Over the past few years, a company named Thermaltake has built up a very strong reputation with their beastly copper CPU heatsinks and other lines of pc modding accessories. The past three years have also brought on huge advancements in the market of PC modding, water-cooling and accessories. As ?modding? or PC accessorizing, becomes more and more popular to the every day user, you will notice that every day PC users will have the same the stuff that only hardcore geeks had in their rigs just three years ago - although back then, it was all custom fabricated. Commercialization of PC modding aside, Thermaltake has since set out to broaden their horizons, and they?ve created some of the most groundbreaking power supplies, heatsinks, and system monitoring hardware to date. Thermaltake?s latest and greatest on the system monitoring front is the Hardcano 12. It combines the sleek look of a car stereo deck with the powerful control of a Digital Doc system to create a highly useful and undeniably attractive system monitoring unit. The Hardcano 12 can be closely compared with the MacPower Digital Doc 5+ and I will be referring to the Digital Doc for the sake of comparison throughout the review.
Nice Thermaltake Box, all the specifications are nicely printed on the back and there are even some small boxes on the front to point out key features. Inside, the unit was wrapped in a piece of plastic and taped closed. Also inside was the instruction manual and three small plastic bags.
The first two plastic bags contained molex connectors with fan monitor input lines and 3-pin connectors to attach case fans to the Hardcano. The third bag contained screws to mount the Hardcano and some thermal adhesive strips to secure thermal sensors on your hardware.
The Hardcano unit has a very attractive, solid rectangular shape, different than a Digital Doc in that the ?guts? of the unit are not openly visible. Everything with the exception of the front display is metal; the front display is composed of plastic, with a clear plastic LCD shield. The plastic front has a nice looking display and buttons, covered in protective plastic. The sides have many holes for virtually any type of mounting scheme, and the back has beautiful, blue-sleeved fan connector wires, four flat thermal probes, and a female molex connector to power the front display.
Upon closer examination of the front display, I noticed that all of the buttons were attached on the same plastic frame which was holding them in place. What this means, is when you press one button, all of the other buttons move around with it. It makes the buttons feel really cheap and far less attractive in comparison to the solid, rubber buttons of the Digital Doc 5+.
Aside from the buttons being on the left and right side of the unit, the large LCD screen is located in the center with some permanent dashed lines running down the center? obviously to divide the information that will appear on the screen when the power is connected and the PC is turned on.
That?s basically as much as we can tell about the unit until the power is turned on, so moving on, we?ll take a look at the side. The side of the Hardcano has a simple feature; tons of mounting holes. This is nothing revolutionary, but it?s a small detail that manufacturers often overlook, making it frustrating or impossible for users of different form factor cases to use their product. The instruction manual even has a section on how to install special rails on the Hardcano, for cases that have special drive cage mounting systems.
You know what it looks like, so it?s time to fire this baby up and see what it can really do. I took the zip tie off the cables in the back, removed the protective plastic from the front and attached one fan to the 3-pin connector and one thermal probe directly on the CPU heatsink - which is coincidentally, also a Thermaltake product. I didn?t use the adhesive strips because the probe is flat and can be slipped in the cracks of the heatsink fins. Although, if you are going to be moving your case around a lot (to-and-from LANs, etc.) I suggest you use the adhesive to assure that no probes will move around or fall off during transport.
Power: on. It?s a beauty! The electroluminescent backlight shines bright aquamarine blue!
So what exactly will the Hardcano 12 do, and how does it work? You can see that the LCD clearly displays whether you are in automatic or manual mode in the top left. The top right of the screen shows the temperature in Celsius or Fahrenheit, whichever you choose. Below the permanently-dashed divider you will see the fan RPM for the fan that is currently selected and to the right of the RPMs you will find the alarm temp and it will show you what temperature you currently have selected. The buttons located just to the left and right of the LCD help to control what is being displayed.
As you can see, on the left side there is a button called ?Mode?. This button toggles between the automatic or manual mode. The default setting is automatic. In automatic mode, each fan?s speed is automatically adjusted according to the preset temperature of the corresponding area. If you press ?Mode? again, the Hardcano has now switched into manual mode. This mode allows you to control the speed of each fan manually with the ?+? and ?-? buttons that are located close by. The ?+? button increases the fan speed by 3.125% of its maximum RPM. The ?-? button will decrease 3.125% speed of the max RPM.
The last button of the left side is ??C/?F?. Hit this button once to switch the temperature display to Fahrenheit format and press it again to switch back to Celsius. A majority of PC enthusiasts and overclockers alike seem to use the Celsius temperature reading. This setting is merely user preference as it will not change any performance relating to the unit.
On the right side of the display are five more buttons. The labeling on the buttons is very clear. Definitely a plus, they are bold and easy to read over the bright LCD screen. These buttons select Fan 1-4 and allow you to control the alarm. If you want to change the speed of a fan you have to first press ?Mode? to set it to manual, then you press ?Fan # 1-4? and you can then press ?-? or ?+? to change the fan speed!
The alarm button toggles the temperature alarm threshold. To make each fan speed up or slow down at a specific temperature all you do is select the parameter ?Fan #? then press ?alarm? until you get it to your desired temperature. Do this for each parameter and you now have an alarm if the temperature sensor gets too hot.
Well ladies and gentlemen, there you have it. A solid product overall, with the pros outweighing the cons by far. So how does this measure up to the Digital Doc 5+? Surprisingly equal. There are some things I liked better about the Digital Doc, and some things that I liked better about the Hardcano. First off, the Digital Doc has voltages on the LCD display. PSU line voltage readings are an awesome thing to have for anyone. The Digital Doc also has much nicer buttons, the Hardcano buttons just felt cheap. The Hardcano also shows fan speed RPM, not really necessary, but the ability to change the fan speed on manual mode is a big plus over the Digital Doc. Last but not least, the Digital Doc has USB 2.0 and Firewire ports located on the front for easy access. I know in this day and age people probably have too many USB ports, but hey, it comes down to which has more features for the price. The Digital Doc can be found for $30-$40 while the Hardcano is a pretty steady $60. But don?t let that take away from the excellent features and great product that Thermaltake has put forth with the Hardcano 12. This product has been such a great seller lately that even resellers are on backorder as ThermalTake is unable to create them fast enough to meet the customer demand. If you have the cash, I urge you to pick the product that has the features that you care about.