NZXT Sentry Temperature Controller

robgs - 2007-05-30 06:23:09 in Cooling
Category: Cooling
Reviewed by: robgs   
Reviewed on: June 18, 2007
NZXT
American Future Technology
Price: $30.00 US

Introduction:

As an overclocker, have you ever wondered what the real temperatures of the particular components on your system were? What I mean is that most motherboards come pre-wired with some sort of RTD (resistance temperature detector) or thermocouple, burned into some part of the printed circuit board, but only in specific locations.  Locations like your RAM, or in other parts of your hard drives, or maybe even the specific temperature of your North or Southbridge may not be monitored.  To satisfy this "need to know" that most of us overclockers have, NZXT has introduced the Sentry. The Sentry has a temperature and fan controller that allows the user to see component temperatures, combined with the ability to change the fan speeds at will.

NZXT is primarily a computer case manufacturer that has been built on the philosophy of staying true to the gamer’s dreams.  Established in 2004, this Taiwanese company has not had a long time in the marketplace, but has earned a respectable position based on the popularity of the products it has produced.


Closer Look:

The Sentry is packaged in a very small box and is very light-weight. The packaging is intriguing, with a cool blue image of the Sentry fading into the black background. The features are also printed on the side of the box.


The Sentry is well protected in bubble wrap and didn’t appear to be damaged.


The contents of the box are the temperature controller, a bag of components and the installation manual.

Closer Look:

The bag contained 4 screws and an adhesive tape strip.


 



The front panel has three buttons on the face, which we’ll look at in closer detail in the installation section of this review.


There are quite a few wires and all of them are long enough to extend to any location in a typical full-tower case.  Each set of wires is clearly labelled and I am already getting a good idea how this temperature monitor is to be installed, but of course we will follow the manual as close as we can.

Installation:

The first thing that I did to install the Sentry, was to disconnect the thermocouple wiring harness from the rest of the front end.  This helped me to keep wires unrestricted as I installed the temperature probes into the different locations.

 




To start, I will install the probe for the CPU.  This one can be a little tricky, so be warned.  You must never put anything between the heat sink and the processor, or you’ll probably end up with a fried CPU.  The probe is to be installed on the side of the CPU heat spreader again make sure that no part of the probe gets in between the CPU and heat sink.


Next, for the system temperature I will use the actual Northbridge temperature.  However, I don’t want to just tape the probe to the side of the chip, so I will insert the probe into the heat sink.  The stock heat sink on this motherboard has an airspace inside to accommodate the heat tube.  It seems as good a place as any to check the temperature and may even be more accurate, as it is right on top of the chip.


Finally, I will install the probe for the hard disk drive.  Just tape the probe onto the outside of the HDD.  Near the center should give us a pretty good indication of temperature.

Installation:

Now that the probes are installed, it's time to install the faceplate into an empty 5.25” bay.  But before we do that, reconnect the probe harness back to the rear of the face plate.  Now, just secure the faceplate into the bay with the screws provided.  Also, don’t forget to remove the protective plastic from the battery.

 

 

 

 

Once the screen is installed, the rest of the wiring can be hooked up.  One problem that I encountered when installing the wiring, was that the Sentry only has support for 3-wire fan connectors and my HSF uses a 4 pin.  Also, all but one fan on my case use Molex power connectors.  The one fan that uses a 3 pin connector is the side cover fan, which I think is the most important one for cooling the Northbridge.

Configuration:

Once powered up, you can see that the LCD display is a cool blue color, which is nice because it matches the rest of my system.


 

 


The first thing I’ll set is the date and time.  The instructions say to press and hold the “mode” button, until the year of the date starts flashing.  Then use the “Alarm C/F” button to set the date.  When you are finished, pressing the “mode” button again advances you to the next component to adjust - the time. After the time is set, if you press the “mode” button again, you will be able to set the time for the alarm.


Finally, if you press the “mode” button three more times, you can set the CPU, SYS and HDD high-temperature alarms respectively. Basically, the alarm set-point will flash off and on under each of the three labels.


 

With all of the wiring installed and the Sentry programmed, we are now ready to heat things up.

Features:

 

Testing:

To test the Sentry, I will compare the temperatures on the LCD screen to the temperatures reported by NVIDIA Monitor View.  The system has been given time to stabilize the temperatures.  We have to keep in mind that the temperatures are not going to be as accurate as what the motherboard reports, but we just want to get a feel for how far off they are and if the temperature variance is pretty constant.


Test Setup:

The first test is to show a baseline with the system running at idle.  The system has run for half an hour, to allow the temperatures to stabilize.


The next screen-shot shows what NVIDIA Monitor View displays for temperatures at the same period in time.


Next, I ran a single instance of Orthos to load the system.


Again NVIDIA Monitor View temperature display is shown in the screen-shot


As you can see, the information displayed on the Sentry doesn’t match exactly with what the software program reports as temperatures.  This doesn’t mean that the Sentry is wrong, or that the NVidia Monitor View is wrong.  Both systems are displaying what each respective sensor is touching, or what the ambient conditions around that sensor actually are.  The internal probes are hard wired or burned into the circuits and are able to get a more localized reading.  The Sentry has a much more general temperature reading.

Conclusion:

NZXT sure has some attractive and practical cases and power supplies on the market.   As a product outside of NZXT’s traditional line-up, the Sentry also has similar aesthetic qualities that may be appealing to some.  For performance, the Sentry is useful for gauging approximate temperatures, but I doubt that it could replace existing hard wired RTDs for accuracy.  Also, the Sentry should have come equipped with 4 wire fan connectors and some Molex adapters to make it more compatible with some computer setups.

On a positive note, I really like the idea of being able to use the temperature probes almost anywhere in the system that I want.  However, it would have been nice to be able to program different names for each of the three sensors and fan controls.  With it, you can keep track of other components like RAM or DVD ROM drives, as well as getting a good idea of how your system is performing.  The Sentry should appeal to those who are budget minded and also like cool-looking gadgets for their computers.

 Pros:

Cons: