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Matrix Matrix Orbital MX4 Review
Date Posted: Apr 15 2004
Author: pHaestus
Posting Type: Review
Category: Thermal Management Reviews
Page: 1 of 1
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Note: This is a legacy article, imported from old code. Due to this some items on the page may not function as expected. Links, Colors, and some images may not be set correctly.
Matrix Orbital MX4 Review By: pHaestus

Matrix Orbital MX4 Review
By: pHaestus 4/16/04

Introduction

Everyone should know by now that I am a bit of a fan controller/lcd junkie.  I have previously reviewed the Crystalfontz 633 and Matrix Orbital MX212 LCDs and I found that both units had strengths and weaknesses.   The greatest strength of the Matrix Orbital unit was its easy to configure and feature-rich LCDC software. The major weaknesses of the MO unit were its failure to power up fans at system bootup and its noticeably noisier PWM fan control. I was assured by Matrix Orbital that these issues were both simple enough to fix. 

Henry at Matrix Orbital contacted me recently and offered to send me one of their new line of LCDs: the MX4. I jumped at the chance because (a) I am a fan controller/temp monitoring/lcd junkie and (b) I really wanted to see if Matrix Orbital had followed through and fixed the startup and PWM issues of the MX2 I had reviewed. And that brings us to today's review item: The Matrix Orbital MX4 LCD.

The MX4

First of all, what is an MX4? This is MO's new LCD that features: A larger 4 lines x 20 character LCD, 4 fan headers, 6 DOW temp headers, a 5V GPO controller, and a new bay insert that takes up 2 5.25" bays. Here's a pic of the unit running:

Of interest are the large number of buttons; they are all easily mappable to commands in LCDC software.  My only real complaint about the CF633 is that it isn't simple or straightforward at all to make the buttons on that unit worthwhile.  The MX4 doesn't suffer from this problem thanks to LCDC.  The other item of note is that, while the MX4 features a 4x20 display, there is a lot of empty real estate on the faceplate. This becomes even more clear when the MX4 is installed in an aluminum faceplate without keys. It's too bad that the LCD isn't a larger since 2 5.25" bays have to be sacrificed.

Nonetheless, the LCD IS bright and vibrant blue and the white text is sharp. I know you guys, like me, are more interested in the backside of the unit anyway so let's turn to that now:

On the left you can see the 6 DOW temperature probe headers. Immediately to their right are 4 fan headers with rpm support.  Below the fan headers is a jumper to enable power from the molex connector (vs. only USB) at boot.  This is important because it shows that MO actually did fix the problem with fans not powering up at boot; the unit now receives power immediately and fans run at 100% until the PC makes it into Windows.  To the right of the power Molex is a header for the ribbon connector that connects the faceplate's keypad.  In essence the MX4 has the same functionality as the MX212 previously reviewed, and the big changes are the addition of 2 extra temperature headers and the jumper for controlling power at boot.

The other major problem I had with the MX212 was the jerkiness and noisiness of PWM when using the digital baybus settings. I tried out a couple of larger fans now, and I am pleased to report that the digital baybus settings now smoothly PWM the fans. I didn't notice any annoying shifts in fan speed as PWM% changed from 0-100% on a 60mm Delta EHE or a 120mm Panaflo M1A. 

I am not going to spend a lot of time discussing the LCDC software as I covered that in the previous review. I will show you guys a couple of images of the digital baybus screens in action though:

One interesting item related to the MX4's PWM frequency is that it is adjustable using a piece of software that's available from Matrix Orbital.  With the PWM frequency adjustment, you can configure the fan headers of the MX4 to control cold cathodes and other lighting without flickering. The software also allows you to edit the bootup screen of the MX4 if you so desire.

I have a Lian Li case that I wanted to add an LCD to, so the black faceplate wasn't ideal. Luckily Matrix Orbital sells an aluminum faceplate for the MX4 as well. It is real brushed aluminum and matches the Lian Li perfectly:

Conclusions

The bottom line is that Matrix Orbital has addressed all of the design flaws in their earlier MX2 revisions and now have a product worthy of your money. My only complaint about this unit is that the LCD is a little small for the loss of 2 5.25" bays.  MadHacker from the forums suggested that MO should separate the LCD and control PCB so that the LCD could fit into a much smaller space (2 or 3 3.5" bays, for example). That's about the only way that this unit could be substantially improved: it's otherwise attractive, full of features, easy to use, and is a viable temperature-based fan controller.

Thanks to Henry at Matrix Orbital for sending the MX4 over to review.

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