Welcome to the Black’n’wood review. I’ve reviewed several other Nocrotec clocks before and this one comes to us from a combination of sources. Dieter of Nocrotec worked with YanZeYuan (严泽远) to develop the electronics for this device. The tubes are sold by Nocrotec.com and the kit components are sold though nixiekitworld.com.
The first thing that you notice is that this device uses end view tubes. The default set are Chinese QS30-1 tubes. These are uncoated tubes with proper 5s and 2s. These are 30mm diameter tubes that use a standard base. Consequently, there are multiple tubes that can work as substitutes. For example, I have swapped out my tubes for the orange-coated GN-4 tubes (more on this later). Nocrotec has a list of substitutes that I have included at the bottom of this review for reference.
While we’re on the topic of tubes it is worth talking about viewing angle. Side view tubes typically have a wider viewing angle (both vertically and horizontally) than end view tubes. On end view tubes, the digits are stacked on top of each other in a small cylinder. This means that the numeral 9 is easier to see than a 6 because the 9 is at the front of the tube and the 6 is at the rear (digits are not stacked in numerical order). This clock is no exception. Because of this, the clock will ideally be mounted somewhere around eye level. I don’t consider this a problem because it is the nature of all tubes like this.
The enclosure clearly follows the design of some of the original Nocrotec clocks. The wooden base and metal plate look nearly identical to my X2000 [http://www.tubeclockdb.com/numitron-clocks/139-video-review-nocrotec-x2000.html]. I am a huge fan of this design; it gives the clock a nice luxury feel. The case itself is 287mm wide, 49mm deep, and 75mm tall (11.3” x 1.9” x 2.9”). The tubes protrude slightly but only by a few millimeters.
A small feature that I wanted to call out is the colon indicator tubes. They are not led; they are tiny neon bulbs. This was done to match the color of the nixie tubes but it also gives the device some subtle detail. For example, the top of the tubes are crimped and this causes the light pattern to be different from any led bulb. The tubes flicker somewhat; you can see the flow inside of the tube bouncing around. You don’t notice these details at first but when you start staring at them you quickly appreciate them.
The tubes are illuminated with blue LEDs which fade on/off every two seconds by default. You can order other colors (ocean green, deep green, white, purple) and if you don’t like the backlights, you can simply disable them. Earlier I mentioned that I swapped out the tubes with orange-coated GN-4s. The tubes are surrounded with foam padding to prevent light leakage from around the tube. With this surround and the orange coating, the backlight is almost completely blocked. Considering that orange and blue are opposites, this is not really surprising but it does mean that if you want to use the backlight feature, you should stick to uncoated tubes.
Keeping track of the time can be done a few different ways. The device comes with an internal crystal so you can simply set this clock like any other and let it run. You can also use a GPS receiver or a DCF77 receiver to set and maintain the time. The DCF77 and GPS options are external devices that you can purchase at a later time. Enabling them is as simple as changing a menu option on the device.
There is another interesting feature that may be of interest to some users. The Mini DIN connector can be uses to switch con and off other devices when then alarm sounds. You will need to add a relay to switch anything but the +5 V output may be interesting to some users.
Overall, this is a solid design. It offers a robust feature set and looks nice at the same time. I’ve been able to play with this clock for a few weeks and I thoroughly enjoy it.
10TU26, 122P224, 154-0327-00, 1970-0002, 5031, 50347, 5037, 5092, 5092A, 6770, 6844A, 8037, 8037(B-5031), 8421, 8421(B-5092), 8421/5092, B-5031, B-5031/6844, B-50347, B-5037, B-5092, B-5092/8421, B-5092A, B-6844A, BD-302, CD102, CD18, CD24, CD26, CD32A, CK6844A, CK8037, CK8421, CV5278, CV9316, CV9732, F9057, F9057A, F9057AA, GN-3, GN-4, GN-4A, GN-4D, GN-4E, GN-4P, GNP-4A, GR10M, HB-106, JAN-6844A, JAN-8037, JAN-8421, JAN-CB-6844A, JAN-CZ-6844A, LC-511, LC-513, LC-513A, M2726-102500, M2726-102600, NE-50347, NL-5031, NL-50347, NL-5092, NL-6844, NL-6844A, NL-8037, NL-8421, ST12C, SZ1-1, SZ3-1, SZ-8, Z510M, Z520M, Z5600M, Z560M, ZM1020, ZM1020/01, ZM1022, ZM1022p
I’ve reviewed a few other thermometers and today, we have an interesting one from a company (humorously named) SALTechips. This is the ThermNeon; it uses an IN-13 bargraph tube to display both the temperature and the menu.
Typically, nixie/neon thermometers haven’t had much in the way of options. With a nixie clock, you typically have four or six digits to display menu numbers and values. While these can be a little cumbersome at times they get the job done. With a bargraph tube, displaying the menu items and values takes some ingenuity. SALTechips achieves this by changing the backlight color to green (to indicate menu item selection) or red (to indicate the value selection.) The actual menu items are defined as temperatures. So, flashing green at 15 Degrees Celsius means that the menu item selected is the temperature display frequency.
One of the interesting things about the backlight in this case is the way that it is used to convey information. For example, if it is cold, you can have the backlight be set to blue. If it is warm, you have it set to yellow. If the temperature is somewhere in between, the device will mix the two colors proportionately. The cutoff points for hot/cold and the colors can be set in the menu.
Below is a list of all of the menu items
There is one other feature that is not accessible via the menu. It is a live display mode where the temperature is constantly updated based on the input. It is interesting to play with this feature because it becomes clear that this isn’t an analog device. (Yes, you can also tell this by looking at the schematics.) The temperature does not smoothly transition but jumps in even increments. This isn’t necessarily bad because (1) it isn’t a precision device and (2) because the neon glow does not have a clearly defined top to begin with.
The display itself turns on and off at regular intervals to prolong the tube life. I know that nixies, for example, can get cathode poisoning. I’m not sure how IN-13 tubes age however. I have my device set to a 50% duty cycle (display for 30 seconds every minute) but I guess I won’t know for a few years what effect it has, if any. My tube in thermometer from NixieKits.eu seems to be holding up fine but it is filled with Argon so I’m not sure how that changes the lifespan.
The scale itself deserves some attention too. At 1 CM, it is considerable thicker than the neon tube. The tube sits in a channel that has been drilled out of the center so it provides stability across the entire length of the tube. The channel is just deep enough to protect the tube but not distort the display in any way. The tube is still exposed on the front and back but it is well protected.
The base of the device made out of what appears to be laser cut wood. The panels are 5MM thick and fit solidly together. The photos give a pretty good idea of how the case is actually built. On the front of the device the thermNeon logo is etched. On the back are cutouts for the power, the sensor, and the buttons. On the bottom is a sticker with an abridged version of the menu.
The device itself is sold as a kit for $140 or assembled for $200. With the kit version, the majority of the components are through-hole, which should make assembly easier. If you need help with the few SMD parts, SALTechips will affix them to the PCB before shipping. I will link to the assembly manual at the bottom of this article. If you’re thinking about buying the kit version, it is worth looking at. They went through great pains to photograph every step and make assembly as easy as possible.
As far as powering the device, you can use a wall power supply or a mini USB connector. Both are supplied with the kit and assembled versions. The power that ships with the device is matched with the correct plug based on the shipping destination.
This is a solid device. Literally. I don’t think it is going to break unless I really try to. I am a big fan of the features that this clock offers. They add functionality to the device that is actually useful to users. Overall, this is a solid little gadget.
NixieKits.eu's new Leon clock is now shipping. This is a solid looking design that has the interesting addition of a microphone stand mount on the bottom. This means that the device can be mounted small desk stand to make it really stand out. I particularly like the red corner caps of this design - it almost looks like a 1950's hot rod. This thing looks nice!
Leon is Mr.Nixie’s fourth creation of a Nixie clock series starting with the IN-2 "Laura", IN-17 "Lars" and IN-12/17 "Lena" Nixie clocks. Based on the past experiences of hundreds of sold kits and the wishes from our customers, the software was radically re-written and is now backed with a lot of new features. Also an "ultra cool" HV converter design was introduced, which minimizes the heat created by the inductor / switching transistor to a maximum of only 30°C. This results in highest efficiency > 90% and the possibility to power the clock from a single USB power source. In the same way the EMI noise was dramatically reduced. The electronics of Leon is packed into a very flamboyant OEM aluminium enclosure from the design-series "Chac" of Fischerelektronik in Lüdenscheid / Germany. An optional glas desktop stand from König & Meyer, which fits into the 3/8" threat on bottom is available.
Here is an announcement that I'm very excited about. The QR Clock from http://ch00ftech.com/ that was on Hack A Day a few weeks ago has been refined an now available for pre-sale on Tindie. If you haven't seen this device - it is a large LED matrix that generated QR codes that contain the time. Of course, you have to pull our your smart phone (which has a built in clock) to read this device diminishing its utility somewhat. This interesting juxtaposition is what makes this clock genius in my opinion.
As of this writing, the campaign has reached $1,800 of its $5,000 goal. The clock itself is only $100 so if you're interested, please pre-order it before the campaign ends.
From the description:
The time is displayed as a Version 1 21x21 pixel QR code. Try to scan one of the images on this page for a quick demonstration. It measures 8x8" and features a brilliant white display that automatically adjusts to ambient lighting allowing it to be clearly visible during the day without being distracting at night. It has a simple mounting system on the back that will work perfectly on a standard picture hanging nail. The soft rubber pads under the display will keep it from damaging the wall.