SilverStone CMD01-ESA monitoring device reviewposted by Franck Delattre - September 08th, 2008
Summary1. Enable ESA on your chassis !
4. Installation and use
5. CPUID HWMonitor & ESA
Enable ESA on your chassis !
Created in 2003, SilverStone began its career in proposing chassis and power supplies. A couple of years later, the brand extended its offer to cooling devices, a set of bay devices aimed to add multimedia features or I/O ports to any PC, and also miscellaneous accessories such as fans and mouses.
Silvertone latest product is the Commander 01 ESA bay device. Applicable in any 5.25" drive bay, this module is aimed to bring the benefits of the NVIDIA ESA technology to any chassis : this means a full system monitoring and thermal control, through up to 4 thermal sensors and 5 fans.
The CMD01-ESA is provided in a black box that contains the following
- the CMD01-ESA device.
- 4 x thermal sensors cables, to fix to any location you want to measure the temperature from.
- 3 x model connectors cable extension, to plug lamp or LED devices to the CMD01.
- 1 x USB cable, to connect the CMD01 to an internal USB connector of the mainboard.
- A set of screws to secure the CMD01 in a 5.25" drive bay.
- A user manual (also available as a pdf file).
Note that the kit does not contain any CD or DVD, since the CMD01 does not require any particular driver to work.
- 5 x 3-pin fan connectors.
- 4 x thermal connectors (thermal sensors cables included).
- 3 x 4-pin peripheral connectors for lamp or LED devices.
- 1 x USB connector.
- 1 x molex for power supply connector.
- USB 2.0
- Aluminium front panel, steel body.
- Applicable in any 5.25" drive bay.
- 158 mm (W) x 42 mm (H) x 146 mm (D).
- 0.8 kg
- Windows XP/Vista 32 or 64-bit operating system.
- ESA certified motherboard.
The CMD01-ESA is mostly built in steel, except for the front panel that is in aluminium. The use of aluminium (instead of plastic) provides a very high-quality look and feel, and reminds the "SilverStone" touch that can be found on the chassis products of the brand.
Installation and use
The installation of the CMD01-ESA itself is very easy, the device just fits in any 5.25" drive bay. Then plug one molex from the PSU to the CMD01 power connector, and use the USB cable to connect it to the mainboard. Note that the USB cable is 4-pin whereas a classic USB connector in the mainboard uses 9-pin. The labels on the cable can help figuring out what pins to use. When the system is runed ON, a green LED indicates that the power and the USB connections are correct.
The four thermal sensors provided with the CMD01 can be placed to strategic spots in your computer : chipset radiator, memory, mosfets, hard drives ... Filling the five fan connectors is more complicated, generally because the fan cables are generally not long enough to go through the case. However, the location of the CMD01 will allow to plug most HDD cages fans, that is even more relevant if several thermal sensors are plugged to those hard drives.
At that point, the hardware installation is finished. Turn ON the PC, and check that the CMD01-ESA shows a green LED. Also note that all fans plugged to the device run at 100% of their speed. It is now time to take care of the software part.
ESA (Enthusiast System Architecture) is an attempt to define a standard for system monitoring and control. Initiated by NVIDIA, ESA is an opened standard based on USB-HID protocol (HID = Human Interface Device, protocol used mostly for USB mouses & keyboards). The use of HID allows to drastically reduce the costs : the ESA controller use standard components, and there is no need for a dedicated driver. On the other hand, the use of ESA requires an ESA compliant mainboard (that NVIDIA naturally defines as a "NVIDIA chipset based mainboard").
ESA definitely brings easiness in the confusing world of PC monitoring, and hopefully more reliability in the gathered data. It also means one software to monitor and control the whole system, and users won't complain about that.
Besides, ESA introduces monitoring of several devices that had no such features so far : PSUs, and watercoolers. To be fair, we have to say that the PSU monitoring was firstly introduced by Gigabyte with its very innovative ODIN PSU products line. If the ODIN monitoring protocol is very close to ESA, it keeps being a proprietary protocol, and therefore reserved for Gigabyte products. Nethertheless, ODIN offers the possibility to change the value of voltages on-the-fly, that does not allow ESA.
The monitoring and control of watercooling devices is a real innovation. ESA allows to monitor water temperature, water level, pump status, fan RPM, but also to manually control the pump flow and the main fan speed. We are impatient to test such a device !
The software part of ESA stands in two programs : NVIDIA System Monitor to track monitoring data, and NVIDIA Control Panel for the control part. Ideally, you'll need to have an NVIDIA chipset based mainboard to enable all features of those programs. We succeeded in installing them on a mainboard equipped with an Intel chipset but with just a NVIDIA video card installed, however it seems that we could not access to all features. Of course, NVIDIA counts on ESA to promote its own chipsets, but we doubt that ESA has a chance to become a standard with such a limitation. NVIDIA should be more pragmatic : if its chipsets are not intended to dominate the market, at least they could free ESA of these (purely software) limitations. In these conditions, no doubt that ESA would have all the chances to become a standard, it has all the necessary qualities to achieve that goal !
The CMD01-ESA appears in the NVIDIA System Monitor as a "chassis" device. The NVIDIA tool reads the temperature sensors output, as well as the fans rotation speed in percent.
The NVIDIA Control Panel offers the controls to change the fan speed (from 0 to 100%), and to set the lamp colors. The "profile" tab allows to define your own rules, for example assign a fan rotation speed to a temperature.
CPUID HWMonitor & ESA
As many other persons, we at CPUID expected a monitoring standard for PC for a long time, and ESA fullfilled our expectations. Henceforth, we asked to NVIDIA for the permission to add support ESA in our hardware monitoring programs HWMonitor and HWMonitor Pro, and they gently agreed to help us (we especially thank Mark Peters and Gregory Lou for their precious help).
HWMonitor is then able to report the monitoring data for our CMD01-ESA, as well as for other ESA compliant devices, and this whatever the chipset of your mainboard is.
HWMonitorPro does even go further and benefits of several additional features in comparison to the classic version :
- the editable labels allow to give explicit names to the sensors.
- the speed of the fans controlled by ESA can be manually changed.
With its CMD01-ESA, SilverStone allows PC users to taste ESA technology without the need to buy another chassis. There is nothing negative to tell about the kit, that benefits of all SilverStone know-how in bay devices. The only remark concerns the possible difficulty to plug all the existing fans of your chassis on the CMD01-ESA, but a couple of fan cable extensions would fix that for a couple of euros.
Nevertheless, it is legitimate to wonder if it is worth purchasing an ESA device without having a NVIDIA chipset based mainboard. If you purchase for example an ESA-compliant watercooling device and that you don't use ESA, it does not prevent you from using that device for its main purpose, namely as a watercooler. On the contrary, the use of the CMD01-ESA is relevant only if you can use ESA. Hopefully, NVIDIA seems to be willing to open the ESA protocol to third-party developers, and the support of ESA in HWMonitor & Pro is already a reality.