To be honest, I was very impressed with the layout of the controls. There were so many features jam-packed in this product that, at first glance, it seemed complicated to operate. It proved to be quite the opposite. It was not as simple as my old fanbus, but what can be simpler than the four knobs that my SuperFlower used to have?
GateWatch’s large panel allows for multiple buttons for various operations. For example, you don’t have to scroll through the available locations ( CPU,VGA…) as you do on the smaller units. Each location has an assigned button. There are also dedicated buttons for color, mode (auto/manual), volume and alarm. One particular control was not very convenient in my opinion: fan speed control. You have to press “Set” 3 times, which will scroll through minute and hour settings respectively and then get to the RPM setting of the fan. After that you can use up and down buttons to select RPM desired.
While design is pretty and controls are ergonomic and well-placed, operation of the unit has major room for improvement. The number one pain in the neck is unfortunately, the main feature: fan speed adjustment. Not only you have to hit multiple buttons to get there, it allows you to drop/raise the RPMs in 100RPM increments only. On top of that, it takes two full minutes for the fan to go from 1400RPM to 2800RPM, where with an analog control it would be accomplished with a single twist of the knob.
GateWatch’s auto mode can be very convenient, since it adjusts fan speed without having to press any buttons at all. So, thinking that it is the way to go and “manual” days are over, I went and switched it to auto, while monitoring the VGA fan+VGA thermal location. The fan was manually set to 2800 and dropped to 1600RPM within a minute and a half of when I turned the feature on. Then, thinking that it raises the temperature depending on the alarm setting, I set the alarm to 42C and started a movie to put some load on the GPU.
Sure enough, the temperature shot up past 43C almost instantly. The alarm sounded and the display started flashing red, but the RPMs remained at 1640. So what exactly is the auto setting? I tried the same thing with one of the case fans, and the RPMs did not move again. Then I thought that the temperatures must have been pre-programmed inside the unit and when it gets to a critical point, it starts increasing the RPMs. So I moved the alarm to 50C to be safe and started playing Unreal tournament. GPU temp went to 48 and RPMs stayed at their 1650.
So does that mean that when my PC melts down, my smart fan controller will be thinking that it’s not that bad really? No, thanks, I’ll stick with manual setting this time.
Here are some values recorded to compare its readings to the previous fan controller and to other sensors in the system. All values are taken at idle.
As you can see, the temperature readings are all over the place and make it very difficult to trust either this device or the next one. The interesting fact is that the sensors are in exact same locations as I had them with the Super Flower installed. GateWatch does show a slightly higher reading, about a four degree jump across the board. Whichever one is correct, a four-degree difference is not particularly critical.
Volume control was a good addition; it was something I had wanted for a long time and it makes controlling your music easier and mouse-free. The volume bar on the LCD is also large and very visible. One little imperfection is that the actual knob has word “volume” written directly on it and in various positions it is skewed or upside down. For a unit that is certainly superior in styling, that is a little miss. Even with the volume on mute, it is on a 45-degree angle. A simple text on the faceplate near the volume control would have fixed the issue.
Setting alarm on the unit is simple and allows you to go in 1C increments. It gives you a range between 25C – 90C (Prescott users beware. You may be pushing the upper limits here when overclocked on air). If you do own a PC where the temperature might crawl into the nineties, do not use the Gatewatch. The alarm is quite annoying and there is no way to disable it.
24-hour time format is available, a big plus for the weird ones such as myself, but it really is nice for the manufacturer to think about a little detail such as that.
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