Fan controllers have been mainstream in the computer world for some time now. Before dedicated controllers there was voltmodding. Voltmodding consisted of modders adding resistors to their fan lines to control their speed and subsequently noise output. Then came the voltmod adapters, also called LNA (Low Noise Adapter) or ULNA (Ultra Low Noise Adapter). These are plug-and-play with your fans, so no splicing is needed. A step up from that is a dedicated controller. A big name in the fan controller world is Lamptron. Today we'll be taking a look at their FC-9 Fan controller. Read on...
Lamptron is no stranger to the fan controller market. In fact, they've been making top-of-the-line controllers for quite some time now in addition to case lighting, switch bays and other case mod products. The latest addition to their lineup is the FC-9. Let's take a look at it.
Features and Specifications
|Power Output||Up to 50W per channel|
|Control Channel||4 Channels|
|LED Color Selection||White, Blue, Green, Cyan, Red, Purple, Yellow|
|Front Panel Color||Anodized Black/Silver|
|DC Input||3x 12V DC (Standard Molex Connectors)|
|DC Output||0V DC - 12V DC|
|Fan Connectors||4x 3-pin Molex|
|Recommended PSU Wattage||600W or higher|
The Lamptron FC-9 comes packaged in a nice full-color box. The front of the box shows the controller in various color modes and gives the 50W per channel rating.
The backside of the FC-9 box lists specifications, features and included items.
The outer sleeve simply slides off revealing the inner cardboard box. The box is black with the Lamptron logo in white.
Once you open the box you'll find the nice included desktop 2012 product calendar on the top. It's nice when manufacturers include a little something extra like this.
Under the calendar you'll find the goodies. Everything is nicely packaged in foam for damage protection in shipping.
A Closer Look
Included with the Lamptron FC-9 fan controller is an instruction manual, plastic bag with 4 black mounting screws, a Molex extension cable and 4 black sleeved 3-pin extension cables. The sleeved extension cables are a nice touch as well.
The front of the fan controller is simple yet stylish. There's the Lamptron and FC-9 logos on the top left side in white. The faceplate is a CNC milled piece of aluminum that's brushed and anodized black.
The backside of the controller has all the electronics housed on 2 separate circuits boards and the 3 4-pin Molex connectors. The instructions state that all 3 Molex connectors must be hooked to your PSU for proper voltage and amperage supply to the controller. You'll also notice the large inductors and MOSFET's with their included heatsinks to properly dispose of the waste heat that will be generated from this unit. The 3 jumpers in the top left labeled "R", "G" and "B" are for the color selection. The jumper on the top right labeled "C/O" is to enable/disable the lighting in the mesh sides on the front panel.
In the top left of the rearmost PCB you'll see 3 jumpers. These are what controls the color of the LED backlighting. One thing that comes to mind is that it's a pain to change colors when the controller is mounted in your case. If you're going with a set theme for your build this isn't a problem, however if you've got selectable lighting in your mod this will be a slight hindrance.
If you remove the PCB's from the frame you'll see all the working goods on the inner PCB. There are a number of small IC's, capacitors and diodes, in both through-hole and SMD packages. You'll also notice the wires are soldered directly to the PCB and looped through it for strain relief. You can tell Lamptron has thought out the design of the FC-9 very well.
The 4 large main capacitors are Rubycon and are rated for 105ºC each, so there shouldn't be any problems with them on this unit.
The front PCB houses the sliding potentiometers and all of the SMD RGB LED's used to create the lighting effects. You'll also notice the 5 dividers between the slides and ends. These are to help compartmentalize the lighting for each slider and each end mesh vent.
A closer look at one end shows the dividers hot-glued into place. You'll also notice the white silk screen on the ends of the PCB to help reflect the light through the end mesh vents on the front panel.
I'd like to get into the specifics of each IC - their make, model, specs, etc, but Lamptron for whatever reason has gone and scuffed the surface of every single chip on each PCB, including the power MOSFET's.
The tests were performed with an Ultra X3 800W PSU. All the Molex connectors were plugged in as detailed in the instructions. Measurements were taken with a Craftsman Model 82139 digital multi meter.
From left to right the pictures are as follows:
As you can see there is only a 0.1V drop from the input voltage to what the fan is actually seeing. The Lamptron FC-9 is 99.2% efficient at passing the input voltage along. That's a pretty nice setup right there. Although the box lists the voltage range going as low as 0V, with the slider all the way down it was still putting out 1.495V. Most brushless DC case fans won't spin at all at that speed so it may as well be zero. However if you use the FC-9 to control things other than fans (lighting, etc), it's something to keep in mind.
The colors, from left to right, top to bottom are as follows:
The colors are bright, but the mixing leaves a little to be desired. You can tell the difference between the colors, but the red is slightly less bright than the blue and green are, so it gives any mix with the red a slight disadvantage in that one color. You'll also notice that the intensity changes with slider position. The farther down the slider is, the less bright the LED's for that slider are, and vice-versa. The last two pictures show the two mesh vents on the ends are what will be turned off with the "C/O" jumper. However, if you slide up either end slider it will light up that end mesh vent regardless of the jumper setting, as seen in the last picture.
The Lamptron FC-9 was installed into our Matte Black NZXT Switch 810 full tower case. Installation was straightforward and simple with the 4 provided screws. Be sure to set your wanted color BEFORE you secure the controller into the case.
The brushed aluminum looks slightly out of place on the matte black finish of the case. It's not a deal breaker but it is something to keep in mind when deciding on your setup.
The Lamptron FC-9 fan controller is a beast. 50W (4.1A @ 12VDC) per channel is absurd considering most typical case fans run in the 1.4W (0.14A) to 6W (0.50A) range. Even most liquid cooling pumps run less than 20W (~1.6A). Needless to say you can daisy-chain quite a few fans onto each port of the fan controller. So rather than 4 fans you've got control over up to 4 separate cooling zones. When you think about that it really opens up the possibilities of a 50W- or 4.1A-per-channel controller. I love the unique throttle control style rather than the typical round knob that you see on almost every mechanical fan control. I'd like to see a different way to change the backlighting so you don't have to take it out of your case every time to do it. I also don't see the point of needing all 3 Molex connectors plugged in when they'll all (most likely) hook to the same PSU cable and they're all hooked together before they go into the controller itself anyway. The Lamptron FC-9 is available from most major retailers for around $60. The price-to-performance ratio combined with it's CNC'd and brushed aluminum easily award the Lamptron FC-9 our gold rating.
This product was provided free of charge by the manufacturer for purpose of review.