Zalman ZM-MFC2 Fan Controller - Installation, Testing and Conclusion

Article Index
Zalman ZM-MFC2 Fan Controller
Worlds First Look at the ZM-MFC2
Installation, Testing and Conclusion

Installation & Testing:

This unit installs easily and secures to an empty 5.25" bay with a couple of screws.  If you have a case that uses drive rails instead of the old school screw in bays, you may find the install to be a little more trickier.  We dropped this controller into the FC-ZE1 case with no problems.  Once we hooked up the fans, power sensors, and temperature probes, we were ready to go.

ZM-MFC2 - In Action 
ZM-MFC2 - In Action

Setting up and controlling the fans is super easy with this unit.  To set up fan one, you simply press the small "mode" button on the bottom right and the Fan 1 begins to flash.  You can dial up the knob until you reach the desired RPM.  At this point you can press "mode" again to continue on  to the next fan, or leave it for a few seconds and it will return to normal mode.  When the Fan number is flashing in set mode, you can press the knob and it will disable the fan alarm for the appropriate fan.  By default, each fan is monitored and an alarm will sound if a fan quits turning, but you can disable this for any or all of the fans controlled by the ZM-MFC2.

In the image above, we have all fans running at individual speeds and all fans are monitored against failure.  We tested the fan speed alarm on each fan and it works very well.  A soft, but noticeable alarm sounds when a fan quits rotating.  The alarm is loud enough that you'll hear it for sure, but not so shrill that it will make you want to kill something.

The only complaint that I have with fan control is that the controller has you set up the fan speed by RPM.  While this sounds like a good idea, the execution does have a few limitations.  First, there is no way for the controller to know how fast the fan can spin.  You can set a fan to run at 5000rpm and it will only reach 1800rpm (as is the case with many large 120mm fans).  The performance of the fan does not suffer in any way, and it will reach it's maximum speed easily enough, but it seems a bit odd to have the controller set to 3200rpm more than the fan can actually spin.  There are a couple possible ways to solve this.  First, don't set the fan by rpm.  Instead set it by voltage.  Second, if you are setting the fan by rpm, adjust the fan rpm in real time when you are in the set mode, and display the fan's actual speed along with the speed you are dialing in.  As I mentioned before, these aren't major issues, just a couple of things that might help polish off this product.

ZM-MFC2 In Action 
ZM-MFC2 in Action

Along with fan control, the ZM-MFC2 offers temperature monitoring and Power consumption monitoring.  Both of these features appear to work very well, and the temperature probes appear to be quite accurate.  As far as the real-time power usage goes, I was a bit disappointed at first as I thought there was as much as 20W - 30W discrepancy between what the ZM-MFC2 displayed and what I had recorded for another review.  After I checked into things a bit more, I discovered that there is only about a 5% difference is the reading between the two systems.  5% isn't bang-on, but it's pretty close and offers a very good indication of how much power your system is drawing.

It was interesting to see how the temperatures and watt usage bobbed around when running idle, loading up some Protein Folding and then jumping into a few games.  The ZM-MFC2 is not only useful for displaying relevant information; it is also a great and easy way to adjust your fans on the fly.

Conclusion:

This fan controller is the answer for a long awaited addition to the Zalman product line.  Users have cried for a better way to control all of their Zalman fans without having to route multiple FanMate2 controllers out the back of the case.  The ZM-MFC2 works very well, is simple to use, offers great functionality, and real-time watt usage in a all-in-one solution that looks darn slick.  If you run a couple of fans in your rig, and want to clean things up and take back fan control, look for this controller to hit a store shelve near you very soon.  At this point Zalman expects to have these available by early March, and I don't see why they shouldn't be able to make this launch period.

Check below to see how it all breaks down.

Pros:

  • Simple controls.
  • Nice clean look.
  • Easy to install.
  • Fan, Temperature & Power information.

Cons:

  • Control by RPM is not accurate for fans that cannot reach high RPMs.
BCCHardware.com Rating
Quality:
9/10
Performance:
10/10
Software Pack:
n/a
Stability:
10/10 
Features:
10/10 
Value:
n/a 
Total Score 9.75
Top Pick

I'd like to extend a huge thanks to Zalman USA for letting us bring this unit home for a little one-on-one.  It was great to take a look at and see what is coming from Zalman in the near future.  If you have any questions or comments about this review, please make sure you drop them in the forum at the "Comments" link below.