by William Kelley on September 1, 2009 in Cooling
NZXT’s previous Sentry fan controllers impressed us in our evaluations, but we wanted a bit more. To the rescue is the Sentry 2, the latest fan controller from the company that has completely floored us. At $35, it’s affordable. Add to that the touch-screen capability, support for 5 10W fans and on-the-fly temperature monitoring, and we have a new must-have product.
Keeping a modern computer nice and cool has transformed into a large and active segment of the aftermarket PC accessories world. There are seemingly endless arrays of products out there to help you in this task. The one thing that has remained constant is the need for fans. Without them, there is really no other effective means to extract the heat generated. Once you start talking about overclocking and multi-core processors, as well as two or more video cards like many high-end systems built today, the need for the best airflow is even more urgent.
Reducing noise has become an obsession for many. In the quest for the quietest possible machine, people will go through great lengths. The most common choice is low noise and low CFM fans. Unfortunately, this is often a poor choice as it cannot effectively pull all the heat out. The same thing goes for most fan-less products as well. About the only real effective alternative is to manually slow down your fans by either modifying them directly or using a fan controlling device.
With their successful line of affordable and effective products aimed at the enthusiast, NZXT has also had good success building quality fan controllers. Earlier this year, we tested the company’s Sentry LX, and I was pleased with the overall results. It was well-packaged and had plenty of bling to go along with the functionality. Sadly, it did fall short in a few key areas – most importantly, the amount of wattage it was able to handle. With current case designs pushing the envelope with multiple 120mm+ high-powered fans, it really wasn’t fully up to the task at hand.
Proving they are a company that listens to the consumer, we now have their latest incarnation, the Sentry 2. Now only taking up one 5 1/4″ bay as compared to the LX’s 2 and offering a stout 10W per fan channel (for up to 5 fans), the Sentry 2 really looks to be a strong evolution from the original. Add in a functional touch-screen along with the ability to monitor 5 different temperature zones, the potential is certainly there for the taking. Time to get it out of the box and into our test bed and see just how well it performs its task.
Once out of the shipping box, I was very surprised as to just how small the retail packaging is. I would like to commend NZXT for not putting this into a larger box because I am not big on wasteful packaging. There is foam padding to protect your part and everything is wrapped neat and tidy. All wiring is properly wrapped as well. The included instructions are somewhat lacking, but there is a good overview available for download directly on the product page on the NZXT website (direct URL) which shows you how to operate everything properly.
The screen itself is of a very good size. Again, they have taken the time to properly protect it from any shipping scratches with a simple-to-remove clear vinyl overlay. One important thing to pay attention too is the overall size or lack thereof. There is no wasted space and since it barely intrudes inside the case you could easily mount a hard drive behind it inside the same 5 1/4″ bay with some rail adapters.
On to the flipside we see the circuitry of the business end. Everything is carefully fitted and all solder joints are neat as well. Quality designs bring long reliable service so I expect this to be true here as well. Overall fit and finish is excellent and it will blend into even the most luxurious case fronts.
As stated earlier, you get the ability to control 5 separate fans. There 3-pin and 4-pin style connections to allow connecting with most fans available on the market. It would have been nice to have the ability to also connect to 4-pin PWM style fan power connectors, but there are no adapters included for this.
All of the wiring is molded together into a sort of ribbon style cable but you can easily pull them apart to run the wiring in any configuration you desire. The wires are also quite long and should reach the far corners of most current available cases. Each fan circuit is also numbered, so you can keep track of which fan channel you are connecting.
The temperature sensors (diodes) also sport the ribbon style molded configuration and they are all inside protective sheathing to keep them safe until use. As with the fan power wiring, it is quite easy to peel each apart to allow you to run them wherever you would like. Each sensor is numbered so you can coordinate it with the appropriate fan channel you wish to monitor. The included tape holds them in the desired position.
While there is not much in the way of extras included, you do get a few extra temperature sensors in case you damage the originals. There are 4 screws as well to secure the Sentry to the chassis. The orange tape segments are precut into six pieces and it does its job well. Sadly, there was only a single zip tie included. I would have very much preferred a dozen considering the amount of wiring that you need to secure after the installation. But, this is not a major concern.
My overall initial impression is that this is a quality product. There is a definite no-nonsense approach with the lack of packaging and extras. On the other hand, there is no doubt it was built well and built to last. Handling 50W+ of fans is no small feat and very few other fan controllers can boast this capacity. I also was impressed with the quality of the circuitry. This was always the bane of older fan controllers since most only used rheostats with small heat sinks to absorb the heat load.