We've got Thermaltake's latest PC thermal control unit under the spot light today, in the form of the Hardcano 12. It carries over all the solid features of its older brothers but with a bunch of new and intelligent options which make the latest incarnation an even better option for thermally controlling your computer. Read on!
IntroductionBy now most have heard the name Thermaltake. From a humble beginning as strictly a manufacturer of processor cooling devices, they have since spread their wings and taken up a much larger product line encompassing a huge array of cooling and casing supplies.For those who have looked at past versions of the Hardcano line, you will already know it has to do with controlling internal fan speeds. While this latest iteration still handles the chores of fan speed control, it adds in a few features that make for an interesting device.So sit back and enjoy as we take a look at the latest controller to wear the Hardcano label. After we get done, we'll decide whether it has what it takes to earn a coveted spot within an enthusiast rig!
Hardcano 12 - Features
When you first crack open the box you will be greeted with the main unit assembly. It measures in at 14.6cm x 17cm x 3.8cm (that's 5.75" x 6.7" x 1.5" for those not metrically inclined). This size allows it to be used in a standard 5.25" optical drive bay. It has several sets of mounting holes so you can be ensured of a good fit into any case, even those relying on a rail system.
Turning the unit around shows us the main power connector for the Hardcano system. When you hook up the power to this device, it handles all power needs to the fans installed. This allows you to run a huge number of fans without having to find Molex splitters. This in itself can make a huge difference when cooling the enclosure.Also of note was the fact that even when I ran a system with eight fans (including the CPU cooler), I was never able to exceed an amperage draw and make the unit unstable or non-functional. Folks, we're talking hooking up multiple fans on a single feed line where each fan draws .5 amps! For those who have played with fan speed controllers in the past, you'll remember having to carefully set up the fans so each channel didn't exceed a specified amperage rating. With the Hardcano 12 this is a thing of the past; or at least set to a level where even insane fan setups couldn't ruin the unit.
The wiring harness used on the Hardcano 12 follows the same protocol as the Butterfly PSU. The cables are surrounded by a flexible mesh covering that allows you plenty of length and also gives you the capability of easily controlling the internal wiring array. Since all the wires are kept together, it is a simple matter to collect the unused portion and zip-tie it out of the way of your normal case airflow pathway.Also included for each channel is a thermal probe. This gives you the ability to monitor the temperature in the region of each channel's fans. If one portion of the case is getting too warm, you can set the fan speed to a higher level in this area alone without having to increase the fan speeds (and noise levels) of all other fans.
From the wiring harness you hook up this wiring assembly. One end hooks into the Hardcano cabling system while the other end hooks into the fan(s) being used on that specific channel. It is compatible with either 3-pin power needs of a 4-pin Molex. If using the Molex to power the fan, the fan speed monitoring wire (yellow 3-pin connector) can be hooked up as well to allow the Hardcano unit to monitor fan speeds. While this monitoring wire is not required, if it does not exist then the fan speeds will not be displayed on the face of the Hardcano unit.All in all this is a very simple setup. Getting everything hooked up and working properly was a breeze, so no experience is necessary at all for using the Hardcano 12.
Hardcano 12 - Controls
After everything is all hooked up, you crank up the system and begin getting everything set up to your own specifications. But while the goal was functionality, there is a certain aesthetic value that seems to go along with the Hardcano 12. It is almost like having a car stereo mounted into your enclosure, which might explain the graphics used on the front of the box (shown on the first page of this article).As you have probably already figured out, the center portion of the unit is your LCD display area. It will tell you fan speeds (if a 3-pin monitoring wire was used), temperature for the corresponding thermal probe, alarm temperature settings and mode of operation. Let's take a closer look at the controlling devices...
On the left side of the unit you will find the controls for basic functions. You can change the display from degrees Celsius to degrees Fahrenheit and also change the mode. You can also manually raise or lower the fan speeds when running in manual mode.Speaking of the modes, you have two choices for this setting; manual or automatic. When running in manual mode, you can set the fan speeds for each channel individually. When using the display to verify temperatures, you can get the most out of your noise vs performance ratios.When running in automatic mode, you allow the Hardcano unit to decide how fast to run the fans. While I am generally not a big enthusiast of letting a machine maintain fan control, the Hardcano 12 did a surprisingly good job of handling the task. The fans would run at a lower speed during simple computing functions and adjust themselves in a very timely manner when I began getting into something more intense, like gaming. You just need to set the alarm temperatures to a lower preset limit and the Hardcano 12 becomes even more aggressive when controlling the fan speeds.To be as blunt as possible, I have tested a fair number of automated fan speed controllers (including past Thermaltake revisions) and while they all do their job, this is the first that I would really consider being allowed to handle the cooling job on its own.
On the opposite side of the unit you find the controls for the different channels. All cables are numbered from 1 to 4 with temperature probes also being numbered in the same manner. So if you have your processor cooler set up on the first channel, just use the temperature probe with the same number on the processor and you can effectively monitor and adjust speeds accordingly.The alarm button allows you to adjust the setting for the alarm. This is an audible alarm but not one that is so loud as to wake the dead. It was a soft tone that not grating, but loud enough to be heard with headphones on. When setting the alarm temperatures, you can choose from one of four preset limits. These settings range from 40C to 70C in 10 degree increments. As mentioned earlier, when you set the temperature at a lower level, the automatic fan speed controller becomes more aggressive to allow the system to stay below the set alarm temperature.As I was playing with the different settings, I became aware of a downfall of the system. While I found the Hardcano unit to be reliable in regards to automatically adjusting fan speeds, these settings did not remain when you reboot the system. Every time you turn the machine off, the Hardcano resets itself to its default settings; Automatic mode and 60C alarm temperature. I found better results when I set the controls to 40C but the settings were lost when I turned the system off.
Hardcano 12 - Conclusion
Overall I was very pleased with the Hardcano 12 unit. While the ability to control the fan speeds was an expected function, the other added features made for a pleasant surprise. Of note was the ability to hook up several powerful fans onto a single channel without fear of burning the unit out. Add to this the ability to control separate channels individually and things look even better.Of course the looks will also go far in setting this device apart from the crowd. With a sleek overall look and a nice color scheme, it won't take long for others to notice you at your next LAN.I was a bit disappointed about the default settings reset when rebooting, though. The simple addition of a small battery would take care of this little glitch with ease. Even if you plan on using the automatic fan speed controllers, having to manually reset the alarm levels for each channel wasn't that exciting.Bottom line...If you've been considering some sort of formal fan speed controller and want something that is not only effective but looks good too, then you should take a look at the Thermaltake Hardcano 12. It handles the fan speeds with ease and even works well as an automatic controller to make it an even better option.- ProsFour channelsNo low amperage rating per channelAesthetically pleasingEffective automatic mode controlThermal probes correspond to fan controllers- ConsAll settings reset after rebootNo custom alarm settingsRating - 9 out of 10 and TweakTown's "MUST HAVE" BEST FEATURES Award
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