Review of Zalman ZM-MFC3 fan controller

Summary: Zalman is back with another one of their much appreciated fan controllers, the Zalman ZM-MFC3. It can control 4 fans and monitor 4 temperatures in addition to measuring the total voltage use of your system.


zm-mfc3-large


INTRODUCTION

Fan controllers have been around for ages it seems. These are products intended for true PC hardware enthusiasts who enjoy optimizing their systems to the max. Zalman was one of the pioneers in this sector with its famous ZM-MFC1, a device that only allowed us to control fan rotating speed. The concept of a 5.25” panel from which you could control all your fans directly was very well received by modders and PC builders. The unit which I will be taking a closer look at today is a much more evolved product compared to Zalman’s first attempt.


The average score for the Zalman ZM-MFC3 at TestSeek.com is currently 76% but the voices are somewhat inkoherent.


Zalman ZM-MFC3 is the natural evolution of the ZM-MFC2. Both have the same functionality, the only real changes are the design of the unit and how the data is displayed on the screen.



Here are the specifications of the ZM-MFC3:


Zalman ZM-MFC3

Characteristics

- Visualization of real time power usage
– Alarm system in case a fan stops
– Timer: it indicates the time of use of the computer

Dimensions

147 x 87 x 42 mm (fits in a 5,25” bay)

Supported fans

4 altogether, 3 with 3 pin connectors and 1 with a 4 pin (PWM) connector

Method of regulation of the fans

Voltage for the 3 pin fans and PWM for the 4 pin fans

Voltage scale

Measures from 10W to 999W



FIRST IMPRESSIONS

The Rehobus ZM-MFC3 comes in a cardboard box of rather small dimensions with a quite sober design. Already from viewing the box we can get a preview of the most important functions of the ZM-MFC3.


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I like that Zalman has included a detailed showcase of the main functions on the backside of the box.


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When I opened the box I found the unit itself in an antistatic plastic bag. All the accessories were located in a white box and there was also a rather extensive manual which was located under the fan controller.


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The accessories that Zalman has included are; 4 cables for connecting to the fans (3 with 3 pin connectors and one with a 4 pin PWM connector); 4 temperature sensors; a PCI bracket with a CVS connector for measuring the power and some screws for the installation of the unit.



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ZALMAN ZM-MFC3 IN DETAIL

Zalman ZM-MFC3 is a quite small device (147 x 87 x 42 mm) which fits perfectly into a 5.25” expansion bay. The depth of the unit is not even half of a normal DVD drive. It has a rather sober and elegant design I think.


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There are two stickers on the top side of the ZM-MFC3. They hold information about of the serial number and model of the unit.



The front of the ZM-MFC3 is very simple. The only two elements of interest are the screen and the button/wheel.


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All the connections are located in the back of the unit. From left to right there are 3 connectors for 3 pin fans and a 4 pin PWM connector. To the right of the fan connectors there are 4 connectors for the temperature sensors. Then there’s a CVS connector for the voltage measurements. Farthest to the right, there’s a DC power connector.


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INSTALLING ZALMAN ZM-MFC3

In spite of my first impression, the installation of the ZM-MFC3 wasn’t too complicated since the connectors are easy to identify and the corresponding cables couldn’t be fitted anywhere else.


The most problematic thing I had to confront was the connection of the power consumption meter which involved several steps. First I connected the CVS cable to the ZM-MFC3 and then I installed the PCI bracket in my case, then I connected the watt meter to the power supply and finally I connected the USB connector from the watt meter to the PCI bracket.


Yes, they are many connections, but with a little patience the installation is fairly easy.


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Once the installation was finished I turned on my PC and directly there was o ton of information on the Rheobus panel. It was really refreshing that I didn’t have to install any software on my PC to get the readings.


The presentation of the information is fairly clear and as Zalman says; the visualization of the panel is excellent from any angle which is great because you are rarely directly in front of you PC. With the clear display a swift glance at the panel is enough to register the readouts from it.


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Now you might be asking; what about controlling the speed of the fans? It’s truly a piece of cake, just push and hold the wheel in for three seconds to enter the correct mode. Then you choose fan by pushing the wheel button until you have selected the one you which to alter. Finally, to change the speed of the fan, you turn the wheel in the desired direction.




CONCLUSIONS

Zalman has yet again proved why their products are so popular amongst consumers in the PC hardware segment. The ZM-MFC3 is an excellent product. It excels in terms of design, function, connectivity, presentation of the information and its relative simplicity.


The functions that Zalman ZM-MFC3 offers are quite extensive and very useful. I would have loved to be able to read out some more interesting info from it like the CPU and memory frequency etc. The display is really clear, both in terms of the visibility and how the information is arranged.



The Zalman ZM-MFC3 goes for around $70 (50€ in Europe) which seems to be an OK price to me.


Pros:

  • Simple and sober design
  • 4 temperature sensors and 4 fan controllers
  • Measures the power consumption
  • Good viewing angle on the display
  • Good presentation of the info


Cons:

  • No CPU/Memory monitoring
  • Perhaps some extra USB/FireWire ports?



Zalman ZM-MFC3

Packaging and accessories

0.5/0.5

Quality and finish

1.5/1.5

Monitor options

2.5/3

Control options

3/3

Price

1.5/2

Total

9.0/10


The final score is 90 out of 100 owls, and we give the “Zalman ZM-MFC3” our Editor’s Choice Award.





TestSeek Labs Editor's Choice 2009 Award


 

 

 

Thanks goes out to Zalman for letting me review this mouse.



Author: Manuel González Fernández

Translator: Vince Emiloz Sanderson


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