Top 10 Best Fan Controller 2019: Reviews By An Expert
Living in modern times, we use our PCs for all sorts of purposes – gaming, streaming, browsing the Internet, you name it. Now, these ‘activities’ are taking a toll on our beloved machine-like friends, so don’t be surprised if your PC starts humming after a while.
If this happens, you’ll know that your PC’s internal cooling is a bit off, so what can you do to prevent this?
It’s quite simple. Nowadays you can just get a best fan controller and easily setup the intensity of your fan’s strength, and voila – you’ve solved one of the most troublesome problems you could have with hardware.
Today we’re going to talk about PC fans, the fan controllers which govern them, and some of the finest models you could find on the market at different price ranges.
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What is a fan controller and why you need to use it?
Basically, a fan controller is a simple contraption used to control the speed of your PC’s fans. There are, of course, models that are capable of doing more than just that – versatile controllers can monitor and adjust RGB lightning, coolers, and what not.
So, to answer the simple question such as ‘why you need to use it’, we’ll be as brief as possible. Every PC setup ‘heats up’ after a while, and the intensity of this heat buildup depends on what you’re doing on (or with) your PC.
For example, most gamers know that after an hour or two of gaming (unless the fans are properly controlled via a controller unit) their tower starts to get all hot and buzzy. The same goes for music engineers, and generally everyone who’s using their PC in a ‘demanding way’ in terms of hardware.
Now, you may get rid of dust particles, and you may even reposition your PC to a cooler place, but why you really need a fan controller is because most integrated fans can only do so much without the extra help. If you really wish to prevent your PC from overheating, we strongly advise that you get a fan controller.
Our Best Fan Controller Picks For 2019:
1. NZXT Sentry 3 touch screen fan controller
Let’s start off with NZXT’s Sentry 3 touch-screen fan controller. Basically, this is one of, perhaps, not-so-affordable options at your disposal, but there are plenty of benefits to be had should you give it a go.
For instance, it rocks a durable steel casing and layers of ABS plastic, which both speak volumes about its durability. On top of that, there are 5 channels, each being able to control some three fans at best. Knowing this, it’s pretty obvious that this is a sort of a high-end fan controller, or at least it’s pretty close to being one.
There’s also an integrated temperature sensor, as well as five PWM male connectors and a single Molex connection, but that’s not what makes Sentry 3 so amazing. Namely, it’s the huge, user-friendly screen that was the reason why we included it in our best-quality fan controller review.
More specifically speaking, there’s a touchscreen on board – apart from making the Sentry look awesome and serious, it simplifies the way this unit works. Now, before we talk briefly about the highlighted features, let’s mention a couple of, let’s call them, ‘convenience settings’.
First, and foremost, you’ll be able to make use of the ‘thermal readout’ function. It offers you means to monitor the exact temperature of each hardware piece, but don’t worry if you don’t know what to do with these specs – there’s also an alarm which will warn you if hardware gets too hot.
2. Kingwin FPX-001 Fan Controller 4 channel with LED
We’ve seen what Sentry 3 offers, and now it’s time for something a bit different. We’re looking at Kingwin’s FPX-001 fan controller, which just might happen to be one of the best options for people who are looking to score an affordable controller unit.
Basically, though it looks fancy and sparkly, it’s one of the simplest controller models out there. In fact, this is one of the first units in a lengthy generation of premium-quality controller units (such as FPX-002, FPX-003, FPX-004, HDD-PS6, KW525-3U3CR, and such).
Now, since we’ve given you the basic idea of how this controller works, let’s see what’s so special about it. First of all, it’s smaller than Sentry 3 (which fits inside 5,25-inch bays) and it can fit in 3.5-inch bays. It comes supplied with a set of four knobs, each being ‘responsible’ for a particular standalone fan.
Sadly, there are no ‘convenience features’ per se (if we set aside the LED indicators, that is) – unlike Sentry 3, this controller doesn’t pack any kinds of display, but frankly, it was built in such a fashion where you won’t even need it. The controls are entirely manual, and the setup is as easy as can be – simply use the 3-pin connectors and plug them.
Last, but certainly not least, the FPX-001 is significantly cheaper than most so-called ‘quality units’. Of course, there are better models to be had if you don’t mind paying top dollar, but it’s quite safe to say that this particular model rocks a huge value for the cash, even if we’re to neglect the fact that it comes super cheap.
3. Rosewill RCR-300 5.25-inch fan speed controller
Right after reviewing the awesomely looking FPX-001, we’re moving on to something a bit more old-school, for the lack of better terms.
Rosewill, of which you might’ve heard about if you’re a hardware enthusiast, deals in premium-quality cases, peripherals, PSUs, tool sets, and all sorts of electronics in general. Now, the reason why we’ve plucked out the RCR-300 from their hefty catalogue is because it offers much and requires the least bit of effort in turn.
Though it might not look like much, this fan controller is incredibly versatile. If you’re at least somewhat acquainted with the RCR & RCDR series, you’ll notice that the model 300 is practically a combination of the IC001, 11003, and 11004. It comes supplied with a front panel of the 11004, it rocks the all in one card reader from the 11003, and it sports the integral card reader from the model IC001.
Of course, the brand obviously wanted to make sure that their flagship model gets as close to perfection as possible, so we’re seeing quite a lot of tweaks in the original design. Namely, several earlier models weren’t compatible with the ‘standard’ 5.25 bays, and though IC001 could accept USBs, the RCR-300 now packs four USB ports, all compatible with virtually every operating system so far.
There’s nothing special about the front panel aside from the LED-lit ‘Select’ button. It indicates the port’s voltage, amp status, but it also serves the simplest of functions – it lets you know when the controller is operational.
Lastly, there’s a very simple slider on the right end of the panel which allows you to tune the fan speed up or down. It might not be exquisite in terms of aesthetics, but it sure is as practical as can be.
4. Corsair Fan Controller Commander Pro
We’re coming back up to the ‘expensive’ price range, so if you’re here looking for quality with deeper pockets, the Commander Pro might just be what you are looking for.
Most hardware enthusiasts have already heard about Corsair, more specifically – their gaming gear. For instance, Corsair RapidFire, the K70 keyboard, or the dark core mice – these are all premium-quality input components. If you have never heard about this brand, the Commander Pro can be regarded as a true representative of what these guys can do.
Perhaps one of the best things about the Commander Pro is that it governs both fans and lightning, centralizing the requirements of your hardware via a neat little software suite (Corsair LINK, specifically). It can power up six PWM fans and provides power for RGB lightning on your tower.
Aside from being a premium-quality fan controller, this is also a sort of a hub for any and all Corsair Link compatible units and devices. Even though this sounds pretty cool so far, there’s still more.
Namely, the Corsair’s Commander earned its “Pro” title by being a central hub for fans, lightning, coolers, as well as all of your PSU hardware pieces.
So, in a nutshell, the Commander packs six 4 pin fan ports (all outfitted with voltage & PWM controls), 2 RGB channels , 2 USB internal headers, 4 thermo inputs, and full software support via Corsair Link. It is, however, slightly more expensive than most regular fan controller units, but you probably can see the reason why it’s more than just valuable for the money.
5. Thermaltake Commander F6 RGB LCD 6 Channel fan controller
We’ve taken a gander at yet another ‘Commander’ of sorts, only this time it’s Thermaltake’s F6 fan controller. At first sight, it appears plain and straightforward, and that seems to be its biggest forte – it’s a user-friendly unit which is as easy to use as it is to install it.
In essence, Thermaltake is a brand which stands on the same pedestal with Rosewill and and Kingwin. Corsair, on the other hand, seems to be just a bit more famous, although we shouldn’t discredit the inventiveness and ingenuity of these guys one bit.
The Thermaltake F6 Commander is within the norm of what we’d describe as ‘standard’. It packs a plastic construction, it can fit inside 5.25-inch hubs, and there’s enough channels to power up 6 fans at the same time. The good thing is that maximum wattage per fan is twice as much when compared to the Sentry 3 (the first unit in our review).
With Molex, 3 and 4-pin connectors, you can rest assured that this fan controller will be suitable and compatible with basically any setup you might have. The controls are fully manual, and another great thing about it is that each channel features separate parameter readings right atop the corresponding knob.
Additionally, there are two more features onboard. The Warning alarm feature which lets you know when things get too hot, and the short-circuit protection which, basically, shields the unit from zapping out in case of blackouts and similar disasters.
Lastly, let’s talk a bit about Commander’s price. It certainly isn’t as expensive as Sentry 3 or Corsair’s Commander Pro, but we can’t say with a clear heart that it’s ‘cheap’ per se. It could be regarded as ‘affordable’, considering that it’s a high-quality fan controller after all, but it’s well beyond average in terms of price.
6. NZXT Grid +V2 Digital fan controller
If you’ve paid attention to the products we’ve reviewed so far, you probably remember that we mentioned NZXT earlier on. Namely, they’re the ones who’ve made the Sentry 3, and now we’re moving on with the Grid+.
Basically, this is a convenient fan controller made of plastic materials, and though not as durable as the aforementioned Sentry, it’s at least three times lighter, weighing only 94 grams. There’s a special little Dual Lock system which significantly helps during the installing process too, so at least that shouldn’t worry you one bit.
There are enough channels for up to six fans to be powered simultaneously, each packing a wattage power of 30w. It’s interesting that there are no knobs or sliders on this unit, rather you’ll be able to monitor and use the features via the special CAM software. This program might be just a bit tougher to use than, let’s say, twisting a knob, but it leaves out the need to install your fan controller sticking out from your tower.
Speaking of which, this CAM software needs to be downloaded – it doesn’t come as a ‘feature’ per se. You might be required to download additional Windows drivers too, but considering that this is a one-time thing, it’s definitely better than having to constantly dabble with manual controls.
As customary, let’s talk about the pricing at the end. NZXT’s Grid+ is in the same price range as the Sentry 3 and Commander Pro, meaning that it’s an expensive fan controller. We guarantee, though, that you’ll find it as valuable as each of the aforementioned units as soon as you give it a go.
7. Aerocoll Fan and Temperature controller
The big guns are out in the open, so let’s take a step back and review one of the best fan controller units in the medium-price range – Aerocool’s fan controller.
In truth, this brand never did earn too much fame or renown, but they’re still far from being obscure. Certain models from their catalogue, like AC80C gaming chair, the TH6801C cabinet, or their initial Touch-E fan controller are all remarkable pieces in their own right. Regardless, we picked out this model because it offers much in terms of versatility and functionality.
Now, the first thing you’ll notice about Aerocool’s fan controller is that it’s big. And by that, we mean really, really big. Namely, it requires 2 5.25-inch bays to fit in, but on a brighter side, the display is easily readable and as easy to use.
Speaking of which, the LCD touch display packs a hair-brushed front panel and it will show you how each fan fares at any given moment. Each fan also has the ‘overheating alarm’ feature, so instead of simply receiving a warning that your hardware is too hot, you’ll get to the bottom of the issue quicker, leaving you with more time to react and save the day.
Even though it’s huge in size, Aerocool’s fan controller offers support for only four sets of fans. Most people would think that this isn’t much at all, but let’s take a step back and consider the fact that this particular unit doesn’t cost as much as the other models which could support more fans.
8. PerryLee PC Computer fan controller
PerryLee’s computer fan controller is, perhaps, the only unit in our best case fan controller review that doesn’t come from a brand that specializes in PC hardware. Namely, TekkPerry offers a broad range of stuff, from mini tripods, over laptop adapters, to, well, quality computer fan controllers.
Regardless, we’ve stumbled upon this unit during the course of our search, and though we initially thought that it was mediocre at best, it turned out to be one of the finest units within the price range.
First of all, this is a regular controller in terms of size – it can fit in any 5.25-inch hub with ease. On top of that, the display is pretty basic, although it does show certain, let’s say, ‘unorthodox’ parameters, such as date and time.
There are three buttons at the right end of the panel, reading ‘mode’, ‘alarm’, and ‘speed’. Interestingly enough, this fan controller is capable of both manual and automatic overheat protection, although the features might not be as ‘user-friendly’ as with, for example, Corsair’s Commander Pro.
Knowing that PerryLee’s fan controller unit is a budget model, it’s pretty awesome that it can control up to three sets of fans at the same time.
Though installing it is easy, you might find the display as lacking in terms of visibility. Namely, there are a lot of parameters which are sort of just piled on top of each other. Regardless, you’ll be able to monitor every single aspect of your fans, you’ll be able to efficiently cool them down, and still not have to pay too much for it.
9. Lamptron FC2 fan speed controller
If you’ve been following us so far, you’ll notice that there are quite a lot of similarities between the model we’re looking at and Kingwin’s FPX-001. Namely, both Lamptron’s FC2 fan speed controller and the FPX-001 are designed in a relatively similar fashion – they both fit inside 5,25-inch hubs, and they’re both manual controllers with several knobs on the front panel.
Now, what’s different with FC2 is that it’s made of CNC solid aluminium. That means that it’s capable of withstanding quite some abuse before wear and tear start to kick in, and suffice to say, it’s definitely sturdier than most fan controller units you’ll find for the buck.
Compared to FPX-001’s four knob system, the FC2 has six knobs which, logically, govern six set of fans. Another similarity between these models is that their knobs are lit with LED lights. An interesting thing is that the LED lights on this unit start to glow brighter as the fan’s rotations-per-minute climb up.
Lastly, the price – Lamptron’s FC2 is ‘moderately expensive’. It doesn’t cost too much, but it’s safe to say that it isn’t cheap either.
10. Sunshine-tipway fan controller
As far as middle-priced fan controllers go, Sunshine-tipway’s model is certainly one of the better ones. Again we’re looking at a model from a brand that didn’t specialize in manufacturing PC components, but as it turns out, they’re making fan speed controllers of exceptional quality. Perhaps it could be considered as their mistake that they don’t label their units, but there are quite a few.
We’ve picked out this particular model because it represents an almost ideal compromise of price and performance. It can fit inside any regular 5.25 inch bay, and, much to our surprise, it’s capable of powering up to four fans simultaneously.
One of the most interesting things about this fan controller is that it packs a patented thermal design, meaning that its operating temperature starts just below 38-degree Celsius.
The all-manual method of operation is pretty basic as far as middle-priced controllers go, but it’s a good thing that there’s a brightly lit display just above the knobs which show all the necessary parameters.
What’s more, this unit comes supplied with PWM speed-control circuit which effectively reduces the noise output, which further means that you won’t experience annoying buzzing and humming.
11. ZRM&E PC Fan speed controller
Let’s wrap it up with one of the most affordable fan controllers ever made. We’re talking about ZRM&E’s PC fan speed controller, which is more of a chip than an actual ‘contraption-like’ unit, actually.
This brand mainly deals with cables and cable-like clips, so it’s at least safe to say that they know their way about connecting stuff. This particular model is unlike anything we’ve reviewed, mainly because it rocks a fan-splitter hub design. Namely, there’s no chassis, ins, or outs – it’s a simple splitter which simply connects the fans to a central unit.
Now, one good thing about connectivity of this hub is that you’ll be able to use 4-pins or Molex connectors to get it up and running. Furthermore, since it features a different kind of design, it will be able to fit inside virtually any type of hub. Oddly enough, you’ll need glue to affix it on your computer.
This controller can be used to switch between low and high speeds – there’s no middle ground, though, so the bad thing is that you’ll have to monitor the temperature a bit more frequently than usual.
There are two things at which this fan controller excels at – first, it’s as cheap as can be, and second, you’ll be able to ‘split’ the power from your power source to up to eight fans at once. Though the least user-friendly fan controller out there, ZRM&E’s fan controller is definitely worth considering if you don’t mind a little bit of tinkering.
Fan Controller Buying Guide for beginners: What to look for?
In this section we’ll go through the basics you’ll need to get a firm grip on in order to understand exactly what you need from a fan controller. Let’s start off easy.
Fan Controller compatibility
First of all, you’ll need to find a suitable fan controller for your PC setup. There are larger ones, smaller ones, and ‘standard-sized’ controllers, but even so you’ll need to measure your bays before you even begin to consider different models.
Secondly, it would be wise to take stock of how many fans your PC setup has. There are models that can monitor and provide supply for up to six set of fans (even more in some cases), but the chances are that you won’t need that much unless you’re a hardcore gamer or a music engineer.
Analog vs digital
Thirdly, you should decide whether you want a manual (analogue) or a digital model.
Manual models allow you to set up the speed of your PC’s fans by hand whenever needed. Of course, you could do that in order to optimize your PC’s performance as well – the punchline is that you’ll have full control over the speed of the fans in question. This could be a great thing, but could also be harmful for your hardware if you’re uncertain of what you’re doing.
Digital models, on the other hand, are more user-friendly, or so to speak. They provide you with ‘less control’, but in turn these controllers actually do the entire process of cooling and power distribution based on their own calculations. Digital contraptions, of course, are prone to malfunctioning, but even so, digital fan controllers are, in most cases, as reliable as can be.
With or without a display
Next up you should consider whether or not you want to actually monitor what’s happening in real time. Having a display really helps, and most high-quality models come with one.
The main things you want to look out for when you’re looking at a display are visibility and practicality. For example, what use would you have of a small display where you’d have to lean in to actually see what’s happening?
On another hand, certain models are considered as ‘impractical’ if the shown parameters are ‘irrelevant’ (such as date and time, for example, as they take up the much needed space for other, more vital parameters).
There are high-end models and then there’s budget models – it’s up to you to decide how much money you want to invest in your fan controller.
Basically, even the most affordable options will significantly enhance your PC’s performance. More expensive models, however, provide additional options, ensure superior performance, and, ultimately, keep your fans in working order for longer.
How to install it properly?
Installing a fan controller can be pretty hairy business. There are a lot of technicalities that you must pay close attention to, but the good thing is that for as long as you take a slow, procedural approach you won’t make any cardinal, let’s say irreversible mistakes.
We are going to assume that you have absolutely no experience regarding the installment of fan controllers, which is why, for the sake of practicality, we’ll break down this ‘problem’ in several easy-to-follow subsections. Without any further ado, let’s begin.
Choosing a compatible fan controller
Though we’ve briefly mentioned the importance of choosing a compatible fan controller in the ‘Buying guide’ section, it’s imperative that we dabble with the issue in a bit more detail. Now, there’s a very logical reason why not all fan controllers will do your PC any good – if your PC doesn’t support the connectors, or rather if the controller doesn’t come supplied with the connectors your PC is compatible with, you’re most likely to end up with a useless fan controller.
A good example of a fan controller with a high versatility rating is NZXT Sentry 3, it packs five PWM male connectors and a Molex input, so it’s safe to say that regardless of how old or new your setup is, it will be compatible with this particular model.
Inserting the controller into the tower
This is a rather easy step. Most modern PC towers have several drive bays, and it’s up to you to decide which spot is the most suitable one. As we’ve already taken the Sentry 3 for an example of the previous step, we’ll continue in the same fashion. This model is compatible with 5.25-inch bays, which is pretty much a standard, so virtually every PC should be able to accept it.
Powering your fan controller up
If you’ve connected the wires properly and if the controller is sitting firmly inside the corresponding hub, all that you need to do now is power it up. Certain fan controllers don’t have the ordinary ‘power up’ button, in which case you’ll have to either do it manually (if that’s needed at all), or use the appropriate software (such is the case with Corsair’s Commander Pro, for example).
What are the top-rated fan controller brands on the market?
There are not many brands that ‘specialize’ in manufacturing fan controllers standalone. Logically, the brands that do make the top-rated fan controllers are the brands with bleeding-edge technologies which earned their fame with premium quality electronics and various hardware pieces.
Now, Corsair, or Corsair Components, is a PC brand that specializes in peripherals and similar hardware. They’re stationed in California, and they’ve been operating for some 24 years now, which is, suffice to say, enough to declare them as veterans in the industry. We’ve already included one of their models (Commander Pro), so feel free to check it out in the sections above.
Another great example of a top-rated fan controller brand would be NZXT. Namely, their ‘Sentries’ are, by far, among the most popular fan controller units on the planet. Just like Corsair, this is an American brand that specializes in computer hardware, and even though they’re a bit younger, they’re every bit as reputable.
Now, let’s not forget about Rosewill. Basically, they’re a side-brand of Newegg, a brand that specializes in computer software and hardware, as well as consumer electronics. They’re also from California, and they’ve been doing a wonderful job over the course of past 18 years. We’ve reviewed their RCR-300 up top, so roll back a bit and check it out.
Razer is, perhaps, one of the most famous computer hardware manufacturers ever. Though they were founded only some 13 years ago, they’ve infiltrated the gamers’ world and it’s safe to say that they won’t back down anytime soon.
Gamers, as we’ve mentioned earlier, demand bleeding-edge technology, and that’s precisely what you’re going to get if you go with Razer.
One of the ‘oldest’ computer fan cooler manufacturers, Thermaltake originates from Taiwan and they’ve been doing a solid job over the past of 19 years. Though their selection of computer hardware is humble, their quality is top-shelf.
There was a rumour that Thermaltake ‘stole’ designs for their computer cases from Caselabs’ (specifically SM8 and the TH10), but nothing concrete was ever established, hence they remain one of the most successful computer fan controller brands.
Just like the name implies, the Cooler Master is one of the most popular PC hardware brands out there. They were founded in 1992 in Taiwan, and they deal with coolers, peripherals, PC cases, and, of course, fan controllers. They earned their name, though, by making premium-quality gaming mice and similar gaming tech.
Different types of controller for PC Fan
Basically, it’s kind of difficult to categorize the ‘types’ of fan controllers, as we could use different criteria while doing so. Since the standard bay is 5.25-inches, we could begin by separating ‘standard-sized’ models from smaller and bigger ones.
A good example of a smaller controller is ZRM&E PC Fan speed controller, which is so small that it actually needs to be glued to your PC. On another hand, there’s Aerocool’s fan and temperature controller which is so big it takes up two bay spaces.
A better course would be to categorize fan controller types by the method of their operation. For instance, there are ‘analogue’ models which are operated by hand, and then there’s ‘digital’ types which are, more or less, operated via a certain software program.
As for the potential benefits or drawbacks of each type, we could debate for hours without reaching an objective conclusion. Analogue models are easier to operate, but digital models are usually more versatile.
Analog fan controllers
Analog fan controllers are, in essence, a direct opposite of digital fan controllers. They seldom come supplied with fancy features, and more often than not they’re packing a simple set of the most basic features. They’re almost always easy to setup and operate, but they lack the versatility of digital fan controllers.
Digital fan controllers
Unlike analog fan controllers, digital ones commonly come outfitted with a bunch of extraordinary features. They’re also usually supplied with an LCD display and can be operated via corresponding software. They might be harder to use (and they’re also usually more expensive), but they’re better for gaming rigs and high-performance PC setups.
Linear voltage regulation refers to the basic mechanics of how a DC-motor powered fan works and it’s tightly correlated to ‘analog’ fan controllers. Basically, fan controllers that implement this type of power supply simply control the speed of the fans in accord to the PC’s thermal state, allowing little room for customization.
Pulse-width modulation is, specifically speaking, not a type of a fan controller, rather it’s a type of ‘fan control’. It requires a PWM compatible fan which is often connected to 4-pin connectors. Unlike the LVR, these fans are powered by a constant, pre-determined supply of voltage.
Frequently asked questions and answers
1. Exactly how important is the durability of fan controllers? Do these things break down often?
A: Frankly, durability is always important, regardless of the item in question. However, fan controllers, just like any other hardware piece, aren’t directly exposed to physical damage in most cases, so the answer is ‘no, they don’t break down often’.
2. I’m having trouble with connecting my controller to my PC but I still intend to see it through. What’s the worst that could happen?
A: Depends on what you’re tinkering with, actually. It’s always better to be safe than sorry, so if you have any problems with connectivity, it’s best to call up hardware support or take your PC to a retailer.
3. My controller won’t fit in the tower. Is there anything wrong with it?
A: There’s a big possibility that your PC’s bays are not ‘standard’ in size (5.25-inch), so you should take up another model.
4. Which controller is better – a manual or digital one?
A: We’ve briefly answered the question in the sections above. Depending on your preferences, both types offer different benefits and come with their own set of potential drawbacks.
5. Despite using a controller, my PC is still overheating. What’s going on?
A: Make sure to check the connections, as most controllers tend to show ‘warning signs’ when something technical goes awry, rather than an actual disaster.
6. What’s the price of an average fan controller?
A: Considering that budget options go below $10 and most expensive options go way above $70, the middle ground would be somewhere between $20 and $30.
Finding a decent, if not the best PC fan controller might be hard, considering that the market is relatively young. Even so, we’ve plucked out several models which we highly recommend you at least take into consideration. Check out our buying guide, as well as our FAQ, and there’s a high chance that you’ll be able to find what you are looking for. Good luck!