It’s not every day that one of us finds ourselves locked in one of the rooms, heavily focused on a single device that comes in. Unless of course that device happens to take the job of many devices and it takes you awhile to peel away at its many layers. This round, that device happens to be Matricom’s new Arc Home Management System.
Sounds a bit fancy right? With a title like that, you’d expect big things out of it. Well, big things is what Matricom had in mind when they designed this guy. Because it takes on your entire home, providing it with routing, streaming, TV, automation, apps, security and more. Did I leave anything out? I most likely did, but we’ll discover it as we go because this is a long one (so get your coffee ready!).
The Arc itself looks like a cross between a standing router and possibly and external hard drive. It weighs in at just over 2 lbs and is pretty decent in size (that’s where I got the comparison of an external hard drive from). It’s not too large, but large enough to assume there is a lot of stuff going on inside of it.
It features an all plastic shell, stands upright (no other orientation), with all of the connections on the back side. They definitely put a lot of time into making sure it carried a unique look to it. It kind of reminds me of The Destroyer robot from the Thor movies.
The connections on the back include a number of interesting options. You start off with the WAN and LAN ports, where internet comes in and passes out to other wired devices (ie, PC, video game system, switch, etc). It only features two LAN ports since it wasn’t exactly made to replace a busy router so much as it was included as a feature to enhance the experience of the Arc in general, and to deliver their firewall specifications for added security. We will talk more about routing later.
There is an SD card slot for adding media with, as well as a tray that slides out to the right, revealing a 2.5-inch hard drive bay. Now that part is pretty cool (and explains some of the bulk in general). There are also two USB 2.0 ports for accessories or once again, adding media (external drives?). They really made sure you had a lot of options to pick from when it comes to bringing in your own content.
For your outputs, it supports HDMI 2.0 to your TV (or receiver), which allows it to output up to 4K@60p for all of your media. There is also a small 3.5 mm TRS connector labeled AV, which typically is for a converter that breaks out to analog AV connections. It doesn’t come with the adapter, so they are banking on the chance that most consumers now (finally) don’t require an analog connection. To the right of the USB ports is an optical out, in case you want to send sound separately to a receiver or soundbar.
Finally, there is an on/off push button control, as well as a small pin-hole button to trigger WPS, for easily adding WiFi devices to your network with.
To sum things up, it does stuff, and whole lot of it.
Getting started is pretty easy. You plug it into the wall by your TV, run a HDMI cable (it comes with one) between the Arc and the TV, and insert an ethernet cable (also has one of those) into it coming from your modem or other source of internet (you can connect it to another router just fine).
Make sure your TV is on and set to the HDMI input you chose for the Arc. Press the power button in on the back and watch it boot up. The loading screen is dialed down a bit, reminding us of the old PSX/PS2 Gameshark accessories, but once you get past that, you get a full-color experience.
Follow the step-by-step instructions on the screen. It will guide you through choosing your language, timezone and then it will walk you through the important stuff. You will set up an admin/password for the Arc itself, and then you will do the same with the WiFi information by providing an SSID (network name) and password. The first of the two logins is for administering the settings of the Arc itself, and the latter of the two logins is for other devices to be able to see and connect to the WiFi networks it broadcasts.
Then you would set up an Arc account (this is like a Google or Apple account and separate from the admin login for the hardware itself). So as you can see, there are a lot of username/password combos you have to spill out, so make sure you are writing all of this down!
Finally, it will ask you to log into a Google account for added usability of the device (in other words, apps and Google Assistant). You can skip this step but it isn’t advised as you want to be able to make full use out of the Arc.
Once you finished all of that up, it will ask you to download an app to your Android or iOS device for extended use. Arc will reboot and might even find an update for its firmware to install. After all of that, you will find yourself on the home screen ready to roll.
The home screen looks a lot like a smart TV’s user interface in ways, crossed with an accessory like an Android box or Roku. It is very easy to move around it using the provided remote and the menu response/speed is fantastic. You find yourself moving all over the place without having to wait for things to load (which is always a large bonus).
You have all of your settings tucked away at the top right for controlling the total configuration of the Arc with, including WiFi, Bluetooth, Z-Wave and more. Below the header area that contains all of this, the content changes depending on what tab you are on.
The main tab features news from Matricon, an apps space for adding all of your favorite apps like Netflix, YouTube, solutions like MoviePlayer or VLC (for your own media), browsers, and more. You can visit the Google Play Store and download all sorts of apps. Below that, is all of your tabs that take you to the various categories.
The Media Tabs
The “Movies” category allows you to browse back and forth through a ton of popular titles. If you choose a title, it will give you the option to add it to your watchlist or watch a trailer, and then provide you a list of apps that have that movie available (Netflix, Amazon, Vudu, YouTube, Microsoft, iTunes, and more). Just choose your service and get to watching that movie! If you want to take things further, you can click on the actual tab, which brings you to a detailed search section where you can browse by various filters like genre, year, language, and so forth. You can manually search for things and really dial into what you are looking for. It provides a master search solution for ALL of the streaming networks. Pretty cool right?
The “TV shows” tab does exactly the same, only providing you with recommendations for popular shows like The Haunting of Hill House or The Walking Dead. Just as before, it will lead you to the appropriate app that hosts these series for your consumption. Keep in mind, you do still have to be a subscriber to any of the apps you want to use. You can click on this tab as well to access a deeper search for what you are looking for.
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The “Live TV” tab brings you to a screen where you can watch live TV from all around the world. It starts you off at the top of the list every time, and you can move around via a list to the right, or you can click on the main tab which leads you to a regional selection where you can filter your channels by country. The signal is streamed over the internet, so no connection to an antenna is needed. If you click on the video that is playing, it will go to full screen. To access the list of channels while in full screen, you can hit the menu button on the remote for a list to pop up to the left. We haven’t found a way yet to customize the list of channels to your favorites or anything just yet, so either we are missing something, or the Arc is. If it’s the latter, I am sure they will notice this and add the option in a future firmware update (hopefully).
Speed-wise, everything seems to move quite smoothly. I have already covered the fact that the menu system itself is pretty snappy. However, streaming can sometimes be a whole other story. Our network here is pretty fast. We typically throttle devices around 200-300 mbps for stability reasons, which gives more than enough speed to everything we are testing. However, we let the Arc loose on the network with no restrictions at first to see if it will choke (sometimes doing this creates a bottleneck out of the device itself). It didn’t choke at all and things began to stream with a snap of a finger. We then dialed things down, throttling the Arc’s access to the network down as low as 4 mbps, and it continued to perform just fine. Of course, at the lower speeds, you aren’t going to be able to achieve 4K or anything, but that it completely normal.
The next two tabs cover all of your smart home aspects of the Arc, as well as energy management. This is where you start to dive far deeper into the Arc’s capabilities, as home automation is where it is at these days and Arc has it.
The first tab, “Smart Home”, is where you can add devices and control things, using Arc as your hub. I wouldn’t expect to go too deep into the rabbit hole when it comes to advanced configuration and scripting or anything. The Arc’s smart home support seems to be aimed at a user-friendly experience with your typical scene scenarios.
You can add many difference devices to the Arc, like smart switches, outlets, plugs, door locks, light bulbs and more. You can add cameras to the setup so that you can peek into them at any time and it can easily be done from the screen. All you have to do is trigger the pairing of a device, and then ask Arc to scan for new devices. Once you add a device, you can organize them by room (living room, bedroom, dining room, bathroom, closet, secret chamber, etc). Once you have added the devices, and grouped them where they need to go, you can control them individually and even create scenes to get things automated with.
To get working with the scenes, you have to have the app available. At this point you would have most likely already set up the app to get it connected to the gateway, but if not yet, it would be wise to do so as you won’t be able to get anywhere without it. It is also easier to add certain devices like cameras using the app in our experience. You would connect the app with the Arc by making sure your phone is connected to the Arc’s Wifi. Then you would open the app and choose to add a new gateway, and then “LAN search.” Once you find the unit, simply add your admin/pass you choose during the original setup and it will be added to the main screen of the app. Click on it to access the gateway and you will be able to browse all of the devices, add new devices and/or start creating scenes to control everything with. You can also control the rooms by viewing them or editing what you have set up.
When setting up scenes, you have two options to choose from, including “One Click Scenes” and “Intelligent Scenes”. The One Click Scenes are your typical shortcuts you assign for daily routines, like morning, night, away and so forth. Each one can perform a selection of tasks like turning on all of your lights, or shutting everything down and locking the doors. You can choose from a list of typical options or create a custom one of your own.
The Intelligent Scenes brings you to a screen that allows you to dial things in a little more, where devices can interact with each other. Like when motion is detected over “here”, then “turn on all of these lights” to freak out whomever tripped the sensor. Again, no advanced scripting like luup coding or anything, but it’s enough to satisfy most consumers (consider how many people take advantage of the deeper setups vs those looking for something they can just click on a few things and make it all work).
Now, with the app, you can control of your smart home remotely while you are away. Just like you’d expect from any hub solution.
The “Energy” tab gives you a place to keep track of the energy being consumed via any of the devices connected to the hub (Arc). Smart plugs, outlets, bulbs and more, can all report home how much energy they are consuming. This screen gives you a dashboard to see all of this information, shows you how much it means to you in terms of monthly cost, as well as a table showing recent usage and so forth. You should keep in mind that not all smart devices support energy monitoring, so this will only includes the information from devices that can. So as long as you purposely surround yourself with devices that can, you can get a lot of neat information about power-hungry devices, helping to nip that bill in the butt.
The last two tabs surround routing and security. The “Router” tab simply gives you a few basic stats about the current traffic of the network. It lets you know the current downstream (downloads) speed being used by all things currently connected, as well as the same for the upstream (uploads), and the current memory being used to process it all. For anything deeper, you will want to browse to the top of the screen to those icons mentioned earlier, and click on the globe. This brings you to the actual routing screen where you can go into greater detail, and control all of the settings.
You have a handful of neat options to choose from within the router settings area, but you don’t have everything. This is where earlier I had mentioned that this wasn’t meant to replace a busy router per se. If you are an advanced user, you will find yourself connecting this to a full-blown router of your own vs using it as your sole routing solution. It isn’t going to give you the same options as something like a Netgear Nighthawk router. However, for basic to intermediate users, this actually offers a decent selection of options.
Besides being able to modify your network login information, there is a screen called “Wi-Fi Mode”, which allows you to switch between standard WiFi, Long Range (to cover larger areas), Sleep Mode (decreased range to save on energy), and simply turning WiFi off. It’s really simple and doesn’t go any deeper into settings than that (it does everything for you).
It also offers bandwidth prioritization, which is a popular feature within most of today’s routers. You can choose from no priority, games, video and web pages. If you choose no priority, then everything can run free on the router. If you choose games, then when you begin to play a game on the network, it will give all priority to your game when it comes to bandwidth (which will throttle other devices and apps on the network so that you will experience reduced latency in your game). The same thing applies for videos, which would give priority to any video streaming it detects (YouTube, Netflix and so forth). And of course, the same applies to the web pages options (browsing).
Moving our focus back to the tabs, the “Security” tab provides you with a dashboard of statistics that shows you what devices are currently connected to the network, and the current score of the network security-wise. It will show you if your security is “up to date” (I’m guessing this has to do with firmware and updates) and how much data has been scanned (consumed). You can click on the individual items for additional information, and when threats are detected, it will show you which device is the culprit (or so it seems). We haven’t run into any “threats” to confirm any of this, nor do we plan on forcing our way into any.
I have to point out that the remote is pretty nice. It is basic in some ways and so useful in many others. You will find that it provides the perfect balance for what you need it for. The top side of the remote offer basic media options, including a power button, mute button and some basic shortcuts. Of the three shortcuts, the top one will trigger a programmed scene of your choice. The next one takes you to the screen where you can view all of your connected camera (very useful). The third one takes you, well, home to the home screen. The icons do all the work of spelling it out, so you won’t confuse them.
Below that is a directional pad with a center selection/ok button for browsing around with and making choices. The next three buttons contain two that will change everything. The first one is just a back button. Then you have a button with an image of a mouse, and yes, this turns your remote into a mouse! You can waive it around in the air and a mouse cursor will form on the screen and follow you around. Cool? I sure think so. Not enough remote controls offer this feature. It really makes moving around options on the screen a total breeze. It doesn’t just end there though. The button next to it with the image of a mic, allows you to trigger Google Assistant from your remote. The bottom of the remote (under the Matricom logo) reveals a tiny little hole with a mic inside. Simply hold the mic button down and ask or tell Google Assistant what you need (open Youtube, what’s today’s date, and so on and on and on).
Below that, you find all of your normal buttons outside of the menu button in the middle (the three horizontal lines). These buttons you will find to be familiar and control your media with, as well as volume.
What’s inside the box?
It comes with everything you need to get started, assuming you don’t need that analog video/audio connection. Since the average home has an HDMI connection now, this shouldn’t be a problem. It’s nice to know everyone is catching up with the world (slowly, but surely).
Along with the Arc itself, you get an ethernet cable, an HDMI 2.0 cable, power cord and the awesome remote. It comes with instructions to get you started and the Arc itself walks you through the rest during setup.
We got to speak with their technical support team. Since it is a new product, they are still tweaking the UI and making adjustments as they go to better fine tune things. Their support was easy to reach out to and they are quite focused on taking care of the user, which is a giant plus. It will be quite fascinating to see where they go in the future with the UI, and what enhancements they will bring.
Matricom had recently dropped the price of the Arc down to $249, making it a fantastic price for what the product has to offer. They are running a big sale during Black Friday, including specials that run into December. If you check it out now via the link below, you can get your hands on a bundle offer with a free smart home accessory (to get you started) for the exact same price.
It truly does a lot of neat things. Being able to use one device to rule it all is great for novice to intermediate users. It really does make the entire process much easier vs having to get a bunch of devices to talk to each other. If you are an advanced user who dives deep into the realm of routing and smart home, with port forwarding, policies, scripting, and so on–you will find yourself still flocking to the separate devices to get that extended control with. However the average consumer typically doesn’t need all of that, the that’s where the Arc really steps in. It offers you basic routing options with a few extra bonus items. It offers you smart home control of some of your favorite devices, as well as the ability to create scenes for all of them. You get to dive into your security by monitoring various aspects of your network. Of course, one of the most important features, is the extensive selection of media to flip through and watch between streamed movies, streamed TV series, steamed live TV, and of course your own media and the various ways of added it. The list goes on and on. In the end, it racked up a fantastic score with us, at 8.5/10.
|Buy from Amazon|
*Average price is based on the time this article was published
|CPU | Processor||Amlogic S905x Quad-Core @2.0GHz|
|GPU | Graphics||PentaCore ARM Mali-450 3D|
|External Storage||Up to 2 TB|
|Router||MT7628 + MT7612, 1200Mbps|
|Ethernet||10/100M Full Duplex Port|
|Wi-Fi||IEEE 802.11 b/g/n/ac|
|Video Output||up-to 4k at 60 FPS|
|USB Ports||USB 2.0 x2|
|HDMI Output||YES, 2.0|
|Dimensions||9.5 in x 5.75 in x 4.25 in|
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