NZXT Sentry 2 Review

tacohunter52 - 2009-07-09 22:48:20 in Cooling
Category: Cooling
Reviewed by: tacohunter52   
Reviewed on: July 15, 2009
Price: $30


If you consider yourself to be a PC enthusiast, then you've most likely got two things in common with every other PC enthusiast. You've got multiple fans cooling your rig, and you're extraordinarily particular about knowing your PC's temperatures. If this sounds like you at all, then NZXT has created a device you need to get. NZXT's Sentry 2 is, of course, a revamped version of the original NZXT Sentry fan controller. Like all fan controllers, the Sentry 2 will give you the ability to adjust fan speed. This can be done for a multitude of reasons ranging from, "My fans are so loud I want to shoot myself;" to, "My GPU just hit 120C. I better increase the fan speed." The Sentry 2 has two more features that made me, and will hopefully make you, fall in love with it instantly. You'll be able to view the temperature of 5 different pieces of hardware, and it's got a touch screen. Come on let's face it - every thing with a touch screen is super awesome! Don't believe me, just look at the trends. Apple's iPhone is super awesome. The Blackberry Storm is super awesome. Those touch screen things at stores are super awesome. For this reason alone, the Sentry 2 is super awesome, unless of course it doesn't work all that well. Then it isn't all that great. I guess before I can pass a judgment, I'll have to test it out. How will the Sentry 2 perform? Read on and find out.

Closer Look:

The Sentry 2, like most fan controllers, is pretty small. As a result the packaging it was shipped in is small as well. The front of the box shows a picture of what the Sentry 2 looks like when it is powered on. You'll also see a few of the Sentry 2's features. The Sentry 2 has a touch screen. It fits in a 5.25" drive bay. It can show 5 different temperatures, and control 5 different fans.





The back of the Sentry 2's packaging is much more detailed. In fact it is only writing. The back of the box gives you a full list of the Sentry 2's features. These basically say the same things the front did, only with a bit more detail. You will get some extra info. These include that the Sentry 2 is compatible with all fans; that it has a back lit on/off switch; and that it has a temperature alarm. I like the idea of the alarm, but the back lit off switch seems a little silly to me. Then again, I'm the kind of person that would want it on the whole time. If you like saving power, or avoiding bright lights, the light switch would be perfect for you.


The remaining sides of the box are completely black. That is of course with the exception of the NZXT logo.


Now that we've familiarized ourselves with the box, lets take a look at the Sentry 2 itself.

Closer Look:

As we all know, packaging for a product is extremely important. There is nothing worse then receiving a new piece of hardware and finding out that it was damaged during shipment. Even the smaller products need to be carefully protected in some form or another. I was pleased to see that NZXT took precautions with the Sentry 2. Rather then shipping the Sentry 2 loosely in the box, it was carefully wrapped in a red bag with Styrofoam placed around its edges. All the wires attached to the Sentry 2 were carefully placed inside the red bag as well. Also in the box was a bag of extra goodies and a somewhat sad excuse for a manual.










The Sentry 2 itself doesn't look anything like I was expecting. It didn't have multiple barrels, or a chain of bullets coming out of its side. I guess I should have been thinking about a fan controller, rather then the sentry gun in Team Fortress 2. The Sentry 2 looks like it will easily fit in a single 5.25" drive bay, compared  to the Sentry LX version which occupies two bays. It also looks like it has truck loads of temperature sensors and Molex connectors extruding from it. This is something I really like to see, because I've got a lot of fans that need controlling.


Flipping the Sentry 2 over allows you to see its PCB. On it you can see the cylinder shaped alarm, which is similar to those you'd find on motherboards. You'll also see where the temperature sensors and fan connectors attach to the Sentry 2's control board. What was a little surprising to me was its appearance. It looks as though many of the components were hot glued to the PCB. Also glued to the PCB were the temperature sensor and fan connector cables. It would have been nice if these were removable, just in case you didn't want to use all 5 sensors or didn't have 5 fans.


There is a plethora of temperature sensors and fan connectors, which should allow for some serious temperature control. The fan connectors are two-fold. You can use them to provide power to your fans via Molex or a 3pin connector. This is important for those of you that have multiple types of fans in your case. The temperature sensors are also simple to use. Simply place them where you want the temperatures to be read. If you would like one to record CPU temps, you'll have to wedge it as close to the bottom of your heat sink as possible, preferably between some fins. The Sentry 2 is powered by a separate Molex connector.



Inside the Sentry 2's extra bag of goodies you'll receive two extra temperature sensors, some adhesive tape, and a small bag of screws.


Now let's install the Sentry 2, and see how well it works.


Every PC enthusiast knows that when you purchase new hardware, there will be some sort of installation process. Sometimes it's extremely easy, and other times you end up taking apart your entire rig. Installing the Sentry 2 can be a mixture between the two. For those of you that don't care about wire management, installing the Sentry 2 will be a breeze. For every one else, it will be a little disheartening. Unless you've managed your wires in a way that they can easily be moved around, you'll have to undo your handy work. Think of it this way though - you're getting more practice at hiding wires.

Putting the Sentry 2 in your case is extraordinarily easy. First choose which 5.25" drive bay you want to place it in. If this drive bay has some sort of cover, simply remove it. After you've chosen where to place the Sentry 2, install it as you would an optical drive. Then use the 4 screws provided to attach the Sentry 2 to your case. Many people don't actually screw these types of things into the case. I know this, because I'm one of those people. You will however need to screw the Sentry 2 in, otherwise it will move when you touch it.









The next step is to provide power to the Sentry 2, so that it can then provide power to your fans. This is as easy as connecting a few Molex connectors. First attach the Sentry 2's power connector to your PSU. Then connect the fans you wish to control to the Sentry 2's fan connectors.



Now that the fans have been connected, we can begin placing the sensors. If you plan on using the Sentry 2's auto control feature, you'll need to place the sensors on hardware close to the fans. That way when the hardware gets hotter the fans can get faster. I'll be using only the manual control feature. Instead of using the sensors to control how fast the fans spin, I'll be using them to get a general idea of how hot my hardware is. I'll be using the fan controller itself to slow down my noisy fans when I'm not doing anything intensive or if the noise is irritating me.

Before you can actually begin using the sensors you'll need to remove the tube that is placed around them. After you've done that, you're going to need to think about where to place them. I decided to place sensor 1 close to my CPU. Do not place the sensor between the CPU and the HSF. Doing so will cause bad contact between the two, thus making your expensive cooler obsolete. Instead do what I did, and place it as close to the bottom of the HSF as possible. I chose to place sensor 2 on my chipset's cooler. Why? Because I was slightly curious as to how hot it gets. The third and fourth sensors were used to monitor my GPU cores. I placed them under the backplate of the card directly behind the RV770 cores. The fifth sensor I really didn't have a place for, so I just taped it to the heat spreader on a stick of memory.




At this point you've got everything set up. Before actually configuring the Sentry 2, I'd advise you remanage your wires and do any other housekeeping tasks you've been putting off. Yes, that means clean the dust out of your rig.




Even though you've installed the Sentry 2, you're job isn't done. You'll need to configure it to run exactly the way you want. If you'll be controlling your fans manually there's only three buttons you need to use. The - button, the + button, and the fan button. When set to manual mode the - button will decrease fan speed, while the + button increases it. The fan button allows you to change fans. The temperature sensors are supposed to correspond with the numbered fans, so when you're on fan 4 you'll be seeing the temperature of sensor 4.



Switching between "Manual" and "Auto" mode is again very easy. All you have to do is touch the area that says what mode you're on. Touching the temperature button will allow you to set the alarm temperatures. After you've touched the temperature button you need to touch the + or - buttons to set a max temperature for each sensor. When the sensor goes over the max temperature an alarm will go off. On auto mode the fans will automatically increase speeds to keep your hardware under these alarm temperatures, but if the fans are at 100% and you go above the alarm temperature ... well it might be time for a break!



So far every thing seemed to work great, but there was a slight problem. This was the lack of instructions. There was one very untitled 3" by 2" piece of paper, with an overall usefulness of nil. This isn't much of a problem, because fan controllers are extremely easy to figure out. However, there were three buttons/icons that I had trouble with and instructions on them would have been nice. The first was the power switch. I'd imagine touching the icon shaped like a I/O switch would have been the on/off switch mentioned on the box. However, simply touching this button did absolutely nothing. Instead I needed to hold down the button for a good seven seconds before it would function properly. The same goes for the reset button, and the button that changes the temperature display from degrees C to degrees F. In all truth having these buttons not react as fast is a very good idea. This way you won't accidentally turn off the back light, or accidentally reset all of your settings. I just would have like a heads up in the instructions that holding the buttons was necessary. It is very true that you can look on the Internet for more detailed instructions, but I would have liked them to come in the packaging.




I first began testing to make sure all of the features worked as they should. As I stated before there were some problems, while trying to use some of the buttons. Mainly, some of the buttons didn't work. The next feature I decided to test was the alarm. I set the alarm speed for the GPU to 40C. Because both the GPU cores were at 44C the alarm went off. I then decided to set the alarm to 50C for everything. After I had done that I turned off all of the fans. Only the GPU's went above 50C and the alarm again sounded. I then decided to set the alarm for the CPU and Memory heat spreader to 30C just to make sure they work. Sure enough they did.


The next feature I wanted to test was that the Sentry 2 will warn you of a defective fan. While the system was running I randomly unplugged a fan. For the first 5 seconds I thought nothing would happen. About 5 seconds later the alarm went off. The cool thing was the alarm was way different from that of the temperature warning alarm. This would help you differentiate between the two. Another nifty feature is that you don't have to worry about finding this troublesome fan. When a fan is defective, or in my case unplugged, the number for which fan it was will begin to blink. This should help you easily diagnose and replace the troublesome fan.

In order to test how well the sensors work, I wanted to use a thermometer and compare its readings to those of the Sentry 2. However, I had no thermometers that read in Celsius, so this just wouldn't work. Instead I decided to use the onboard sensors in each device for comparison. I used the CCC in order to record GPU temps; Core Temp to record CPU temps; and HWMonitor to get my chipset temperature. The sensors are pretty close to where they should be, so we should get similar temperatures. At least I hope so.


Testing Setup:




Aside from the CPU temperature, the Sentry 2 was extremely close to the onboard sensors. This is good, because rather than running multiple monitoring programs, you can just take a look at the touch screen on your case. The reason the CPU temperature is so different, is because I placed the sensor on the HSF. The on-die sensor is actually in the CPU, which if you could install the sensor into the CPU, you would get a temperature closer to that of the software reading.


The Sentry 2 is one of the coolest fan controllers I've used, and for one main reason: it's got a touch screen! The Sentry 2 is a nice little treat to add to your system. Along with looking really cool, you'll be able to silence those noisy fans when they don't need to run at 100%. Or maybe you want them to run just enough to keep your system at the temperatures you want. Either way, the Sentry 2 gives you the ability to do this.

Along with the ability to control fans, you'll be able to monitor temperatures of up to five different pieces of your hardware. I'll admit it can be hard to find five things you want to monitor, but for those of you with Tri-SLI configurations, the Sentry 2 would be perfect. If you'll use the Sentry 2's temperature sensors as they're supposed to be used, you can set it up so the fans automatically speed up when the areas around them get too hot. If you manually adjust your fans, the Sentry 2 makes for a great way to monitor temperatures on the fly. This means that you don't have to constantly open Core Temp, CCC, HWMonitor, eVGA Precision, or whatever you might be monitoring temperatures with.

Sadly, this greatness does come with a problem. It isn't a big problem, but it really did irritate me. The main irritation was the lack of instructions. I don't expect much, and quite frankly I hardly ever finding myself using them. But come on - a 3" by 2" page, half of which was taken up by "Support and Service", is way under doing what needs to be done for an instruction manual.

Even so, with glowing lights and a fancy touch screen, the NZXT Sentry 2 managed to find a place in my heart. If you're looking for a fan controller, I'd pick up a Sentry 2!