Today we are testing ZM-MFC1 Combo fan controller from Zalman, which has five independent channels, four with manual adjustment and one with dual control (automatic or manual, compatible with PWM fans). Check it out!
MFC1 Combo, unlike Touch-2000 from Aerocool and NZXT Sentry 2, is a simple controller, using potentiometers to adjust the speed of the fans and coming with no temperature sensor. As it has no sensors, it obviously has no temperature displays or automatic speed control based on the temperature at chosen points.
Its box is simple and small, as you can see in Figure 1.
It also has no kind of audible alarm. However, it is not "dumb" at all: each channel has a dual-color LED that indicates the speed of the controlled fan. Blue means low speed, purple (actually, blue and red glowing at the same time) means medium speed and red means full speed.
[nextpage title=”ZM-MFC1 Combo”]
Inside ZM-MFC1 Combo box we found the controller itself, user manual, installation screws and extension cables for the fans.
The front panel from MFC1 Combo is made in aluminum, with a discreet and sober looks. In Figure 3, you can see the five potentiometers that control each channel and the corresponding LED that indicates the fan speed. On the left side of the panel there are four LEDs that indicate the working mode of the PWM channel and, above them, a small silver button that changes this mode. We will talk about them in the next pages.
In Figure 4 you can have a side view of MFC1 Combo. To install it, you just need to slide it into an empty 5 ¼" bay and hold it in place with the screws that come with the controller.
In Figure 5, you can see the back side of MFC1. On the right side you can see the power connector, where you must install the cable from the power supply. At the top you can see the five connectors for the fans. The four connectors on the left, with three pins each, are used by channels 1 through 4 and you can connect fans directly on them or, if the cable from the fan does not reach the connector, you can use one of the extension cords that come with the controller.
The fifth fan connector, with five pins, is used by the channel that is compatible with PWM fans. On this channel you must use the cable that comes with MFC1 Combo, because there is one wire that must be connected on the motherboard (that will control this fan when it is put under automatic modes).
In Figure 6, you can see the cables that come with MFC1 Combo. Two of them are simple extensions and one is a "Y" cable that allows you to connect two fans on the same channel. Another cable has an extra connector with the speed sensor wire, which can be connected to the motherboard so you can monitor the speed of one fan using your software of choice. The cable pictured on the right must be used on the PWM-compatible channel, because it provides the wires that receives the PWM control signal from the motherboard and allows speed monitoring. This is the only cable with a four-pin fan connector.
A flaw we found on this product is that there are no adapters to allow you to use fans with standard peripheral power connectors ("Molex" connectors).
When you turn your computer on, MFC1 Combo lits the LEDs from the channels that have fans connected, as you can see in Figure 7. The LEDs from unused channels remain turned off.
As we said before, red means high speed, purple means medium speed and blue means low speed.
The LEDs on the left indicate the current work mode from the channel that is compatible with PWM fans (i.e., CPU fan). Pressing the button above those LEDs the operating mode changes: low (blue LED), medium (purple LED) and high (red LED). Pressing it again, the green LED lits and the fan is now operating under manual mode, controlled by the first potentiometer.
[nextpage title=”Main features”]
Zalman ZM-MFC1 Combo main features are:
- Front Panel: aluminum.
- Temperature sensors: none.
- Fans controlled: Six, with five independent channels.
- USB ports: None.
- e-SATA ports: None.
- Used bays: one, 5 ¼".
- Maximum fan power: 7 W per channel.
- More information: https://www.zalman.com
- Average price in the US*: USD 48.00
* Researched at Newegg.com on the day we published this review.
MFC1 Combo is a classic fan controller, with "old school" potentiometers. In our opinion, this is not a flaw: with potentiometers the user has an easier and more intuitive way to adjust the fans in his computer than with programmable touchscreen panels. Simplicity, here, is a plus: if you want your computer to stay as cool as possible, you just need to turn the potentiometers to the maximum. If you want silence, you just turn them to the minimum.
This simplicity is even more evident on the channel that supports PWM (pulse width modulation) fans.
However, the big "problem" with Zalman ZM-MFC1 Combo fan controller is that it is just a fan controller, unlike Aerocool Touch-2000 and NZXT Sentry 2 that come with temperature sensors and displays. Another two
flaws are the absense of standard peripheral power connectors ("Molex") for use with fans that use this kind of connector (most cases come with fans using this type of connector) and the impossibility of totally turning off a fan.
One can say that the lack of e-SATA, USB and FireWire ports is a flaw, but keep in mind we are talking about a fan controller, not a multifuncion panel.
Zalman ZM-MFC1 Combo is a good product that nicely fulfill its function: to control fans. It is effective, its looks is nice, the installation is easy and the construction quality is very good. It receives our Silver Award and not the Golden one just because it is a little bit expensive for a product with no extra features.