I decided that I needed to check out the "competition", so I've bought a Maestro. And very nice it is too. The logic in this perhaps baffling decision is that I can probably learn a few good (and, no doubt bad) points about the approach that Flex Radio has taken to the problem. Time will tell whether I decide to keep the Maestro but there is certainly no plan to stop development of the G3WGV Flex Controller.
So, some immediate observations...
The VFOs. I am very much surprised to find that Flex has only used 64 step encoders for the VFOs. That compares with 400 step devices that I am using. 64 steps means that the knob has to rotate 5 degrees per frequency step and it gives the tuning a very soggy feel compared with, say, my FT5000. This is largely mitigated by a rather excellent wheeze in which the tuning rate is speeded up if you spin the knob, so it's easy to get around the band, even with the otherwise very slow tuning rate. I think I know why they have done this but I will keep my counsel for the time being, pending more investigation.
The display. It is truly impressive. The 8" touch screen is big enough for a proper pan adapter display, although perhaps a little small to run two. In some ways it makes me wish I had decided to go for a bigger display as well. Perhaps version 2!
Encoders. There are ten, in the form of five dual concentric controls. Like my design, each has a push button that selects fixed options appropriate the the control. Unlike my design these are not programmable. The key functions (AF gain, shift, width, CW speed, mic gain, TX power are all there and there are separate controls for the A and B VFOs. I can't really find anything to fault here.
Push buttons. Only three on the Maestro, with a shift function giving six in total. Not many (I have 16) but the range of things that can be allocated to these buttons is very limited, so perhaps not a problem. Changing band and mode is achieved by pressing the VFO knob, which sort of makes sense. This brings up a huge menu of touch buttons that permit most of the receiver functions to be changed. Similar approach to mine really.
Size. The Maestro is pretty big! Its front panel is pleasingly uncluttered but compact it is not. Much of this is down to the big screen, which is more than 50% of the panel real estate. No problem with this as such but I think there is a need for something smaller, e.g. my proposal for a mini-controller.
Main issue. I notice that some of the controls, including, sometimes, the tuning, results in a faint but irritating clicking sound in the received audio as the control is moved. I have noticed the same thing with my controller, so this is obviously an issue with the radio/Ethernet interface. This is going to be part of a major investigation as it is, to my mind, not acceptable.
My initial conclusion? It's a very fine piece of kit and I think Flex has done a great job. It has some things that would irritate me, notably the VFO encoders and that provides renewed impetus to get my controller running. There are a few neat ideas that I might decide to "steal"...