We’ve been excited about the open source concept of the Reef Angel controller from the get go and now we finally got our hands on a Reef Angel controller. Needless to say, we weren’t disappointed. The controller certainly has come a long way since we covered it for the first time. The board got a complete makeover, and many new modules have been released. The software also has become much easier to use, which we’ll cover below. Keep reading for the full hands on along with a lot of pictures.
The Reef Angel controller currently retails for $219.00, and comes with a plethora of features. Along with the head unit and an eight-port relay box, the Reef Angel comes with a temperature probe, pH probe and two float switches. Two additional temperature probes can be added for $8 each and a dimmable moonlight that follows the same same pattern as the moon can be added for $20. Need internet connectivity? A WiFi attachment can be added for $109.00 along with two dosing pumps for $100. If you run out of plugs an additional relay expansion box will set you back $89. For this review we opted to just get the basic controller to explore the core functionality and usability of the Reef Angel.
The controller was packed well for shipment and arrived in perfect shape. All components were neatly packed but the instructions were, well, completely lacking. Don’t worry though connecting all the cables is extremely straightforward and further instructions can be found on the Reef Angel website. Next, the float switches weren’t wired up, maybe disappointing for some, but a quick run to the local hardware store for some electrical tape fixed the problem. After we finally wired everything up it was time to boot up the Reef Angel controller.
A pretty nice demo is installed on every Reef Angel controller but quickly realizing it wasn’t enough to fit our needs, we connected our controller to our laptop with the provided USB cable and got to work. The Reef Angel website has some pretty good tutorials on creating and uploading codes and following all the steps in the tutorial we ended up with a pretty decent controller. Of course it turned out the next day than none of the steps were needed since a newly released Reef Angel software, RAGen, takes care of all the hassle, but it did leave us with a very good feel for the code structure.
The RAGen software actually creates all the basic code you might need including timers, wave makers, ATO functions, dosing pumps, and temperature and pH control with just a click of a button. If you are striving for more controlability and customization than the RAGen offers, plenty of additional code libraries can be found on the RA forums. If there is any codes you need help with there are plenty of people willing to help out on the forums as well. Beside a wealth of knowledge on the forums the customer service is absolutely phenomenal, any questions you might have are quickly answered through email, usually within two hours.
Now the hardware. The Reef Angel, although not the sleekest on the market, is extremely cool looking and is just a tad bigger than the Vortech Eco Smart Driver, which is significantly smaller than we originally thought. The relay box isn’t too special though it is nice to see eight outlets rather than the usual six. The temperature probe is a bit on the cheap side and so are the float switches but they get the job nicely done. The pH probe contained some bubbles, but each probe is individually tested by Reef Angel before shipment and we were reassured of the accuracy. We also got a chance to open up the controller and there appears to be plenty of room for expansion for the ultimate DIY geek. The LCD screen is actually fully removable so in case it breaks or you simply want a higher resolution screen it is easily replaced.
Overall we are extremely pleased with the controller; it’s true that it has some shortcomings, the float switches and temperature probe are a bit cheap, and setting up the controller is a bit trickier than the average controller on the market, but at this price the huge amount of possibilities is just insane. Beside that the controller is just plain cool.