NZXT Sentry 2 Fan Controller Review

Author: Pier-Luc Gendreau
Editor: Howard Ha
Publish Date: Wednesday, August 5th, 2009
Originally Published on Neoseeker (http://www.neoseeker.com)
Article Link: http://www.neoseeker.com/Articles/Hardware/s/nzxt_sentry_2/
Copyright Neo Era Media, Inc. - please do not redistribute or use for commercial purposes.

Whether you are an overclocking enthusiast or a gamer, chances are your case has a bunch of cooling fans installed. That's excellent, since it keeps the hardware nice and cool. However, when you start filling up the case with fans, noise quickly becomes an annoying issue either for you, or others. It's not exactly pleasant to feel like the computer hovers off the ground when it is powered on.

Fortunately, at some point, do-it-yourself modders and various manufacturers started designing fan controllers to enable the user to slow down the fans when they don't need to be spinning at full throttle.

That's exactly what NZXT's Sentry 2 does and it even has a temperature sensor associated to each of the five fan inputs so they can be automatically controlled. Even though that's nothing too ground-breaking, NZXT added a twist to it. The controller does not use buttons, instead, the backlit liquid crystal display is actually a touch screen.

NZXT ships the Sentry 2 in an appropriately sized black box sporting a simple, straight to the point design. The packaging feels solid enough to keep it safe from outside damage. Both ends of the controller are also protected and kept into place by styrofoam.

This is what you get for opening the box: the fan controller, four screws and six small pieces of adhesive tape. There's also a pretty much useless instruction manual -- if I can call it that.

On the outside, the fan controller looks and feels very 'plasticky', which isn't too pleasant for the eye, but it also doesn't appear dusty like a glossy surface would.

The rear of the controller is a bit messy; but, that's the price to pay for the ability to connect five fans with either a molex or 3-pin connector as well as monitor temperatures with five different sensors.

Here's a closer look at the temperature sensors, which is simply a diode with +- 1 Celcius precision.

The installation process took a matter of seconds. All you have to do is to slide the controller into a free 5.25" drive bay and screw it using the NZXT-provided hardware.

Once that is done, simply connect one of your power supplies molex connector to the molex labeled "power" on the controller. When the computer is turned one, the screen should light up and, assuming no fans are connected yet, display the following.

Now that it is confirmed to work, you can turn off your computer again and start connecting fans. Each of the five cables has a molex and a three pin fan connector at its end, however, only one of them should be used. The hard part is to fix the mess this whole bunch of cables just created into your case. Fortunately, NZXT's cables are long enough to make them easy to neatly route somewhere out of sight.

Once you're all set and powered on, the fan blades on the display are now spinning more or less fast depending on the speed at which the fan is set.

Test Setup

In order to test NZXT's Sentry 2 fan controller, I will install it into the usual Core i7 based build used in reviews. The sole difference is that I connected both of the heatsink's fans as well as three other case fans to the controller.

 

My experience with NZXT's Sentry 2 was excellent. In fact, there are very little issues about the product. Here are two of these issues: the first thing I noticed was the over abundance of plastic of debatable quality. Secondly, theres a very annoying and unnecessarily loud beep that goes off every time you press a valid area.

Even though the device is fairly intuitive, the lack of a useful instruction manual may leave some thinking the controller is missing a couple key functions. The only thing the supplied documentation mentions is about connecting fans. There absolutely nothing about actually making use of the touch screen. In short, the manual needs reworking NZXT.

With that said, the Sentry 2 also has a ton of positives. First of all, fan controllers have a tendency to look somewhere between mediocre and semi-decent. However, the Sentry 2 looks very modern, thanks to its relatively large (2.5 x 11.4 centimeter) backlit color display. Every bit of information can be read with ease no matter what angle you're looking from.

As some of you may be aware, touch screens are very hit or miss. Sensibility and response time play a large role in making the touch experience a great one. Fortunately, NZXT's controller excels at both of these characteristics. Assuming you press a valid area, the controller never misses an action and response time is extremely short, if not instantaneous.

That's great, but this is, after all, a fan controller and it does a fine job at it. The manual control just works, fan can be set between 40% and 100%. Under 40% it simply shuts down the fan. The automatic mode works in conjunction with their respective thermal sensor.

Overall, the NZXT Sentry 2 is a great fan controller. The product has very few down sides, which really aren't deal-breakers, and that could easily be fixed. Having used the previous model, the Sentry 1, this second iteration is miles ahead in every aspect. It can control and monitor more, and it works and looks better. If you're in the market for a powerful and affordable fan controller, the NZXT Sentry 2 should be on top of your short list.

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