Zalman ZM-MFC2: 4 x Fan Controller + Power Meter

Fans|Controls
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October 12, 2007 by Devon Cooke

Product
Zalman ZM-MFC2
4-Channel Fan Controller
Manufacturer
Market Price
~US$60

Keeping track of system temperatures and fan speeds is an integral part of silencing a new rig. In a simple system, setting-and-forgetting the fans when the system is built works well enough, but a regularly tweaked system needs re-testing every time it changes, and that adds up to a lot of work. This is where a fan controller like Zalman's ZM-MFC2 comes in handy; it centralizes all the thermal and fan information, and provides a way to tweak fan speeds — without ever needing to crack open the case. The ZM-MFC2 also provides one extra morsel of information: system power consumption.

The ability to monitor system power is the gimmick that Zalman hopes will set its product apart from the rest of the fan controllers on the market. While nobody needs to know how much power his or her system is consuming, it does provide a means of judging how hard the cooling system should be working before the system heats up.

Besides its practical convenience, there's no question that Zalman's fan controller is about bling. Chances are, most of Zalman's customers will use the flashy information readout to show off their m4d m0dding sk1llz just as much as they do for practical purposes. The power meter just adds to this — it adds yet another layer of competition to system building. Here at SPCR, we hope people will be competing to see how little power their systems consume, but that doesn't seem to be how Zalman expects the ZM-MFC2 — and its 800W of headroom — to be used. In fact, even though the power meter will not measure above 800W, Zalman has included a safety warning to use a thicker power cable at currents above 10A (1200W in North America, double that most other places) — just in case you somehow manage to build a system that requires an entire circuit breaker to itself.


Lots of wiring goodness.

The contents of the box are pretty much as expected with one exception: A PCI plate with a single USB plug. Closer inspection reveals that, while it is indeed possible to plug a USB cable in, doing so would be a very, very bad idea; instead, it accepts a signal from an external pass-through brick that measures AC power. Those like me who tend to plug rear USB cables in blind be warned: This is an excellent way to damage both your motherboard and the CVS controller.


From left to right: Manual, PCI plate for power signal, fan cables, thermistor cables, power pass-through.

Zalman ZM-MFC2: Feature Highlights (from the product web page)
Feature & Brief Our Comment
Real time display of power consumption.
The first device we've seen that offers this.
Four sensors for temperature monitoring and display.
External thermistors are rarely as accurate as in-chip measurement — but they have the advantage of knowing exactly where they're placed.
Monitoring and control of one PWM fan and three standard fans.
A good balance for an Intel system where the CPU uses a special 4-pin fan. AMD-based systems will have to live with one less fan output — or find a compatible heatsink with a 4-pin fan.
Alarm system to notify non-operation of any of the fans.
Stall notification for safety.
Fan’s operation status indicated with animated propeller images. Bling bling.

Zalman ZM-MFC2: Specifications (from the product web page)
Dimensions
147(L) x 87(W) x 42(H) mm
Power & Temperature Display
30 ~ 800W / -9°C ~ +99°C
Fan Compatibility
1x 4-Pin (Supports fans with PWM function)
3 x 3-Pin (Supports fans with RPM output function) (Editor's note: Zalman includes one Y-cable that allows a fourth 3-pin fan to share one of the control channels with another fan.)
Fan RPM Control
60~5940 RPM
PWM Regulation Method (Fan No.4)
Voltage Control Method (Fan No.1~3)
Output Current
0.7A
Output Voltage 4 ~ 11 VDC
Input Voltage +12 VDC / +5 VDC



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