There was a time when only a few cases had USB or Firewire ports on the front bezel. That meant when you
wanted to hook up a USB device you had bend down behind the desk to
try an find a free port. USB hubs solved a lot of those problems, and gradually case
manufacturers began creating bezels with integrated USB and Firewire ports
to solve access issues. Those cases which don't support front mounted USB/Firewire
ports can be upgraded pretty easily with a USB/Firewire bay in either the
3.5" or 5.25" slots.
With the abundance of bay devices being installed
in modern systems, we are gradually running out of space. So when Vantec introduced their Nexus NXP101 Mutifunction Panel with two USB headers, a
Firewire header, a fan controller and a digital LCD readout of three temperature sensors
and fan RPM things were looking good. The LCD screen is backlit green,
so even in darker areas it will be readable, and the entire
unit is powered by just one floppy drive power connector (or
Now just to clarify things a little for those who may be
unsure; the USB and IEEE1394 Firewire headers do not mean that you can hook up
the NXP101 to an older computer without these features and expect to all of a
sudden have them. Both ports are just headers , which means you will need
to have a USB and Firewire PCI card installed in the motherboard
already, or have jumper cables from the motherboard USB / Firewire headers
Vantec provide their own type of
USB and Firewire jumper cables, but while one header connects to the
NXP101, the other end is a full fledged USB / Firewire
Since most mainboards don't actually have the USB or IEEE1394 connectors on
the inside (they tend to use less expensive headers with 10 or 8 pins
respectively) if you want to use the Vantec cables you may have to weave them
out through a free PCI slot towards the I/O ports. It will depend on your case,
but since each cable is only about a metre long this may not be feasible.
The best option would be to use the jumper cables that came with the motherboard for its
internal USB / Firewire ports. Often these jumpers will go right to a socket which
fits in one of the PCI expansion bays. By using these jacks you
can install the Firewire and USB ports up front via the Nexus
panel the easiest (unless of course you have a USB/Firewire PCI card
In addition to the styling good looks of brushed aluminum,
Vantec include three shades of translucent covers to give the NXP101 you own personal touch.
The unit ships with a little allen key so you can undo the
four screws and install the blue, green, or aqua face plate of
Since we're on the subject of what comes with the NXP101 it is worthwhile to
mention that in addition to the IEEE1394 Firewire and USB cables, the three face
plates, allen key & screws comes three thermocouple temperature sensors, and
two fan power cable extensions.
The manual gives you a good indication of where to place each of the three
thermocouples, and by hitting the button to the right of the LD display you can
cycle through the different temperature regions (CPU, Case, HDD).
The dial at the center of the Nexus allows you direct control of one fan's
RPM (by default Vantec suggest hooking up the CPU fan). Two sets of extension
cables run out from the back of the unit, one to the fan, and the other to the
motherboard to supply the RPM signal. If there are any problems with this fan an
alarm will go off, and it is a loud one.
We tested the RPM control with a larger 80mm fan, and a regular 60mm
version. In both cases the dial worked just as it should, though the panel had
some odd issues with the larger 80mm the first few times we tried it out. For
some reason the fan would kick back to a lower RPM if we dialed up the speed to
high. In any case, at no time did the fan actually lose power.
Overall, Vantec have put together a pretty good kit
here. While the Nexus NXP101 is not exactly a necessary piece of hardware everyone
must have, for those looking to tweak out their systems a little, the
unit offers up an easy turn key solution. Thermal monitoring is included, as
is control over one fans RPM. Couple that with a motherboard which allows you to
bring the USB and Firewire ports up front and the Nexus NXP101 is
pretty useful after all.
Given the choice between the three different colours of face plate, we went
against the grain and actually removed them - preferring to stay with the bare
aluminum itself. The Vantec Nexus NXP101 is definitely a cool toy for the geek
who spends way too much time worrying about internal case temps, and compared to
the DigiDoc, it kicks butt!