An Alarm Super-Panel?

By Brian Rhodes, Published Mar 31, 2013, 08:00pm EDT

Combo alarm panels have become popular for small and medium installations. Now, DMP has announced a combo panel that adds in Access Control and Z-Wave, combining 4 systems. While DMP claims the platform is a major update over current offerings, how does it stack up against competitors? In this note, we examine the new XR550 family and look deeper.

Product Specifications

The XR 550 family of panels includes three versions: the 142 zone XR150, the 374 zone XR350, and the 574 zone XR550. The marked up image below calls out key elements:

While the total number of zones differs according to model number, each panel is built with the same basic features:

  • Commercial Burg & Fire Certified: UL, FCC, CSFM, NIST, and ULC (Canada) Listed Panels
  • 8 - 32 Configurable Areas: Used to define floors, rooms, or doors
  • 99 User Profiles: Akin to 'cardholders' that can be discretely configured based on privileges
  • 99 Schedules: Used to configure access permissions. Up to 4 profiles can be associate with a user for 'access levels'
  • 2G/3G/4G GSM Support: Verizon, T-Mobile, and AT&T CDMA/HSPA network compatible radio
  • Z-Wave Hub: Up to 232 supported devices can be controlled through the XR500-family gateway with the DMP 738Z add-on module
  • QR Code: Another small, but useful detail is a QR Code printed on the CPU Chip that provides a permanent, indelible method of accessing technical documents. A technician does not need to keep binders of paper manuals, but can scan the QR Code with a smartphone and gain web access to DMP's full library of system support literature.

DMP's video infographic overviews other features / specifications.

Access Control

The XR550 family provides up to sixteen doors of access control. Any standard Wiegand reader can be wired to XR Series DMP "Command Processor" controllers, system keypads, or DMP Wiegand Interface modules. All system tie-ins have a request-to-exit (REX) zone and inputs for door contacts.

Door locking hardware is controlled via system output contacts, but power is separately delivered to all devices (locks, readers, RTE) via external power supplies.

Pricing

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Pricing for the stock panels range from $150 for the XR150 to $600 for the XR550. Panels can be 'customized' in a number of configuration options, including a Z-Wave module (+$75), Water-tight Steel Can Enclosure (+$100) and phone dialer or GSM options (+$50 - $100).

Typical configuration for the average small commercial system, using standard hardwired Fire/Intrusion alarm sensors will result in a panel cost of ~$700.

Pros

Aside from generational design improvements over the previous DMP XR series, the XR550 family has several advantages that set it apart:

  • Inexpensive: While the combination fire and burglar alarms in one unit simplifies installation labor, the addition of access control in the same panel increases the benefit further. Instead of requiring separate hardware for each system, the XR550 uses a common processor, communication bus, and firmware for up to 4 systems, diminishing the cost of each by sharing all.
  • Z-Wave: The XR550 family incorporates Z-Wave controller and when using the ethernet port and DMP mobile app, serves as a gateway from home/office automation controls, including lighting, HVAC/Thermostat, and door locks.
  • Access Control: The platform also includes door access control for up to 16 doors. While limited to 'read-in' control only, the system hosts logic controls common to most small office requirements, and can be configured to work with a wide range of readers and locking hardware.

Cons

Despite touting powerful features, the XR550 family comes with some pronounced limitations:

  • Alarm-Stereotype Design: DMP's design focuses on hardware limits (e.g., 99 profiles, 50 pathways) rather than ease of use. DMP implements the series' access control as if it were a simple expansion of the alarm system with administration done via keypads and codes. Therefore, managing the access system regularly will be cumbersome. While the XR550 family supports functions like 'lockdown codes', having to manually punch the code into one or more keypads significantly hinders usability.
  • Single Panel Only: While the XR550 promotes powerful features, it cannot be daisy chained with other panels, and DMP recommends using other products for multi-site systems. This constrains best fit to smaller, single site systems. Also, while the combo panel architecture is inexpensive compared to multiple discrete systems, redundancy is greatly reduced. The risk that 3 or 4 major building systems go offline when a panel malfunctions is an important risk and is a classic weakness of most 'combo' units. We elaborate on the risks of all-in-one products further in our "Combo Panels: Pros & Cons" report.
  • DMP Proprietary: The XR550 family cannot be integrated with other security systems. While the platform claims to work with 3rd party components, including Z-Wave devices and Wiegand readers, the panel itself must be managed as a stand-alone system. While DMP offers an integrable interface with its Entre platform, that package is not supported in the XR550 family and integration requirements will rule out the platform.

Comparisons

The new XR500 family is best compared to the DMP XR200 family of panels. The new XR550 family improves on that design by simplifying the way DMP proprietary expanders are connected by including more 'LX-bus' ports, standardized backup battery (CR-2032) and the inclusion of access control a Z-Wave integrations.

Looking at competitive offerings, the closest platform to the XR550 family is the Honeywell/Ademco Vista with WinPAK integration [link no longer available]. The typical WinPAK system costs about the same as the XR550 family (between ~$150 - $600), but the Honeywell platform lacks Z-Wave compatibility. In order to gain this functionality, the user must purchase additional Total Connect service or change over to the Tuxedo Touch platform that lacks access control functionality.

Ideal Application

The best fit for the XR550 family of panels are for single site businesses. The mix of features and certifications is powerful enough for commercial use, but the hardware limitations keep it from breaking into enterprise applications. While total system pricing will be under $1800 for typical applications, it is pricey for residential alarm markets driven by 'free' or '$99 system' offerings.

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