With the modern processor hitting temperatures in excess of 50C under load, heatsinks have gotten bigger, and fans getting louder. These loud fans are the result of the incredible CFM most of them put out, and although they do the job well, the noise can be unbearable for some. There are lower RPM fans available, which are more or less silent, but the paltry airflow that usually accompanies it doesn't make for the friendliest overclocking environment.
Thermal controlled fans are really nothing new. There are several manufacturers producing them, and whereas most rely on a thermal probe to adjust speeds, others use either a switch or dial to do so. The Thermaltake Smart Fan 2 separates itself from the others by using both.
Fan Dimension: 80x80x25 mm
Rated Voltage: 12VDC
Started Voltage: 6VDC
Rated Current: 0.20AMP ~ 0.70AMP
Power Input: 2.40W ~ 8.40W
FAN Speed Control Setting: 1300 rpm at 20°C~; 4800 rpm at 55°C
Max. Air Flow: 20.55 CFM at 1300rpm; 75.7 CFM at 4800rpm
Air Pressure: 1.45mm H2O at 1300rpm; 8.43mm H2O at 4800rpm
Noise: 17 dB at 1300 rpm; 48 dB at 4800 rpm
Bearing Type: Two Ball Bearing
Life Time: 50,000 hours
Connector: 3 PIN
The Smart Case Fan 2 is the update to the original Smart Case Fan. It worked alright with the previous version, but it wasn't perfect. The original Smart Case Fan only detected the ambient case temperature. If your system cooling is very good, it was rare for the case fan to go full bore.
One major criticism of the previous Smart Fan was that it wasn't all that "smart". The fan was temperature sensing, meaning, if the ambient case temperature was warm, the fan would speed up, and when ambient temperature was lower, it'd slow down. The reasoning behind this is that a cooler system would be quieter, as the fan did not spin as fast. The reality was, most systems wouldn't run hot enough (case temperature) for the fan to spin full throttle.
If you've used it for a heatsink fan, you're probably not getting the performance you need. There were ways around this. One way was to move the probe closer to the heatsink. A warmer heatsink would spin the fan faster, but it wouldn't always meet up with the base of the heatsink, especially if your heatsink design is large. Another method would be simply modding the sensor "inactive", which defeats the whole purpose of getting a temperature controlled fan in the first place.
This time around, you can either use a jumper, dial, or a thermal probe to control your fan speeds. This actually may solve a few problems we've had with past thermal controlled fans, which we'll get into shortly.
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The jumper on the fan is the key this time to the fan control, and you can do one of three things:
1) Leave the jumper as is. By doing so, the fan will spin at full speed, 75.7 CFM at 4800 rpm. At 48db, this isn't quiet by any stretch, but noise gets the job done.
2) Remove the jumper, and insert the dial instead. You now have control over how fast the fan should spin, though access to the dial will not be easy as it'll be inside the case.
3) Remove the jumper, and insert the thermal probe. The probe is the same as the ones in the various Hardcanos. It's thin enough to shimmy between the CPU pins, and long enough that you shouldn't have any problems doing this.
In the past, thermal controlled case fans wouldn't make the best intakes fan. The cooler air being drawn into the case would never allow for the fan to spin at the higher RPM levels. The fan would be better suited for exhaust or perhaps a silent heatsink application.
One good thing about the Smart Fan 2's thermal probe is that you can place it close to the center of your case, where it is warmest. In this scenario, the fan is likely to spin faster, since it's warmer, making it a more useful intake or exhaust fan then before. Unfortunently, the problem I see with the Smart Fan 2 is that the sensor has to detect 55°C in order to spin full throttle. If your case temperatures reach that speed, you've got some problems.
However, those temperatures are not unusual for CPU heatsinks, and with the longer thermal probe, the Smart Fan 2 would make a good choice for a heatsink fan. The thermal probe is thin enough to fit under the CPU pins, and make direct contact with the CPU itself, or you can use the adhesive to stick it directly to the heatsink.
Testing and Final Words
Metis 266: Athlon XP 2400+ provided by (15x133: 2.0GHz), 2 x 256MB Crucial PC2700 Ram, 60GB Maxtor Diamondmax, Windows XP SP1, Via VIA Hyperion 4in1 Driver v4.45
We're only going to be giving case cooling observations, as we've used the Smart Fan 2 in most of our recent heatsink reviews, so you can check those out if you'd like to see the performance.
Testing was done on a MSI Metis 266. Along with an Athlon 2400+ CPU, we've added a 7200rpm HDD, a GeForce 4 MX440 and a 24X Plextor. Due to the slim form factor of the case, the temperatures were fairly high as everything was a bit cramped. System temperatures regularly hit about 49°C with stock cooling, but let's see how we do with the Smart Fan 2.
|Tt Smart Fan 2 w/Dial set to High
|Tt Smart Fan 2 w/Dial set to Low
|Tt Smart Fan 2 @ 4800RPM
|Tt Smart Fan 2 w/Thermal Probe
Naturally, at full speed, the Smart Fan 2 performs well, but the noise is pretty bad. Using the thermal probe provides some flexibility though, and works quite well. At the lowest speeds, the fan is very quiet, but no more quiet than the stock cooler.
In the end, a fan is a fan, so the question is, what are your needs? The Smart Fan 2 is really no louder than most case fans at the low settings, and about as loud as performance fans at the highest settings. One thing it does have going for it is the temperature controls, which are better than the original Smart Fan, as well as past fans we've tested.
Truth is, if you've already have a silent PC, this isn't really the answer. Same could be said if you already have high speed fans, the Smart Fan 2 isn't needed. I would only consider this fan if you're interested in having a variable speed fan (quiet: low; loud: high) if your current fans are on their last legs, are not doing the job you expected from them.
Pros: Decent performance, not terribly noisy at low speeds, flexible setup options.
Cons: Peak speeds require case temperatures higher than most people will ever achieve, loud at full speed.
Bottom Line: Good performance for a case fan, and given the specs, it would also make a decent heatsink fan. The options on the Smart Fan 2 are much better than previous thermal controlled fans we've dealt with before.
Agree? Disagree? Discuss it in our forums.