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
[/table]

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 Xoxide.com),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 Xoxide.com),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]
[/table]

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.

 

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