News: NZXT Announces the Sentry Mix 2


Sentry Mix 2

The Sentry Mix 2.

NZXT has released a new fan controller, the Sentry Mix 2. The controller is designed to resemble audio mixing equipment, with 6 sliding potentiometers for controls. The Sentry Mix 2 has 6 channels, with 30 watts per channel. The unit will fit in a 5.25″ drive bay. The fan headers are 4-pin connectors, and will accommodate both 4-pin PWM fans and 3-pin fans. There are two Molex connectors for power input.

There is no pricing information for this product yet, but you can read about the Sentry Mix at NZXT’s website.

3DGAMEMAN has posted a video review of this product:


Model Number AC-SEN-MIX2-M1
Material Acrylic, Plastic
Fan Connector 4-Pin
Finish Matte black bezel with glossy black sliders
Included Accessories 4x M3 Screws
Form Factor Single 5.25″
UPC 815671011527
EAN 5060301690770
Connections 2x Molex
Cable Finish Black Rubber
Cable Finish RGB Color Changing
Maximum Combined Wattage 180 Watts
Control Method Sliders
Fan Channel Quantity 6
Fan Channel Wattage 30 Watts
Minimum Power To Fans Minimum Power To Fans
Minimum Power To Fans 40%
Minimum Power To Fans Voltage
Warranty 2 Years

Review: NZXT Sentry Mesh


Sentry Mesh

The NZXT Sentry Mesh.

The NZXT Sentry Mesh is a 5-channel, 30 watt per channel fan controller. Its simple-yet-elegant design and its moderate price ($24.99) will appeal to PC users looking for a no-frills solution to controlling fans.

The Sentry Mesh comes in a cardboard box wrapped in plastic, along with instructions on a single sheet of paper and a small bag of screws. The controller is light and is made of strong, solidly-built plastic, about 2 mm thick and with structural support on the sides and bottoms. The front of the controller boasts a minimalist design, with a mesh design, five linear potentiometers, and a small embossed “NZXT” logo. The fan controller uses only one 5.25″ drive bay. It has no temperator sensors or USB ports.

There are 4 holes on each side for the mounting screws. Viewing the rear of the case reveals that the controller fits on a single circuit board. Thankfully, all the cables are connected to the board with removable connectors (especially in light of the fact that there is no braiding or grouping on the cables). The cables extend approximately 18″ from the PCB, making the sentry Mesh suitable for installation in all but the largest full-tower cases. Those with full-towers may need to buy extension cables. Power is provided by one 4-pin Molex connector, which in turn powers up to 5 individual fans. The fan connectors are Molex KK plugs, so you will need an adapter (not included) if you have fans with the older large Molex connectors. Each cable has a numbered tag at the end of it to indicate which channel to which the cable belongs.

Installation of the NZXT Sentry Mesh is easy; the sides are long enough so that it fits snugly in tool-less cases. If the user’s case requires screws, however, there are 4 screws included. The mesh used for the controller is identical to that used in some of the Cooler Master cases such as the Storm Scout. The fans connect up easily, and once the controller is powered up, the Sentry Mesh maintains its low-profile appearance, with the exception of a white LED under the NZXT logo.

Sentry Mesh - Back

A view of the NZXT Sentry Mesh from the rear, showing the PCB and connectors.

The Sentry Mesh is designed so that so less than 40 percent (4.8 V) of the maximum 12 V of power is provided to the fans. This means that in the potentiometer’s lowest position, the fans are still providing airflow while remaining virtually silent. This ensures that no matter how low the sliders are set, the fans are still running. This is probably a good idea, but users who want more control over their fans may want to consider the Sunbeamtech Rheosmart 6 or another controller that allows the user to reduce the voltage to zero.

The NZXT Sentry Mesh is a low-profile unit which should provide enough power for most users. It has a few minor problems, such as the lack of any braiding or grouping for the cables, and the fact that 4-pin Molex adapters for the fans are not included, but the positives far outweigh the negatives, and at a price of $24.99, it offers a great deal of value at a low price.


Dimensions: 5.25″ Bay
Max Power: Up to 30 W per channel
Colors Available: Black
DC Input: 12 V (Standard 4 Pin Molex Connector)
Fan Connectors: 5
Fan RPM Sliders: 5
Material: Plastic and steel mesh
Pot Type: Linear
Plug Type: 3-Pin Molex KK
Min. Voltage: 40%


Mesh design to camouflage with mesh facade
Five 30W Controls
Easy-to-use sliders

Weekly Hardware Roundup: 5-17-2013


This article is the first in what I intend to be a regular Friday feature on this blog: a weekly hardware roundup, focusing on hardware for desktop and laptop computers.

Raspberry Pi Camera Module Available

Raspberry Pi

The Raspberry Pi in all its glory.

The Raspberry Pi Foundation has announced the launch of its first official accessory for the single-board computer: a five megapixel camera board.

The Raspberry Pi, a fully-functional computer on a circuit board which has a price tag of about $50, has sold over a million units. While third-party add-on boards have been available, the Foundation concentrated on making Raspberry Pis, until now.

This week, the Foundation announced the release of the official Raspberry Pi Camera Board. Designed to plug into the Pi’s Camera Serial Interface (CSI) port, the module is just 25mm by 25mm and 9mm tall and packs a 5-megapixel sensor and a surprisingly powerful imaging engine (previously found on Nokia’s N8 smartphone).

The camera module’s release will likely be followed with at least one other official accessory: the Foundation will likely develop a small form factor display which will use the Display Serial Interface (DSI) capabilities of the computer.

More information on the Raspberry Pi camera board

AMD Unveils 8970M

AMD has unveiled the latest addition to its laptop graphics series. The new range currently consists of only one card: the top of the line HD 8970M, which has an impressive 1280 stream processors, double that of the 8800M. It uses AMD’s GCN architecture and features full DirectX 11.1 support.

Due to its power output, the 8970M will probably only be found on very bulky laptops, such as the MSI GX70, a 17-inch model with a full 17-inch HD screen and a quad-core AMD A10 APU.

Here are the full specs for the 8970 GPU:

Stream Processors: 1280
Engine Clock: 850 Mhz
Memory Clock: 1200 Mhz
Single Precision Compute Power: 2304 GFLOPS
Double Precision compute Power: 144 GFLOPS
Direct X Version: 11.1
Architecture: GCN

PDF with a feature summary of the Radeon HD 8970

Asus Announces Z87 Line of Motherboards

Asus has announced its Z87 motherboards for Intel’s new Haswell CPUs. This motherboard will be of interest to most readers of this blog, as the CPU fan header on all Z87 motherboards adds a MOSFET between the power supply unit (PSU) and CPU fan. As a result, Asus’ software fan control suites are now able to vary the speed of 3-pin fans and 4-pin pulse-width modulated (PWM) fans. A simple latch built-in to the header detects when a 3-pin or 4-pin fan is connected. This has the potential to render expensive automatic fan controllers useless. The UEFI BIOS also receives some upgrades: the user will be able to add notes relating to settings and there is also a history of BIOS changes. In addition, the board implements Thermal Armor, which Asus, touts as “Total Airflow-Boosting Heat Dissipation”, the world’s first-ever thermal design for the entire motherboard, which is purported to safeguard the system against hot air and help keep temperatures down, conducting hot air away and out of the case through special airflow channels.

The mini-ITX market it also attended to with this board line-up, with a new overclocking-oriented model called the Z87 I-Deluxe.

More information on the Z87

Arctic Announces Alpine 20 Plus

Arctic has announced the arrival of a new CPU cooler, the Alpine 20 Plus. The cooler is only compatible with the the LGA 2011 socket, but works for both desktop version of the Intel Core i7; and the Xeon processors that fit in LGA 2011 sockets.

The cooler is made from an aluminum block and has a number of aluminum fins through which air is pushed by a 92mm fan. The fan’s speed can vary from 600 RPM to 2200 RPM and is a PWM fan. The cooler has an MSRP of $14.50 and has a 6-year warranty.

HP Announces Two New X2s

HP announced this week that it is expanding it’s x2 detachable PC portfolio with two new models: the Android-powered HP SlateBook x2 packed with a Tegra 4 system on a chip (SoC), and the Windows 8-powered HP Split x2. They will be released in the U.S. in August with starting prices of $479.99 and $799.99 respectively.

The SlateBook x2 has Android 4.2.2 “Jelly Bean” installed and has services like Google Now, Google Maps and more. The hardware contained within is not entirely known, but it will have a 10.1-inch HD touchscreen, 64 GB of internal storage and DTS+ sound. The HP Split x2 is based on Intel’s third-generation processors and Windows 8 Pro. It will have a 13.3-inch HD touchscreen, HP Connected Music, Beats Audio, a 2MP HP Truevision Full HD webcam, and an HP ClickPad.

More information on the x2 lineup

Electrical Fundamentals


AA Battery

A typical AA battery (a rechargeable NiMH one)

Since much of the subject matter relating to fan controllers requires a basic understanding of electrical power, I thought it might be edifying to review some of the basic concepts of electricity.

Electric charge is a property of subatomic particles (most notably, the proton [+] and electron [-]). The presence of a charge gives rise to the electromagnetic force, one of the four fundamental forces in nature. The amount of charge is usually expressed in coulombs. Voltage is the electrical potential difference between two points, or the difference in electrical potential energy between two points. This is measured in joules per coulomb, or volts. Measuring voltage requires connecting the two leads of a voltmeter (positive and negative leads) to the two points across which voltage is to be measured. This, to measure the voltage of a battery, one lead is connected to the positive terminal of the battery and the other lead is connected to the negative terminal. A common use of the term voltage is in describing the voltage dropped across an electrical device (such as a resistor). The voltage drop across the device can be understood as the difference between measurements at each terminal of the device with repsect to a common reference point or ground. The voltage drop is the difference between the two readings. Two points connected by a conductor without resistances and not within a changing magnetic field have a voltage of zero. The conventional symbol for voltage is V.


A typical digital multimeter, which can be used to measure voltage and current.

A second important concept is current, the flow of electric charge. Electric charge flows when there is a voltage preent across a current. It is measured in coulombs per second, or amperes. Electrical conductance is the ease at which an electrical current passes. There are two primary forms of current: direct current (DC), the unidirectional flow of electric charge (usually found in batteries, thermocouples and solar cells), and alternating current (AC), in which the movement of electric charge periodically reverses direction (the form of power usually delivered to businesses and residences). The conventional symbol for current is I.

If there is electrical conductance, then there must also be an inverse quantity: electrical resistance, the opposition to the passage of electric current, which is measured in ohms. The key relation between voltage, current, and resistance was discovered by Georg Ohm in 1827 and is expressed as Ohm’s Law:

V = I * R

or voltage equals current times resistance. Thus the current between two points is directly proportional to the potential difference across the two points (and inversely proportional to the resistance). Although this relationship seems somewhat obvious, the discovery of Ohm’s law was a major development in the history of electronics.


A typical 470-ohm resistor.

When electrical charges move through a circuit where there is an electric potential difference, the potential does work on the charges, converting the energy into kinetic energy. The unit of power in physics is joules per second (J/s), or watts. The conventional symbol for power is P. You may have guessed already that power between two points in a circuit can be measured by multiplying current in amps (coulombs/sec) by the voltage in volts (joules/coulomb), which leaves us with joules per second (power in watts). Thus:

P = V * I

This is known as Joule’s Law, which gives us a measure of the dissipated power between two points in a circuit. By combined Ohm’s Law with Joule’s Law, we can obtain an alternate way of expressing the dissipated power:

P = (I * R) * I = I^2 * R

These basic equations give us enough information to do some quick-and-dirty calculations with fan controllers. Assume that we have 4 fans to control, and each fan uses half an amp (.5 A) The total current used by the fans is thus .5 A * 4, or 2 amps. Let us also assume there is a 4-channel, 45-watt fan controller available. Using Joule’s Law,

p = V * I, or I = P/V

Thus, we can calculate how much current the controller can handle by dividing the power by voltage. Since the controller is 45 watts, and each fan uses 12 volts of DC power, I = (45 W/12 V) = 3.75 A. Therefore, the controller has more than enough power to handle the 4 fans.

An electric circuit is an interconnection of electrical components such that an electric charge is made to flow along a closed path, usually to perform a useful task. COmponents can include resistors, capacitors, switches, transistors and transformers, but for purposes of this introductory article, I will focus on the resistor. The resistor is a passive element (it consumes and does not produce energy), and, as the name suggests, it resists the current through it, dissipating its energy as heat. The resistance is a consequence of the motion of charge through a conductor. The resistance of most materials is relatively constant over a range of temperatures and currents; materials is relatively constant over a range of temperatures and currents; materials under these conditions are known as “ohmic”. In a fan controller, resistors will often be used to reduce the voltage to a fan; however, since the resistor dissipates energy as heat, the buildup of heat is often a concern.

I may write a follow-up article to further explain electronic components, but this should be enough basic concepts for the uninitiated reader to understand the fundamentals of fan controllers. Any feedback on this article would be greatly appreciated.

Review: Lamptron FC-2


Lamptron FC-2

Front panel of the Lamptron FC-2

For those users who put power at a premium, the FC-2 may be the ideal solution. In an era when some fan controllers offer a mere 7 watts per channel, the FC-2 boasts a whopping 45 watts per channel, with a total of 6 channels. It is available in both black anodized aluminum, as well as plain aluminum. The aluminum is CNC milled, which should please those who put a premium on aesthetics.

The FC-2 fits into a 5.25-inch drive bay, and requires up to 3 Molex connectors to power it (it is advisable to connect all 3 connectors to the power supply to prevent a current overload, but the controller will work with only one connector connected). It comes with fan extension wires for all 6 channels (all fan connectors are 3-pin), as well as screws for mounting. The power cable is pre-attached to the fan controller (likely due to the FC-2’s power cable having a higher-gauge wire to handle the increased power load).

The PCB on the FC-2 has been simplified considerably in comparison with its predecessors. Lamptron used a pulse-width modulation (PWM) design for the controller, rather than using a resistor-based design, which makes it somewhat more efficient than a resistor-based system which would dump additional voltage as heat.

Lamptron FC-2 alternate view

Another view of the Lamptron FC-2, showing the Molex power connectors

It should be noted that when the fans are in the off position, it is an absolute off, unlike some controllers which consistently supply some power to allow the fan to spin at a slow speed. This is useful if you want to isolate the source of noise in a PC, but not so useful if you forget the fans are not running and end up damaging a component. The LED brightness increases as the fan speed increases; thus the LEDs will be brightest when the fan speed is at a maximum. This can be handy to users who want to know the fan speed right away by just looking at the LED brightness.

The controller itself seems to work solidly; it can handle several fans running at maximum speed without struggling.

On the whole, the Lamptron FC-2 does everything the user would expect of it and more. It lacks some of the features of the more expensive fan controllers (it is, after all, only a manual fan controller), but with a whopping 45 watts per channel, it should be powerful enough for just about everybody, and with a retail price of about $40, it offers good value.

Dimensions: 5.25″ Bay
Max Power: Up to 45W per channel
Colors Available: Black Anodized Aluminum, Plain Aluminum Finish
DC Input: 12V(Standard 4 Pin Molex Connector)
LED Indicator: 12 Blue LEDs 5.0V
Fan Connectors: 6
Fan RPM Knobs: 6

CNC Milled from blocks of 3/4″ Thick Solid Aluminum
Normal Output 45 W Each Channel
Six 3-pin Fan Connections on Backside
LED Brightness is Controlled by RPM Knob

Loud Fans, Power Reduction, and Other Reasons to Add Fan Control to a PC


Loud fans - Lamptron FC-Touch

The Lamptron FC-Touch, just one of many commercially available multi-channel fan controllers which can eliminate loud fans and help reduce power consumption.

The hardcore gamer or computer hardware enthusiast likely does not need to be convinced that having some method of fan control is a good idea. The user who has already spent hundreds of dollars or even more on a high-end PC, a graphics card with a powerful GPU, and possibly several other pricey peripherals will likely see adding a fan controller as a wise investment, especially since high-performance systems often incorporate loud fans. The average desktop user may not think having a fan controller is necessary, and they may be correct. For them, running the fan at maximum speed whenever the computer is on will provide a reliable method of cooling the system. Moreover, some fans have a lifespan of 60,000 hours, or almost 7 years of continuous use, thereby virtually guaranteeing that the fan will be one of the last computer components to fail, and seemingly giving the typical PC owner little justification for adding fan control.

Nonetheless, there are several advantages to  adding fan control to a PC. Although each user might have different reasons for wanting to control the fans, the following come to mind as the most likely justifications:

[1] Loud fans.

Modern PCs are a vast improvement over earlier ones in terms of noise output.  Anyone who had an XT or any of the other early PCs can likely attest to this; while loud fans are sometimes an issue, the fans generally are not as noisy as they once were. Still, as a fan runs faster, the noise generated by that fan increases exponentially. Since fan noise increases with the fifth power of the fan speed, reducing rotations per minute (RPM) by even a small amount potentially means a reduction in fan noise. Additional fans on a PC can increase the decibel level of the computer to as much as 70 dB. And loud fans are no fun.

[2]  Power consumption reduction.

While eliminating loud fans is enough of an incentive for many users to invest in a fan controller, the efficiency argument should be considered as well. Circuits consume electrical power; chips and transistors need power to operate, while components such as resistors will dissipate heat, which means more energy loss. Modern controllers can be made with low power consumption chips. For example, if we have a PWM controller operating at 5 volts (V) and drawing 30 milliamps (mA), we can calculate the amount of power consumed:

P = V*I = 5 V * 0.030 A = 0.150 Watts (or 150 mW)

In this example, we are using Joule’s First Law (power in watts = voltage in volts * current in amps, or P = V*I) to calculate the power.  That is 150 mW (milliwatt)  for the fan controller. A 300mA typical fan operating at 120 volts consumes this much:

P = V*I = 120 V * 0.300 A = 36 Watts

A fan controller would enable the user to control the voltage sent to the fan.  Assuming that the user runs the fan with half the voltage, the power consumption of the fan will be reduced in proportion to the voltage reduction:

P = V*I = 60 V * 0.300 A = 18 Watts (or 1800 mW)

The system will consume 150 mW of power that would not have been used if the system did not have a fan controller at all, but the fan is now consuming 1800 mW less than it was before. Thus, the net savings in power consumption is 1650 mW. Moreover, since most fan controllers can control multiple fans, the user can save even more power by reducing the voltage to several fans, while the power consumed by the controller remains the same, meaning that the more fans the system uses, the greater the potential power savings.

[3] Improved fan reliability.

All PC fans have bearings, and these bearings generate friction, which in turn will slowly wear the bearings, which in turn will lead to the end of the fan’s life span. By rotating the fan slower, the friction and the heat generated by the fan will be reduced, increasing the lifetime and overall reliability of the fan. This alone might recoup the cost of buying a PC fan controller.

[4] Dust accumulation reduction.

The air carries dust. Filters reduce the dust, but even with these filters, dust will get into your PC. This causes two problems: [a] it clogs up the filter and reduces the amount of air that goes ito the box; [b] dust sticks to the surfaces of chips and heat sinks, reducing their ability to disappate heat effectively and increasing the temperature inside the box. If the incoming air volume is reduced to the required volume for reducing the speed of the fan, less dust will be pushed through the filters into the PC.

[5] Aesthetics.

While the first four items on my list are the ones usually cited as the most common reasons for utilizing some form of fan control, it should also be noted that many of the newer fan controllers have been designed as much with an eye towards having an aesthetically-pleasing look as they are to work efficiently (the Lamptron FC-Touch pictured above is just one such example). Many of them have a means of changing the color of the LED outputs, and almost all of them except perhaps the most primitive ones have something to offer visually. Any user who is looking for an add-on that enhances the looks of the system (while potentially offering substantial benefits in the form of power and minimizing noise from loud fans) should consider adding a fan controller.


While there are many reasons one might want to install a fan controller, the most compelling reasons, in my opinion, is the potential for savings in power consumption and to eliminate the issue of loud fans.  If loud fans are the main reason you are considering installing a fan controller, you probably want to explore other options first.  If you are running an old system, clean all the fans and see if this resolves the issue. If you can isolate the noise to a single loud fan, consider replacing the fan. But keep in mind that even a perfectly good fan will get louder as it runs faster. If other options have been exhausted and you still have an issue with loud fans, it is probably time to consider a fan controller.

External Links:

Wikipedia entry on fan control