The computer modification market is exploding in every direction possible. Vendors are coming out in droves with an avalanche of products to meet the growing demand by PC enthusiasts to modify and customize their home computers. One area that has seen some convergence of technologies and ideas is thermal management and multi-function interface panels.
Thermal management is a big issue for noise conscious PC owners and those wanting to push their hardware to the limit via overclocking. Thermal management encompasses the concepts of managing the thermal profile of their system as well as managing noise in air cooled systems. There is a huge range of devices, from simple inline fan rheostats and resistance devices, to 5.25" bay mounted rheostat arrays and temperature monitoring systems, all allowing you to mount powerful fans and cool your case while managing the audio level generated from them.
Multi-function panels are another growing area of interest for PC users. These panels put a multitude of PC connections, such as audio jacks and USB ports, in the front of your computer so you do not have to reach around to the rear of the system to plug and unplug your devices. There are even modular systems now that allow you to add and remove the ports you want on demand, further customizing your PC and making it as flexible as possible for you.
Vantec is a growing force in the PC mod market, producing a range of products from fans to heatsinks, as well as multi-function panels and fan controllers. Vantec's latest offering, the Nexus NXP-101, is designed to combine several popular system add-ons into one convenient bay mounted device. The Nexus NXP-101 is a multi-function panel that combines a CPU fan controller, and an LCD based thermal management system with USB and FireWire ports, into one 5.25" bay sized package. The Nexus steps beyond function also, with several easily swapped faceplates that help you match the package to your system color scheme.
With the explosion of mod related devices, how does the Vantec Nexus NXP-101 stand out in a crowded market? Let's take the Nexus for a spin and find out if gamers with powerful rigs will find it useful or just another gimmick.
The Nexus multi-function panel comes in a nice retail package. The clear blister pack shows off the front of the panel with the clear faceplate. The Nexus NXP-101 comes with three color faceplates, plus you can opt to go with the natural aluminum base.
Inside the box you will find everything needed to get the Nexus installed. Besides the panel, there are three temperature sensor probes, Firewire and USB cables, spare hardware, a quick install manual, and 3-pin connectors to and from the CPU fan.
The Nexus sports a large LCD that is backlit for displaying info from all three temp probes, as well as on the current fan RPM reading. The large chrome knob is for controlling the RPM of your heatsink fan. There are also two USB ports and a Firewire port to make connecting your devices easier.
The Nexus is designed to mount into a 5.25" full size bay. It is constructed of mild steel in a semi-enclosed design that allows for the mounting of the LCD, fan controller, and logic boards. As you can see, everything is compact and easily worked with. The power cable is needed to power the LCD and fan functions.
There are connection points for the USB and Firewire ports, Molex D-Sub power, the three temperature probes, and the incoming and outgoing 3-pin connectors for the heatsink fan. Everything is labeled and can be connected up quickly, even by the novice.
The temperature probes and 3-pin fan wiring are all labeled and long enough for any mid-tower case. The silver braid USB and Firewire cables are designed to run through the case and exit out the back so they can plug into available ports there.
Overall the Vantec Nexus NXP-101 comes as a complete package. I do have a few comments and concerns however. First, the manual is rather thin, providing minimal instruction and not explaining everything in enough detail for the novice, so you may find yourself puzzling over a few things at first. Second, the USB and Firewire cables are designed specifically for exiting the rear of the case and plugging into available ports on the back of your PC. While this is perfectly functional, it would be nice if Vantec considers marketing an all internal model for users with mainboards that have these connections present as pin headers so that no wiring need exit the case. Most people will not have a problem with this set up, but I find having ports available in the back for more permanently connected devices such as mice and what not, as well as front ports a better solution.
As mentioned previously, the documentation is not exactly book-like in length or detail. While illustrated well and generally straightforward, it does not take time to explain the functionality of the LCD display, nor how the alarm works. Thankfully, all the cables are labeled and the physical setup is very uncomplicated, making installation easy to accomplish in as little as 20 minutes.
The first step is to test fit all the cables in your case with the Nexus multi-function panel. Here you can see the rats nest of labeled wires when they are connected to the Nexus. Once you have figured out where you will run all of the wires and sensors, you can move forward and mount the panel itself.
In my VoyeurMod case I opted to use braided chrome covers on my wiring. This is a lucky coincidence, as it happens to match the braided wiring of the USB and Firewire cables. Using some spare braiding, I wrapped the incoming and outgoing power lines to my heatsink fan and ran the cables in my case.
The Ventor from VoyeurMod is your typical Chieftec "Dragon" series case and has port knockouts on the back which can be taken advantage of as seen in this picture. Once you exit the USB and Firewire cables from your case, you can connect up to available ports and hook up all the connections on the Nexus NXP-101. Once installed, you can do a test boot and ensure that the heatsink fan spins up as expected and is fully under control.
Here is the Nexus in its final locale, all connected and operating normally. Installation will take the average user around 20 minutes, depending on how you spot the thermal probes, and is easy enough for even the novice user. Here I have opted to remove the color faceplate and go with the natural aluminum back panel. This panel can be painted, which I will do in the future to match the drives and faceplates.
Day to Day
I have had the Nexus NXP-101 installed now for several weeks and have had a mostly positive experience. The Nexus provides valuable information on the thermal aspects of my computer, allowing me to monitor my CPU, hard drive, and case temperatures while regulating the speed of the loud fan on my Cooler Master HHC-001 heatpipe heatsink. The front panel connections are great for plugging in the occasional device like my digital camera or gamepad as well.
My only real complaint about the Nexus NXP-101 is the thermal alarm: it is loud and inconsistent. While loud is to be expected, it goes off at wildly different temperature readings and is inconsistent in its signaling. I have observed it going off multiple times at temps as low as 32.5C and not going off with temps as high as 44.5C when using a lesser heatsink, though with consistent temperatures it does not seem to sound the warning at all. The manual unfortunately does not explain the what or why of the alarm indications and neither does the Vantec website.
Overall: 4 out of 5. The Vantec Nexus NXP-101 is a great addition to a mod computer system if you have need for front ports, thermal monitoring, and control over the speed of your heatsink fan. At an affordable price and with solid features including interchangeable faceplates for system matching, there is little wrong with the Nexus except for the thin manual and inconsistent alarm function. Overall I found it a valuable addition to my computer system and so will many PC enthusiasts looking for a one device does it all solution to their PC mod needs.
Vantec Nexus NXP-101
Price: $39.95 List / $23.99 Online
Warranty: One Year
Product Home Page
3 Stylish Interchangeable Faceplates
Adjustable CPU Fan Speed Controller
System Temperature Monitoring Switch & LCD Display
Audio Alarm Warning
2 USB Ports and 1 IEEE1394 (Firewire) Port
- NXP-101 Control Panel
- Silver Braid USB Cable
- Silver Braid Firewire Cable
- 3x Temperature Probes
- 3 Color faceplates
- Install Guide
Rated Voltage 5V +/- 5% ~ 12V +/- 5%
Panel Temp Range 15C ~ 70C
Sensor Temp Range 15C ~ 90C
- 5V Less than .5W
- 12V depends on the type of CPU cooling fan