Fan controllers square off in nine-way comparison

For years, we’ve bemoaned the state of motherboard-based fan speed controls. There are alternatives to letting a motherboard’s firmware manage system cooling, though. Fan controllers have been around for years, and Xbit Labs has a good round-up of nine of ’em. The units all come from Lamptron, NZXT, and Scythe, and they cost between $25 and $70. As one might imagine, there’s quite a bit of variety in the bunch.

Fan controllers have definitely become smarter over the years, and some of the units in the round-up have automatic, temperature-based speed controls. Brightly lit displays are a staple of most of the fan controllers; some of the screens are large enough to consume two drive bays, and touch functionality has been incorporated into a few of them. If you’re looking for something a little more retro, several of the controllers feature simple analog knobsā€”up to a dozen on one of the units.

The author stops short of picking favorites, but he has done a good job of summarizing the key specifications of each controller, including how many fans it can manage and how much power can be applied to each one. Surprisingly, none of the controllers support four-pin PWM fans. Most case fans still use three-pin DC headers, I suppose.

Comments closed
    • FuturePastNow
    • 8 years ago

    I have a Gigabyte motherboard, and my previous motherboard was also a Gigabyte. I gave up and bought a couple of Zalman Fanmates a looooong time ago.

    Xbitlabs isn’t loading so I can’t look at the article, but my dream fan controller would be something with a bunch of PWM connectors on it, that plugged into either a PCI slot or a USB header, compatible with Speedfan or other lightweight software.

    • d0g_p00p
    • 8 years ago

    I picked up a Scythe for my current build to control the fans instead of plugging my fans into the motherboard. It’s pretty nice and not too flashy. I did not install the temp sensors because it seemed to be way too much of a hassle. It’s nice though and will maybe make it to my next build unless the next mobo I pick up has really good fan controls.

    • Goty
    • 8 years ago

    He doesn’t make recommendations in the article, but the Scythe Kaze Master Pro is quite nice. I run three Gentle Typhoon AP-15s on one channel and it doesn’t even break a sweat. It looks pretty good, to boot.

    • crabjokeman
    • 8 years ago

    Why can’t mobo makers actually connect PWM on all of their fan headers and let us control the fans through software?

      • swaaye
      • 8 years ago

      Usually the mobo’s chassis fan headers are designed to control fans by voltage instead of PWM. This is because most fans don’t use PWM motors, although they are common on CPU coolers. The 4 pin header is a PWM motor connection.

        • crabjokeman
        • 8 years ago

        Sorry, I meant using Voltage control on 3-pin headers to simulate PWM (using speedfan, for example). Some mobos allow it, but a lot don’t.

      • continuum
      • 8 years ago

      Agreed… PWM FTW.

    • zaeric19
    • 8 years ago

    How is having 30 watts per channel on the FC5V2 redundant? The word I think he was looking for was excessive, but that is not correct either. Lots of enthusiasts use more than 4 fans and would likely run multiple fans in parallel from one channel (I do), in which case 30 watts is nice to have.

    • dashbarron
    • 8 years ago

    The day I can get a mini-oven and warm chocolate chip cookies from a drive bay is the day computer hardware has reached perfection.

      • TurtlePerson2
      • 8 years ago

      Most computers are probably better heaters than those “Easy Bake Ovens.” Those things just heated up food with a little light bulb. My computer puts out at least 400 watts.

        • crabjokeman
        • 8 years ago

        Traditional light bulbs are notoriously inefficient. If your computer dissipates 400W of power as heat, you may want to look into more efficient components…

          • DancingWind
          • 8 years ago

          As I understand there is there is nothing the whole idea of a cpu (gpu/pu) is that its just a fancy heater. It just jigles the electrons around in fancy patterns that create heat and nothing else. I find the concept of ‘useful work” in a cpu hard to grasp… how does one measure the useful energy to move information?

      • crabjokeman
      • 8 years ago

      We all know that the USB [s<]beer[/s<] soda can cooler is the pinnacle of PC accessory technology.

        • Neutronbeam
        • 8 years ago

        Okay, NOW I know what I want for Christmas. Thank you!

      • kamikaziechameleon
      • 8 years ago

      buy a dual GPU solution you can cook in your computer just fine.

      • demani
      • 8 years ago

      Maybe that could be HPs differentiation: the HP EasyBake 2×4 workstation: perfect for your english muffin in the morning, your tuna melt in the afternoon, and your cookies for a delightful mid afternoon snack. Working late? Quiche for dinner! You’ll never need to leave your cubicle again!

    • derFunkenstein
    • 8 years ago

    He also calls Molex connectors “PATA power” which makes me want to gouge out my eyes.

      • Philldoe
      • 8 years ago

      We must contain this heresy.

        • mnecaise
        • 8 years ago

        It is heresy (I am an engineer) but it is far from uncommon

          • Philldoe
          • 8 years ago

          We must form a new Ordos and become part of the Inquisition.

            • Forge
            • 8 years ago

            In His holy name, we must purge the Heretics. No new Ordos is needed, the Ordos Hereticus can handle this.

            Grey Knights! Assemble!

      • Compton
      • 8 years ago

      We need to form a posse, and grab a rope. This sort of miscreant cannot be tolerated in 2011.

      • fredsnotdead
      • 8 years ago

      You’re right, it should be “IDE power”

      • swaaye
      • 8 years ago

      I tend to just call them hard drive power connectors even though they came from that Molex company.

      Although, “Molex Mini-fit Jr.” is a sweet name for the ATX 20+4 mobo power connector.

        • Wirko
        • 8 years ago

        But Jr. is only good for motherboards and those lowly under-kilowatt GPUs. There’s Molex Mini-Fit Sr with 50 amps per wire rating for us who need more.

      • continuum
      • 8 years ago

      To be fair, English is not their first language for those reviewers…

        • entropy13
        • 8 years ago

        Yeah, AFAIK they’re the only major tech site run by Russians, based in Russia, but all text are in English.

        • MadManOriginal
        • 8 years ago

        Was going to say the same thing. Lots of their articles have awkward phrasing and grammar but it is sitll one of the top hardcore tech review sites around.

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