NZXT Sentry 2 Fan Controller Review
By Rafael Otto Coelho on August 20, 2009


Introduction

Hardware Secrets Silver Award

This time we tested Sentry 2 fan controller from NZXT, which uses only one 5 ¼" bay from your case and has an LCD touchscreen. Check out this product features in this review.

Sentry 2 box is very small and shows only a picture from the controller screen besides giving the information of the number of temperature sensors (five) and controlled fan outputs (also five). Just as Touch-2000 controller we tested a few days ago it has no buttons, all adjustments are done directly on the touchscreen.

NZXT Sentry 2
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Figure 1: Box.

Is also has an audible alarm that sounds if one of the sensors measures temperature above the programmed limit or if one of the fans become disconnected or stops working. But we found that this product has the exact same problem from its competitor: the alarm sounds in low volume and only for a few seconds. So you will be warned only if you are in front of the computer when the problem happens.

Sentry 2

Inside the small Sentry 2 box we found besides the panel itself and the cables attached to it two spare temperature sensors, installation screws, adhesive tape to attach the sensors and a piece of paper the manufacturer seems to call "user manual".

This so-called "manual" accomplished the feat of saying nothing useful in four different languages. There is no info on how to install the sensors nor how to operate the panel. And its operation is not as easy as it seems. It is really disappointing when a product comes with this kind of manual. At NZXT website we found an operation guide, but it is very brief too.

NZXT Sentry 2
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Figure 2: Box contents.
The front panel from Sentry 2 is made in black plastic and looks very nice on cases with a black plastic front frame, but it will probably not look pretty on cases with an aluminum front panel.

Installation

In Figure 3, you can see the rear side from Sentry 2. Temperature sensor, main power and fan output cables came connected and glued to the circuit board.

NZXT Sentry 2
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Figure 3: Rear view.

To install Sentry 2 in your case, just remove one 5 ¼" bay cover, put the controller on it and attach two screws (or use the screwless retention system if your case have one). After that, connect it to the power supply with one standard peripheral connector, stick the temperature sensors on the spots you want to monitor and connect up to five fans on the outputs.

The temperature sensors came protected by plastic tubes and their installation is very simple, you just need to stick them on the points you want to monitor, like the motherboard chipset heatsink, hard disk drive and memory heatsink. Regarding the CPU sensor, keep in mind you cannot put it between the CPU and the cooler, because if you do so the heatsink will not be in direct contact to the CPU and will not properly cool it. In this case, you must put the sensor as close as possible to the cooler base.

NZXT Sentry 2
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Figure 4: Temperature sensors.

In Figure 5, you can see the fan connectors. Each one of the five outputs has two connector types: one three-pin miniature connector and one four-pin standard peripheral connector ("Molex"). But we didn't like these connectors by some reasons. First, the miniature connectors, besides having no rotation sensor, is not compatible with four-pin miniature connectors with the PWM pin. So if you have a fan that uses this connector (most CPU coooler fans use this connector) you can't connect it to Sentry 2, unless you cut part of the connector.

Second problem we found is the fact that if you connect your CPU cooler fan to Sentry 2 the motherboard can't monitor the fan speed. It could follow the example of Touch-2000 and include a small extension wire connecting the rotation sensor pin from the CPU fan to the motherboard connector.

The third thing we found strange is that NZXT used a male standard peripheral power connector, instead of a female one. By default fans that use this connector are pluged directly to the power supply, which uses female plus. So, the fans use male connectors and the controller outputs also use male connectors. Luckly most fans come with both connector types (male and female), so you probably won't have any trouble installing them.

NZXT Sentry 2
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Figure 5: Fan outputs.

Operation

When you turn on your computer, Sentry 2 panel lights up as you can see in Figure 6. The panel looks is clean and pleasant, being reasonably discrete despite of being very colorful. On the screen you can find four main areas, each one with a funcion, which we will describe below.

NZXT Sentry 2
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Figure 6: Working.

On the right side, where there is a fan icon, you must touch to select, sequentially, each one of the fans and the respective temperature sensor. When the number "5" is highligted and you touch the fan icon on the panel, all the numbers get highligted and temperature shows "--"; we couldn't find what is the purpose of this mode. Touching it again, channel 1 lights again. This fan icon stays "spinning" when the fan connected to the selected channel is working and stops when the fan stops.

On the upper left corner we can see the temperature reading, correspondent to the sensor indicated by the highlighted channel number. Touching this area the programmed alarm temperature shows off. Touching there for a few seconds, the panel changes the temperature unit from Celsius to Fahrenheit or vice versa.

On the center area you can read the words "auto" and "manual", and touching there you can change the working mode of the selected fan. In "auto" mode, fan speed is adjusted according to the temperature read on the corresponding sensor and in "manual" mode the speed is manually adjusted.

On the left lower corner there are two "virtual buttons" with "+" and "-" symbols, which adjust the alarm temperature and the fan speed when the panel is in manual mode. This rotation speed is shown both in percentage with two digits and through a bar formed by blue boxes.

Finally on the right side there are two virtual buttons. On the upper corner there is an "R" that if pressed for three seconds restarts the panel an loads the default settings. On the lower corner there is an on/off icon that if pressed for three seconds turns off the panel lights.

Main Specifications

NZXT Sentry 2 fan controller main features are:

* Researched at Newegg.com on the day we published this review.

Conclusions

NZXY Sentry 2 is a good fan controller. Its strong points are the presence of five temperature sensors and the capacity of controlling five fans, in manual or automatic modes. The high temperature and stopped fan alarms are also very useful.

It has no USB, e-SATA or audio ports, but these are pratically an exclusivity of two-bay fan controllers, which turns out to be another Sentry 2 advantage over competitors: it needs only one 5 ¼" bay.

It does not show all the temperatures on the screen at the same time like Aerocool Touch-2000, being the best advantage of this particular competitor.

Its installation is very simple, keeping in mind the PWM fans incompatibility issue. But its bigger problem is really the pathetic documentation that comes with this product. We just wonder why the manufacturer didn't included a good manual. Just lazyness?

Sentry 2, however, is a very useful piece of harware, doing fine the job it was designed to. And better of all, it is very inexpensive, providing a terrific cost/benefit ratio.

Originally at http://www.hardwaresecrets.com/article/NZXT-Sentry-2-Fan-Controller-Review/787


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