Lian-Li PT-FN04 Review

Lian-Li PT-FN04 Review

Front view of the PT-FN04.

The Lian-Li PT-FN04 is a 6-channel, 6 watt per channel manual fan controller. It fits in a single 5.25″ drive bay. The exterior is made of anodized black aluminum, and this controller will look great in a black case. It is rather expensive for a manual, 6 watt per channel controller ($45.99 U.S.D. at Amazon), however, so you will want to check your power requirements and do some comparison shopping before buying this one.

The PT-FN04 comes in a cardboard box with a picture of the controller on the top. The bottom lists the input voltage, fan speeds enabled (20% to full speed) and the size of the unit, but does not have detailed specifications. Inside is the controller itself, three fan cables, and some screws for mounting the controller in the case. The front of the controller contains six knobs, one for each channel. Looking at the back reveals that the controller circuitry is contained on a single PCB. The back of the LEDs dominates the front of the PCB, and there are 8 capacitors in front of the fan headers. There are six 3-pin headers on the back for the fans. If you have 4-pin fans, you will need to supply your own cables, as the extension cables supplied with the controller are for 3-pin fans. The power connector for the controller is a 4-pin Molex connector with a piggyback connector, which should help if you do not have PSU connectors to spare.

Lian-Li PT-FN04 Review

Back view of the PT-FN04.

Once installed, the PT-FN04 works smoothly. The blue LED lights along the top of the front are aesthetically pleasing (as you turn the fans up and down, the LEDs fade in and out). The fan adjustments are smooth as well. When the knobs are turned all the way counterclockwise, the fans still run, albeit at a reduced speed. This will be a bit of a disappointment to those who want to be able to turn the fans completely off, but it is a good fail-safe, since it guarantees that the fans are always running.

The PT-FN04 is a reliable fan controller, but its output of 6 watts per channel is rather low. If you plan to have more than one fan per channel, you will probably want to buy a more powerful controller, or at the very least, calculate how much power you will need to make sure the PT-FN04 is adequate. There are more powerful fan controllers at a similar price (the Lamptron FC-2 comes to mind). If this controller was priced around $25 U.S.D., it would be a more competitive product. As it is, I am not sure if it is worth the money, although it does what Lian-Li says it will do.

Lian-Li PT-FN04 Specifications:

6 sets of Fan Speed Controller, Using 1 x 5.25 Bay.
Single Fan maximum current support to 0.6A, Total of 3A (36W)
Adjust the fan speed to (H) High-100%, (M2) Middle-75%, (M) Middle-50%, (L) Low-25%
1000RPM (250RPM – 500RPM – 750RPM – 1000RPM), 1200RPM (300RPM – 600RPM – 900RPM – 1200RPM), 1500RPM (375RPM – 750RPM – 1125RPM – 1500RPM)
Dimensions: (W)149mm x (H)42mm x (D)72mm

External Links:

Lian-Li’s product page for the PT-FN04

Zalman ZM-MFC3 Review


Zalman ZM-MFC3 Review

Front view of the Zalman ZM-MFC3.


The Zalman ZM-MFC3 is a 4-channel, 8 watt per channel manual fan controller. It fits into a 5.25″ drive bay, and has an LCD display. It is an improved version of the Zalman ZM-MFC3. One thing that makes this unit unusual is that unlike most controllers, which are open in the back, leaving the PCB exposed, the ZM-MFC3 is completely enclosed in a case. This is one of the priciest controllers reviewed so far on this site (as of this writing, it is selling for $87.43 U.S.D. on Amazon), but you get a lot of extras with it.

The Zalman ZM-MFC3 comes in a rather small cardboard box with a picture of the controller on the front. The back of the box contains a list of the main functions of the ZM-MFC3, along with some of the more important specifications. Inside the box, the controller itself is in an anti-static plastic bag. All the accessories are included in a white box, and there is also a fairly detailed manual inside the box. The accessories are: four cables for connecting the fans (three of them have 3-pin connectors and one has a 4-pin connector for PWM fans; four temperature sensors; an expansion card bracket with a CVS connector which enables you to measure the power and some screws. One of the included cables is a Y-connector that allows you to control two fans on a single channel; there is a white connector and a blue connector on the other end. The white connector will feed the RPM signal back to the controller when plugged in, while the blue connector will not; this avoids the problem of two fans on the same channel supplying RPM data to the unit. If you use this cable and only plug in one fan, you will want to plug in the white connector. Another cable enables you to connect either two fans on a single channel, or a CPU fan (the second connector in this case can be plugged into a header on the motherboard that supplies the CPU fan’s RPM signal). The thermal sensors connect to the controller with a single connector, which makes cable management somewhat easier, but also makes it impossible to disconnect unused sensors. Also, the thermal sensor cables are only 21 inches (533 mm) long, so you may have trouble placing them if you have a large case. The sticky tape included for taping the temperature probes is purported to not stick very well, but this is a common complaint with many controllers.

Zalman ZM-MFC3 Review

Rear view of the ZM-MF3, showing the connectors.

The controller itself is fairly small (about 3.4″ deep) and fits in a single drive bay. Installation of the ZM-MFC3 is simple: just slide it into an empty drive bay and secure it with the screws. As for the connectors, they are easy to recognize, and the cables that correspond to each connector cannot be connected anywhere else. The one part of installation that is different from installing other controllers is connecting the power consumption meter. You must connect the CVS cable to the controller, and screw in the bracket in front of one of the unused expansion slots. then connect the watt meter to the power connector of your PC, and connect the USB-like connector from the watt meter to the bracket. [Even though the port on the bracket looks like a USB port, do not connect it to the USB header on your motherboard, or you may damage both the power consumption meter and your motherboard.]

Controlling the fans is easy. There is a large knob on the right side of the front panel. Pushing the wheel in and holding it for three seconds enables you to set the fan speeds. Pushing the knob repeatedly enables you to select one of the four channels, and once you have selected the fan whose speed you want to change, turning the wheel alters the speed. The display is easy to read and can be read from different viewing angles, which is a major improvement over the ZM-MFC2’s display. All four temperatures and fan speeds can be viewed at the same time (the fan speed and temperature of each channel takes up one quadrant of the display). The circle in the center of the display shows both the total power load (in watts), and the time since the computer was booted (total uptime in hours and minutes). The controller does not need any additional software in order to measure the power load.

In conclusion, the Zalman ZM-MFC3 is a solidly-built, easy-to-use controller with an impressive LCD readout. I hesitate to give it an unqualified endorsement for the following reasons. [1] It is not an automatic controller – even though it has thermal probes, there is no way of varying the fan speed according to the temperature. Many purchasers of fan controllers may never avail themselves of such functionality, but considering how expensive the ZM-MFC3 is, it is something I would expect. [2] The wattage per channel is fairly low (8 watts per channel) – again, this may be enough for most users, but for the price I would have expected more, and I suspect some users have shyed away from this product because the power output is inadequate. Still, if you are willing to spend close to $90 on a fan controller, this is one to consider. It delivers on everything Zalman claims it does, there is no overhead on performance, and it is definitely an improvement on the ZM-MFC2. Moreover, the power consumption meter is a unique feature which cannot be replicated easily via software or other means. Thus, the ZM-MFC3, while far from an ideal product, has a lot to recommend it.

Zalman ZM-MFC3 Specifications:

Dimensions: 147(L) x 87(W) x 42(H) mm
Power & Temperature Display: 10~999W/ -9.9 °C~+99.9 °C
Fan Compatibility:
1 x 4-Pin(Supports fans with PWM function)
3 x 3-Pin (Supports fans with RPM output function)
Fan RPM Control: PWM Regulation Method (Fan PWM)
Voltage Control: Method (Fan No.1~3)
Output Current: MAX 0.7A per each channel
Output Voltage: +4~11VDC
Input Voltage: +12VDC/+5VDC

External Links:

Zalman’s product page for the ZM-MFC3.


BitFenix Hydra Pro Review

BitFenix Hydra Pro

The front panel of the BitFenix Hydra Pro.

The BitFenix Hydra Pro is a 5-channel, 30 watt per channel manual fan controller. It fits into a 5.25″ drive bay, and is compatible with virtually any chassis with a free 5.25″ bay. Unlike the Bitfenix Recon, which sports a touchscreen interface, the Hydra Pro is controlled via 5 sliders, and while it lacks much of the advanced functionality of the Recon, its simplicity and stylishness (it will look good in any black case) will undoubtedly appeal to many users.

The Hydra Pro comes packaged in a black cardboard box. On the top of the box, there is a picture of the face plate of the controller; the bottom of the box lists specifications and key features. Inside, the controller is enclosed in a plastic bag between two pieces of polystyrene. The box contains the controller, a set of screws, and an instruction sheet. The instruction sheet is a “quick installation guide” which contains some basic instructions, but anyone with a modicum of experience in installing components won’t need them.

BitFenix Hydra Pro

Back view of the BitFenix Hydra Pro, showing the unit’s sole PCB. Note the power inverters on the right.

On the front panel, there is a button on the left side to turn the fan LEDs on and off, and the five sliders. On the right is the power LED, which indicates that the unit has power and should be functioning properly. The front surface is coated with the same soft-touch rubber as the Recon, and gives it a classy look and feel. The front panel is supported by a steel frame that also houses the PCB with all the components on it. The PCB is clean with the components soldered in place solidly. There are five 3-pin connectors for the fans, and there are also five 2-pin leads to power BitFenix Spectre LED fans. [You will need adapters if you want to connect 4-pin fans to this controller, as they are not included with the unit, or get the BitFenix Recon instead, which has 4-pin connectors.] There is also a 4-pin Molex plug which supplies power to the Hydra. The plug also has a piggy back so you end up with the same number of PSU connectors. I leave it to the reader to judge the wisdom of having a single power connector when the controller could output as much as 150 watts. As for the cables they are all pre-fitted to the controller, but all cables are removable, making cable management that much easier. The LED ribbon cable for the fan LEDs is 12 inches (305 mm) long, the fan cables are 28 inches (711 mm) long, and the Molex power lead is 26 inches (660 mm) long, so the cables should be long enough to reach almost anywhere in most cases. On the circuit board, in addition to all the connectors are two single phase HK 19F power inverters which can step voltage from 3 volts up to 12 volts.

Using the controller is simple; there are just five sliders and the button to control the fan LEDs. Although there is nothing to visually indicate how much the fan speed increases or decreases (not even tick marks), but the difference in speed seems to be from 50 percent to 100 percent. The sliders are made of plastic and some users have reported that they tend to fall off with regular use. With all the sliders in the down position and the fan LEDs off, you could have a computer that really runs in stealth mode. This is a manual fan controller, however, and does not incorporate a means of monitoring the temperature, so anyone buying this would probably do well to combine this with HWmonitor, CoreTemp, SpeedFan, or some other software-based means of keeping track of the temperature and/or fan speed to make sure the system isn’t overheating.

There are some minor drawbacks to the Bitfenix Hydra Pro, including the lack of 4-pin fan cables and the flimsiness of the sliders. Minor issues aside, however, the Hydra Pro is a reliable fan controller. It retails for about $39.99 U.S.D., which is a little pricey for a manual controller. It would be more competitive if it were priced about 40% lower, so the price would be more in line with other manual controllers. Still, not many controllers output a total of 150 watts, and fewer still allow the user to control fan LEDs, so if those are your main criteria, it will be money well spent.

BitFenix Hydra Pro Specifications:

Materials: Steel, Plastic
Dimensions (WxHxD): 147 x 43 x 67mm
Form Factor: 5.25″ Drive Bay
Channels: x 5
Watts Per Channel: 30W
Fan LED Connectors: x 5 (compatible with BitFenix Spectre LED/Spectre Pro LED fans)
Power Input: 4-Pin Molex
Extras: SofTouch™ surface treatment, LED power indicator
Hydra™ Pro Fan Controller: BFA-HDR-KSPRO-RP

External Links:

Bitfenix’s product page for the Hydra Pro

BitFenix Recon Review

Bitfenix Recon

Front view of the BitFenix Recon, the first internet-capable fan controller.

The BitFenix Recon is a 5-channel, 10 watt per channel manual/automatic fan controller. It has an LCD touchscreen which is used to monitor and control the system’s fans, fits in a 5.25″ drive bay, and retails at around $40 (the current Amazon price as of this writing is $39.80). If these were the only features of the BitFenix Recon, you would probably think it worthy of consideration. But the BitFenix Recon also has a feature which, to the best of my knowledge, no other fan controller boasts: BitFenix’s website claims that the Recon is “the world’s first internet-connected fan controller.” Once setup, the Bitfenix Recon allows the user to monitor and control their system using “any internet connected device, including smartphones, tablets, laptops.”

The Recon comes in a black box with a lime-green background and white lettering with a photo of the fan controller in the foreground and center. The rear of the box lists some of the specifications of the Recon. Opening the box reveals that the front of the BitFenix Recon is dominated by the LCD touchscreen, and the rest of the front is coated with black rubber (the Recon will look good in any black case). It should be noted that the Recon also comes in a white version. Looking at the back of the Recon reveals that the unit is connected to the PSU with a single Molex connector, and there are 5 fan connectors, one for each channel. There are also 5 temperature probes, which can be placed anywhere in the case. There are also two USB connectors which enable you to communicate with the Recon by means of another device such as a remote computer or a cell phone. The circuit board of the Recon has 5 aluminum heat sinks (one for each channel) and a built-in speaker for the temperature alarm. Also on the PCB are two specially-designed microprocessors that continually interact with the motherboard, providing you with real-time status while monitoring and controlling the temperatures and fan speeds. The PCB is well-secured with screws in all four corners. In the far right corner is the ribbon cable that connects the LCD touchscreen. All fan and temperature cables are already connected to the PCB. Included are 4 screws to mount the controller in the case, several pieces of double-sided adhesive (for the temperature probes), and two fan extension cables.

Once the Recon is installed in the case, the cables are connected and the probes are in place, you can boot the system and see the Recon in action. The LCD touchscreen is accurate and responsive, and thus configuring the Recon is relatively easy. In manual mode, changing the fan speed is as easy as pressing the fan icon to select the right fan, and then pressing the plus and minus icons on the touchscreen to increase or decrease the fan speed. It can take quite a few seconds, however, for the fan to actually change speed.

The controller is accurate, with a slight gain on voltages at the low end (5.7V instead of 5V). The temperature probes are accurate, as are the reported RPM speeds of the fans.

BitFenix Recon

Yes, it comes in white as well.

Accessing the device remotely becomes possible once the Recon software is installed on the computer on which the controller is installed. This software is Windows-based, so if you are running a non-Windows OS, you will still be able to use the fan controller, but you won’t be able to take advantage of the remote access capabilities. On the plus side, the mobile interface is browser-based, so it is compatible with virtually any mobile operating system, including iOS, Android, or Windows.

The software is easy to install, and the mobile interface is easy to use while giving access to the Recon’s advanced functionality. One of the nice features is the ability to store up to three user setting profiles. For example, you may have one for gaming, which would likely require more cooling, and one for normal desktop usage, which would require less cooling. Once the profiles are saved, you can switch between them with the press of a button. The interface also displays current temperatures and fan speeds, as well as a means of switching between automatic and manual mode, and between Celsius and Fahrenheit on the temperature display.

Overall, the BitFenix Recon is a well-designed and well-constructed fan controller. Still, there are a few drawbacks. The power output per channel is 10 watts, which should be enough for most users, but may not be enough for a handful of more powerful fans. In addition, the back of the case does not have a clip for guiding the cables, which is a minor issue but is still worth noting. Nonetheless, the pros far outweigh the cons. Moreover, as far as I know, this is the only fan controller that can be adjusted via the internet. And all this functionality is available at a relatively low price. If you only need a basic fan controller, this may be overkill for you and you may be better off buying a budget-priced controller; otherwise, the Recon is an excellent choice and a good value.

BitFenix Recon Specifications:

SpecsMaterials: SofTouch™, ABS Plastic, Steel
Dimensions (WxHxD): 147 x 43 x 67mm
Form Factor: 5.25″ Drive Bay
Fan Channels: x 5
Temperature Channels: x 5
Max Watts / Channel: 10W
Measurement Frequency: Every 0.1 – 0.4 Seconds
Temperature Alarm Range: 30?-90?
Temperature Range: 0-100?
Screen Size : 4.7″
Recon™ Black: BFA-RCN-KS-RP
Recon™ White” BFA-RCN-WS-RP

External Links:

BitFenix’s product page for the Recon.

Scythe KM03 Review (Kaze Master Pro)

Scythe KM03 Review (Kaze Master Pro)

Front panel and rear view of the Scythe KM03.

The Scythe Kaze Master Pro (KM03) fan controller is a high-end 6-channel controller that comes in both 5.25-inch and 3.5-inch variants. It features an LCD display, and its versatility and moderate price makes it a popular choice for many gamers and modders.

The KM03 comes in a cardboard box, inside of which is a foam box with two compartments: one for the accessories and the other for the controller itself. The box contains 6 fan power cables, 6 thermal sensor cables (one for each channel), one power cable connector for the controller, 4 screws to install the controller into the computer case, stickers to attach the thermal sensors to the computer, the fan controller, and a user guide.

The fan controller has 8 knobs on the front panel. 6 of the knobs are for controlling the fans (one for each channel). The other 2 knobs determine which channel information is being displayed about: the first knob is for switching between channels 1, 2 and 3, and the second is for channels 4, 5 and 6. Choosing a channel allows the user to see the CPU speed and temperature of that channel. [The display can show information for 2 fans at the same time; channels 1, 2, or 3 show up on the left side and channels 4, 5, or 6 show up on the right side.] The controller ships with a protective plastic cover on the display to avoid damage during transport.

On the back of the case, there is a jumper that enables the user to mute the temperature alarms, the power connector, and headers for all 6 fans. The controller has two PCBs: one for the display, and one for the actual controller. Each power MOS has its own aluminum heatsink and its own capacitor. The PCB for the display has a buzzer which allows the controller to sound an alarm if the system overheats, and two switches that make the screen show information about the fans.

Scythe KM03 Review (Kaze Master Pro)

Cables and instruction manual included with the KM03.

The fan cables have 3-pin connectors on one end for the fan header. On the other end, the cables will fit onto either 3-pin or 4-pin fans (but they do not fit fan Molex connectors). All the cables included are very long, so be prepared to tie up a lot of cables. On the positive side, the wires all all labeled, so you will easily know which fan is connected to which channel.

One of the common areas of complaint is with the stickers supplied with the controller to stick the temperature sensors to different parts of the computer. Unfortunately, the stick pads do not seem to stick to the components very well. In addition, when the case heats up, they tend to lose their grip entirely. However, the user can always buy his own sticky tape for the sensors, so this should not be too much of a problem.

Overall, the KM03 is a relatively powerful (12 watts per channel) controller, and one which is aesthetically pleasing enough to put in any computer. It carries a relatively modest price tag (the Scythe website has it listed at $50, but I have seen it elsewhere as cheap as $36), which should make it an attractive option for the more budget conscious hardware hacker. Unfortunately, the U.S. branch of Scythe has closed, leaving the distribution of Scythe products in the United States somewhat up in the air, although Scythe has announced it plans to either open a new branch office in the U.S. or contract a main distributor in the near future.

Scythe KM03 Specifications:

Model Name: Kaze Master Pro 5.25
Model Number: KM03-BK (Black)
Manufacturer: Scythe Co., Ltd. Japan
Dimension (W x H x D): 148.5 x 42.5 x 83 mm / 5.85 x 1.65 x 3.26 in
Display Dimension: 100 x 19 mm / 3.93 x 0.74 in
DC Input: 5 V or 12 V (From PC Power Supply Unit)
Fan Adjustment Range: 3.7 V (±10%) ~ 12 V (±10%)
Fan Channel: 6
Maximum Fan Ampere per Channel: 1 Ampere (= 12 W max.)
Fan Speed Range: 0 ~ 9990 rpm (Display: 30 rpm steps)
Temperature Module Channel: 6
Temperature Range: 0 ~ 100°C / 32 ~ 199,9°F
Measurement Frequency: Every 2 Seconds
Weight: 325 g / 10.49 oz.

External Links:

Scythe USA’s product page for the KM03

Lamptron FC8 Fan Controller Review


Lamptron FC8 Review

The Lamptron FC8, one of the few (only?) 8-channel fan controllers on the market.

The Lamptron FC8 is an 8-channel fan controller featuring a CNC-milled laser-etched front panel, a multicolor display, and 30 watts per channel. Each channel color is easily customized through a two push button system via the front panel. The FC8 also allows for customization by allowing users to assign a white, blue, green, cyan, red, purple or yellow LED to each channel (a feature which makes it unique among Lamptron fan controllers).

On the front panel, there are 8 potentiometers, one for each channel. There is also an LED for each channel. On the back of the controller and along the top there are 8 3-pin fan controllers, and below each of the fan controllers is a capacitor. Below these are the MOSFETs, and on the right there are wires leading to the 3 4-pin Molex connectors.

The FC8 is the first controller to use Lamptron’s new “Endurance Tech”, which is described on Lamptron’s website as meaning that the controllers are “made with the finest components available to give them extra endurance”. Apparently, this means that the controller has solid capacitors, which enables it to handle high wattages without overheating.

Unfortunately, the controller does not detect when a fan is stuck by sounding an alarm or by signaling it through the LEDs. The user also cannot tell when the fan starts spinning without looking inside the case. The controller can, however, bring the fans to a full stop by turning the knob all the way to the left, even though a residual amount of voltage passes through (less than 1 volt).

Still, for those who want an 8-channel fan controller, the FC8 is hard to beat. At a retail price for $69.99, it is not cheap, but is comparable in price to other Lamptron controllers. One consideration is that Lamptron’s FC Touch and retails for the same price. The FC Touch only has 6 channels, but anyone considering buying the FC8 may want to compare it with the FC Touch (also reviewed on this site) before making a purchase. The FC8 is not Lamptron’s most powerful fan controller, but with 240 watts of total power output, it is pretty close.

Scythe KM03 Specifications:

Dimension:  148.5mm*42.5mm*76mm(5.25″ Bay)
Power Output:  Up to 30 watts per channel
Control Channel:  8 Channels
LED Color Available:  White, Blue, Green, Cyan, Red, Purple, Yellow
Panel Color Available:  Black Anodized/Silver
DC Input:  3 X +12v (Standard 4 Pin Molex)
DC Output: 0V- 12V DC
Fan Connectors: 8 X 3-pin connectors
Recommend PSU wattage:  600w or higher


CNC Milled Front Panel
Laser Etched Logo and Channel Lettering
Customizable Channel LED’s
Up to 30 watts per channel

External Links:

Lamptron’s product page for the FC8


Aerocool Strike-X X-1000 Review


Aerocool Strike-X X-1000 Review

Front view of the Aerocool Strike-X X-1000

The Aerocool Strike-X X-1000 is a 5-channel, 25 watt per channel manual fan controller. It features a fan fail alarm that is supposed to sound when one or more of the fans fail. Like some of the other Aerocool controllers, this unit has 2 USB 3.0 ports and audio jacks (standard HDA header). It fits into a single 5.25″ drive bay. One of the advantages of this controller is that it enables the user to switch off fans completely if desired. It has a fairly steep price ($44.98 on Amazon), so you will probably want to do some serious comparison shopping before buying this one.

The front of the box features a large picture of the Strike X X-1000 and also lists some of the features of the controller. Unlike some other controllers, this one comes with an extensive user’s manual, so if you need help in using or installing the product, you should be able to find it. The front panel is dominated by its black-and-red color scheme. The controller circuitry is contained on a single black PCB, and the only cables that are hard-wired to the board are the USB and audio cables – all other cables are removable. There is a USB 2.0 header on the same cable for backwards compatibility as well. Since the USB and audio ports are connected to the motherboard by means of a header, the speed and quality will be as good as the they are on your motherboard.

Aerocool Strike-X X-1000 Review

Top view of the Strike-X X-1000, showing the PCB.

There are 5 fan cables provided with the controller; only one of them allows you to plug in a 4-pin PWM fan, so if you have more than one 4-pin fan, you will need 3-to-4-pin adapters. The power cable uses a custom 3-pin connection to the board but the other end has a standard 4-pin Molex connector. The Molex also acts as a pass-through, so if you did not have any spare Molex ports on the PSU, you will not need a Y-connector to connect everything. The fan cables are about 18 inches long, so they should be long enough, regardless of where in the case the fans are located.

The knobs are made of plastic; they are easy to move although they lack the solid feeling of metal knobs. If a knob is turned all the way to the left, there is a tactile “click” indicating that the fan is off. As the user turns the knob to the right, there is a minimal lag between when the knob is turned and when the fan speed changed. The fans run at a minimum of 5 volts, so the user can control the fan speed from 40 to 100 percent.

One of the problems with this unit is with the fan alarm. The controller incorporates an alarm which is supposed to go off when one or more of the fans stop running. Several users have reported that the alarm goes off even when there is nothing wrong with the fan, and the only way to turn it off is to disconnect the power cable to the controller. Whether this is a design defect or a quality control issue is not known. At the time this article was written, Amazon was still selling this controller, but on Newegg the Strike-X X-1000 is listed as “discontinued”, and one wonders if the number of returns due to customers having problems with the fan alarm was a factor in Newegg’s decision not to keep it in stock.

Although Strike-X X-1000 is a bit expensive for a manual fan controller, the real issue with this unit is the malfunctioning fan alarm. The problem might even be tolerable if there was a switch or a button to turn off the fan alarm. But there is no such means of disabling the fan alarm, and for that reason, I would advise avoiding this product. The feedback given by customers on Newegg suggests as much. At the very least, you should find out whether Aerocool has since fixed the problem; nobody wants to spend the shipping fees on an RMA if it can be avoided.


Voltage Supply: +5V Range: 4.6-5.4V / +12V Range: 11.5V-12.5V
Working Temperature: 0-50 C
Storage Temperature: -10 C – 60 C
Humidity: 10% – 90%
Total wattage per channel: 25W (When exceeding 25W, power will be shut off due to auto protection)

External Links

Aerocool’s product page for the Strike-X X-1000

Aerocool Touch-2100 Review


Fan controller review: Aerocool Touch-2100

Front view of the Aerocool Touch-2100, with the display set to red.

Today’s fan controller review covers the Aerocool Touch-2100 is a 5-channel, 25 watt per channel fan controller with a touchscreen interface. It fits into 2 5.25″ drive bays. The touchscreen is large and colorful, and undoubtedly will be aesthetically pleasing in any gaming rig. It carries a relatively steep price tag (at the time this review was written, Amazon was selling it for $59.99). Therefore, you will want to make sure it meets your requirements before buying this unit.

The Touch-2100 allows the user to increase or decrease the speed of each of the fans manually. In addition, an alarm temperature can be set to a particular channel in order to monitor the increase in temperature for that sensor. Once the detected temperature exceeds the alarm temperature, the Touch-2100 will automatically increase the fan for that channel to the maximum speed. Once the temperature falls below the alarm temperature, the fan speed will revert to the manually set speed.

Inside the box is the fan controller itself, an instruction manual, and a power cable. On the front panel is the LCD touchscreen, and beneath are there are 2 USB 3.0 ports and a microphone and headphone jack. In addition to the fan and temperature sensors, there is a USB cable for the USB ports.

The Touch-2100 installs into a dual 5.25″ bay (although there may be a small gap). Once you have connected the controller the the PSU, connected the fans to the controller (it should be noted that the controller does not include any 3-pin to Molex adapters, so you will have to get your own if you want to use fans with Molex connectors), and place the sensors where you want them, you will be ready to use this unit.

One of the advantages of this controller is that once the cables are connected and the sensors are in place, everything else is configurable from the LCD touchscreen. To toggle between Celsius and Fahrenheit, you simply touch the C/F button (in the upper left of the screen). Touching the Color button (in the lower left corner) allows you to rotate through seven color selections (red, green, yellow, blue, purple, skyblue, white) plus the light off function. You may want to adjust the temperature alarm as well. To do that, touch the digits in TEMP2 for the appropriate channel. The digits will begin to blink, and pressing the + and – buttons on the left side of the touchscreen allows you to move the alarm temperature up and down. The default alarm temperature is 70º C. Touching the digits a second time causes the controller to memorize the new setting.

There are some issues with the display. First, the white looks more like lavender. Second, the display is hard to see when looking up at the touchscreen; it is apparently meant to be looked at from either the same level or a higher level (the products page for the Touch-2100 on the Aerocool website confirms that the best viewing range for the screen is from 15 to 45 degrees). Third, there is no way to lock the touchscreen so settings aren’t changed by accident.

Another point that should be addressed is that if you connect more than one fan to a channel (with a Y connector), all fans will feed back an RPM signal to the controller. This will result in erratic RPM readings. The way to solve this problem (other than putting the fans on a separate channel, or if another channel is not available, get a second controller) is to cut the yellow lead for all but one of the fans on the channel. That way, only one RPM signal will be fed to the controller (presumably, you want to keep the lead of the fan whose speed you want to monitor intact).

Other than these small issues, the Aerocool Touch-2100 is a solid fan controller, and with 25 watts per channel, should do the job. With 7 different display colors, you probably won’t have to worry about it not matching the color of your case. If you are willing to spend $59.99 on a controller and have two drive bays to spare, the Touch-2100 is a viable option.


Voltage Supply: +5V Range 4.6-5.4V / +12V Range: 11.5-12.V
Working Temperature: 0-50º C
Storage Temperature: -10º C-60º C
Humidity: 10-90%
Total Wattage Per Channel: 25W (When exceeding 25W, power will be shut off due to auto protection)

External Links

Aerocool’s product page for the Touch-2010

Touch-2100 manual in PDF format

NZXT Sentry LXE Review


NZXT Sentry LXE Review

The NZXT Sentry LXE display panel.

The Sentry LXE is a somewhat unusual product, an external fan controller with an intuitive touch screen. It is a 5-channel, 10 watt per channel controller that connects through a PCI card interface. At a relatively moderate price ($53.48), it is a good option for PC users who want a stylish fan control option without having to use up a drive bay.

The Sentry LXE ships in a simple, shrink-wrapped red box which has a picture of the controller on the front. On the back of the box is more information about the controller, including specifications in several languages. Inside the box, everything is wrapped in plastic between 2 pieces of foam. The box includes the manual, controller card, a 3-volt battery to power the card, 2 extra temperature sensors, temperature probe tape, 2 screws and several cables.

The card that controls the fans rests in any available PCI slot on the motherboard and is secured just like any other expansion card. The battery goes in the lower right hand portion of the card. The thermal sensors are attached directly above it. The 8=pin interface cable that runs from the card to the stand-alone display uses the same Molex mini-fit connections as an ATX or PCI-Express power connector, but the patters don’t match up with any other connectors; the cable is 7 feet long, so the users should be able to place the display wherever they want on the desk. The fan cables are about 2 feet long (which should be enough to reach anywhere in the case), and are numbered 1 through 5. One problem is that the cables are 3-pin cables and thus will not accommodate 4-pin PWN fan connections without modification.

Sentry LXE expansion card

The PCI expansion card which contains the controller circuitry.

Installation is a bit more involved than it might be for a standard fan controller, but it is not overly complex. First, hook up all the fans and temperature sensors; it helps if you have cable ties to make it manageable. After connecting the fans and putting the temperature probes in place, then all that is left to do is put the battery in, connect the 4-pin internal power cable to a Molex connector on the PSU, mount the card into an open PCI slot and connect the interface cable. Powering up the computer will cause the LCD display to light up.

The manual for the Sentry LXE leaves much to be desired and does not go into detail on how to operate the controller. Fortunately, however, the touchscreen interface is rather intuitive. On the right side of the display window are the RPM readings for each of the 5 fans. The user can operate the LXE in either auto or manual mode. When in auto mode the controller automatically adjusts the fan speed based on a predefined temperature scale (the adjustable temperature is just the alarm temperature, though). The LXE can also be operated in manual mode. To adjust the fan speed, the user simply taps twice on the fan number on the left side of the display. The number will flash and + and – signs will appear in the lower left corner of the display which will either increase or decrease the RPM setting that corresponds to the selected fan. Fans can be adjusted from 100 to 40 percent, then turned off completely. The LXE also allows the user to set temperature alarms; to set these alarms, the user taps once on the fan number and then uses the + and – signs to set the maximum temperature for each of the 5 thermal sensors. Once configured, an audible alarm sounds if the temperature goes above the configured setting. There is also a built-in clock and calendar which can be set by tapping the time readout on the display. The last two “buttons” are the power button and reset button: the power button shuts off the screen (but the controller continues to run), and the reset button (which must be pressed and held in order for the reset to work) will revert the controller back to default settings. The display leaves a bit to be desired; the + and – buttons could be bigger, and the touch screen requires a firm tap. Moreover, the fans take up to 5 seconds to response to the user changing the fan RPM.

Running the controller in automatic mode will allow the user to maintain reasonable temperatures while keeping the fan noise to a minimum, even while running CPU and GPU-intensive software such as games. Running the LXE and manual mode also works well, while also bringing down the temperatures several degrees. The temperature probes are very accurate, which is par for the course with NZXT controllers.

On the whole, the Sentry LXE is a good product. There are some issues: the PCI card does not stay in place particularly well (the user would do well to secure the card in place with a screw), the connectors do not accommodate 4-pin PWM fan connectors, and there are the above mentioned user interface issues. Still, this is a unique product, and with 10 watts per channel, it should satisfy both the typical desktop user and the overclocker as well.


Max Power: Up to 10 W per channel
Colors Available: Black
DC Input: 12 V (Standard 4 Pin Molex connector)
Fan Connectors: 5
Material: Aluminum, LCD screen, PCB
Plug Type: 3-Pin Molex KK (male)
Model Number: SEN2-001
Material: LCD Screen, Plastic, PCB
Included Accessories: 2x screws
Connections: 1x Molex, 5x Temperature Sensors
Max Combined Wattage: 50 Watts
Brightness Levels: On / Off
Control Modes: Manual / Automatic
Fan Channel Quantity 5
Temperature Range: 0 to 99°C
Measurement Frequency 2 Seconds
Temp Alarm Range: 30? to 90?
Minimum Power To Fans: 40%
Screen Size: 5.27 Inches
Screen Type: Capacitive Touch
Fan Control Method: Voltage
Warranty: 2 Years
Finish: Black brushed Aluminum
Form Factor: External Device & Expansion Slot
UPC: 895562002735


Intuitive Touch Screen LCD – Advanced, touch screen LCD displays temperatures in C/F, RPMs, along with the date, time, and day of the week. Users have the ability to switch the display off for complete darkness for more immersive gaming sessions

Complete Control – 5 Temperature Probes keep tabs on thermals throughout the case while the 5 Fan controllers adjust the fans’ RPM speed for at least 10W per channel. Allows users to automatically adjust the fan speeds to correspond to a specific temperature, manually customize for extreme overclocking capabilities, or set to absolute silence

Temperature Alarm – Instant notification if temperatures rise above a designated point

Sleek Design – Brushed aluminum frame provides sleek aesthetics for any desktop.

Rechargeable Battery – The Sentry LXE features a rechargeable battery for up to 500 times, keeping the LXE life time longer without the hassle of replacing batteries constantly.

Using a NZXT developed PCI board and external touch display, the LXE allows for more 5.25″ bays freed up for other peripherals.environment. Simply set the fan controller atop your PC or desktop and connect through PCI card interface.

NZXT Sentry LX Review


NZXT Sentry LX

Front view of the NZXT Sentry LX.

The NZXT Sentry LX is an automatic, 5-channel fan controller with a total of 6 watts per channel. It has a large LCD display and fits into any dual 5.25″ drive bay. Retailing at $54.99 (although it is currently being sold on Amazon for $47.99), it is not cheap, but it does have some advanced features that other fan controllers lack.

The Sentry LX comes in a simple cardboard box with a picture of the controller on the front. Inside, the controller itself is wrapped in plastic with 2 foam blocks on either end. The accessories are contained in a separate plastic bag. There is also a folded manual which goes into great detail about installation and use of the controller. There are screws to hold the unit in place, extra temperature sensors and orange stickers to hold the sensors in place included, along with a battery, which will be needed to store the settings of the controller if the user disconnects power from it. The display is protected by plastic foil.

The front is made of anodized aluminum, which gives it a sturdy look. There are six buttons on the left side of the front panel: an up arrow button, a down arrow button (the up/down buttons are used to raise or lower the currently selected function – clock time, alarm time, fan speed, etc.), a “set” button (which saves the setting), a “mode” button (which toggles the functionality of the unit from manual to automatic), a “fan select” button (which gives you access to each of the 5 fans), and a “reset” button (to reset the fan and clock/alarm settings). Turning the unit around reveals that the electronic components are contained on a single blue printed circuit board. On the PCB are several components including capacitors, a single integrated circuit (an 8-bit RISC microprocessor produced by ELAN Microelectronic, the Rhe EM78P510N), and the temperature probe connectors. These probes can be removed if they are not being used, but they are covered with hot glue, so you will have to peel the glue away before removing them. Also, there is a holder for the battery, which is used to maintain the settings and run the clock. A single Molex connector is used to power the fan controller and fans. The five fan connectors and probes are labeled from 1 to 5. When the controller is run in automatic mode, each fan will adjust in accordance with the temperature read by its respective sensor. There are protectors fitted over the sensors, which is a good idea, because the sensors are rather fragile.

Installation of the Sentry LX is fairly simple: just slide it into a dual 5.25″ drive bay and secure it into place with the provided screws. Then all that is left to do is connect the power, connect the fans to the headers, and secure the temperature sensors in place with the provided adhesive. It should be noted that that the headers are 3-pin headers. Thus, fans with four pins, such as PWM fans and those using Molex connectors cannot be plugged into the unit.

Once installed, the display is bright and the numbers are clearly visible. Hitting the reset button makes all the areas light up at once, so you can check to see if any segments of the LCD are damaged. After the reset, the fans are adjusted according to the temperature of each sensor and the clock is reset to 12:00 and January 1, 2008. The display shows fan speed, temperature (and can show fan speed/temperature of all 5 fans/sensors simultaneously) and time/date. Setting up the clock is easy, and the settings will be maintained even when the PC is turned off, thanks to the battery. The fans can be controlled in 10-percent increments: 100, 90, 80, 70, 60, 50, and 40 percent, and then turned off completely. The user cannot decrement to 30, 20, or 10 percent. The user can set up a temperature alarm, which will activate if the temperature rises past a specified point. The temperature sensors seem accurate. One problem is that the feature whereby an alarm goes off when a fan is unplugged does not seem to work on some units (on these units, the alarm sounds when a temperature sensor is unplugged). In addition, some users have complained about dead pixels on the LCD display or non-functioning displays.

On the whole, this looks to be another solid product from NZXT. On the plus side is the big LCD display (it should be noted, however, that the display does not turn off automatically when the computer is shut off – you have to turn it off manually) and the accuracy of the temperature sensors. On the negative side, the controller provides only 6 watts per channel (which should be enough for most fans but still pales in comparison with many other fan controllers) and the fan headers only accept 3-pin fans (which actually should not be too much of a problem, since there are 4-pin to 3-pin adapters, although none are included with this controller). Still, the Sentry LX is a product to consider if you are willing to spend about $50 for a fan controller and your PC has a dual 5.25″ drive bay you can spare.


Dimensions: Dual 5.25″ Bay
Max Power: Up to 6 W per channel
Colors Available: Black
DC Input: 12 V (Standard 4 Pin Molex connector)
Fan Connectors: 5
Material: Black anodized aluminum
Plug Type: 3-Pin Molex KK (male)
Model Number: SEN-001LX
Material: LCD Screen, Aluminum, PCB
Included Accessories: 8x M3 Screws, adhesive
Connections: 1x Molex, 5x Temperature Sensors
Max Combined Wattage: 30 Watts
Brightness Levels: On / Off
Control Modes: Manual / Automatic
Fan Channel Quantity 5
Temperature Range: 0 to 120°C
Measurement Frequency 2 Seconds
Temp Alarm Range: 30? to 90?
Minimum Power To Fans: 40%
Screen Size: 5.00 Inches
Screen Type: Capacitive Touch
Fan Control Method: Voltage
Warranty: 2 Years
UPC: 811121010126
Control Method: Buttons
Temperature Range: 0 to 99?


Large dual 5.25″ LCD screen
NZXT designed intuitive control, set and change fan speeds and settings on the fly
Auto/Manual modes, let the LCD take control or set fan speeds to your liking
Temperature alarm
Aluminum finish
NZXT Designed graphical interface, easy to read and understand
Saved Settings, calender and fan settings are stored even during system off so settings don’t need to be redone
Supports up to 6 Watt per channel
Supports only 3-pin fans

External Links

NZXT’s product page for the Sentry LX