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?”
9 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
NZXT Fan Controller AC-2RGBC-B1
Excellent Quality and Performance in One
NZXT RGB & Fan Controller – AC-2RGBC-B1 is a compact and fair-priced fan/RGB controller that provides multiple customization options and allows you to find the perfect configuration with ease.
It is fitted with three digital fan channels that can hold up to 10W of output per channel; it is equipped with a noise detection module and it comes along with a very good NZXT CAM software that provides a great way for the configurations monitoring, as well as RGB lighting customization, due to numerous predefined profiles and options.
NZXT RGB & Fan Controller – AC-2RGBC-B1 is easy to set up and requires a 9-pin USB connection (on your motherboard) and SATA power connection in order to work. More importantly, it provides very good performance and comes equipped with two RGB lighting channels that can handle up to 40 LEDs each, or 80 when combined.
In other words, if you are after a proper fan/RGB control of your rig, NZXT RGB & Fan Controller – AC-2RGBC-B1 is definitely a great choice and certainly one of the best fan controllers available on the market today.
- Easy setup
- Fairly priced
- Solid software
- Good overall performance
- It works only with NZTX RGB
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.
An Excellent-Quality High-Capacity Fan Controller
Phanteks Universal Fan Controller, PH-PWHUB_02 is simple, yet very capable fan controller, with large capacity and very good overall functionality that makes it a perfect choice for very demanding users.
This is an affordable product that, on the other hand, offers much more than its price suggests. It has a magnetic housing for easier installation; it provides a compact, low-profile design, which allows you to place it wherever you want, and more importantly, it comes equipped with eight fan connectors (three three-pin connectors and five four-pin connectors) that let you increase the number of supported fans well above the mentioned eight when paired with Y-Splitters.
Phanteks Universal Fan Controller, PH-PWHUB_02 offers three-speed modes (Performance, Silent, and Balanced) and has an excellent build quality that makes it attractive in the long run. Moreover, it comes fitted with numerous accessories such as Y-Splitter, 400mm SATA power cable, and remote control, and altogether offers great overall value, which ultimately makes it one of the best fan controllers out there.
- Large capacity
- Excellent quality
- Easy installation
- Magnetic housing
DEEPCOOL FH-10 Integrated Fan Hub
A Large Capacity Fan Hub
If you need a large number of fans in your system, DEEPCOOL FH-10 Integrated Fan Hub might be exactly what you were looking for.
It offers a simple design with 10 fan ports, which can be used for either 3-pin or 4-pin fans, it has a LED status indicator for easy handling and allows for easy mounting inside the PC case. The device is powered through the SATA connector and is equipped with a PWM input that allows for speed control of 4-pin PWM fans, but unfortunately not the 3-pin ones that work at maximums speed when connected.
All in all, DEEPCOOL FH-10 Integrated Fan Hub offers a great capacity and decent functionality, and although it isn’t well suited for everyone, it should surely be considered for one of the best PC fan controllers available, because of its low price.
- Affordable price
- A large number of supported fans
- Only one fan can be identified by the motherboard
- 3-pin fans are not controllable