Scythe has really been pumping out the new products. At the time of this writing, they were up to eighteen products for the year. Scythe has also returned to the US with a new distributor and a new website. This is exciting news, for enthusiasts have been enjoying Scythe gear since they began selling their innovative products in 2002.
Today we are looking at the Kama Panel 3.1. This is a clever 5.25-inch front panel that allows you to move your controls from the top of a case to the front. And it expands your computer’s versatility while it does so. Scythe has this to say about it:
Kama Panel 3.1 is based on the successful design of the former versions, which has been gradually upgraded with new functions and technologies to offer the best possible connectivity and usability, packed into a single 5.25 inch bay in the front panel. Latest 3.1 version is featuring two USB 3.0 ports and a card reader for Memory Stick Micro (M2), microSD / microSDHC and SD / SDHC / MMC flash media. Additionally one mic and one 3.5 mm stereo jack are located in the front of Kama Panel 3.1 (source).
Features and Specifications
The Kama Panel 3.1 has lots of goodies set into its face, and it’s not particularly crowded. For one thing, your power and reset buttons are now present on this front panel. But the Kama Panel 3.1 does not take over those functions because it uses Y-cables for its Power and Reset switches, which does not take away the functions of the old buttons. Instead, you can now have two sets of switches.
Next, the Kama Panel 3.1 has a plethora of card readers. You can take pictures with your camera or your phone and upload them to your computer in seconds. And – this is very important – you can do this uploading at USB3 speeds. Alone among the built in multi-function card readers, the Kama Panel 3.1 is not USB2 but USB3 based allowing for much faster transfer speeds than its USB2 competition. Eventually the other multifunction card readers will catch up. Maybe.
Under the card readers we have mic and headphone jacks. Next to them is a pair of USB3 sockets. And beneath those is a 2.5-inch socket where you can plug in a SATA III drive. This is a full-up 6 MB/s SATA station. You can put a boot SSD there, or any HD with data you want, and you can put the drive away in a safe and secure place.
Finally, there is a two-channel digital thermometer and two-channel fan controller. The knobs can be pushed in to retain the flat front of this panel.
|Scythe Kama Panel 3.1 Specifications|
|Model Name||Kama Panel 3.1|
|Overall Dimension||148.5 x 42.5 x 124 mm / 5.85 x 1.67 x 4.88 in (WxHxD)|
|Fan DC Output
||3.7 V (±10%) – 12 V (±10%)|
|Fan Output Current
||Max. 1 A (per channel)|
||Win XP / 7 / 8|
|Compatibility||USB 3.0 / Multi-format Card Reader/Writer
Memory Stick Micro
SD, Memory Stick
Multi Media Card
RS-MMC, MMC-microNote: Adapters are required for miniSD-mini SDHC-RS-MMC-MMC micro
||0 – 100 °C|
|Fan Measurement Range||0 ~ 9,990 rpm|
|Temperature Channel||4 (0 – 100°C / 32 – 199.9°F)|
|Weight||198 g / 6.98 oz|
Fan cable (x2)
The Kama Panel 3.1 comes in a typical retail box that highlights its many features – in six languages:
The multi-function device and its accessories come in plastic bags that are protected from shocks with soft foam:
Accessories and Connections
The Kama Panel 3.1 has a large number of connections which are all nicely labeled. Note that on the next level down we have the SATA data and power connectors.
Onto these connectors go a number of cables: cables run to your motherboard’s Power and Reset connectors. An audio cable connects the mic and headphone jacks with your motherboard’s audio connector. A USB3 cable connects the card readers and the USB3 ports with a USB3 port on the back of your motherboard. Two heat sensor cables are provided. Two 3-pin fans cables are provided (not shown here; these are fan plugs). A power cable runs from a “Molex” connector on your PSU to the device’s PCB. And another level down are the SATA data (from motherboard) and power (from PSU) connectors that you provide yourself.
This picture shows you which cable goes to which connection. Note that one of the fans is a PWM fan. Yes, these is barely enough room for a single PWM fan.
But Scythe clearly intends for you to use the included fan cables. Note here that both of these cables can accept PWM fans, even if they are controlled with voltage.
Testing the Kama Panel 3.1
I loaded up the Kama Panel 3.1 with everything that seemed useful; an SD card, a standard gaming headset (two analog jacks), a USB headset, a 2.5” HD, a USB wireless mouse, two temp sensors and two fans. The headphones played without interruption. The SD card ran to its max speed (80MB/s – much faster than it ran on USB2). The fans ran up and down their speed range, proudly displaying their speed in RPM. And when the voltage got too low for them, not only did they stop running but the word “OFF” appeared on the little screen. The only problem I ran into was that the USB wireless mouse did not work.
The Scythe Kama Panel 3.1 is a clever piece of engineering and UI. If you have a case with top-mounted controls, this panel puts those controls at your fingertips. The design is flexible enough that you can use these control in lieu of the case controls, in addition to the case controls, or leave them disconnected.
This panel reads data cards at USB3 speeds – appreciably faster than typical card readers. These are the most modern formats. It also gives you two additional USB3 ports without using up any of your on-motherboard dual ports. The one drawback to this USB3-only device is that your wireless devices (e.g. – mouse, motherboard) may not work on it. You may need extension cables to bring their transmit/receive heads from the back of the case to where the devices can communicate with them. My wireless mice cannot work with T/R heads on the back of a case, for example.
Some users will not buy a front panel that comes without front USB2 ports. The Kama Panel has a pair of them. Motherboards come with more USB2 sockets than they need, so a dual USB2 plug would literally fit right in, and on the front panel they would support a wireless mouse and keyboard. Now, back to the Kama Panel’s good points:
You can put a 2.5-inch HD or SSD in the center slot. If your computer is in a public place, you can remove the boot drive when you are not using it. If the boot drive is inside the case, this is a handy way to access large amounts of storage. The way it works is straightforward; it is just another place for a SATA drive, but this one is accessible.
The Scythe Kama Panel 3.1 allows you to monitor two temperatures and adjust two channels of fans accordingly. The knobs can recess into the panel so they don’t stick out.
- Multiple card readers in modern formats
- The card readers work at USB3 speeds
- Two USB3 ports
- Supports both analog and digital (USB) gaming headsets
- Has clearly labeled front panel Power and Reset buttons
- Accessible SATA III HD/SSD position
- Two-channel digital thermometer
- Two-channel fan controls
Kama Panel 3.1 Cons
- The Kama Panel does not (yet) support all wireless devices
- Installation Manuals are not available online
— Ed Hume (ehume)