Saturday, August 10, 2013

[Article] From a dedicated fan controller to Asus Fan Xpert 2

One of the reasons why I chose an Asus motherboard was because their so called exquisite fan control software. They call it Fan Xpert 2.

I had a nice looking fan controller installed in my case. It was a Scythe Kaze Master Ace, 6-channel fan controller. It had three issues.

  • No automatic fan controlling depending on the temperature. I like to run the fans at low RPM, but there have been times where the graphics card had been scorched because of this.
  • The cable mess. Since it is 6-channels, there are 6 cables for temperature sensors, 6 cables for fans and 1 cable for Molex power. As I have a non-modular PSU, there is already a huge cable mess behind the motherboard. I surely didn't want more cables. And these cables are so ugly. Red and white. These issues were not new, but I had to give in because fan speed controlling on my old board was utter crap.
  • The PWM fans on my Silver Arrow SB-E Extreme cooler had a hard time starting up. Since I am sensitive to noise, I keep the fans running at 1100RPM. Since the fan controller only supports voltage based controlling, that voltage is not enough to start them. Once started, they can work without issues. So when the fans don't spin up, an alarm goes off and it is really irritating. I can disable it, but then I don't know if something happened.

I could buy a new fan controller, or I could buy a motherboard that came with one. Fan Xpert 2 seemed to do just that. All Asus Z87 boards support it actually. The only difference is the number of headers each board have onboard. My Maximus VI Hero board comes with 5. Sadly, the Z87 Pro comes with 6. But I had to get the Hero because of its audio.

Since I have 8 fans inside the case (two for the CPU cooler, two bottom intakes, two front intakes, 1 back intake, 1 top exhaust - holy cow that is a lot of positive pressure!!!!) I needed 8 headers. The front intakes and the back intake fans are Enermax T.B. Silence fans. They don't need controlling. They don't make any noise even at full fan speed. And I had a PWM splitter that I bought a long time ago as well. Then there was a Molex splitter that had 3 fan headers on it. I got it with something, maybe a cooler, though I cannot remember what it is.

Fan setup

So I decided to set them up with like this.

  • CPU fan 1 = CPU fan header1
  • CPU fan 2 = CPU fan header2
  • Bottom 180mm intakes = connected to chassis fan 1 header using PWM splitter
  • Top exhaust fan = connected to chassis fan 2 header
  • Back fan = connect to chassis fan 3 header
  • Front intakes = connected to Molex cable directly as they are 2 of the 3 Enermax fans.

So what I did then was, I ran the Fan Xpert 2 software and let it calibrate the fans. Then I selected "Silent" mode. Silent mode can even completely stop the fans from spinning for ultimate silent computing experience. It never does this for the CPU fans though. When the PC is idle, most of the times only the CPU fans are spinning. The CPU fans never have a hard time starting to spin.

The software also allows you to change the spin up and down delays to dampen the irritating ups and downs in the fans noise due to sudden temperature changes.

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You can tell the software where your fans are installed so that it will also take it in to account when it automatically controls the fan speeds. Since my case doesn’t have the typical ATX case design, I had to use my imagination when setting them up. For example, the bottom intakes were set as front intakes etc.

Short falls

You can also assign custom fan speed curves, but there is one shortfall. That is, you cannot limit the maximum fan speed. I would love to do that because at full speed, the fans on the CPU cooler are ear-deafening. That should never happen unless I'm stress testing. Even then the highest fan speed that I have seen is 2000RPM. 2500RPM is the max speed of the CPU fans. And even though you can edit the fan speed curves, I haven't found a way to add more control points to the curve.

One more thing. The fan speed is only adjusted according the to CPU and motherboard temps. It cannot see the video card temps and ramp up the respective case fan to improve the airflow in that areas if the CPU is not running hot. I wish they would add that functionality as well.

But overall, I'm happy with it. It's much (MUCH) better than what I had in my old board and it fixes few of the issues as well. I can buy PWM splitters and control all the fans through this software. But there is no need. I can get by with just 5 fan headers. Besides, I only had 6 on the headers on the dedicated fan controller.

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