Overthe years heat has progressively been an issue for computerenthusiasts. It still seems like yesterday that Intel's Pentium linewas using brute force to keep up in the "Gigahertz War" and a massiveamount of heat was the by product. Many companies have wised up inrecent years by developing cooler and more effecient products (ie Inteland their C2D line of CPUs). While this certainly helps, heat continuesto be an issue and always will. As more cases fill up with intake andexhaust fans, they quickly learn that a cool case has it's trade-offs.The more fans you add, the closer your case gets to sounding like a jetengine. This is where your friendly fan controller, like Zalman'sZM-MFC2, comes into play.
Zalman is recognized as a leader inthe cooling department, more specifically heatsinks and fans. Theyfrequently keep us chomping at the bit for their latest CPU andvideocard coolers. While Zalman may not be as known for their fancontrolling options, the ZM-MFC2 is not their first piece of work inthis area. However, the ZM-MFC2 is a noticeable upgrade from theirprevious models (ZM-MFC1 and ZM-MFC1 plus). This little device thatfits your 5.25" bay not only allows for fan speed control but monitorstemperature on up to four components and reports the power consumptionof your entire PC.
Zalman'sZM-MFC2 comes with the promise of PWM fan control and a real timedisplay of power consumption. We couldn't wait to get in the box.
Zalmanincluded everything but the kitchen sink in this bundle. Well ok, let'sjust say they didn't leave anything out that we needed. They probablyleft the sink out because it wouldn't fit in the box...
Everything else included is as follows:
- ZM-MFC2 Controller (with 4 installation bolts)
- CVS cable
- CVS Bracket and extension cable (with bolt)
- four Temperature Sensors
- Four Fan wires (one with a Y splitter)
- 4 bolts for the controller
- Extensive User's Manual
Thethermal sensors are all tied into one bracket so they all have to beconnected at once. These sensors are super thin and for most hardwareyou will be able to find a little crevice to sneak it into. But justin case you have trouble with that Zalman throws in four pieces of tapeas well.
Theend of the power cord that you would normally plug into the PSU willplug into the CVS (Current/Voltage Sensor). Then the larger female endof the CVS will plug into your PSU. The bulkier part does the magicand reports the power usage through the USB-looking plug. While itlooks like a USB plug, DO NOT PLUG THIS INTO A USB PORT. Zalman statedthat this could cause permanent damage to your motherboard and/or theCVS. With such a strong warning we decided to not test this out.
Thebracket that Zalman includes just screws into an empty PCI slotallowing the extension cable. This is where you plug in yourUSB-Look-A-Like from the CVS. The extension wire behind the bracketgets neatly routed to the rear of the ZM-MFC2 controller in your 5.25"bay.
Zalman included a well-detailed little manual. Notice the easy to follow diagram included within.
PLUGSGALORE! Well you know, in order for Zalman's fan controller to reportall the nice detailed information, it has to come from somewhere,right? The first 3 fan plugs are for the 3-pin cables. Zalmanincludes one Y-splitter that can be used one of the 3-pin connectors aswell. So, if you use this to the max you have up to 4 3-pin fanscontrolled. They suggest only using Y-splitter if you are pluggingthem onto identical style fans. The fourth fan plug is the 4-pin fanconnector. This 4-pin connector is for PWM style fans that usefrequency regulation instead of voltage regulation (like the 3-pins). The temperature sensor bracket is the next little plug, then the CVSextension from the rear of the CVS bracket. Finally the 4-pin molexconnector from the PSU.
With two screw holes on each side of the controller, installing the ZM-MFC2 in a 5.25" bay was a snap.
Fortesting we chose a case that didn't run short on case fans. And lookythere, YUP that's a Zalman CNPS9700 CPU cooler. While we couldn'tcontrol all the fans with the ZM-MFC2, we controlled 3 case fans andthe Zalman CNPS9700.
It's hard to confuse the CVS bracket with other components in the PCI slots, unless, of course, you have a USB card installed.
TheZM-MFC2 fits perfectly in the bay. Having a dark and silver color mixwill help it fit-in with just about any modern look. What the abovepictures don't really show is the very bad viewing angles. If you arelooking down on your PC then you are likely to see a much brighterdisplay than if you are looking straight on.
Usingthe ZM-MFC2 was fairly easy to follow, especially with the detailedmanual. One thing that was disappointing was the fan speed readings. The display does not show accurate speed (RPM) readings. Thecontroller displays the speed of the fans between 60RPM and 5940RPM,which works perfectly if the fan has a maximum RPM of 5940. EvenZalman describes the first three fans as being controlled by voltageincrements rather than true RPM. The readings displayed are at about 4volts at the 60RPM reading and up to approximately 11 volts at 5940RPM.
With different software out there frequently reportingdifferent temperatures (for many different reasons), it's good to getanother independent source to verify just how hot some components aregetting.
The ZM-MFC2 is fairly easy to use. If you want toadjust the fan speed just press the small MODE button on the bottomright and the fan speed for fan 1 will start blinking. You can thenuse the dial to adjust the fan speed. Press the MODE button again savethat fan speed and switch to the next fan. Or if you continue to pressthe MODE button you will toggle through the fan speeds until they areno longer blinking.
Another nice little feature is that theunit will beep at you if a fan is no longer working or plugged in. Ifyou wish to stop the beeping, just toggle to the fan in question usingthe mode button and then press the dial (it doubles as a button).
- Independently reports temperature and power consumption
- Easy to use and looks sweet
- Able to detect if a fan is not working or plugged in
- Comes with a PWM 4-pin connector
- Inaccurately reports fan speeds
- Bad viewing angle
- CVS bracket could get mistaken for a USB port
TheZM-MFC2 is a step up from standard fan controls with knobs for each fanand is surely better looking. It provides a very bright display toshow off to friends, all while giving you some very usefulinformation. We didn't have a Kill-A-Watt handy during testing toverify the actual power consumption but it did not appear too far offfrom our estimates to be of concern. The inacurate RPM display was abit disturbing, considering this is going to be primarily used for,well, controlling the fans. Reporting the RPM as a percentage ordisplaying the true RPM would be ideal.
Having the powerconsumption and temperature sensors included is a major bonus but whenit comes down to it, the primary function is controlling the fans. TheZM-MFC2 is a nice product for anyone looking to balance that fine linebetween cooling and noise inside their case.
As of the date of this review, the ZM-MFC2 is only 'in-stock' online in some Australian stores. But Sharka Computers is expected to get some in this week.
Other Reviews of Note
Itsalways nice to have more than one opinion on a component before youspend your hard earned money. For one, We may see something othersmissed, or vice versa. As with all reviews published at HardwareLogic,we'll not only give you our recommendation, but also point out somereviews from some other great sites around the web.