava1 Read Only Funster

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    What a fantastically comprehensive reply! Thank you :)

    I have actually bought an Alden Netmaster 90 and though I have not used it anywhere near the levels you have I am generally pleased with it

    I agree with your comments about operating it in windy conditions but I have not had the problems you mention with the bolts shearing - maybe I should get some bolts as spares!

    You surprise me with your comments about not being able to use the system in Scotland; I successfully used it for several days in Edinburgh on the CC site where I finished writing some brochures (part of my work) in between going into the city for various Edinburgh Fringe events!

    I've also connected ok in France, Spain, Germany and Holland; no surprise there I suppose, that's what it's meant to do...

    Sounds like you had a real nightmare with the DataStorm system - so for you and many others I guess there's not a current idela solution - maybe Alden will do a heavy-duty version of the Netmaster 90?!
     
  11. xyz

    xyz

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    I am sitting right now on a hill in Spittal, a mile south of Berwick and there is no signal. Unless there's a problem i don't know about! Perhaps I'll check it later! :Eeek:

    I fervently hope Alden don't bring a heavy duty version out ... because i would seriously want one but don't have any cash left! :cry:
    Glad to hear you're happy with yours, it really is a great reliable system if you don't depend on it.

    I am also embarassed to say I didn't mention that Andy (Roadpro) was fantastic on the one occasion I really needed support. :Smile:
     
  12. vava1

    vava1 Read Only Funster

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    I would expect you to get a signal on the top of a hill like that?! So what are you connecting to the net with now?

    I found Andy at Roadpro very helpful too

    The strange carry on with the changing signal frequency was weird in as much as I also received no notification about it either last year

    I have sent my SSC unit to Alden as per their February email and am expecting the upgraded unit any day now...
     
  13. xyz

    xyz

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    I'm currently 'enjoying' dial-up speed with my USB modem. I have Onspeed too which helps. It means I am sitting overlooking the beach so I'm a happy bunny :BigGrin:
     
  14. xyz

    xyz

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    If you are considering an Alden Netmaster, things have changed. Changed significantly. I'll post more when I have time but I would heartily recommend that if you don't have a siginificantly high budget for running this sytem, you don't even consider buying it.

    Edit: the euro rate has changed which makes this an expensive system to run, but also they have taken away the ability to buy 31 days, which would last for a year. You can buy 40 days now, but it will cost you about £200. The yearly access package is cheapest at about £550 for a whole year. However, given what has been said about weather, this is unlikely to be the best option, therefore the packages with lesser days mean you have to spend more.

    I have now decided to sell my system. It was fitted in August last year, is stilll in excellent condition and Vanbitz or Roadpro can fit it for you. As the price of the system has gone up significantly too, I would be happy if anyone interested wants to email me or PM me to negotiate a reaasonable price.
     
    Last edited: Mar 17, 2009

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