mCubed T-Balancer bigNG Advanced Fan Controller Review

Modding/Small Mods by mich_vm @ 2007-01-19

mCubed introduced their first product back in 2004, named the T-Balancer XL we tested it and found it to be the most advanced and feature rich fan controller out there; rather than waiting for the competition to catch up, mCubed decided to up the stakes and they´ve released the T-Balancer bigNG, which aims to improve on the features and capabilities of the XL.

  • prev
  • next

The Software Control

mCubed T-balancer navigator software

Below you can see a picture of the start up screen. Notice the green light at the bottom right: it will give you information about the communication. Green is good, a blinking yellow circle means a problem with a port, grey is a timing problem and black means the values won't be stored in the database. I can already see this feature preventing the most common issues and it's certainly a nice touch.

After choosing a profile (I suggest you take default as it gives you access to all the options) you'll end up in the menu screen. There are tons of menus and submenus to choose from and describing each and every one of them independently would consume 40 pages easily. So I’m going to show you the most important features.

The options menu gives you the ability to completely adjust the Navigator software to your own needs. Here you can change the language (English, Spanish or German), customize some general settings or delete the database. In the profile tab you can save your profile or even load up an already customized one.

The configuration tab gives you a quick overview of each sensor installed. You can have up to eight digital sensors, called senor D0 till D7, and four analogue ones. If you like to go extreme, check out the extensions sets: ES analog and ES digital. You can then crank the total number of digital and analog sensors up to eight and ten respectively.

Don't forget to connect them as a chain and avoiding loops as they can damage the bus. Connecting fans is fun and all, but off course we need to give each one of them a name. You can give names to the fan channels, as well as to both the digital and analog sensors. Note that you cannot use the same name for both a sensor and a fan channel; try using the suffix 'analog' or 'digital' instead. Suddenly, the next question went through my mind after connection all the fan channels and sensors: "how am I going to find which belongs to which?" It can become quite a cable mess in there when using a lot of sensors.

Luckily mCubed thought of this too, in order to help you figure out what sensors is monitoring what you only need to be able to view the bigNG in the case in order for you to see the “pings” you send with the software. In the sensors digital tab there's this little feature called pinging. Turning the signal on will result in a LED lighting up on your sensor. It's easy to use and even makes your case look like a small Christmas tree: great job there mCubed! This only works for digital sensors though, so look carefully where you place all the analog ones.
Something I found out the hard way (some sensors were not working at first): the digital sensors are plugged in horizontally but the analog sensors have to be placed vertically. If one or more sensors still refuse to give a signal, you can always try reversing the polarity of the connector(s).(turning them 180°)

In the configuration tab you'll also be able to choose either analog or PWM mode for a fan channel. PWM stands for Puls Width Modulation. In short, the unit gives 12V to the fan every millisecond when in PWM-mode. This can help when your fans are having difficulties running at lower voltages. You can read more about it here. Analog power mode is the classic one where the fan’s voltage is reduced, it can prevent irritating noise with some fans which don’t work well with PWM, but does limit the minimum rotation, as the fan will stall before you hit 0v.

When that's done, best thing you can do is going to the assignment tab. The purpose is to let the hardware know which fans you want to link to which sensor(s). For example, I placed two sensors (one analog and one digital) on my hard drive and placed a 120mm fan right next to it. Using the software I then assigned this hard disk fan to the two sensors. It's rather self explanatory, but it can become quite a bit more complicated if you don't name your sensors. For the people that are not into the matrix style of assigning, there's also the easy 1-to-1 method where the linking is done independently.

The panel tab is our next stop. You can either choose manual (MAN) mode or curved (CUR) mode. Manual mode gives you complete control about the spin speeds, but it's logical we want the T-Balancer to do everything without us having to worry about it. Choosing MAN will give you a total of four knobs, one for each fan attached. The unit reacts as we could expect, swift and without hesitation. Curved (CUR) mode is available by un-checking the box and is by far the most interesting mode.

As the name already reveals, curved mode uses a graphical curve where the x-axis represents the temperature and the y-axis the speed of the fan(s). You can go two ways here: either you chose a standard curve like linear or progressive (see picture below), or you can just make/import your own curves. Remember the assignment matrix I talked about earlier? The software will automatically change the spin speed of the fans allocated to each of the four channels. Just don't forget to click the accept button at the bottom right or the changes you made won't be send to the hardware. Same goes for the profile: don't forget to hit the save button in the profiles tab once and a while to make sure you've got a backup just in case.

The last tab is called extended tab. Just like we could expect, most of the functions here won't be used by the majority of the users but I expect some to be pleasantly surprised they are included. For example, you can change the frequency of the PWM because certain fans have the irritating habit to become pretty noisy at a certain frequency. However, I must add I never experienced any problem of this sort with the frequency thus used the standard value. Blockage recognition is another feature that certainly has value. When one or more fans stop spinning, the hardware will automatically slowly increase its power. If, at maximum power, the fan still doesn't spin, an alarm will sound.

mCubed also equipped the bigNG to handle H2O cooling. You can indeed attach two flowmeters to the unit by use of the extension set ES analogue. The software features an automatic shutdown mode which detects possible leaks in the circuit and immediately shuts down the PC to prevent damage of components.

  • prev
  • next
Comment from spookmineer @ 2007/01/21
Someone else brought this forward:

Madshrimps assembled their BigNG incorrectly. One of the acrylic panels has a large rectangular cutout for the central heatsink, which can get as hot as 80 C (!) according to the manual.
Comment from jmke @ 2007/01/21
Mich_vm who did the review told me neither of the acrylic panels had a cut-out like shown on the picture of the box as well as in other reviews he's seen of the unit;
Comment from jmke @ 2007/01/21
asked him to reply here, from what i recall, no cutout :/
Comment from piotke @ 2007/01/21
Originally Posted by koensa View Post
but it is visible in the picture?first page?
that's the picture of the box. Secon page a picture of the device. And no cutout visible.
Comment from piotke @ 2007/01/22
Originally Posted by koensa View Post

this was by no means to offend you piotke, i just noticed it on the pictures
Lol, I'm surely not offended
Comment from jort @ 2007/01/27
spellingcontrol was still active on word? cause the red lines under some words.

This picture i was talking about:
Comment from wutske @ 2007/01/27
I guess they have made 2 version of it ?
because in thise Danish review, there is a cutout for the heatsink:
Comment from jmke @ 2007/01/27
I think our sample was from an early batch, all versions should have the cut-out