Lamptron FC Touch Review

Lamptron FC Touch Review

Front view of the Lamptron FC Touch.

The Lamptron FC Touch is a six channel, 30 watt per channel automatic fan controller. It has some similarities with some of the other Lamptron controllers, but is different in one significant way: the interface is a large touchscreen. The casing around the screen is crafted with high grade CNC milled aluminum. The controller sells on Amazon for $73.90.

The controller consists of two PCB boards. The first board enables the touch scrreen, and then second houses the controller chip, capacitors, and the fan headers themselves. The back of the FC Touch features 6 fan headers and 6 resistors with variable resistance. Below the 3-pin fan connectors are the heat sinks, which come with each channel. The heat sinks are more than enough to dissipate the heat produced by the fan controller. The unit only requires one 4-pin Molex connector in order to power it. The jumper headers below the 4-pin Molex power connector are for the internal temperature sensors. The LCD touchscreen in the front will display the temperature readings of the connected sensors. At the bottom is the alarm jumper which, if connected will sound an alarm if the temperature rises above 70 degrees Celsius (158 F), which could be useful to those that do not have any other temperature monitoring utilties.

The FC Touch can only be turned on by touching the power icon in the lower right corner. Once powered on, the settings for each of the six fans may be accessed by touching their correspoinding icons. Once you enter any fan menu, information about the fan will be displayed. The top left shows the amount of voltage being delivered to the fan while the top right displays the temperature if the temperature sensors are installed (6 sensors are included with the controller). You may also choose to display the speed of the fan (in RPMs) in the upper left instead of voltage, and you can also toggle between Celsius and Fahrenheit on the temperature display. On the bottom left of the display panel, the user can switch between automatic and manual modes. Automatic mode causes fan speeds to adjust based on the temperature recorded by the sensors, while manual mode enables the user to take full control of the fan by adjusting the slider at the bottom. Automatic mode may also be programmed, and information about programming the controller is found in the user manual. At the bottom right is a return button that returns the user to the main menu.

While the Lamptron FC Touch is a bit pricey, it is a solid, well-built product that does everything it is supposed to do. While there are much cheaper touchscreen fan controllers on the market, none of them that I know of offer a whopping 30 watts per channel, which itself may be a compelling reason to buy the FC Touch, especially if your power requirements are high.

Lamptron FC Touch Features:

CNC milled front panel
Clean and streamlined interface
Streamlined touch functionality to control your fans
Choose between RPM or Voltages and Celsius or Fahrenheit for readout
Set the channel in either Automatic or Manual control to control the fans

Lamptron FC Touch Specifications:

Faceplate Color: Black Anodized/Silver Aluminium
Dimension: 148.5mm X 42.5mm X 64.5mm (5.25inch bay)
Screen Dimension: 118mm X 31.5mm
Power Output: Up to 30W per channel
Control Channels: 6

External Links:

Lamptron’s product page for the FC Touch

Lamptron FC Touch on Amazon

Silenx IXA-FCEX Review

Silenx IXA-FCEX Review

The Silenx IXA-FCEX in action.

The Silenx IXA-FCEX is a four channel, 6 watt per channel manual external fan controller. Unlike the NZXT Sentry LXE (Amazon), another external fan controller reviewed on this site, the IXA-FCEX is a much more basic controller. It does have one feature the Sentry LXE does not have: you can use this controller as a standalone device by plugging it into the included AC/DC adapter. Thus, without connecting the controller to a computer, the Silenx IXA-FCEX could be used, for example, to cool AV equipment or aquarium lighting. If you want to use it with your computer, simply connect the Molex connector to the power supply and plug in the fans. The controller has an LED light for each channel indicating when a fan is powered up. It sells for $19.99 (plus $5.50 shipping) on Amazon.

One caveat that should be made is that the power supplied when the Silenx IXA-FCEX is plugged into the adapter is only 20 watts (5 watts per channel). Thus, if you have fans with more substantial power requirements, you may want to check to make sure that this unit supplies enough power. In addition, the fans will not shut off completely, nor will the LEDs shut off. This product is designed to work with 3-pin fans; if a 4-pin fan is plugged into it, the LED light for that channel will not light up. In addition, quality control issues have been reported with some units, and some of the controllers have lost their ability to control fan speeds over time.

Nevertheless, the Silenx IXA-FCEX offers a great deal of functionality at a relatively low price, and if your power requirements are not that great, this is a product you might consider buying.

Silenx IXA-FCEX Specifications:

Dimensions: 130x37x28mm
Channels: 4
Cable length: 500mm
input voltage: 12v
output voltage: 4-12v
power capacity: 6w max per channel
power capacity powered from computer: 24w
adapter input voltage: 100~240v
adapter output voltage: 12v
adapter cable length: 1700mm
power capacity powered from adapter: 20w

External Links:

Silenx’s product page for the IXZ-FCEX
Silenx IXAFCEX Four Channel External Fan Controller on Amazon

AeroCool Gatewatch 2 Review

AeroCool Gatewatch 2 Review

Front view of the AeroCool Gatewatch 2.

The AeroCool Gatewatch 2 is a 4-channel, 6 watt per channel automatic/manual fan controller. It fits into 2 5.25″ drive bays and has several buttons to control the fans and temeprature alarms, as well as to brighten and dim the LCD display. As a discontinued item, it has been available sporadically on closeout, and you might be able to snag one under $30.

Installing the AeroCool GateWatch 2 is easy: find 2 free 5.25″ bays for the unit and the holes provided should line up with the screw holes in the case. If you have a tool-less case, then you may have problems mounting a 2-bay device. Power is provided via a Molex connector, which provides power for the fans and the GateWatch 2’s display. Mounting of the temperature sensors (there are 4, one for each channel) is done with the included adhesive tape. Unfortunately, the tape comes loose after awhile, but you can always use your own tape.

The AeroCool GateWatch 2 allows you to configure up to 4 different alarms that can be based on a temperature or a lack of sensing fan RPM input. You can set the temperature alarm for anything within the range 25 to 90 C, at which point the reading will flash and an audible alarm will sound. The alarms are reliable, but it sounds for only a few seconds, so you have to be near the computer when the alarm goes off to benefit from it. The reading on the display will flash for a while longer before it too stops. It should be noted that the GateWatch 2 cannot power down your system. You cannot set a target speed for when the temperature exceeds the alarm temperature, which is a bit of a drawback.

The GateWatch 2 comes with 2 USB ports, and audio output/input jacks, which could come in handy if your case lacks these on the front panel, or if the front panel location of said ports is inconvenient.

As with a number of the AeroCool fan controllers, there are issues with readibility of the display. There are 3 settings for the display: high, low, and off. On the high setting, the display can be read from quite a distance, but you have to be level with the display; viewing the display from above or below will make reading the LCD panel difficult. Putting the included plastic magnification lens over the display does not help much and actually distorts the display.

Another issue is with the fan RPM settings. The GateWatch 2 only allows changing the fan speed between 700-1000 RPM. I would have expected a greater range of control.

Ultimately, this is not a product I would recommend, simply because it lacks many of the features of similarly-priced fan controllers (e.g. the ability to set a target fan speed when the temperature exceeds the alarm temperature, the ability to have greater control over the fan speed). The AeroCool Gatewatch 2 has apparently been discontinued and may be available on closeout, but unless you can find it at a bargain basement price, I would consider other options.

AeroCool Gatewatch 2 Features:

Futuristic clip-on magnifier for an enlarged LCD screen effect
Detects and controls 4 sets of temperature and fan speed channels
Automatic and manual control
Temperature warning alarm
LCD backlighting dimmer control
Switch between Celsius and Fahrenheit temperature displays
High speed USB 2.0 and audio ports

AeroCool Gatewatch 2 Specifications:

Power: 4-pin Molex Pass-Through
USB Connection: Motherboard Header
Audio Connection: Motherboard Header
Fan Connection: 3-pin
Fan Channels: 4
Thermal Sensors: 4
Magnification Lenses: 2 (Clear and Blue)
Mounting: 2 Consecutive 5.25″ Drive Bays

External Links:

AeroCool’s product page for the Gatewatch 2

AeroCool V12XT Review

Aerocool V12XT Review

Front and side view of the Aerocool V12XT.

The AeroCool V12XT is a four channel, 6 watt per channel automatic fan controller. It fits into two 5.25″ drive bays and has a touchscreen interface. This controller is somewhat pricey ($59.99 on Amazon at the time this article was written), but users who want a rather ostentatious fan controller and who have two drive bays to spare will undoubtedly want to consider the AeroCool V12XT.

The AeroCool V12XT comes packaged in a black cardboard box which has a large image of the V12XT on the front of the box. The back of the box has a list of features and also an image showing the layout of the touchscreen display. Inside the box, the V12XT is between two pieces of plastic; inside the box are some extra cables, screws, adhesive for the sensors, and manuals.

The front of the controller is solidly built, even though it is made of plastic. The V12XT ships with the cables are already connected to the back panel. The power cable is in the upper left corner of the PCB; the four fan controller cables are connected to the lower left corner, and the large temperature sensor connector, which connects all four temperature sensors, is in the upper right of the PCB. In the lower right corner, there are four heatsinks (one for each channel). All cables are labeled; the fans are labeled FAN1-FAN4, and the temperature sensors are labeled CPU, VGA, HDD, and SYS. The temperature sensors also have a plastic sleeve to protect them. The FAN1 connector supports 4-pin PWM fans, and FAN2-4 support only 3-pin fans.

Installation is a simple matter (the AeroCool V12XT will fit into two empty 5.25″ drive bays), although it should be mentioned that the AeroCool V12XT apparently is not compatible with tool-less cases (the bay locks are not compatible with them). You will have to use screws; fortunately, screws are included with the controller. The screws are fairly short, so you may have to screw one in only part way before starting the screw on the other side. One the unit is in the case, it is easy enough to connect the fans and put the temperature sensors in place (keep in mind FAN1 is the only 4-pin connector).

Once the controller is installed and your machine is powered up, the front panel of the AeroCool V12XT illuminates. The screen looks somewhat like a car dashboard. There are two dials: the larger displays the current speed of whichever of the four fans is slected, and the smaller dial shows the current temperature of whichever of the four temperature probes is selected. Tapping the temperature dial enables you to set the threshold for the temperature alarm for this sensor, at which point the AeroCool V12XT spins the fan for that channel up to its full speed. The unit can only display settings for one channel at a time; pressing the buttons 1 through 4 allow the user to select different channels.

The V12XT’s display was apparently meant to be viewed from above; when viewed straight on, the unlit portions of the screen are clearly visible and the display looks rather dull. Fortunately, the unit has a button for turning off the screen. There is also a lock button above the fan RPM readout, and you cannot make changes to the settings without first touching it. Still, the fact that you have to press the screen three times to adjust a fan speed or temperature alarm threshold is annoying.

Finally, I would be remiss if I did not at least mention the numerous reports of quality control issues with AeroCool fan controllers, including the V12XT. There have been reports of poorly-soldered connections, touchscreens with dead areas, and of units that had to be returned. A cursory look at the customer reviews on Amazon and Newegg suggests that quality control is an issue, at least with the V12XT.

In conclusion, unless you are infatuated with the touchscreen, you are probably better off looking elsewhere. $59.99 is a lot of money to spend on a fan controller, and for that, you are gambling that you will get a controller that actually works. If you win the quality control lottery, you will still be saddled with an underpowered (6 watts per channel) fan controller with a touchscreen interface that is not particularly intuitive to use. If you have two drive bays and $59.99 to spare and you like gaudy LCD displays, then you might consider the AeroCool V12XT. Otherwise, this is one to avoid.

AeroCool V12XT Features:

Large LCD screen
LCD backlight on/off
Switch between Celsius and Fahrenheit
Overheating alarm temperature warning
HDD working display
“Lock” function provided to prevent careless miss-touch

AeroCool V12XT Specifications:

Dimension: 149.5 (W) x85 (H) x 70(D) mm
LCD viewable area: 115 (W) x 57 (H) mm
Connectors: 4 x 3-pin connectors / 4 x heat sensors
Material: ABS front bezel w/ steel bracket
Max wattage per fan channel: 6W

External Links:

AeroCool’s product page for the V12XT

Best Fan Controller: Part One

Best fan controller: Bitfenix Recon

The Bitfenix Recon is one of the controllers that topped my rankings for best fan controller.

I have posted several reviews of fan controllers on this website, but so far, I have not done any comparison of the controllers. This is partially by design, as I have not yet reviewed all of the controllers made by the most prominent companies in this industry. Moreover, any comparison might be of limited value, as those which I rank as the most important criteria for selecting a controller may differ from those of other users. Still, I thought it might be useful to come up with a ranking of fan controllers already covered on this site, and come up with the best fan controller reviewed so far.

The Search for the Best Fan Controller: Criteria

In order to rank the controllers, I had to come up with a set of criteria, based on what I consider to be important in choosing a fan controller. With any luck, this could be used as the basis for coming up with a somewhat objective ranking. I narrowed my criteria down to five, and chose the following:

  • Number of channels
  • Wattage
  • Other features
  • Design and overall look and feel
  • Pricing

Each controller will be awarded from 1 to 5 points in each category, for a maximum of 25 points. Points will be awarded based on the following requirements:

Number of Channels: The more channels the controller has, the greater the number of points that will be awarded. There are only a few 1 channel controllers available, but 1 channel will net 1 point. 2 or 3 channels will get 2 points, 4 channels will get 3 points, and each additional channel will get an additional point up to 5 points maximum.

Wattage: 5 watts or less seems rather puny, and those controllers will only get 1 point. More than 5 watts but less than 10 will get 2 points. 10 watts seems standard, and will get 3 points. 20 watts or less gets 4 points, and 5 points for more than that.

Other Features: I aggregated other common features into a single category. Automatic fan control gets 1 point, as does an LCD display, a fan disconnect alarm, PWM fan support, and the ability to turn off the display if it has one.

Design/Look and Feel: Up to 5 points will be awarded for controller design (this mainly concerns the PCB, but not exclusively) and the overall look and feel of the controller.

Pricing: For me (and I imagine for others as well) pricing is a factor. Accordingly, I awarded 1 point for controllers $100 and more, 2 points for controllers less than $100 but greater than or equal to $75, 3 points for controllers less than $75 but greater than or equal to $50, 4 points for controllers less than $50 but greater than or equal to $25, and 5 points for controllers less than $25. All pricing is in U.S. dollars.

Best Fan Controller: The Rankings

With these criteria in mind, here are the rankings:

[table border=”5″]
Manufacturer + Model,Number of Channels,Wattage,Other Features,Design/Look and Feel,Pricing,Total
Lamptron FC-2,5,5,0,5,4,19
NZXT Sentry Mesh,4,5,0,4,5,18
NZXT Sentry 2,4,3,4,5,4,20
Lamptron FC5 v2,3,5,2,4,3,17
NZXT Sentry LX,4,2,4,5,4,19
NZXT Sentry LXE,4,3,3,5,3,18
Aerocool Touch 2100,4,5,2,5,3,19
Aerocool Strike-X 1000,4,5,2,1,4,16
Lamptron FC8,5,5,0,5,3,18
Scythe KM03,5,3,3,4,4,19
Bitfenix Recon,5,3,4,5,4,21
Bitfenix Hydra Pro,4,5,0,4,4,17
Zalman ZM-MFC3,3,2,2,5,2,14
Lian-Li PT-FN04,5,2,0,3,4,14
Lamptron FC10,3,5,0,5,1,14
STW ICR-022,3,2,4,4,4,17
Silverstone CMD01-ESA,4,2,1,5,4,16
Logisys FP600BK,5,5,0,3,5,18
Sunbeamtech Rheosmart 6,5,5,2,5,4,21
Aerocool X-Vision,4,2,4,4,4,18

Best fan controller: Sunbeamtech Rheostat 6

The Sunbeamtech Rheosmart 6 tied with the Bitfenix Recon for best fan controller in my rankings.

The top of the rankings for best fan controller did not really surprise me. I was impressed by the Bitfenix Recon, which as far as I know is the only fan controller that allows the user to both monitor and control fans via the internet and features an easy-to-use touchscreen interface. The Sunbeamtech Rheosmart 6 tied with the Recon. It looks like a manual fan controller, but when connected to a PWM-enabled motherboard, temperatures can be controlled automatically via the motherboard’s temperature sensor, a feature which I have not seen on other fan controllers. It might not be as good as having separate thermal sensors for each channel, but using the motherboard’s sensor eliminates the clutter created by having a bunch of thermal sensors. Moreover, at $27.99 (and even cheaper from other sellers on Amazon), the price is right. The rest of the rankings probably should be taken with a grain of salt. The Aerocool Strike-X 1000 really should have ranked even lower because of the malfunctioning fan alarm. The Zalman ZM-MFC3 has unique power-monitoring capabilities, but got penalized mainly because of its high price. The Lamptron FC10 has a unique look and feel with its Nixie tubes, but is the most expensive of the fan controllers reviewed so far. Finally, the Lian-Li PT-FN04 is a decent manual controller, but is rather pedestrian-looking and a bit pricey ($45.99) for what it offers.

The remainder of the controllers, while not standing out from the rest of the pack, all had particular strengths (and weaknesses), and are worthy of consideration, if they meet your requirements.

For those of you who would rather see a straight-up comparison of the features and pricing of the controllers, I came up with the following table. For the pricing data, I used current Amazon prices where available. For those controllers not sold by Amazon, I found other online merchants, or used the MSRP. Prices reflect pricing data available when this article was written and are subject to change. Where applicable, links to the product on Amazon have been provided.

[table border=”5″]
Manu.+Model,Man. or auto,# of chan.,Watts per chan.,# of drive bays req.,LCD?,Temp. alarm,Other
Lamptron FC2 Fan Speed Controller 45W x 6 channel Black ($37.99),M,6,45,1,No,No,LED brightness is controlled by RPM knob; three power input ports on the back to accommodate the maximum power (270W)
Lamptron FC5V2 Black; Version 2; Changeable Display Colors; 30W per Channel; Controls up to 4 fans; RPM and Temperature Display ($53.00),M,4,30,1,Yes,Yes,Changeable display color; new and improved LCD
Lamptron FC-FC8-B Black Anodized 8Ch x 30W ($67.00),M,8,30,1,No,No,Three Molex connectors; customizable channel LEDs
Lamptron FC10 ($99.95 on,M,4,30,1,No,Yes,Nixie tubes give this unit a unique steampunk design; interchangeable faceplates
NZXT Sentry Mesh Fan Controller with Five 30 Watts Channels (Black) ($21.41),M,5,30,1,No,No,Mesh design to camoflauge with mesh facade
NZXT SENTRY 2 Accessories 5.25-Inch Touch Screen Fan Controller (Black) ($27.99),A,5,10,1,Yes,Yes,Touch screen interface
NZXT Sentry LX High Performance Fan Controller (Black) ($47.06),A,5,6,2,Yes,Yes,Large dual 5.25″ screen
NZXT Sentry LXE External Touch Screen Fan Controller ($53.48),A,5,10,0,Yes,Yes,External touch screen; the controller circuitry itself is contained on a PCI card
AeroCool EN51965 Touch-2100 Touch Fan Controller ($59.99),A,5,25,2,Yes,Yes,Innovative touchscreen technology; 7 LCD backlight colors (and option to turn off backlight completely)
Aerocool Strike-X 1000 ($49.99),M,5,25,1,No,No,Fans can be turned off completely; fan fail alarm (WARNING: has been reported to malfunction on many units)
AeroCool EN55529 X-Vision 5 Fans and 5 Temperatures Controller ($49.99),A,5,8,1,Yes,Yes,Fan voltage display
Scythe KM03 ($49.99),A,6,12,1,Yes,Yes,Fans can be switched off completely; temperature alarm can be disabled via a jumper
Bitfenix Recon Internet Connected 5.25″ 5 Channel PC Fan Controller ($39.80),A,5,10,1,Yes,Yes,The world’s first internet-connect fan controller; touchscreen controls
Bitfenix Hydra Pro ($32.95 on,M,5,30,1,No,No,LED light control; soft touch bezel [tied for best fan controller]
ZALMAN ZM-MFC3 Multi Fan Controller Real-Time Display Retail ($64.40),M,4,8,1,Yes,Yes,Power load meter; display also shows computer running time
Lian Li PT-FN04 Black Fan Speed Controller ($45.99),M,6,6,1,No,No,LEDs light up as the fan RPM increases
STW-ICR-022 ($35.00 from eBay sellers),M,4,< 10,1,Yes,Yes,Includes card reader and eSATA port
SilverStone CMD01B-ESA ESA Commander Series Controller (Black) ($49.99),A,5,6,1,No,Yes,Requires ESA-compatible motherboard; all configuration is done via software
Logisys FP600BK 6 Channel Fan Controller 5.25 Bay Device ($19.50),M,6,36,1,No,No,Sturdy aluminum construction
Sunbeamtech PL-RS-6 Rheosmart 6 Fan Controller ($27.99),M,6,30,1,No,No,When connected to a PWM-enabled motherboard the controller can automatically adjust fan speeds through the motherboard’s temperature sensor [tied for best fan controller]

Best Fan Controller: Conclusion

While I did my best to come up with reasonable criteria with which to rank the fan controllers and come up with a best fan controller, my criteria are not beyond reproach; still, I thought my rankings were fairly reasonable. Since I have not reviewed all available fan controllers yet, this will subject will likely be revisited in the future. So stay tuned for Best Fan Controller: Part Two.


Hardware Roundup: 6-14-2013

Apple MacBook Pro

Apple Introduces New Mac Pro

At the World Wide Developers Conference (WWDC), Apple gave a preview of the next Mac Pro. The case’s design is innovative to say the least: it’s 9.9 inches tall, 6.6 inches wide, and thus more than small enough to sit on your desk. The entire system is cooled by a single impeller and each of the major components makes contact with a large, triangular heatsink which Apple calls the “thermal core”. Inside the case are next-generation Xeon processors (up to 12 cores), dual AMD FirePro GPUs, six Thunderbolt 2 ports, PCie-based flash storage, and ECC memory.

The new reliance on Thunderbolt, however, may be a problem for anyone who was not planning on upgrading all of their peripherals. Users who wanted to upgrade to a Mac Pro but keep existing hardware may be disappointed. In addition, current Mac Pro users who depend on dedicated expansion cards, internal drive bays, USB ports or have multiple monitors hooked up via DVI, DP, or HDMI may find themselves locked out of an upgrade until they can afford to buy all new peripherals, or at the very least converters.

Apple did not announce pricing information, and no specific date was announced for availability. You can find out more about the Mac Pro at Apple’s website.

Antec Introduces Kühler H2O 1250 and Kühler H2O 650

Antec demoed a pair of all-in-one CPU coolers in the Kühler H20 series at Computex: the Kühler H20 1250 and Kühler H20 650. The two are an improvement on their Series 4 predecessors with more powerful pumps and new high-airflow fans that focus airflow through the radiator. The fan’s motor doubles up as the pump’s motor so the air and coolant flow are in perfect proportion. With fewer moving parts, one assumes the device will be more quiet, but the unit’s fans will not be replaceable.

The units will be compatible with all of the most recent CPU sockets, including LGA1150. No pricing information has been released yet.

Intel to Rebrand Select Atom CPUs as Celerons and Pentiums

Certain Silvermont-based Atom processors will be rebranded as Celeron and Pentium processors. Celeron is the value end of Intel’s Core-based mainstream chips. Intel’s reasoning is that some variants of Silvermont now offer performance comparable to current mainstream Celeron and Pentium processors. This is quite a contrast from the Atom of old, which had a reputation for being slow. Higher-performance varieties of Silvermont will also ship with PC-like attributes such as PCI and SATA.

The rebranded processors will be featured in notebooks, convertibles, all-in-ones and desktops running both Android and Windows whilst chips destined for tablets and mobile devices will not be taking on the new branding.

Enermax Introduces New ETS-T40 CPU Coolers

Enermax has launched two new coolers in the ETS-T40 series: the ETS T40-Black Twister and the ETS-T40 White Cluster. The Black Twister comes in a sleek black color, while the White Cluster is arctic white. Both, however, feature four 6 mm heat pipes with a Heat Pipe Direct Touch structure, and a 120 mm PWM cooling fan which runs from 800 RPM to 2200 RPM. Both models also use a unique Thermal Conductive Coating (TCC) to create better velocity of thermal transference and prevent oxidation on the contact surface. They also have a Vortex Generator Flow (VGF) structure, which helps increase air convection in between the radiator fins.

The ETS-T40 series feature a universal bracket that works with most Intel and AMD sockets. The Black Twister and White Cluster will be available in the United States with an MSRP of $49.99.

Antec Unveils Venom IV CPU Heatsink

At Computex, Akasa showed off its Venom IV CPU cooler, which keeps up with the basic design elements of the Venom series. The cooler features an aluminum fin-stack design, which uses asymmetric shape and planes to dissipate heat better, and four 6mm-thick copper heat pipes than fan out through the entire length of the fin-stack to dissipate heat more uniformly. The bottom bend of each heat pipe makes direct contact with the CPU.

The Venom IV comes with a 120mm S-flow fan, which should provide up to 30 percent more airflow. The fan is PWM-controlled and can spin at speeds ranging from 600 RPM to 1900 RPM. The unit supports all modern CPU socket types, including LGA115x, LGA1366, LGA2011, AM3+/AM3, and FM2/FM1. Akasa has not made pricing information available as of yet.

Xigmatek Introduces Boreas and Orthrus CPU Coolers

Xigmatek revealed two new C-type CPU coolers at Computex: the Boreas and the Orthrus. The Boreas cooler follows in the footsteps of Xigmatek’s Janus CPU cooler, though instead of a small fan below the aluminum fin stack it has a bigger fan. It has five 6mm copper heat pipes and two 140 mm PWM-controlled fans. The fans can spin at speeds from 800 to 1500 RPM, and push up to 38.42 CFM. The unit measures 140mm X 140mm X 125mm.

The Orthrus is a departure from the Janus, and does not follow the conventional C-type CPU cooler design. It starts with a conventional copper base with HDT, and seven 6mm-thick heat pipes, with the central ones going to a large aluminum fin stack, while the peripheral ones go to a smaller fin stack located below the larger one, and arranged in an incline. The larger one is ventilated by a 25mm-thick 140mm PWM fan which spins from 800 to 1600 RPM, and the smaller one uses an 80mm fan spinning at 2000 RPM. The entire top of the cooler is covered by a black ABS shroud. The entire unit measures 146mm X 200 mm X 165 mm.

Colorful Debuts GeForce GTX 780 Kudan and GeForce GTX Titan Ultra Edition

At Computex, Colorful unveiled two new graphics cards. The iGame GeForce GTX 780 is their top-of-the-line card featuring a non-reference PCB design and a mammoth Kudan cooler that occupies three expansion slots. The card makes use of a GK110 core that is equipped to a non-reference PCB making use of higher-quality components compared to the reference design. That, in combination with being powered by two 8-pin PCIe power connectors, should allow the card to have a lot more overclocking headroom than reference models.

The GTX Titan Ultra Edition, on the other hand, is a reference model of the GTX Titan with a water block on it and a factory overclock. Colorful has not yet made pricing information available.

AMD Announces Radeon HD 8000 Graphics Cards Will Have Better Coolers

AMD is preparing a new type of cooler for the Radeon HD 8000 series. AMD revealed this information at Computex, but did not show the cooler there. The new coolers will be better than the reference coolers on the Radeon HD 7000 series graphics cards, although some add-on-boards (AIBs) will likely make cards with better coolers than the Radeon HD 8000.

Lian-Li Puts a 240 mm Radiator on Top of Motherboard

Lian-Li has introduced a case with a liquid cooling radiator placed at the most obvious place: along the plane of the motherboard, right over its top half. A 240mm X 120mm radiator can be screwed onto a hinged frame, which can easily be moved to access parts of the motherboard right under it. This case was unveiled at Computex 2013.

Other than the hinge for the water cooler, the Lian-Li PC-V360 is a typical PC case, and can house Micro ATX motherboards and smaller ATX boards. It has five 3.5″ drive bays, three 2.5″ drive bays, and a single 5.25″ optical drive bay. Cooling is taken care of by up to three 120mm fans and one 80mm fan, on top of which sits the radio.

Pricing and availability information was not yet released.

Sunbeamtech Rheosmart 6 Review

Sunbeamtech Rheosmart 6 Review

Front and side view of the Sunbeamtech Rheosmart 6.

The Sunbeamtech Rheosmart 6 (PL-RS 6) fan controller is, as you might have guessed, a 6-channel fan controller which supports a wide variety of fans. Each channel can handle a maximum of 30 watts. The controller fits in a 5.25-inch drive bay, and its solid construction and overall look and feel make it an attractive choice for hardware hackers. It does not have a fancy digital readout – in fact, it doesn’t have an LCD panel at all – but for those who value power over dazzling displays, the price of this controller (about $30) will make it appealing.

The Rheosmart 6 ships in a box that contains the controller itself, along with four mounting screws (you will need these, as the controller will not stay in place otherwise). a small badge, a manual, and six different cables (all contained in small, plastic zip bags). These cables are: [1] a 4-pin PWN cable, that plugs into the motherboard at the CPU or SYS_FAN header on one end and the controller on the other, which gives the Rheosmart its “Smart Cooling” feature and enables it to receive temperature data from the processor’s temperature sensor so it can adjust the fan speed when in automatic mode; [2] 2 3-pin monitor cables, which enable the user to link up to two fans with additional motherboard fan headers to provide RPM monitoring (these cables are Y cables, and if the one branch of the Y is not plugged into the motherboard, then the cables could be used as extension cables as well); [3] 2 3-pin extension cables, and [4] 2 4-pin Molex to 3-pin adapter cables.

The fan controller itself is contained on two PCBs; one has the 6 potentiometers mounted onto it, and the other has the controller circuitry, as well as the 6 fan headers, a header for the PWM cable, and a Molex connector to connect the controller to the power supply. Each channel gets its own voltage regulator to vary fan speed. The front panel has a knob for each 6 channels and an LED for each channel that switches between red (if the fan controller is varying the fan speed with temperature) and green (if the fans are under user control). There are buttons below each knob for switching between manual and automatic modes.

Sunbeamtech Rheosmart 6 Review

Rear view of the Sunbeamtech Rheosmart 6, including the PCB. Note the seventh header for the 4-pin PWM cable.

Installation of the Rheosmart 6 is easy. Just open a 5.25″ bay on your case, put the panel in place, attach the screws, and make the connections. It will fit best with cases that allow the user to put screws on both drive rails, but even with tool-less cases that have tool-less drive rails on one side should accommodate the Rheosmart 6 if the user puts 2 screws on one side. Connecting the controller should be simple as well: just connect the power, the fans, and, most importantly, the PWM cable to the CPU fan connector (and to the CPU cooler fan).

The Sunbeamtech Rheosmart 6 is an easy-to-use, powerful budget-priced controller. On the negative side, there is no way to completely turn off a fan, and because there is no display, there is no indication of any of the fan’s actual states. Moreover, the force required to turn the knobs is not consistent, as the middle knobs require less force than the outer two. This controller is not always easy to find, although a spot check revealed that both Amazon and Newegg has this item in stock at the time this article was published. This controller may not have all the features of some of the more expensive controllers, and the lack of a display may be a deal-breaker for some, but it’s ability to handle 30 watts a channel along with its low price makes it worthy of consideration.

Sunbeamtech Rheosmart 6 Specifications:

Part Number:  PL-RS-6
Main Function:  PWM/Manual Fan Controller
Color:  Black
Material:  Aluminum and Mesh
DC Input:  +12 V (Standard 4 -Pin Connector)
DC Output:  0V – 12 V DC
Max Output:  30W*6
3-Pin Fan Connectors:  6
Fan RPM Knobs:  6
Compatibility:  5.25″ Drive bay
Dimensions(W*H*D):  148mm *42 mm * 82mm

External Links:

Sunbeamtech’s product page for the Sunbeamtech Rheosmart 6

Logisys FP600BK Review

Logisys FP600BK Review

Front view of the Logisys FP600BK.

The Logisys FP600BK is a 6-channel, 36 watt per channel manual fan controller. It fits into any 5.25″ drive bay. With its extremely moderate price (as of this writing, it was selling on Amazon for $19.50 U.S.D.), the Logisys FP600BK will undoubtedly be on the short list of users who have heavy power requirements but do not want to spend a lot on a controller.

The FP600BK comes in a white box with an image of the controller on the front. Inside is the controller itself; the fan and power cables are already connected and bound together with a zip tie. The controller itself is made of brushed aluminum; the front panel is anodized black aluminum and should look good in any black or dark-colored case. The FP600BK is designed to fit into both traditional cases, so if you are planning to install this unit in a tool-less case, you may need to add a screw or two to stabilize it. The fan cables are labeled “FAN1” through “FAN6”, making it easy to keep track of which fan belongs to which channel. Once the fans are connected, you can connect the controller to the PSU via the 4-pin Molex connector cable and power up the computer.

Once the unit is running, the blue LEDs on the front panel are a little bright. It would be nice if there was a way of shutting off the lights, but there isn’t. In any case, a little electrical tape over the lights will resolve that issue. When the computer starts up, the fans are put on full speed for a few seconds until the controller adjusts them to their proper speeds. The specifications for the FP600BK state that fan speeds are controllable from 30% to 100%, but a couple of caveats are in order. First, some of the older fans need a higher voltage than 30% of 12V (3.6V) to run, and you will not have as much control over those fans. Second, this controller is not designed to work with pulse-width modulation (PWM) fans, and if plugged into the FP600BK, these fans will run at one of two speeds: on and off. Another issue is that although the specifications state that this controller supports 4-pin fans, in fact you will need to supply your own adapters in order to plug a 4-pin fan into the FP600BK. Even then, this unit is not designed to work with 4-pin PWM fans, and those users who want to control PWM fans would likely be better off purchasing a different product.

Logisys FP600BK Review

Rear view of the Logisys FP600BK, showing the fan and power cables.

Another concern is that although this controller can output a maximum of 36 watts per channel, there is only one Molex power connector on the FP600BK, and the wires are not particularly thick. If you are going to come close to using the maximum power output of this unit, you will do well to make sure it does not overheat. And the usual caveats about making sure you have a powerful enough PSU to provide power to the controller and other components applies (600 watts or higher would be ideal).

These concerns aside, the FP600BK is a solid product and should work well if you have all 3-pin fans in your system. The overly bright LEDs and the fact that it does not install easily into tool-less cases are shortcomings, but they are relatively minor points, and if all you need is a budget-priced manual controller, the FP600BK could be for you.

Logisys FP600BK Specifications:

Requires one open 5.25¡± bay for installation
Power input from PSU using 4-pin Molex connector.
Support fans with 3-pin power connector.
Each individual dial controls fan speed from 30%~100%
Control range from 5v~12v.
Indicator light will be on when the fan is connected.
Size: 149.2 x 42MM (5 13/16¡± x 1 5/8¡±)
Weight: 0.65LBS

External Links:

Logisys’s product page for the FP600BK

Silverstone CMD01-ESA Review

CMD01-ESA Review

Front view of the CMD01-ESA. Note there are no controls on the front panel; everything is controlled via software.

The Silverstone CMD01 Commander ESA Edition (CMD01-ESA) is a 5-channel, 6 watt per channel automatic fan controller. It fits in a 5.25″ drive bay, and is available in both black and silver. One of the caveats that should be mentioned is that this controller is that ESA stands for “Enthusiast System Architecture”, a royalty-free protocol created by Microsoft, NVIDIA, and Logitech. Therefore you will need a modern NVIDIA motherboard as a base. You can then control the controller, along with various other aspects of the system, with the nTune System Monitor software from NVIDIA. The CMD01 is listed on Silverstone’s website as a legacy product, but it is still selling on Amazon as of this writing. It currently sells on Amazon for $49.99 U.S.D., so it is relatively moderately priced for what it offers.

The unit comes in a compact black box. On the front is an image of the controller, and on the back are the controller’s specifications. The unit is placed in a cardboard box inside the outer box, which further protects it. Inside this box, you will find the controller itself, four thermal sensor cables, three fan extension cables, one USB cable (to connect the CMD01 to an internal USB connector on the motherboard), a set of four screws to secure the CMD01 in a 5.25″ drive bay, and a user manual.

The front of the CMD01 is made of thick aluminum, whlle the rest of the outer frame is made of steel. The use of aluminum on the front gives the unit a high-quality look and feel, or at least a higher-quality look than it would have if it were made of plastic. The PCB inside the unit is black and has a clean, elegant design. Connectors are grouped; the lighting unit connectors are on the left side of the PCB, and the fan connectors are lined up on the top. The four thermal sensors are pluged in beneath the Molex 4-pin power connector, and all the connectors are labeled. There are two integrated circuit chips on the PCB: the SILABS F321 (part of the USB), and the ULN2003AG (for power distribution).

Installation of the CMD01-ESA is very easy. It installs into any 5.25″ drive bay. Once the unit is placed in the drive bay, you just connect the fan cables and place the thermal sensors where you want them to be. The fan cables, however, may not be long enough to put the fans everywhere you may want to place them, especially in larger cases, so you may have to provide your own extension cables. Then connect the USB cable to the motherboard (note that the USB cable is a 4-pin; the typical USB connector on a motherboard is 9 pins). Finally, connect the PSU to the 4-pin Molex power connector on the CMD01. The four thermal sensors can be placed in your computer wherever you want the temperature to be monitored (e.g. memory, hard drives, etc.).

CMD01-ESA Review

Rear view of the CMD01-ESA.

Once hardware installation is complete, you probably want to turn on the PC, and make sure the CMD01-ESA displays a green LED and that all the fans are running. To use this controller, you must now download the nTune System Monitor from NVIDIA and install it under Windows. The software runs under Windows XP, Vista, and Windows 7 (but apparently not Windows 8). The nTune System Monitor uses ESA (Enthusiast System Architecture), an attempt by NVIDIA to define a standard based on the USB-HID protocol (a protocol used mostly for USB mouses and keyboards). This allows for drastically reduced costs, as there is no need for a dedicated driver, although the use of ESA requires an ESA-compliant motherboard. ESA also introduces monitoring of devices such as PSUs and watercoolers, devices that hitherto could not be monitored from software.

ESA is implemented in software through two programs: NVIDIA System Monitor (to track monitoring data), and NVIDIA Control Panel (to control devices). You will need an NVIDIA chipset-based motherboard to enable all features of these two programs.

If the Silverstone Commander is installed, a case icon symbol should be visible when the nForce System Monitor is run. Clicking on the icon will give you access to up to four fans and the four temperature sensors. You can easily control the speed of the fans, but you cannot control CCFL lights through the System Monitor. The NVIDIA Control panel offers the controls to change the fan speed from 0% to 100%, and to set the lamp colors. You can also define your own rules via the profile tab and assign different fan speeds to different temperatures. As an added bonus, ESA is being adopted by third-party utilities such as HWMonitor, and, as a result, HWMonitor is able to report monitoring data for many ESA devices, including the CMD01-ESA, even if the chipset of your motherboard is not an NVIDIA chipset.

The CMD01-ESA is a solid, moderately-priced fan controller that offers a much more granular level of monitoring and control than most fan controllers. Its main drawbacks, in my opinion, are the fact that it requires a motherboard with an NVIDIA chipset for all the features to work. Also, you cannot control the lighting accents with the software, and the cables are not long enough to reach everywhere in the case. Another complaint is that the power output is only 6 watts per channel, which is rather puny for the price, although it should be enough for most users. Moreover, this is a legacy product, so support for this product may be minimal at best. Still, if you have an NVIDIA chipset that supports ESA, and you don’t mind having to use software to use a fan controller, you could do worse than the CMD01-ESA.

CMD01-ESA Specifications:

Model No.: SST-CMD01B-ESA (Black)
SST-CMD01S-ESA (Silver)
Color: Black, Silver
Material: Aluminum front panel, steel body
Power requirement: +12V
Max fan power: 5 channels, 0.5A per channel
Operating system support: Windows XP, XP-64, Vista, Vista-64, Windows 7
Application: 5.25” drive bay, works with ESA motherboard
Connectors: 3 x 4pin peripheral connectors (300mm)
1 x USB connector (600mm)
4 x thermal sensors (600mm)
Interface: USB 2.0
Fan control function: Adjustable speed or thermal control by NVIDIA control panel
Max lamp power: 3 channels, 0.8A per channel
Lamp control function: On/off function control by NVIDIA control panel
Thermal sensor & range: 4 sensors, 0°C ~ 90°C
Controller Board Dimension: 130mm (W) x 35mm (H) x 55mm (D)
Dimension: 158mm (W) x 42mm (H) x 145mm (D)
weight: 0.8kg

External Links:

Silverstone’s product page for the CMD01-ESA

Enthusiast System Architecture on Wikipedia

STW-ICR-022: First Impressions



The outer box of the STW-ICR-022.

I recently came across an inexpensive fan controller on eBay, so I thought I would buy it and share some of my thoughts on installation. The controller is made by Sunshine Tipway Electronic Technology Co., Ltd. (STW), a Hong Kong-based company that manufactures computer accessories, and seems to be focused heavily on fan controllers. You can find out more about their products at the company’s website.


The controller I purchased was the STW-ICR-022, a combination fan controller/card reader with an eSATA interface. The box displays a picture of the controller with a list of some of its features:

  • 5.25″ standard drive bay design with LCD display for temperature & fan RPM speed information
  • 4 fans can be controlled manually and easily
  • Overheat alarm to avoid fan stuck
  • With eSATA interface, the speed is up to 3GB/s
  • All in one card reader

The fan controller and instructions.

I presume the list includes poorly translated English (hence, “easily” instead of “automatically”, and “to avoid fan stuck”). The other side of the box shows the same two photos of the controller, but is written in Chinese. Inside the box, the controller and accessories is contained in an anti-static bag in between two pieces of polystyrene, as shown. Included is a small handout written in Chinese, an instruction manual (also in Chiense), and a big sheet of paper that is the installation guide (in English). Also included are some screws and adhesive tape for the thermal probes in a separate ziploc bag.

Installation of the STW-ICR-022

The fan cables and thermal probes are already connected to the controller. The fan cables can easily be removed to cut down on clutter inside the case if you have fewer than four fans to control. The thermal probes, however, are covered with hot glue, so you’ll have to remove that first if you want to unplug any of the temperature sensors. Installation is easy with the included screws. You will probably want to wait until all the fans are in place and plugged in before screwing in the controller, since the fan headers can easily become unplugged.


The operating instructions (yes, they are in Chinese).

In my case, I hooked up three fans to the controller: [1] the CPU fan; [2] the rear exhaust fan, and [3] an old CPU fan which I put in the front in order to dissipate some of the heat created by the hard drives. Once the fans were connected, Those who have 4-pin PWM fans will be happy to know that the cables accommodate both 3-pin and 4-pin fans. it was a relatively easy matter to put the thermal probes in the appropriate places. The sticky tape included with the controller proved inadequate, so I used electrical tape. There is also a USB cable for the card reader, and a SATA cable for the eSATA interface.

Testing: The STW-ICR-022 in Action

With the installation complete, I powered up the system. The display cycles through displaying the fan speed and temperature for each channel. There are three buttons on the front panel: “RESET”, “MODE”, and “C/F”. “RESET” is presumably to restore factory settings, although when I pressed this button, it did not seem to have any effect on the settings. “MODE” toggles between manual and automatic mode, and “C/F” toggles between Celsius and Fahrenheit in the temperature display. There are alarms indicating when a fan stops (or is disconnected) and when the temperature of one of the thermal sensors reaches the alarm temperature. The alarm temperature is set by holding down the “MODE” button until the display starts blinking. Pressing the “MODE” again while the display is blinking allows you to select other channels. Pressing the “C/F” button while the display is blinking increases the alarm temperature (the threshold at which the alarm will sound). Once you reach 190° F, the temperature wraps back around to 104° F. Pressing the “MODE” button repeatedly (one cycle through all the channels) will take the controller out of temperature alarm setting mode.


Close-up of the thermal sensors.

I disconnected one of the fans, and sure enough, the fan alarm activated. The controller started beeping, although it stopped beeping after about two minutes. As for the temperature alarm, the controller started beeping when the target temperature was reached. But the speed of the fan on that channel did not increase, even when the controller was in automatic mode, which is what I would have expected to happen. In fact, I’m not even sure what the point of toggling between manual and automatic mode is, since there does not seem to be a way to invoke automatic fan control. Also, the temperature readings seem to fluctuate quite a bit, and while they generally seem to be accurate, the fluctuations are a cause for concern.

I have not tested the card reader or eSATA interface yet, so I cannot evaluate their effectiveness. The specifications on the box, however, report that the throughput on the eSATA interface is “up to 3 GB/s”, which sounds right for eSATA. I have two additional points of contention with this controller. First, the box says “Maximum power output < 10W”. I’m not sure if that means less than 10W per channel or 10W total. If it is 10 watts per channel, this controller will be more than adequate; 10W total, however, makes for a pretty puny controller. Second, there does not seem to be any way of switching off the LED backlight that illuminates the case. This is a small point, but the LEDs generate a good deal of light pollution in a darkened room.


I will post a second article after I have done some more detailed testing on the controller. As of now, however, I cannot endorse this product, for the following reasons: [1] lack of instructions in English; [2] even though the unit is sold as a manual/automatic fan controller, there doesn’t seem to be any way to control the fans automatically. Admittedly, my appraisal of this product is influenced heavily by the lack of instructions in English; if there were clearly-written English instructions (there is a single sheet of paper written in English that explains how to install the unit, and what the buttons and display do), the full functionality of the unit might become obvious. Such instructions were not furnished, however, so I had to try to figure it out myself. If anyone has any experience with this product, and cares to fill in some of the gaps in my knowledge, I would love to hear it.


Dimensions: 14.9 x 8.8 x 2.4 cm
Installation location: 5.25″ drive bay
Power interface: Big 4-pin connector
Fan connector: 3-pin/4-pin
Material: Aluminum-magnesium alloy
Controlled fan: 4 fans
Cable length: 60.0 cm
Maximum power output: < 10W
Contents: 4 screws, manual