Front Panel Knicknacks by Coolermaster & Matrix Orbital

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April 23, 2005 by Charles Gilliatt with Russ Kinder

Product Cooldrive 6 MX411
Manufacturer Cooler Master Matrix Orbital
MSRP US $64.99 US $119.99

Over the past few years, there has been explosion in tools and gadgets to strap to the front of your PC for the purpose of monitoring and controlling what is going on inside it. Perhaps the increase is due to a buying public that has become more savvy about the internal functionings of their computers, or maybe it represents yet another successful ploy from the marketeers to get us to buy more knickknacks. Whatever the cause, we have seen numerous combinations of fan controllers, hard drive coolers, and information display screens addressing this new concern.

On hand today are two of these devices, the Cooler Master Cooldrive6, which aims to combine them all into one device, and the Matrix Orbital MX-411 leaves out the hard drive cooling, but adds a more powerful display component into the package.

COOLDRIVE 6

Cooler Master's marketing blurb on the box describes it best:

"The Cooldrive 6 is designed for the HDD cooling with a front panel that displays temperature and [fan] speed. In addition, it provides PC software to detect the information on the HDD such as space and transfer speed. You can directly monitor the information on the HDD by the control panel or through the PC by software."

The Cooldrive supports RPM readings and controls one of up to 4 fans, one of which by default is the small blower fan within the unit itself. The drive also supports 4 thermal probes.

MX-411

Matrix Orbital's website description is similar:

"With the new MX4 series we have enlarged the size of the display and added more keypad functionality. This double drive bay PC insert incorporates a 20 character x 4 line USB display and a 15 button keypad. The MX4 also allows you to plug 4 fans in directly to the back of the unit for all you quiet and cooling PC needs"

KEY FEATURES

Cooler Master Cooldrive 6
Matrix Orbital MX411
All aluminum case with heat sink bottom for maximum cooling efficiency
15 button programmable keypad
Integrated 40mm blower, bottom and front panel venting for total HDD cooling
Supports 4 fans and 6 temperature probes
CoolDrive 6 software interface for easier monitoring and control
Dynamically adjustable fan speed based on thermal probes
Supports 4 fans and temperature for complete control
Includes LCDC for complete control of the LCD
Temperature , speed and HDD alarm
Large 20x4 line LCD display
User friendly front panel LCD and controls
Available in a multitude of LCD colors
Available in silver and black models
Available in silver and black models

The packaging is a study in contrasts: The Cooler Master arrives in a flashy retail package sure to catch your eye on a store shelf, while the Matrix Orbital's plain-Jane box is clearly designed for sturdy shipping from an internet store, rather than an in-person impulse buy. Consider the packing to be symbolic of the difference in the target market for these two companies: CM is clearly painting as wide a stripe as possible across the PC knickknack market, while Matrix Orbital is aiming at a very focused, very technical segment: People who know what they want and aren't likely to be swayed by pretty pictures. Further evidence of this difference will become apparent.

Both devices come complete with a gaggle of goodies:

Inside the Cooldrive 6 box one finds the Cooldrive itself, an external and an internal USB cable, a thermal pad, and the usual package of screws, as well as directions and software CD (not shown).

The MX-411 includes the display itself, external and internal USB cables, a driver CD, two 36" temperature probes (nice and long!), an LED display with a cutting template, and the obligatory bag of screws (not shown). Noticeably lacking is a printed manual. A variety of pdf manuals are included on the mini CD, leaving it up to the user to decipher which cryptically named file is relevant to the display they purchased.



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