Neutral Milk Hotel
Pleasing and useful display. USB ports and memory card reader a plus.
No FireWire. No eSata. What's a PoweredUSB port? Janky probes.
At first glance, AeroCool’s PowerWatch front-panel display looks like every computer enthusiast’s worst nightmare. Admittedly, the display itself is pleasing to the eye, but the back of the device looks like two octopi trying to leg wrestle. It’s a tangled mess of cords, cables, connectors, and prongs that’s sure to bring ruination to anyone’s wire-hidden case.
But if you can stomach a bit of extra work to make your rig’s insides look pretty, the PowerWatch makes for an awesome addition to your case. Hardware-wise, the PowerWatch comes with two PoweredUSB ports—enhanced USB ports that deliver extra juice to USB devices that might otherwise require a power brick. Of course, there’s a catch. PoweredUSB was developed independently of the USB Implementer’s Forum, and we have yet to test a single device that uses the rebel port. But you can still plug in normal USB devices, and the PowerWatch also comes with front-panel support for a bazillion different memory cards: CF, SM, MS, SD, and others.
The real meat of the PowerWatch is its glowing information panel, a multicolored, circular LCD that is the brightest display we’ve seen in quite a while. From a variety of angles, you can clearly see critical information displayed on the panel, which is broken into three sections: alarm temperatures, fan speeds, and component temperatures.
Our biggest criticism of the PowerWatch stems from how it collects this information. While fan speeds come from a typical three-prong connector, the device relies on thermal probes for all of its temperature measurements. If you’ve ever worked with one of these little plastic devices, you’ll understand our frustration; the probe has to be placed with great precision, and even then its readings aren’t the most accurate imaginable. Still, even a janky probe is better than nothing, so we can’t fault AeroCool that much.
Although we still question what one might use the PoweredUSB ports for and wish that AeroCool would have provided more connectors than just simple USB (eSATA or FireWire for starters), this is still one of the finer front-panel accessories we’ve seen.