Do you like to tinker with your tech; or modify and adjust things in your PC to take advantage of your tech’s full potential? If so, we not only understand – we want to introduce you to a whole new level of efficiency and ‘cool’ – the best fan controllers money can buy. You want to get as much bang for your buck as you can, and with just a bit of research (and tinkering, of course) you can dramatically improve your computer’s performance.
It’s exciting to push your PC to the max and see what it can really do when push comes to shove. Gamers and tech enthusiasts typically start out by finding and installing the motherboard, CPU, graphics card, RAM, CPU coolers and case fans for their system. This makes a lot of sense since these mods are amongst the simplest to research and perform yourself.
What are you doing to protect all of that shiny new tech though? Even if you use high-end thermal paste, cooling systems, and case fans, there are additional steps that you can (and should) take to protect your gear. If you haven’t looked into fan controllers before, it may be a right moment to consider buying one.
When & Why You May Need a Fan Controller
While fans are highly important for the entire cooling process of your PC, they’re also a notorious hassle in several ways. The noise made by fans, for instance, is a major contributing factor to user dissatisfaction. Noise is caused by two main factors:
- Dirty fans are not only loud, they’re insufficient. If your fans are clogged, they are certainly not providing enough air flow to keep your CPU, GPU, and other important components at optimal temperatures for performance. You should clean the fans from time to time and this article by PC World is a great reference on how to do it.
- Fans running at high speeds can be quite bothersome and loud as well. If your system is running hot, however, there isn’t much that you can do about this particular problem without the assistance of a modern fan controller.
Having a controller for your fans makes it much easier to monitor the temperature of your multiple PC components so that you can manually adjust your fan speed without overheating the system. The most popular method of using a fan controller involves altering the fan’s duty cycle so that it only receives power in short bursts to keep the fan moving. In between these waves of current, the fan is almost completely silent.
What Makes a Good Fan Controller?
There are a few different things to consider before purchasing a new fan controller. After all, you want to make sure that you’re getting the best pc fan controller for your PC. Of course, you’ll want to consider the following:
- Aesthetics. The look and design of a fan controller may or may not be your main priority, but it’s worth note that there are some VERY cool models available.
- Controls. The controls for these devices vary widely. Some are as simple as a rotational dial on the outside of the PC case. Others provide brilliant, LED screen displays, some of which are even touchscreen.
- Pins. The number of pins that a fan controller has, dictates how the control device operates. There are 2, 3, and 4 pin models; the 4 pin being the most common in mainstream devices.
Understanding the Differences Between 2, 3 and 4 Pin Fan Controllers
- The 2 Pin model is outdated, but still considered relative efficient for systems requiring only basic cooling. Of these 2 pins, 1 is for positive current, and the other is your ground connection; or negative current.
- Models with 3 pins are slightly more sophisticated. The first 2 pins perform the same functions as those above (negative and positive current flow), but the third pin makes a world of difference in functionality. The third pin conveys information about the fan speed; or RPM to the user for monitoring purposes.
- As you might suspect, a 4 Pin performs all of the same tasks as a 2 or 3 Pin. However, the fourth pin is what really makes a fan controller stand out. This model is otherwise known as a PWM model, which stands for pulse width modulation.
It isn’t as complicated as it sounds, it is essentially just an on/off switch run cycle. The PWM signal either allows a full +12V current to run to the fan or cuts the power completely. You control the duty cycle of your fans with the controller and if you’re curious to learn more about PWM, EKWB does a nice job of explaining it with plenty of diagrams in their article, “What is PWM and how does it work?”
The 8 Best Fan Controllers for PC Users
NZXT Sentry 3
Possibly the Best Fan Controller
The NZXT Sentry 3 is one of the best multi-functional fan controllers around. It is equipped with everything you’ll need for even larger, custom cases with very particular fan needs. This 5 channel, single bay fan controller provides you with the option of using a 3 Pin or 4 Pin connector set-up which means it will work with both older and newer PCs.
One of our favorite things about this model, however, is the display. It is an incredible 5.4” capacitive touchscreen that fits perfectly in the front of your case where it is most convenient to view and tinker with when necessary.
- You can control up to 3 high performance fans on each of the 5 channels
- It’s a sturdy device made of quality steel, PCB, and ABS plastics
- It makes an impressive visual display
- Touch screen
- Integrated voltage and shorting protection
- If you aren’t interested in running PWM fans, this isn’t the controller for you
- There are a lot of wires to deal with, work around, and organize
Noctua NA-FC1 4-pin PWM Fan Controller
Great 4 Pin Fan Controller Form Noctua
It’s one of the best and the most compact fan controllers to offer. NA-FC1 is a flexible Noctua controller suitable for 4 pin PMW fans. It can work in two different modes – automatic, i.e. on its own to control the speed, and in pair with the automatic motherboard fan control. This Noctua controller allows changing the speed control dial, so you can set a PWM duty cycle from 0 to 100% manually. You can also decrease the PWM duty cycle delivered by PC motherboards – this will result in the lower speed of fans which can’t be provided by the automatic motherboard fan control.
In fact, its control level is impressive. Noctua NA-FC1 provides “no stop” mode, which you can switch on using the push button. This mode doesn’t allow the fan to fall below the speed of 300rpm. What is more, NA-FC1 can control 3 fans simultaneously as it comes with a 3-way split cable and power supply adaptor.
Having such fan controller you get quiet PC performance, control over the temperature of its components and 6-year manufacturer’s warranty.
- reasonable price
- compact design
- power supply adaptor
- 3-way splitter cable
- adjustable motherboard fan control
- “no stop” mode
- manual control mode
- 6-year manufacturer’s warranty
- 4 pin fan connections
- small adjustment knob
- a bit difficult to get access to the device to adjust speeds
Thermaltake COMMANDER F6
A Top Quality Fan Controller
The Thermaltake COMMANDER F6 may not be pretty in the traditional sense, but it is definitely geek chic. With a 16-color, RGB LCD display that allows you to simultaneously monitor 6 fans temps and speeds; this model is ready to help you take control of your system cooling operations in style.
Another single bay design, this controller will fit well in practically any case. With individual knob controls for voltage and temp, it couldn’t be simpler to use. If you’re going for a flashy, lit display this model is perfect. It’s compatible with 1 or 2 Lumi LED strips for maximum color!
- Integrated temp warning alarm
- Voltage and short circuit protection
- Compatible with high quality LED accents for a brilliant display
- A bit pricier than some similar models
- Does not provide a 4 Pin connector
Corsair Commander Pro Fan Controller
Excellent Fan Controller for PC Enthusiasts
Another great fan controller for PC enthusiasts is Corsair Commander Pro. Unlike NA-FC1 or Kingwin FPX-001 it isn’t a budget item and belongs to the category of professional fan controllers.
Corsair Commander Pro is designed with six 4-pin fan ports with voltage for six fan connectors and PWM control, so you can monitor both 3 pin and 4 pin fans. This fan controller has also got four thermistor inputs for temperature control of different PC parts and supports two RGB LED channels with Sequential, Marquee, Strobing and Visor lighting modes. By the by, you can synchronize RGB lightning effects with HD and SP RGB fans as well as RGB LED strips in order to light up the construction. As this fan controller comes with two internal USB 2.0 headers it can also be connected to different USB devices.
Note that this Corsair fan controller includes CORSAIR iCUE software support. It means that there is no need to press knobs or switches as you can get control through this intuitive software. This fan controller has a nice compact design what makes it also quite portable. Besides, such slim form factor makes it suitable for almost any location in your PC.
- six 3 pin/4 pin fan connections
- supports both PWM and voltage control
- two USB 2/0 headers
- two LED channels
- eight preset fan curves
- CORSAIR iCUE software support
- compact design
- complicated software management system
- poor instructions
Kingwin FPX-001 Fan Controller 4 Channel
The Best Kingwin Fan Controller for the Money
One of the best fan controllers, which will help you monitor PC temperature and change the fan speed when necessary, is Kingwin FPX-001. This 3 pin fan controller has 4 channels and fits 3.5-inch bay. Having one you will forget about annoying fan grumbling as you will be able to control its noise.
Kingwin FPX-001 fan controller is easy to install and use, so you won’t waste your time reading long instructions and making out what to do next. Note that drivers are not needed. This fan controller comes with three cables for different types of connection. There is a 20 pin USB connector, 9 pin USB 2.0 cable, and SATA cable that connects directly to the motherboard. Kingwin FPX-001 has five blue LEDs (each responsible for a fan) and a red power LED. If the light is off then there is no fan plugged in.
You can also use this fan controller to switch between different boot drives without using a boot manager. Besides, it’s a safer way of switching in and out SATA drives than unplugging and replugging them.
- affordable price
- easy to install and use
- 4 channels
- fits 3.5-inch bay
- great control of fan speed and noise
- Wide Viewing LCD display option
- aDial control
- only 3 pin fan connections
- too bright LEDs
SilverStone PWM Fan Hub
The Best Cheap Fan Controller for Your PC
For a cheaper fan controller consider SilverStone PWM Fan Hub. It is one of the best budget items you can choose for your PC. Having this fan hub you can easily push your computer to the limits without any danger of breaking it.
SilverStone PWM Fan Hub is designed with 1-to-8 PWM connectors and its built-in 2200μF capacitor delivers stable voltage. The system cables this fan controller is equipped with are aimed at maximum control over the temperature and speed of the PC. It allows expanding a motherboard PWM fan header to support eight fans. This cable system delivers clean and accurate voltage as it is powered directly by SAT cable from the PC power supply. What is really great about this SilverStine fan controller is that it does not draw any power from the motherboard.
The SilverStone speed detector sensors allow you to control all eight fans simultaneously. Keep in mind that SATA power cable should always be connected for fan performance. Besides, 3 pin fans will not support its speed control function.
- low price
- easy to install and use
- allows controlling 8 fans simultaneously
- good cable management
- small size
- 3 pin fans do not support speed control
- when plugging the hub into a fan header that does not support PWM, all fans connected to it will run at full speed all the time
Thermaltake Commander FT Touch Screen 5
Another Great Fan Controller With a Touch Screen
The Thermaltake Commander FT Touch Screen 5 is similar to the other Thermaltake controller on our list, however, it has some unique features that make it a bit more enticing. It fits a standard single port, connects with up to 5 fans, and provides 10W per fan channel.
One of the best features of this controller is the beautiful 5.5” LED display with touch controls for your fans. Our next favorite being the performance and silent modes which auto adjust for highest RPMs and airflow with minimal noise.
- Integrated 3 and 4 Pin connectors
- Awesome 5.5” LED display
- Touch screen controls
- Only provides up to 10W of power per fan
- All PWM control must be done via software as only one connector (for the motherboard) has 4 pins. The fan connectors are only 3 Pin.
Kingwin Performance FPX-008
One of the Best Solutions for Fan Controlling
Kingwin Performance FPX-008 is a 4-channel fan controller with a wide viewing LCD display. It also includes a temperature monitor and a fan RPM display. Dial control is provided as well. This fan controller comes with overheating alarm and fits 5.25-inch bay.
There are three cables to connect to the motherboard. These include a 20 pin USB connector (supposed to handle 2 USB 3/3.1/C connections only), a 9 pin USB 2.0 cable (connects to the card reader) and a SATA cable connection (connects directly to the motherboard).
Kingwin Performance FPX-008 is easy to install and use. It supports PCs with such operating systems as Windows (XP/Vista/7/8/10) and Mac OS X 10.2+. Though its aluminum and plastic construction doesn’t look expensive it’s rather solid and durable.
- reasonable price
- easy to install and use
- durable build
- dial control
- 4 channels
- high compatibility
- a free-floating thermometer
- pins get too easily moved
- too bright LEDs