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Review: Fendt’s new control layout under the microscope

Aiming to find out more about Fendt’s new tractor control interface, we try it out on the firm’s latest 300 Series tractor. James Rickard reports.

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Revealed to the UK public at the 2020 LAMMA Show, it was fair to say Fendt’s new FendtOne control interface and off-board management tool got quite a few tongues wagging. And as many Fendt fans will tell you, it is going to have to go a long way to improve upon the current layout which has found favour with many operators over the last decade.

 

In addition, it is not only the Fendt boys and girls it will have to please, with strong competition from other makes all sporting their latest control layouts, it also has the tough job of convincing other users of jumping ship.

 

So is all this change for the better? This is what we aimed to find out. Initially, FendtOne will be available on its 200, 300 and 700 Series tractors, with the aim to eventually roll out the interface to the rest of its line-up of tractors and self-propelled machines.

 

To get an in-depth insight into the new interface, we tried it out on the firm’s latest fourth-generation 314 model.


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300 Series overview

300 Series overview

Model

Maximum power

311 Vario

113hp

312 Vario

123hp

313 Vario

133hp

314 Vario

142hp (152hp with power management)

300 Series evolution

300 Series evolution

As alluded to, the 300 Series now features a new flagship model, the 314, which is the first tractor in the manufacturer’s line-up to get a ‘boost’ feature.

 

This said, it is no ordinary boost feature and is not limited to offering more power when only a limited set of criteria are met, such as when the tractor travels above a certain speed or when the pto is engaged.

 

Called Dynamic Performance, instead, the aim is to try and maintain the tractor’s 140hp and keep elements like the pto and spools working at their maximum. This is done with the help of an extra 10hp, which compensates for any draws from pto load, air-conditioning or alternator, for example.

 

Unlike most boost systems, this is always active and will work when the tractor is stationary – ideal for a diet feeder or slurry pump.

300 Series evolution 2

This sees the new 300 Series now offer a greater overlap with the larger 500 Series and puts the 314 in a more attractive position for those which may have wanted a 140hp Fendt tractor, but found the 500 Series just a little too bulky.

 

At the lower end of the 300 Series, it has also dropped a model. This sees the series maintain a four-model line-up, now from the 311 to the 314. All tractors are physically the same size as before and retain the use of a 4.4-litre, four-cylinder, Agco Power engine. Top speed is a ‘generous’ 40kph.

 

To meet Stage 5 emissions control, many will be glad to know that the EGR system has been binned off, with all after treatment carried out within the exhaust stack.

 

A new engine map also brings with it slightly more torque, and an automatic idle feature sees revs drop down to 750rpm when the tractor comes to a stop. Revs will also build automatically to 950rpm when the pto is engaged, to help it along.

300 Series specification choice

300 Series specification choice

As a result of the FendtOne development, gone is the fixed right hand console on the 300 Series, with all primary controls now located on the armrest. This makes it a much more familiar operating environment when hopping between the 300 and 700 Series machines.

 

Three specification levels are available for the 300 Series; Power, Profi and Profi Plus. The main visual difference between the spec levels are the number of screens used in the cab. For Power-spec machines, these are limited to the 10 inch screen (pictured) which takes the place of the old dash.

 

As an option, Profi models can be specified with a 12 inch screen mounted on the armrest, which is standard for Profi Plus models. A second 12 inch screen, incorporated into the roof, is optional on both the Profi and Profi Plus. All three spec-levels get electric spools, with no mechanical option anymore.

Off-board technology

Off-board technology

Essentially, there are two parts to FendtOne; the ‘on-board’ control interface and the ‘off-board’ management tool.

As for the off-board element, this is a web-based platform and offers a simple farm office tool. This means it can be accessed anywhere from a PC, tablet or phone, for example, allowing it to be used out in the field, as long as you have a signal.

 

In four steps, with the software you can quite quickly create a task for the tractor and send that task directly to the tractor. The operator can then see the task pop up on the terminal, which they can then accept.

 

Within the task, it can record several parameters, including start/stop times, area worked in the field and fuel used. From this information, the tool can then create a very simple pdf report of that task and send it back to the office. Initially, this is a very basic management tool, but its capabilities are set to grow over time and gain extra features.

 

Right now, the task management side of the software is compatible with Fendt’s current tractors, as long as the VarioDoc Pro system is unlocked, giving access to the TaskDoc server. There will eventually be a second element to the FendtOne programme. Called guide sync, you will be able to share way lines between tractors, but this will only work with the latest FendtOne-equipped tractors

Control layout

Control layout

Upon first sight of the FendtOne control layout, you could be forgiven for thinking that it is a massive departure from what we have been used to from Fendt. However, after a short study, things do start to quickly make sense. No longer are there buttons scattered under the steering wheel and down the side of the right hand armrest.

 

Similarly, there are no controls in the roof lining for radio and air conditioning. Instead, everything has been re-allocated into one central location on the armrest. From an operation point of view, it means everything is a lot more centralised, with a lot less hunting for buttons and switches.

 

In addition, many buttons have gone altogether, with their control migrating to the screen, such as pto speed selection and work light selection. But while there are no longer physical controls for the work lights, the onscreen selection process does mean you can set up two work light profiles.

 

These can quickly be accessed by a switch on the steering column-mounted stalk, meaning you do not have to constantly go into the screen. For example, you could have a road profile and a field profile. The buttons that do remain armrest, the manufacturer has tried to make them as familiar as possible, keeping the same icons, grouping and colour coding. For existing operators, it means they can quickly recognise what each button does. It also helps new operators a lot.

 

Physically, the main control lever has come in for a big shape change, but again, not too massive a departure from the old one. In terms of what each push and pull of the stick does, operationally it is exactly the same as before.

Features

Features

Additions to the main joystick include proportional control over two spool valves, along with a scroll wheel to adjust cruise speeds. This now means you do not have to go through the screen every time you want to make a cruise adjustment. And it is about time too.

 

Dotted around the armrest and joystick are white buttons which can be assigned any function. Some come with pre-set functions, such as the guidance activation button on the joystick. This is a particular welcome addition, as previously you either had to find the button on the armrest or work guidance activation into a headland management sequence.

 

When a function is assigned to these white buttons an LED changes to the colour associated with that function. For example, if I wanted pto control on the joystick, the button’s LED would turn yellow. Similarly, spool valves can be swapped between spool buttons and linkage can be controlled by a spool button, with LED lights giving a visual clue as to what has been assigned to that button.

 

One of the biggest changes is to the linkage control, which is no longer those stacked rotary dials and rocker switches. Instead, it uses rollers to adjust position of front and rear linkage, along with paddle switches which give proportional control. You could almost say this is more familiar to non-Fendt operators, which should help FendtOne’s appeal. It is also a big improvement.

 

Further linkage and spool settings can then be accessed through the screen via a single tap, comically called ‘one touch entry’ by Fendt.

Secondary joystick

Secondary joystick

As an option, the armrest can be fitted with the firm’s 3L joystick. Comprising a joystick with a little joystick on top of that, it replaces what was the blue ‘golf ball’ and offers a greater range of functionality. With it you can control a number of things including spool valves, linkage and loader.

 

Like the rest of the controls, various functions can be assigned to the 3L’s actions. It also features an integrated button which looks after shuttling - this button can also be set to do other tasks. For loader work, this means you never have to take your right hand off the 3L joystick.

 

Towards the end of this year, functionality of this stick will increase further, with the ability to select one of three layers of joystick operation, hence the name 3L. These can be toggled between via a little switch on the back of the joystick and, with nine functions in each layer, this opens up the possibility to control up to 27 functions with this little ‘stick.

 

In addition, the joystick will eventually become IsoBus compatible, giving control over an implement and all of its functions. Similar to the tractor’s screen flexibility, this 3L joystick should mean you will not need any third party joystick to control implements. But even without this stick, there are still plenty of places where IsoBus functions can be assigned on the main joystick and armrest.

Main screen

Main screen

The main armrest screen has grown from the old 10 inch unit to 12 inches. With it comes a much more tablet/smartphone user experience, with ‘tiles’ representing all the tractor’s various functions. Navigation can be via touch or a large dial can be used.

 

A page can be made up of six tiles, each of which can be completely customisable and, depending on function, can also be made any size. For instance, your linkage position could take up one tile, while guidance could take up four tiles. Tiles are relatively easy to set-up, and by tapping on a tile, you instantly get a full size view of that function.

 

In addition, up to 15 pages can be created, though it is more likely you will only use about four. Obviously, all operators are different and will have different preferences. For this, user profiles can be set-up and saved. Similarly, work profiles can also be set-up and saved per job, enabling things like linkage position, hydraulic flow and timing, and implement dimensions to be saved, for example.

 

In addition, for jobs, you can also set-up an A and a B mode, one of which could be a field profile and the other a road profile whereby hydraulic functions could be locked out, for instance. At the moment, profiles cannot be swapped from one tractor to another, but USB transfer could be one possibility in the near future.

 

While there is no home page as such on the screen, you can hit a button and get a master overview of all of the tractor’s functions, from which you could change settings, or add that function to a page as one of your tiles.

 

Though it sounds like you could make yourself dizzy with this screen, it is a lot simpler and clearer to use than before, with a lot less layers to mess with. This should make things a lot easier for current and new operators.

Dash and roof screen

Dash and roof screen

Replacing the traditional dash is a new 10 inch screen. This is not touch screen, with navigation taken care of via the dial on the armrest. If this was a 300 Series Power-spec model, this would be the only screen in the cab, with all tractor settings done through here. In essence, the look of the armrest screen is then replicated on the dash, with the dial used to adjust settings.

 

At present, you are limited to what you can see on the dash screen, but future developments are looking at the ability to view guidance, which would make a lot of sense on the screen in front of you. A view of an IsoBus implement is also on the cards.

 

With the secondary 12 inch terminal, mounted in the roof lining, this can do exactly the same things as the armrest-mounted terminal, but with the added ability to create a whole set of new pages to view, on top of what you can see on the armrest terminal. Effectively, this ‘independent’ screen is an ideal place to view an IsoBus implement, section control or a variable rate map. In theory, it should mean you need less third-party screens, or even none in some cases.

 

The second 12 inch screen can also slide up into the roof, covering half of the screen. This puts it out the way for when it is not needed or when driving on the road. It can also be totally turned off.

Verdict

Verdict

As good as the old armrest and screen were, they had reached their limit, both in terms of functions and usability. But despite appearing very different to the previous control layout, FendtOne is not as much of a radical departure as you might think.

 

The main control lever is definitely more comfortable to use. However, there still seems plenty of work for your thumb to do and does not make the most of your other fingers compared to the likes of John Deere’s Command Pro or Claas’ Cmotion levers. This said, it is still very good.

 

With less layers to plough through, screen navigation and layout is a lot simpler and clearer. Their customisation, coupled with the tractor’s massively increased processing power, makes them very flexible. This, along with the off-board technology, should leave plenty of headroom for whatever gets developed in the future.

 

But with the 300 Series in particular, has Fendt gone too far with the technology? Has it missed a trick in this power bracket by not creating a simpler version of the tractor? We will certainly miss some of the more ‘mechanical’ elements of the old 300 Series.

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