Bitfenix Recon Review

Introduction:

What is the most common neglected part while building a high performance gamin computer? The answer is simple – noise controlling without compromising high end cooling. Many manufacturers have released several fan controllers for that purpose –  balancing the cooling power and noise. Today, we will be looking at BitFenix Recon, a unique fan controller, the first fan controller that allows the user to monitor the system temperatures as well as adjust the fan speed over the internet using an external device like a laptop, smart-phone or tablet.

The BitFenix Recon is designed as a 5.25″ bay controller. It have five independent controller channel and features a 4.7″ touch-screen as well as five independent temperature probes. It can control fan speed based on the feedback from the temperature probes. The Recon uses two microprocessors to work with the system, allowing for real time monitoring as well as control over  home network and over the internet.

Closer Look:

The BitFenix Recon packaging box is small. Actually it is a bit smaller than other fan controllers. Since Recon is made for 5.25″ bay, the length of the box is only about 7″. It features large picture of Recon fan controller on the front of the box. Specifications table is on the back side, which describes the various features for Recon.

One notable thing here is that the box lists maximum wattage for each channel as 30 Watts. But the online documentation mentions maximum wattage for each channel as 10Watt.  Hopefully this mistake will be corrected in next revision of Recon boxes. Users should not worry about it.

Breaking the seal open, we can see a user manual and the fan controller inside a electrostatic bag. Each end of the electrostatic bag is padded with open-cell foam that protects the fan controller from any kind of damage during transportation. The Recon package have all of 5 fan connector and temperature probe cable attached with it. It also have two extra temperature probe, an extra fan connector cable and a 3 pin fan connector extender. Those will come handy if anything gets damaged at the time of installation. There are 4 screws to connect Recon with the 5.25″ bay. After removing the electrostatic packaging, Recon comes up with its all cables. Believe me when I say the number and amount of cable is huge! Those cables comprises of, five 3-pin fan cables, five temperature probes, a 4-pin molex power cable and a USB 2.0 data header.  The surrounding bezel coated in BitFenix SofTouch™ material to felicitate touch screen features.

All of those wires are clearly labeled for the ease of installation. Starting with the molex connector, it is daisy-chained to help those users who have very few free molex connector in their disposal. All the 3-pin fan connectors are compatible with 4-pin PWM fans although the PWM features of 4-pin fans won’t be utilized as Recon is voltage controlled fan controller.

The last piece of cable which Recon have is quite unusual among fan controllers. It’s a USB 2.0 header. It is there for the purpose of communicating with the fan controller software (It can be downloaded from BitFenix website), to load and save profiles, to update alarm settings, and to access instant running temperature. All temperature probes have plastic sleeve over them to protect them from damage before installation.

Main functional parts of BitFenix Recon rests the touch-screen. The jet black PCB is the base of the controller. There are five separate voltage regulators to drive five fan controller channels. Each of them have a small aluminum heat-sink for the purpose of dissipating heat during operation. is jet black just like the steel housing. All fan connector cables along with the power connector cable, USB2.0 cable and temperature sensors can be removed from the fan controller, but it is advisable not to play with them.

Installation:

Installing BitFenix Recon is very simple. Just remove the cover of your empty 5.25” bay and put Recon in it. I’ve placed first two temprature  probes in 2 tower of my Noctua NH-D14 heatsink, third one is glued to my 1TB HDD, forth one to my top exhaust fan, anf fifth one glued to one side of read exhaust fan. While installing I had real issues with the length of any cable.

Now it’s the time to turn on the PC. Recon rouch screen glows white with a hint of blue after powering up (camera exaggerates the blue). It should be noted that by pressing and holding the power button symbol, the display can be turned off completely. Each channel can be selected just by pressing the numbers at the bottom of the screen. Speed of fans are displayed in RPM and it can be adjusted via the  +/- buttons on the left of the screen. After powering up all connected fans spin up to full speed then drop down to the preset RPM if the controller runs in manual mode or the speed will drop down to the temperature-guided RPM if it runs in auto mode.
In manual mode RPM of each fan can be chosen in 100 RPM increments. The lower limit of RPMs is the speed of fan when powered in 6 Volts. In automatic mode  it will automatically adjust the fan RPM. User can not adjust the speed of any fan in auto mode.

It is essential to remember that the in BitFenix SofTouch™ coated touch screen can only be seen correctly when Viewed from straight on as in the above pictures. To turn the display on, we just need to touch the power button once again. After altering viewpoint the display becomes less legible, like the pictures shown bellow, a common fault found in many digital display units.

Now we come to the USP of this fan controller. It is internet controller and it comes with a software that allows you to access and control the fans in your computer from anywhere on world. After downloading the software from the website, installation would be a painless process. Remember to follow the instructions in the bundles pdf file. The software allows the user to adjust fan speeds, view temperatures, and save multiple profiles from browser.
You can also access the software from your mobile device. The mobile version allows the same set of controls in a touch-friendly interface. This means, with your touch-screen tab or mobile, you are at your ease while using the feature. But to do this, you have to forward the port via your router and firewall which may create a potential security hole in your computer.

PC Browser view:

Mobile browser view (from tab running Android 4.1.1):

Specifications:

Materials: SofTouch™, ABS Plastic, Steel
Dimensions: 147 x 43 x 67 mm
Temperature Channels: 5
Fan Channels: 5
Max Watts / Channel: 10 Watt
Measurement Frequency: Every 0.1 – 0.4 seconds
Temperature Alarm Range: 30°C – 90°C
Temperature Range: 0°C – 100°C
Screen Size: 4.7″

Features:

  • Internet Connected for Mobile Devices
  • Touchscreen Controls
  • Dual Processor Technology
  • System Status Monitoring
  • Five Channel Thermal Control
  • Customizable Profiles
  • BitFenix SofTouch™ Bezel

Source:  http://www.bitfenix.com/global/en/products/accessories/recon#specs
Testing:

I have tested BitFenix Recon Fan controller by using it throughout the day, along with all of my daily works. Since BitFenix Recon fan controller have five channels I have connected the same number of fans in it. The first two channels are connected to the Cooler Master XtraFlo R4-XFBL-22PR-R1 fans on Noctua NH-D14 heat sink. The third channel is connected to the front 200mm intake fan which comes with 650D itself. The forth channel is connected to the top 200mm exhaust fan which also came with 650D. The last channel was wired to a Cooler Master R4-XFBS-20PK-R1 at the rear of my case also set up as an exhaust fan.

Test Setup:

  • Processor: Intel Core I7 2600K
  • Motherboard: Asus P8Z68-V Pro
  • CPU Cooling: Noctua NH-D14
  • Memory: Samsung  MV-3V4G3D/US PC3-12800 9-9-9-24 (2x 4GB) 8 GB
  • Video Card: 2x EVGA 012-P3-1572-TR GeForce GTX 570 SC
  • Chassis: Corsair Obsidian Series 650D
  •  PSU: Corsair HX1000
  • Hard Drive: Seagate Barracuda 7200.12 1TB
  • Optical Drive: Asus DVD RW Black
  • OS: Windows 7 Ultimate 64-Bit SP1

Fan Setup:

There is nothing much to say about Recon while  working in Automatic mode. Each of the fans will spin down to their minimum speeds when the temperature sensors are at 30C or less. When the temperature rises above 30C  the fans automatically spin up to cope with the additional heat with the minimum increment of RPM being 100rpm. One can manually create an alarm temperature. When temperature of sensors go above that all connected fans to spin up to 100% Recon to emit an extremely loud warning beep that continues until the temperature drops below the alarm threshold. The audible alarm can be stopped with a quick press of alarm button on the touch-screen.

Recon controls fans via voltage modulation and with the help of feedback from the fan RPM sensor, any fans without an RPM reading (i.e. fans with 2 pin header) will spin at their full rated speed. Recon do not have PWM connectors and that’s why when PWM fans are connected to Recon, their PWM function would be disabled. But This will not decrease the performance of those fans.

Another important issue that may come up with this type of feedback based speed control is that some fans may not function properly at lower voltages. These low voltages may even cause some fans to stop or some fan may spin back up to full speed and then, spin down till they stop again. As the minimum voltage for fan in Recon is 6 Volt I do not expect many fans to behave in this way.

Conclusion:

The BitFenix Recon look great and it is built with clear attention to detail. It will easily last for a very long time in any PC which remains on for 24X7. If you own high RPM, noisy fans you are not going to be disappointed in either of these BitFenix offerings. The software for the serves its purpose. There is some problem with the diaplay of touch screen but other than that I really cannot find any serious flaws in it.
BitFenix Recon is available in Indian Market at INR 2850/- at Indian market, and thinking about the performance offered at that price. Personally speaking, I love its stylish finish and display which perfectly matches with the styling of my Corsair Obsidian 650D.
Pros:

  • 10 Watt per channel is enough power to power up almost all fan types
  • Automatic fan speed adjustment based on temperature in Auto mode
  • Conventional and easy touch-screen controls
  • Simple web interface, made for all type of users
  • Great fit and finish (both Black and White)

Cons:

  • Automatic adjustment mode cannot be customized
  • No Support for PWM, which means PWM feature of any fan will be disabled

Rating:

Price: 5 out of 5.
Reliability: 5 out of 5.
Performance: 5 out of 5.

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