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Enermax UC-9FATR2 (Multi-function 5.25in Bay Device)

The Enermax UC-9FATR2 18-in-1 5.25″ bay device offers a wide variety of functions, including USB 2.0, SATA, IEEE 1394, fan control, temperature monitoring and even a flash card reader. Check out the review of this versatile and very useful device.

[review_ad]Introduction


Established in Taiwan nearly 15 years ago, Enermax Technology Corporation has been delivering high-quality components to the PC market for years. Since its inception, Enermax has branched out into an international company with such ventures as Maxpoint Computers, Inc., a subsidiary of Enermax located in southern California. Most people who are familiar with the Enermax brand probably think of power supplies and cases when they hear the name. However, Enermax offers numerous other devices for computers, such as external USB 2.0 hard drive enclosures, multi-function bay devices, and even basic RAID enclosures.

One of Enermax’s newest products is a multi-function bay device, the UC-9FATR2, and, fortunately, Maxpoint decided to send one to Bjorn3D for review. The UC-9FATR2 fits in a standard 5.25 inch bay and offers a wide variety of features. One feature that you will not find on many, if any, other similar devices is serial ATA connectors, and this unit has two. Sure, we could debate the usefulness of these connectors, since there are not exactly a lot of external SATA hard drive enclosures yet, but I think this type of forward thinking is good and shows that Enermax is trying to give the consumer a device he or she can use for a long time. Of course, this device offers more than just SATA ports for I/O. It offers two USB 2.0 ports and one IEEE 1394 port. And for people with a lot of portable electronic devices that use flash memory cards, the UC-9FATR2 offers a four-slot memory card reader that covers all the major flash memory types that are available today – Compact Flash I/II, Microdrive, Memory Stick (all variants), Smart Media, MultiMediaCard, and Secure Digital. Just in case that is not enough to pique your interest in this product, the UC-9FATR2 also includes a thermal control module, which consists of two thermal probes, two fan speed controllers, and an LCD to display temperatures from the probes and the current RPM readings from the fans.


Specifications & Features

Specifications:

DC Input +5/+12V, USB bus power
DC Output 4V – 12V DC
LCD Display 28 x 11 mm (W x H)
Sensor Temperature Range 0-90°C / 0-194°F
Fan RPM Display 1000-9900 RPM
3-pin Fan Connectors 2
Fan RPM Knobs 2
Memory Card Types Compact Flash Type I/II, Microdrive, Memory Stick, Memory Stick Duo, Memory Stick PRO, Memory Stick Duo PRO, Smart Media, Secure Digital, MultiMediaCard
Interface of Reader USB 2.0
Operating Systems Compatibility Windows 98SE/Me/2000/XP
Mac OS 8.6+
Dimensions 149 x 72 x 41.5 mm (W x D x H)
(Fits in a 5.25″ bay)

Features:

  • USB 2.0 multi-slot card reader for reading/writing any mainstream memory cards
    • All four slots are active to allow transferring data between them
    • LED indication for power and access
  • Two USB 2.0 ports
  • One IEEE 1394 port
  • Two serial ATA ports
  • Thermal controller module
    • Two thermal probes with very long wires
    • Two fan RPM controllers, each with its own knob for adjustments
    • LCD to monitor temperatures at thermal probes and speeds of attached fans
    • Overheat alarm function
    • Three settings 45/55/65°C for alarm trigger
    • Jumper setting for displaying temperature in °C or °F
    • Fan RPM low/failure alarm function

Package Contents:

  • The multi-function panel
  • 2 x Serial ATA cable
  • 1 x USB cable (2 ports)
  • 1 x IEEE 1394 cable
  • 2 x Fan extension wiring material
  • Driver installation disc (for OSs that do not support USB 2.0)
  • User’s Manual
  • Cable ties, screws, tape for securing probes, and jumpers


Installation


In order to use all the functionality that the UC-9FATR2 provides, a lot of different wires and cables have to be routed and hooked up. Fortunately, this should only be a one time thing, unless you want to change the temperature display from Fahrenheit to Celsius or vice versa. Changing the temperature display involves opening jumper JP1 for °C or shorting it for °F, and I doubt that this can be done without removing the device from the PC. To reduce the risk of forgetting about it until it’s too late, I definitely recommend checking JP1 right after the device is taken out of the box. The default setting for JP1 is open, and that is how I left it. Unfortunately, I did not get a good shot of JP1, as you can see in the pictures below, but you can at least see that it is not in an easy-to-reach place that would make it easy to change while the device is installed.


After dealing with JP1, the actual installation can begin. Of course, a free 5.25″ bay is required for this installation. Also, a free USB 2.0 motherboard header is required for the card reader to function. Hooking up the wires for the reader was probably the most difficult part of the installation since the wires are separated into single connectors (as you can see in the pictures below – the red/white/green/black wires with “UP” on the device-side connector). Depending on where the USB 2.0 header is located and whether you are used to dealing with these small individual connectors, this step can be one of the most time-consuming, especially if you have fingers that are at all sizeable. It really is more tedious than difficult. The USB and IEEE 1394 (FireWire) cables have to be routed out the back of the PC through a pass-through PCI slot cover, and the SATA cables are the easiest in the setup, since they simply plug into the motherboard and then the UC-9FATR2 SATA ports.


The I/O devices are not the only things that require a little bit of installation. To take full advantage of all of this unit’s features, the thermal controller module, as Enermax calls it, also has to be hooked up. The device has two thermal probes attached to wires that are long enough to reach nearly anywhere in most cases. I certainly had no problem putting them near the CPU and video card in my mid-tower case. I did not take the time to actually place them under the cores with the included thermal tape, but that would probably be ideal. To complete the thermal control/monitoring module, Enermax included two fan speed controllers in the UC-9FATR2, and they are both lit by blue LEDs. The LEDs dim as the speed of the fan is turned down. These are connected to the device via standard three-pin fan connectors. The fans that are to be controlled are then plugged into the appropriate connector on the other end of the set of wires. Then, the other connector is plugged into the motherboard’s fan header like usual, if you want to be able to monitor the fans via software or the BIOS.



Performance and Impressions


Since this is not a product that can really be benchmarked very much, except for the memory card reader, I thought I could at least offer my impressions on how the various subsystems of the UC-9FATR2 performed during the past few weeks that I’ve used the device.

Fan Controllers and Temperature Monitors

The fan controllers worked great and could be used to make my case nearly silent. I could easily set both fans to 1000 RPM and enjoy the decrease in noise – anything below that would cause the alarm to sound. The alarm, which reminds me of a wrist watch alarm sound, will stop beeping after 30 seconds if the cause is not fixed; however, it can be turned off sooner by pressing the “Mode” button or fixing the problem. Also, when an alarm condition exists, the RPM display will flash until the fan speed is above 1000 RPM. My one issue with the fan controller system is the brightness of the blue LEDs. I’ve tried to show the brightness in the picture below, which was taken with the lights on in the room and no flash by the way. I just cannot tolerate looking at the knobs very long because they are way too bright. Perhaps a more opaque knob would be better so that it could block more of the light and be easier on the eyes.

The temperature monitors seem to work well also. I did not do extensive testing to see if the they display accurate temperatures. The alarm functionality behaves basically the same way as it does with the fan controllers, except that the displayed temperature flashes when the temperature is above the selected ceiling. As I mentioned in the features, there are three settings (45°C, 55°C, or 65°C) for triggering the alarm. These are selected by a switch on the front panel of the unit. Also on the front panel are the “Mode” button, which toggles between Fan and Temperature Probe A or Fan and Probe B, and a “Reset” button that resets the monitoring hardware.

USB 2.0 Flash Memory Card Reader

In every day use of the Compact Flash card slot, I found the card reader to be just as fast as I have become accustomed to with other memory card readers. It “felt” just as responsive and quick to download as any I’ve used in the past. For those keeping score at home, I ran SiSoftware Sandra‘s File System benchmark on the CF slot with an old Canon-branded (SanDisk) CF card. It rang up a decent Drive Index of 2960 KB/s. Unfortunately, CF is the only flash media I have, so I could not test the device’s ability to copy straight from one card to another or the performance of the other slots. However, I am pleased with the media reader’s performance, based on my experience with the Compact Flash reader.

Conclusion


Enermax’s UC-9FATR2 is a very versatile multi-function bay device, and it handles each of the functions it offers with ease and grace. In the current popular style, Enermax claims it is an “18-in-1″ device. The UC-9FATR2 provides two USB 2.0 ports, one FireWire port, two SATA ports, and a four-slot flash card reader to handle I/O needs. The card reader can handle all the major flash media formats that are popular today, and it allows copying between them since all slots are active simultaneously. The device also offers two temperature probes and two fan controllers to help users control noise in their systems and monitor the temperatures of two places in the case. It really does offer a lot of different functionality in a relatively small package (small enough for a 5.25″ bay). Fortunately, Enermax did not sacrifice aesthetics to offer all of this functionality. The black (it also comes in silver) UC-9FATR2 looks very nice in my black case. The brightness of the fan controller knobs is my only gripe about the unit’s aesthetics. Actually, that is my only major gripe with the unit.

I have seen standalone card readers and fan controllers that cost $20-30, so I was a little leery about finding out the price of this unit, since it offers so much more than a simple flash card reader or fan controller. I was pleasantly surprised to see that the UC-9FATR2 can be purchased for about $45. Considering all the functionality this device offers, that seems like a great price. Obviously, this solution may only work for someone who wants a little bit of everything in one device, as opposed to a fan controller that can control every fan in the system. Personally, I would rather have the “little bit of everything” option, and that is why I would recommend this product to anyone who wants a lot of versatility in a bay device that looks good and is priced right.

Pros:

+ The card reader handles all current popular flash formats
+ A great mix of functionality, especially for <$50
+ Looks good
+ Ready for external SATA drives and enclosures
+ Great addition to any PC

Cons:

- Fan controller knobs way too bright!
- An option to use internal USB 2.0 and IEEE 1394 motherboard headers would have been nice
- The build quality could maybe be a little bit better (perhaps the PCBs could be better protected/encased) – but that would drive up the cost, so it’s a catch-22

Final Score: 9.0 and the Bjorn3D Seal of Approval


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