With more and more manufacturers entering this multifunction panel market the need for something out of ordinary increases. People are demanding something new and innovative and Cooler Master's Musketeer tries to answer this call. It sure has the looks but does it still function the way it should or does the styling take the upper hand?
The box itself was quite big and heavy. Good foam padding all around the device. I'm not sure if people need to hear deeper analyzation of these card board boxes but aesthetically the packaging was excellent and contained all the technical specs at the backside.
Multilingual user manual, audio reroute cable, PCI slot backpanel for VU-meter, two different extension cables for the fan, temperature sensor, mounting screws and the Musketeer panel itself. Everything needed for the panel to start humming is included and it is nice to see that Cooler Master has included two separate extension cables for the fan. The panel can control only one fan and these two cables gives you a choice to use either 4-pin Molex or 3-pin connector for your fan.
From left to right wee see the volt meter as the first indicator. It shows the voltage that the controlled fan is receiving. Range of the meter is 0 - 12 volts but the range of adjustment is around 6 - 11 volts. This to ensure that the fan is running all the time and that it starts up with the lowest voltage setting as well. Next we have a slider that sets the speed of the fan.
On center we have a VU-meter display, having the range of -20 - +3 dB. Like you might have quessed already this meter will show the signal level coming from your soundcard. Because the volume setting of the soundcard will affect the meter's display, the slider next to the meter it used to compensate the effect.
On far right you can see the temperature display that will indicate temperatures at range of 10 - 90 degrees celsius (50 - 180 F). The sensor has a long wire so you can place it everywhere inside your case.
Around the back we find the various connectors that the Musketeer offers. Again from the left we see a pin header for the temperature sensor. Nothing speacial there because the sensor is similar that is used in many motherboards etc. Next we have a slot for 4-pin Molex connector that will provide power for the unit. It is quite odd that Cooler Master didn't offer a Molex splitter cable so the Musketeer will eat up one Molex connector from the PSU.
At center we have a place for 3.5 mm stereo plug that is connected to the PCI backplate. This will provide the audio signal for the Musketeer so it can indicate the level of it. Last connector is the fan header. Specs doesn't tell how much power it can deliver put I tested the unit with a regular 80x80 mm fan and it worked nicely so it shoudn't have any problem running a single fan of any kind.
Hooking it all up
This diagram shows you how all the wires should be connected. It shouldn't be that difficult task for anyone to get this unit working but clear diagrams are always welcomed to speed up the process. Just select the audio source and hook it up with Musketeer by using a 3.5 mm stereo plug reroute cable. Everything else is quite self-explanatory.
PCI backpanel installed and reroute cable installed between it and the motherboard's audio output socket. You might wonder why to use this much wire and add a separate backpanel to all this when Cooler Master could have used a single microphone at the front of the panel? This way you can get the visual indication of the audio signal even when you are using headphones and surrounding noises will not affect the display in any way.
I just had to open up the unit to see what was inside ( brings back some memories from my childhood ;) ). There isn't that much to see inside. Only one IC, LM317 regulator and bunch of passive components. The blue glow behind the meters is generated with blue leds. Two blue leds for each display. This gives nice possibilites if you want to change the colors etc. yourself, also voiding the warranty in the process of course.
The unit is bit longer than other similar kind of panels. This will ensure that the connectors are almost at the same level as they are with optical drives. It will make the installation of the panel a lot easier when you don't have to squeeze your hand in between of the drives and try to find some connector to hook up the cables. Good thinking from Cooler Master and hopefully other manufacturers are taking notes while they are reading this.
Behind the door
I'm not sure if you are more into futuristic looks but this panel with retro-analog meters is something that has been missing from computers for too long. Sure there have been some panel with similar ideas before but this unit feels visually more appealing because it doesn't have one but three meters to stare at. :) Maybe I don't need to remind anyone about the importance of blue color in modding but because the unit uses leds as backlight they are easily changed to suit your own case project theme.
I made a little video showing the VU-meter in action. Pick the divx version if you have the proper codec installed to save the bandwidth.
+ Good looks
+ Blue glow is a nice touch
+ No software needed
+ Complete kit
- Usefulness? You decide.
It was refreshing to see Cooler Master entering this market sector. There is plenty that manufacturers can do to improve these multifunction panels and I know that the Musketeer was only the beginning for this. If you visit Cooler Master's site you'll find some interesting new products that are being released really soon.
I really enjoyed reviewing this unit because it looks really great and different. I haven't used panels with analog meters before and they seem to be as usefull as the lcd or seven-segment displays. This kind of retroish hardware will have its followers if we get more of these in the future and perhaps this will also affect the course of case mods that we will be seeing. Being only able to control only one fan could be limiting factor for some users but hopefully there will be versions with more options on choosing how to control the cooling inside the case.