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 Post subject: Zalman ZM-MFC2: 4 x Fan Controller + Power Meter
PostPosted: Thu Oct 11, 2007 10:59 pm 
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Zalman ZM-MFC2: 4 x Fan Controller + Power Meter


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Fri Oct 12, 2007 2:14 pm 
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Zalman should just OEM the T-Balancer. They could slap on a shiny face plate, to Zalmanize it. If it were priced around $50-60 and widely available it would sell very well.


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PostPosted: Fri Oct 12, 2007 3:47 pm 
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The pictures of the thing look nice......but it needs a big improvement in the visibility department, like changing the display to a VFD. Who wants to bend over and stretch your neck just to see the numbers?

Here we have a manual fan-speed controller that's difficult to use. And for as much as it costs, it needs an auto-speed control option based on the sensors. Then there's the power meter that won't work in <100W systems....

I can't think of a single feature of the thing, other than the looks, that I like..... :(

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Fri Oct 12, 2007 5:42 pm 
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Bluefront wrote:
H Then there's the power meter that won't work in <100W systems....

The meter works fine with any system, it gives a numeric W readout. It's just the bar display that only changes in 200W increments, and is thus useless.

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Fri Oct 12, 2007 8:51 pm 
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Seems to be a useless product, power meter not withstanding. The article is right; it is hard to imagine a more intuitive interface than an adjustable knob per fan.

I use a Silverstone FP33B fan controller: a 3.5" bay device with 3 knobs. (Alternatively, it includes a PCI backplate with 3 knobs). How much more intuitive can it be? How can this beautifully simple design be "improved"? Apparently Zalman thinks they can do it, for $60 no less. I guess easy controllability doesn't matter when you can offer rotating graphics and other "bling" from a tiny viewing angle.

No, thanks!

Side note/rant: why do people care what some fan RPM/voltage gauge says? Isn't it enough to know how loud the fans are running and what temperature sensors report? That's why I bought the FP-33B; reported RPMs don't matter. Noise and temps do, and temps are always better read via the operating system.

I offer the following screenshot as proof that fan controllers are filled with unnecessary cruft. Check the status indicators on the top panel, left to right: local weather, volume, CPU core temp (via the digital sensor embedded in the CPU), graphics card, HDD1, HDD2, CPU speed. That's with the fans cranked all the way back to minimum (and oh-so-quiet), so about ~5V, given the operating range of the FP33B.

I don't think Zalman or most other fan controller vendors can provide something that intuitive. My ears tell me better information than what any RPM meter can!


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sat Oct 13, 2007 3:15 pm 
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Location: Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
I've got one of these and am mostly satisfied with it (ironically, some of the previous posters on here say that its looks are its strong suit, while I consider the cheap looking silver plastics that occupy the right 1/4 of the unit to be its hugest Achilles heel, along with the useless viewing angle on the LCD).

On one side note, the reviewer says that after adjusting the RPMs, one has to wait 5-10s for it to take effect- this is not entirely true, as what you should be doing is pressing 'mode' to select the fan of interest, setting the dial, and pressing 'mode' again for it to take effect instantly and move onto the next fan in the series.

I use all 4 channels for CPU, case fans, GPU and PSU (swapped noisy OCZ fan for a PWM 120mm), respectively, and keep them running at low RPMs while doing things that don't stress the cpu/gpu. When I want to run a game, I just alternate pressing 'mode' and dialing up four times to increase the RPMs; it takes 5-10 seconds in total to bump the fans up from ~600 to ~1200 (1900->3000 for GPU), so I don't think it deserves the harsh reception some of you seem to harbor. In its defense, this thing does an exceptional job managing the fans on the low RPM end where a conventional rheostat-based controller would either stall the fans or fail to start them in the first place. It makes it very easy to determine what the lower limits of the fans are, and prevents accidental setting of knobs to voltages that can't start the fans. I also like how it displays the temps from 4 sensors you can place in your system (nightmorph: I'm a software minimalist, I don't like having to run extra SW just to show me temps).

Also, PWM fan buzz that was mentioned in the review is nonexistent when using this unit in conjunction with Arctic Cooling's 120mm PWM fan (it wasn't my first choice, but there were few fans available with PWM). I'm not sure why these kinds of fans still carry that stigma. In case you're wondering, I use PWM for the fan in my power supply because I want it to start up without fail even at low rpms when the system is not stressed.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sun Oct 14, 2007 12:51 am 
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Location: Upper left hand corner, USA
This seemed to be a very strange thing to suggest.

Quote:
The power meter [...]; every eco-savvy computer user should have one!


Eco-savvy folks ideally try to reduce and reuse, not get extra
blingy gadgets.

It would make a lot more sense to get a Kill-A-Watt type power meter, which one could use to evaluate the power consumption on several computers, plus other electrical devices, and then loan it to your friends so that they could do the same.
Not only would that be more flexible and environmentally friendly to use a separate power meter, it would also be less expensive. A kill-a-watt ($20-25) plus a fan controller ($15-30) costs less than the Zalman MFC2. (And many other fan controllers have the superior 1 knob per fan interface, plus card readers, I/O ports, etc.).


I don't think the review takes them to task enough for so incredibly stupid a design as to use a USB connector for something that isn't a USB port.
At very minimum they should have made it impossible to plug their cable into a regular USB port. The engineers who perpetrated such a monstrosity deserve to spend eternity sorting out AC adapters down at the local second hand store. It was good that the problem was pointed out in the review, but a design blunder as bad as that deserves to be re-iterated in the review summary.

Edit: Now if the power meter was an actual USB device, (so the computer could read power usage) that would make it more useful.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Fri Oct 19, 2007 3:44 am 
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For the defense of that fan controller, many knob-equipped fan controllers use PWM and thus produce noise when setting the fans below maximum speed. It's very hard or even impossible to guess which controller uses PWM and which uses direct voltage regulation...
Idea: it would be great if there was a quick list on SPCR on which controller is PWM and which is not... I'd very well get a simple $20 knob controller (with 3-4 knobs max... no need for more) that's simple, elegant, and uses voltage control.


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 Post subject: PWM
PostPosted: Mon Dec 10, 2007 9:26 pm 
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So if your motherboard doesn't support PWM, you could still use PWM fans if you have a ZM-MFC2?

And since Arctic PWM fans can be linked, you could use up to 5 PWM fans in a system, all connected to and powered by the ZM-MFC2?

Since PWM fans are cheap, silent, and push lots of air, wouldn't it be a good thing to use PWM fans for intake and exhaust, as well as cpu/gpu cooling?


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Mon Dec 17, 2007 4:11 pm 
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Location: Belgium, Bruges
hybrid2d4x4 wrote:
...In its defense, this thing does an exceptional job managing the fans on the low RPM end where a conventional rheostat-based controller would either stall the fans or fail to start them in the first place. It makes it very easy to determine what the lower limits of the fans are, and prevents accidental setting of knobs to voltages that can't start the fans...

I was wondering what type of fan(s) you are using to get them running at 600 RPM, since I am unable to drop my Noctua-1200's below ~1020 RPM. If I set the Zalman to anything lower then this, it just cranks the fan speed up/down/up/.. and is not near silent at all.

If other users have experience with the Zalman and Noctua or Nexus fans, I'd be happy to hear, since I'm rather unhappy with it.

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Mon Jan 21, 2008 10:57 pm 
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Location: Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
Quote:
So if your motherboard doesn't support PWM, you could still use PWM fans if you have a ZM-MFC2?


Yep, I've got an old MB with no PWM connectors and I have a PWM fan in the power supply running off of this controller. Keep in mind though that only one of the 4 channels is PWM, the others are regular voltage-regulated. Like you said, you can link several of those fans, but the downside is that all of them would be running at the same revs, which may not be desirable if you have them doing different things (intake vs PS or cpu cooling)


Quote:
I was wondering what type of fan(s) you are using to get them running at 600 RPM, since I am unable to drop my Noctua-1200's below ~1020 RPM. If I set the Zalman to anything lower then this, it just cranks the fan speed up/down/up/.. and is not near silent at all.

If other users have experience with the Zalman and Noctua or Nexus fans, I'd be happy to hear, since I'm rather unhappy with it.


The 2 case fans that run at 600 are the stock Thermaltake fans that come with the Tsunami case. They are pretty typical 120mm fans, although pretty loud at 12V when using the molex connector. I believe the model # on those is TT-1125. I just did a quick little test and these things actually run steady at the 540rpm setting with actual revs between 510-530 (I didn't bother testing lower since it isn't practical- they're probably the quietest ones in my case @600, so you gain nothing by running them slower). The other fan I use is the Scythe Ninja's 120mm, which I run at 660rpm, but seems to stall around 600. Those are the voltage-controlled ones. The PWM-controlled fan in my power supply I briefly tested as low as ~300rpm (before I put it in the PS, of course).

With regards to your Noctuas, are you using the same controller? If so, might I suggest setting the rpm really high on the controller (ie: 1500), let the fans spin up and stabilize, then gradually keep decreasing the rpm set speed, waiting for the rpms to settle around the target point. I notice that sometimes if I have the fans running at higher speeds during gaming, and then drop the rpm setting (typically dropping speeds by half) close to the fans' stall point, they sometimes overshoot the mark, their voltage gets too low for the rpm sensor to pick up and the controller bumps up the voltage to compensate and you get stuck in a stall/over-rev loop. Very rare occurence, but annoying with that damm warning beep when the revs drop too low. Once you find the stall point by that method, just save the setting to one notch (ie: 60revs) higher, and it should be fine from the moment you boot up.[/i]

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Gaming rig: Tt Tsunami,P5Q Pro,Q9450 w Ninja,8GB RAM,4870 1GB w S1,WD 640GB,SB X-Fi Plat,ZM-MFC2.Kama PWM in PSU,others S-FlexEs.
HTPC: NSK2480,GB GF9400,E5200 w/ Minja,4GB RAM,WD GP 1.5TB,Nova DVB-S. Minja PSU fan,S-FlexEs case fans.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Tue Jan 22, 2008 2:19 pm 
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Joined: Sat May 21, 2005 7:31 am
Posts: 40
Location: Belgium, Bruges
hybrid2d4x4 wrote:
With regards to your Noctuas, are you using the same controller? If so, might I suggest setting the rpm really high on the controller (ie: 1500), let the fans spin up and stabilize, then gradually keep decreasing the rpm set speed, waiting for the rpms to settle around the target point. I notice that sometimes if I have the fans running at higher speeds during gaming, and then drop the rpm setting (typically dropping speeds by half) close to the fans' stall point, they sometimes overshoot the mark, their voltage gets too low for the rpm sensor to pick up and the controller bumps up the voltage to compensate and you get stuck in a stall/over-rev loop. Very rare occurence, but annoying with that damm warning beep when the revs drop too low. Once you find the stall point by that method, just save the setting to one notch (ie: 60revs) higher, and it should be fine from the moment you boot up.[/i]

To be honnest I already replaced the Zalman controller with my good old Sunbeam 'bright LED' controller :wink: However, with the Zalman, I did try to wait until the Noctua fans stabilize, yet I could not get the rpm's down the way I wanted them..

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Wed Jan 23, 2008 8:07 am 
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Joined: Mon Jun 28, 2004 7:45 am
Posts: 58
I like the goals the Zalman tries to accomplish. Too bad the jog wheel makes adjustments so combersome and the viewing angles sucks. It's such a great feature to have a total system AC usage device included, but again they drop the ball with a partially useless display and a USB port interface that could really mess up your day with a misconnection. And who here doesn't reach around in back of their machines to swap cables without any light? The price is a little silly as well.

I know a lot of us on the board use straight potent knobs on a bay plate for adjustments but there is a certain charm in being able to have a few presets available to crank up the fans on days that are hot, or when you're doing heavy DV video processing with the Zalman provides. Also, a bunch of unprotected knobs sticking out of a plate are incompatible with clutzes like myself who are always moving the machine and re/disassembling weekly. Not to mention the little hands that like to play with wheels when daddy's not looking. Maybe if there were more plates with inset slotted potents adjustable with a small slotted screwdriver mounted on a 3.5" bay that would be more practical.

-Evan


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