Review: NZXT Sentry 2

 

NZXT Sentry 2

Front and side view of the NZXT Sentry 2.

The NZXT Sentry 2 is a full system fan controller with a touch screen interface. It fits in a 5.25″ drive bay and is compatible with any fan that uses voltage control. What initially surprised me the most about this controller, however, was the price: while many rudimentary fan controllers – ones that lack temperature sensors or LCD displays – sell for $25 and up, the NZXT Sentry 2 offers an LCD touch-screen interface and other advanced features at a budget price (at the time this article was written, Amazon was selling it for $27.98). It is not as powerful as some other controllers in the same price range (it supplies only 10 watts per channel), so if you are considering the Sentry 2, you probably will want to do some back-of-envelope calculations on your power requirements before making a purchase.

The Sentry 2 ships in a small black box, the back of which includes a list of features (e.g. the backlight on the LCD screen can be turned off, and it has a temperature alarm). Inside, the controller is wrapped in a red bag with styrofoam placed around its edges. All of the wires are wrapped in the bag as well. Also included with the controller are 2 spare temperature sensors, installation screws, adhesive tape to attach the sensors, and one-page “user manual”. [The manual includes no information on how to install the sensors nor how to operate the LCD touchscreen.]

The front panel of the Sentry 2 is made of black plastic and therefore will look best in cases with a black plastic front. Looking at back of the controller reveals that all the circuitry is contained on a single PCB. The controller ships with temperature sensors, main power and fan output cables connected and glued to the circuit board.

The Sentry 2 will install easily into a tool-less case; otherwise, the screws provided with the unit will hold it in place. After that, all you need to do is connect it to the power supply with one standard Molex connector, stick the temperature sensors on the places you want to monitor and connect the fans to the outputs. Each of the 5 outputs has 2 connector types: a 3-pin miniature connector and a 4-pin Molex connector. However, the 3-pin connectors have no rotation sensor, and are not compatible with 4-pin miniature connectors with an extra pin for PWM. Thus, you will not be able to connect PWM fans to the controller unless you cut off the part of the connector for the fourth pin.

Another problem is that the NZXT cannot monitor the speed of the CPU fan, even if it is connected to the controller. Also, the power connectors for the fans are male, while most fans have male inputs.

Once connected, the Sentry 2 panel lights up when the computer is turned on. The panel contains 4 main areas. On the right side, there is a fan icon which the user must touch to select each one of the fans (in sequence). The fan on the touch screen spins whenever the fan selected is spinning. In the upper left corner, there is the temperature readout of the temperature sensor corresponding to the channel selected (temperature can be displayed in Fahrenheit or Celsius). Beneath the temperature readout are plus and minus buttons, which adjust the alarm temperature when the fan is in automatic mode and the fan speed when the panel is in manual mode. Touching the area which says which mode you are in allows you to toggle between manual an automatic. In the upper-right corner is a button to reset the controller (marked by an “R”), but you have to hold down the button for 7 seconds before anything happens. The same goes for the on-off button (in the lower right corner), and the button for switching between Fahrenheit and Celsius.

NZXT Sentry 2 alt view

Another view of the Sentry 2.

The temperature alarm is effective and will sound when the temperature sensor goes above the level set (when the controller is in automatic mode). There is also an alarm to indicate a defective fan; the sound it makes is different than that made by the temperature alarm. One problem is that the alarm is not particularly loud; you will have to be near the computer to hear it. The temperature sensors are fairly accurate and should get the job done.

Overall, the Sentry 2 is a functional, low-priced fan controller. There are several negatives, though: there is no braiding or grouping for the wires, so there is potentially a huge mess of wires (some zip ties might help here); the wires are super-glued to the controller, so when taking the controller out, you will have to take out the temperature sensors as well; moreover, the unit comes with bad instructions. Moreover, the fact that the fan connectors are 3-pin and cannot easily accommodate 4-pin PWM fan connectors will be an issue with some users. In addition, the fact that the maximum output is 10 watts per channel limits this controller’s appeal. Finally, some users have reported problems with this controller, such as the LCD display dying, and one or more of the channels malfunctioning after a period of time, which may be an indicator of quality control problems at NZXT. Still, as one of the few fan controllers under $30 to sport a touch screen (and a pretty nice one at that), the Sentry 2 is worth considering if you are considering purchasing a fan controller.

Specifications

Dimensions: 5.25″ Bay
Max Power: Up to 10 W per channel
Colors Available: Black
DC Input: 12 V (Standard 4 Pin Molex connector)
Fan Connectors: 5
Material: Plastic; finish is matte black plastic bezel
Plug Type: 3-Pin Molex KK (male)
Model Number: SEN2-001
Material: LCD Screen, Plastic, PCB
Included Accessories: 4x M3 Screws
Connections: 1x Molex, 5x Temperature Sensors
Max Combined Wattage: 50 Watts
Brightness Levels: On / Off
Control Modes: Manual / Automatic
Fan Channel Quantity 5
Temperature Range: 0 to 120┬░C
Measurement Frequency 2 Seconds
Temp Alarm Range: 30? to 90?
Minimum Power To Fans: 40%
Screen Size: 4.63 Inches
Screen Type: Capacitive Touch
Fan Control Method: Voltage
Warranty: 2 Years

Features:

Touch screen interface
Five fan control through an intuitive interface
Ultra fast selection and response time
Display temperatures in both F and C
Light switch turns off the meter when sleeping
Automatic and manual modes of control
Full compatibility with all types of fans using voltage control
With a maximum of 10 Watts per channel, the Sentry 2 will support almost all high end fans
Tuned accuracy with only a tolerance of one degree
Sound alarm to alert when the temperature is over
Stored settings, the Sentry keeps your settings even after power off

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