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Three multi-channel fan controllers tested

Zalman ZM-MFC3 Multi Fan Controller

Manufacturer: Zalman
UK Price (as reviewed): £52.99 (inc. VAT)
US Price (as reviewed): $79.99 (ex. Tax)

The Zalman ZM-MFC3 is an evolution of the Zalman ZM-MFC2 that, to be honest, didn't inspire a lot of love when we looked at it. While it had a flashy display, thermal monitoring and could even tell you how much power your PC was drawing, using its interface was as enjoyable as skinning a cute kitten. Retailing for over £40, it was terrible value for money as a result and compared to other fan controllers we've used, we simply dreaded using it.

The ZM-MFC3 features an FSTN display which is slightly less in your face and funfair-like than the LCD display than the ZM-MFC2 with a pleasant blue background with white text. This is fairly easy to see in dimly lit rooms but in bright or sunlit places, this could be an issue, especially as there's no other way to see what you're doing. Included are four fan cables (three 3-pin and one PWM) along with four thermal probes.

There are four channels available, three have direct voltage control and a total of just under 8W each and a fourth under PWM control. There are also four thermal probes with alarms and a timer and of course one of the real boons of the ZM-MFC2 and ZM-MFC3 is that they can display your PC's power usage.

*Three multi-channel fan controllers tested Zalman ZM-MFC3 Multi Fan Controller *Three multi-channel fan controllers tested Zalman ZM-MFC3 Multi Fan Controller

This is done via an adapter which sits between your PC's power supply and the plug socket and connects to the ZM-MFC3 through a PCI expansion slot card. This might be useful for some but seeing as you can buy wall meters that show you not only how much power your PC is drawing but also how much it's actually costing you, the benefits of this feature quickly begin to wane.

So we've seen what it can do, but what's it like to use? Unfortunately it's time to grab that kitten - the ZM-MFC3 is little if any easier to use than its awful predecessor. There's just a single jog dial which makes adjusting fan speed a long and drawn out process compared to the other fan controllers we're looking at here. Having pressed the dial for a few seconds you're then able to adjust the first fan but instead of low, medium or high settings, you can only adjust by rpm.

*Three multi-channel fan controllers tested Zalman ZM-MFC3 Multi Fan Controller *Three multi-channel fan controllers tested Zalman ZM-MFC3 Multi Fan Controller

This is great if you know the minimum and maximum rpm your fan is capable of but we suspect an aweful lot of people don't. Navigating to other options is equally time consuming. In short it takes you ten times longer to achieve what can be done in a matter of seconds with either the NesteQ FanMax or the Scythe Kaze Q. It might be laiden with features but the ZM-MFC3 takes completely the wrong approach to fan control.