We can't really think of BitFenix as being the new kids on the block anymore. Although they've not not actually been around that long, they have brought more than a few products to market, some of which can be considered classics. For a manufacturer to enter such a competitive market place and stamp their mark is quite an achievement, and keep following up good products with more good products takes more than luck. With the Hydra Pro BitFenix are aiming squarely at the no frills end of the fan controller customer base. But in doing so, have they cut back on quality or features. I guess we'd better have a closer look and find out.
147 x 43 x 67mm
5.25" Drive Bay
Watts Per Channel
Fan LED Connectors
x 5 (compatible with BitFenix Spectre LED/Spectre Pro LED fans)
SofTouch™ surface treatment, LED power indicator
Up Close: Packaging and Contents
As with many BitFenix products the Hydra Pro comes packaged in a simple black card box. The exterior of which gives us a representation of the face plate of the controller along with details of specification and key features.
Inside we find that the controller is simply encased in a plastic bag and sandwiched between to polystyrene end-plates. Aside from a set of locating screws the only other contents of the box is a simple instruction sheet. Remember though that this is just a simple 5 channel fan controller, we're not expecting oodles of temperature sensors and an instruction booklet!
Up Close: The Controller
There's not really a lot to tell about the face of the Hydra Pro. Suffice to say it is coated in the same soft touch rubber as BitFenix coat their cases in. This in itself adds a feeling of class and quality. A simple array of 5 sliders enable the user to control the speed of the connected fans. I hasten not to say "5 fans" as although there are 5 channels each of these channels is rated at 30W. this means of course that the Hydra Pro has the necessary Oomph to provide power to a whole string of fans on each channel. For that matter, 30W is plenty enough to provide control for a great many watercooling pumps, essentially enabling you to vary the speed of your pump should you wish to go for performance or silence. Don't go thinking though that the Hydra Pro is a simple fan controller. It does have another trick up its sleeve. Those that own Spectre fans will know that they have an additional connection them. This connection is compatible with the Hydra Pro, enabling it to offer control over the Spectre and Spectre Pro LEDs. So it's a fan controller and a fan LED controller.
Round the back we can see that as usual BitFenix have plumped for quality componentry. The PCB is clean and uncluttered and the quality of the soldering is good. Connectivity wise we do of course have 5x3 pin headers and associated headers for the Spectre LED connections. A 4 pin Molex with a piggy back enables connection to the PSU without robbing you of a valuable power outlet. All of the included cables are of ample length and certainly long enough to make it form one sideof our Storm Trooper test case to the other.
As you might expect, in use the controller is simplicity itself. With just 5 sliders and a button to control the LEDs it could hardly be anything else but. The sliders move easily and although there's no visual display to tell you by how much the speed has increased or decreased it appears to be roughly a 50% alteration in speed between maximum and minimum. The Hydra Pro is seen here installed into the front of the Storm Trooper, with the Bitfenix soft touch rubber being a perfect match in touch and appearance for that of the Cooler Master case.
Performance Testing and Conclusion
BitFenix have already made a name for themselves not only by offering quality products at decent prices but by offering the consumer something perhaps a little bit different. We still remember the first BitFenix products to come through our hands here at OC3D and can reflect on how well made we thought they were. We're pleased to say that unlike so many firms (and not just PC hardware manufacturers) as the company has grown they haven't let their quality standards slip.
So why all this talk of quality? Well in today's age of austerity we want to be sure that our hard earned £££ is buying us a decent product, and not some pile of crap that will fall apart in a few weeks. This applies to even the cheapest and least significant of our purchases. And this is where the Hydra Pro comes in. It's only £25. Yes I know you can get fan controllers for less than that, but if that's what you're thinking then you obviously haven't cottoned on to the point i'm trying to make here. At just £25 you're close to the very bottom of the fan controller price band however for the money you're still getting a 5 channel fan controller, built to high quality standards and finished in soft touch plastic. It's able to control compatible LED fans as well as offering 30W per channel meaning multiple fans can be strung together, or even used to power a WC rig. Combine these main points with generous cable lengths and simple operation and you've got a winning formula.
In conducting a review it's important to find good and bad alike in a product. Sometimes this is easier than others either because the product is very bad, or in this case because the product is very good. In cases such as this finding fault can often feel like nit picking, but nit pick we must if we want to be fair and even. For us, the gun metal sliding control knobs both look and feel to be the weak point of the controller. They don't feel as sturdy as perhaps they could and don't have the soft touch coating, which would have been nice, especially as this is the bit you will be touching. Now don't go thinking this is a major fault, it's not, remember we said we were being picky here, and remember this is a £25 controller after all. On the plus side, as they are sliders as opposed to knobs, you're not going to have any problems fouling case front doors.
If the Hydra Pro does have a real problem it's that the there are an awful lot of very good fan controllers that cost only £5-£10 more than it, including a whole raft of Scythes and the soon to be reviewed BitFenix Recon which offers remote control via a web attached device for just £5 more.
If you're strapped for cash then the Hydra Pro represents one of the best fan controllers you can buy for the money. If however you can stretch just that little bit further then a hole world of options opens up to you. That said, I still think you might find yourself being drawn back to the Hydra Pro as it is plain and simple a cracking little 5 channel fan controller.
Thanks to BitFenix for the Hydra on test today, you can discuss your thoughts in the OC3D Forums.