Drive bay accessory devices add a nice touch to a custom system. They also add additional control above what you have with your operating system and software. The person at the helm can now control many things with just the touch of a button or the twist of a knob; it?s a very simple concept. Why can?t anybody produce a drive bay device that is small and can still do all the things we need, like control fan speeds, in turn controlling noise, and also give temperature readouts of critical components in your system? Many attempts have been made to produce quality drive bay devices; controlling as many as six fans. Hmm. Do you have six fans? Does everybody have six fans? Sure, it?s nice if you have six fans, but what if you only want to control two? The two fans that are usually loud are the ones you use to cool your CPU and hard drives. And hey, if you?re putting extra cooling on these devices, then you probably want to monitor the temperature, too, just to make sure the product is doing its job. If you go to LAN parties and other such multi-computer events, you?ll see plenty of snazzy drive bay devices, but they?re always taking up 5.25? drive bays. What if you could make a drive bay device that takes up the space of a 3.5? floppy, controls two fans, gives two temperature readouts, and has a temperature sensor alarm built onto the back? If you took all that, put it on a black skeleton, and backlit the LCD in royal blue, you?d have a winner! Introducing the Enermax 3.5'' System Monitor Control Panel. This little device will command attention from your grandma (who?s looking in to make sure your room is clean) as well as any case mod competition judges. It may be factory fabricated, but this tiny gadget is anything but run-of-the-mill.
I?ve been craving a device like this ever since I saw the first fan controllers; one that takes up the space of a floppy drive, and yet has the power of a much larger 6-fan controller. Well folks, it looks like our prayers have been answered by Enermax. I had my doubts at first; I thought that such a small LCD couldn?t possibly give a clear readout. I was also concerned about the brightness of the LCD display itself! Being the reviewer that I am, I investigated, and this little LCD immediately overcame all of my doubts. I was filled with joy, knowing that I had found myself a quality product. The LCD readout shows both temperature and fan speed side by side. There is also a small indicator to show if you are on set one or set two of the unit?s LCD readout. When viewing multiple things at a time you are a bit limited. Fan 1 and Sensor 1 are coupled in the readout part of the LCD, this means that you cannot see Fan 1?s speed and Sensor 2?s temperature. The front of the unit is adorned with some nice bevel cuts. At first, I thought these were some sort of indication lighting, but was let down to discover that they are just carved into the skeleton of this unit.
From left to right on the unit we have Fan 1 Controller, Fan 2 Controller, LCD Readout, Mode, Set, and Reset. The Mode, Set, and Reset buttons are just that: pushbuttons. The two fan controllers, however, are knobs that you can turn. You might find this a challenge, if your hands are bulky like mine, as the knobs are rather small.
More specifically, the sensor has a temperature threshold of 104-176 degrees. This means you are not going to get readings above or below those temperatures. This is a bit of an annoyance if you have a watercooled system and your CPU runs at ~80 degrees. Along with the temperature sensor, there is a ?buzzer? style alarm. This alarm can be set to go off when a sensor reaches a certain temperature, or if one of your fans fails to do its job. The buzzer will sound for thirty seconds, and during this time, the LCD readout will begin to flash. After thirty seconds, the buzzer will stop, but the LCD continues to flash. This way, the sound does not become a nuisance if you are not there to stop it, and if you miss it for some reason, you can immediately see that there was a failure, and begin troubleshooting. The User Manual cautions you not to set the alarm temperature above or below the threshold of monitoring ??to avoid alarm from frequently triggering off or being completely inactive.?
The LCD does an excellent job in such a small area by providing one temperature and fan speed set at any given time. The range of the fan speed monitor is one thousand to five thousand RPM. This shouldn?t be a problem unless you have a souped up Vantec fan with two engines driving it, or something like that. Fortunately, I haven?t seen any of those around lately.
This next feature is just amazing, and I absolutely love it. There is a jumper on the back of this unit that will switch the unit from Fahrenheit to Celsius! This is great; I?ve been waiting forever for something that does this! Once you switch the jumper, you?ll have to hit the reset button to activate the change. The manual also adds, at the very end, that you may not want to change the jumper when any power source is connected. Good thinking, duh.
Truly, the installation is child?s play. To install the unit itself, simply place it in a drive bay and secure the screws. Then connect the two fans you want to control, place the two temperature sensors where you want them, and plug in the power connector. Now you?re ready to go! During installation, I found the temperature sensor wires to be extremely long; they reached across my full tower case from corner to corner. That?s very good news for someone who is particular about routing wires, or who needs them to go a long distance. The fan connectors, which are three-pin connectors, are relatively long. I, personally, would like to see them a bit longer, but there is ample length to connect a fan in almost any location.
During the testing phase, I noticed one drawback to using a controller to limit a fan?s power. If you have lighted case fans, which are very common nowadays, you?re going to notice that the fan gets more dim as the speed gets slower. I have a few pictures here to demonstrate the difference between extreme low and extreme high.
In conclusion, I?d say this is one of the highest quality products that I?ve ever reviewed. It has the power of a full sized unit, and the benefit of its smaller size. It has a gorgeous backlit LCD that is easy to read, and it?s chock-full of features! The knobs are somewhat difficult to turn, and the buttons are small for a person with large hands, but this is not enough to stop me from recommending this to everybody I know.