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
Kingwin Multi-Function LCD Fan Controller FPX-004
This High Quality Controller is Impressive & Easy to Install
Another controller with an impressive display, the Kingwin Multi-Function LCD Fan Controller is a definite favorite amongst computer users who want both full functionality and convenience in one package. This single bay, front-facing control setup has; 2 USB 3.0 Ports, 1 eSATA Port for connecting additional drives, high def audio headphone and mic jacks. That’s in addition to the crystal clear display screen, alarm temp display, and the actual fan controls themselves.
This model allows you to monitor and control 2 sets of fans; both their temp and their speed. The added convenience of all of those ports is definitely of the highest selling points for this gear, however.
- Fits in a single, front-facing bay on almost any case
- Great visual display
- Extra ports, readers, and jacks
- Only allows monitor and control of 2 fans
- Extra-long wires can be difficult to organize, store, etc. in small to medium cases
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
Aerocool Fan & Temperature Controller (Touch 2000)
Great Fan Controller With a Large Display
The Aerocool Controller Touch 2000 is a good choice if you have the space for a 2 port unit. While it isn’t quite as fancy as some of the other controllers on our list, it does a very efficient job of keeping your system a safe temperature.
The touch screen options are minimal, but do provide functionality and convenience in operation. The face also provides 2 USB 2.0 ports, high def mic and audio jacks, and an eSATA Port. It allows you to monitor and control up to 4 fans.
- Can display temperatures in Celsius or Fahrenheit
- Comes with spare thermal sensors, extension cables, and thermal tape
- Easy to use
- Doesn’t provide a 4 Pin connector
- Much bulkier than similar controllers
Kingwin Four Channel Turn Knob Multi-Fan Cooling Controller FPX-001
Check Out This Candidate for Best PC Fan Controller
The Kingwin Four Channel Turn Knob Controller is as simple as it sounds. An extra small 3.5 inch fit that works for even the smallest cases offers 4 LED lit knobs, each of which controls the voltage directed to 1 of 4 fans, individually. Nothing less, nothing more.
For a budget fan controller, it’s very efficient and easy to use.
- Fits in any case
- Controls up to 4 fans
- Very easy to install and use
- Incredibly low price
- Only provides a 3 Pin fan connector
- No monitoring features integrated into display
Lamptron FC2 Fan Speed Controller 45W
A Great Product & One of the Best Fan Controllers Around
This Lamptron Speed Controller only has 3 Pin connectors for the fans themselves, however, it also has a 4 Pin Molex wire that connects to the power supply. This allows you to use software to control the WPM of your 6 fans. The knobs themselves allow you to manually control voltage to your fans individually.
The display lights on the face of the controller get brighter as the connected fan’s RPMs increase. Each switch controls up to 45W of power, an impressive amount not found on all models. It fits a standard single drive.
- Control 6 fans speed individually, manually
- Attractive but simple display
- Provides 45W of power per fan
- No integrated display screen
- All PWM capabilities must be controlled via software
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
Easy to Use and Operate Fan Controller
This four-channel fan controller comes with a wide viewing LCD screen, temperature monitor, a fan RPM display and dial controls. The Kingwin is very easy to setup and use.
- Easy to install and setup
- Easy to operate and control
- Great size to fit most units
- Blue lights are too bright, now way to dim them down or adjust the lighting
- Unused cords are not removable resulting in unnecessary clutter