The Zalman ZM-MFC2 allows you to monitor the total PC system power draw if you wish, or it can be left unconnected. The system handles a power range from 30 to 800Watts, and displays that figure in real time, along with a sliding four-stage bar chart.
It's handy, it helps you keep track of how much power your PC is drawing and once you upgrade an old power supply to an Active Power Factor Correction power supply, you'll see the power savings. Other than that, the Wattmeter is interesting for monitoring the power draw differences between a PC sitting at the desktop and gaming in DirectX10, or with a new dual GPU videocard.
The Current Voltage Sensor (CVS) sits outside of the PC, and the plug from this little black box goes into the computer power supply. It plugs into the mains 120-240VAC supply, thus the measurement is a true indicator of total system power draw. A USB cable comes from the CVS and plugs into a special USB PCI bracket that connects to the Zalman ZM-MFC2 fan controller.
Neither the USB PCI bracket nor USB cable from the CVS box are actually USB devices, do not connect them to your motherboard's USB ports. There are ample warnings printed on both cable and socket, but really, don't mistake this cable and port for a USB device.
Conclusions - Fingertip Speed Control
In the course of using the Zalman ZM-MFC2 multi fan speed controller Frostytech has already commented on a few of the quirks of the unit. For anyone looking to monitor one-to-four fans with reasonable accuracy and dial in fan speeds with some idea of what the actual RPM is, it's either going to software or fan speed controller.
Software applications and motherboard support for fan speed control vary with brands and the feature level of the motherboard, so the Zalman ZM-MFC2 is a good equalizer in that respect. It doesn't clutter up the application tool bar and doesn't draw CPU compute time either. All that's required is a free 5.25" drive bay.
The versatility in being able to manage a couple 3-pin fans and a 4-pin PWM fan is the deciding factor for the ZM-MFC2 in our books, for you it may be the fan speed alarms and temperature monitoring. The total system power meter is handy, and certainly illustrates the dramatic power consumption of modern videocards like nothing else. The Wattmeter is obviously a passive measurement, you cannot set the PC to use less power, or draw more - just so that's clear.
The user interface of the ZM-MFC2 is clearly presented with different colours for each data set. Fan activity is blue, fan channels white, fan speed blue and temperature values red. The backlit LCD display looks nice in bright or dark room from head on. The display looks like a nice panel meter from a commercial system in fact, expect for one rather irksome quality.
If you're looking at the ZM-MFC2 display from an angle of about 15° above or below, the display becomes totally unreadable.
In other words, if you're PC sits next to your monitor on the desk the ZM-MFC2 display looks great. If the PC sits on the floor, you won't be able to read the display, and there isn't any means of resetting the LCD contrast. It's the only major downside to the Zalman ZM-MFC2 fan speed controller, and the one genuine caveat.
Like any Zalman product, the accuracy of the device is top-notch. With the aid of a Sencore PR57 Variable power supply, Frostytech was able to measure the accuracy of the Zalman ZM-MFC2's wattmeter. Accuracy was quite good compared to the value the PR57 reported. The Zalman temperature sensors (thermistors) held to within a degree of what a thermocouple based Omega temperature meter reported. So unlike motherboard based temperature sensors which can often provide misleading results, the Zalman ZM-MFC2 seems to be on the ball.
Ultimately, the Zalman ZM-MFC2 multi fan speed controller is a handy 5.25" device provided it's positioned at eye level to the user. If the user has to look down to see the ZM-MFC2, the display is illegible. Aside from this major shortcoming, the Zalman ZM-MFC2 allows users to exercise control over both 3-pin and 4-pin PWM fans with the turn of a dial, and monitor four temperature zones with ease. The main selling point in our books is PWM fan control, and in that respect the ZM-MFC2 works as expected. The Zalman ZM-MFC2 is a nice looking and well built unit with diverse functionality, and bearing in mind the aforementioned caveat, is recommended.
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