Case lighting is one of the fundamentals of the modding world. In the early days modders would cut holes in their side panels and add clear (or colored) acrylic or polycarbonate windows and accent lighting to show off their hardware. Typically case lighting comes in the form of CCFL tubes and LED's. For both you're primarily stuck with a single color unless you have the skills to create your own multi-color setup. This is where NZXT's HUE RGB LED Controller is going to be a game-changer in the modding world. Let's take a closer look at it now...
Case mod lighting is a simple yet essential part of completing your case mod. Having just the right amount of just the right color of light can accentuate all of your components and make your mod really pop. Too bright, too dim or not quite the right shade can really put a damper on the effect you're trying to achieve. Multi-colored or color-changing case lighting is something fairly new to the modding world. Typically you pick one color (or occasionally mix multiple colors), but there hasn't been a product on the market that can give you complete control over your system's lighting. Sure you can custom build your own setup (as I did a few years ago with my Tempest SXR mod), but not everyone has the skills or time to put a system like that together and configure it how they want. The HUE from NZXT is here to change the way we light our case mods forever.
|Installation||5.25" External ODD Bay|
|LED's||2 Meter/24x RGB SMD LED's|
|Control||3 RGB Dials|
|Modes||5 - Normal, Fading, Flashing, Color Fading and Color Flashing|
The HUE comes packaged in an attractive glossy full-color box. The front of the box shows the product name, NZXT logo and an image of the controller.
The back of the box shows interior case shots in several colors as well as a short description and a specifications table.
Three of the box ends are black while the fourth has some basic info as well as the needed barcodes and model/serial numbers.
Once you open the box the first thing you'll see are the instructions neatly folded on top of the contents. The instructions are clear, easy to understand and very thorough.
Under the instructions is the 2 meter RGB LED strip spiraled up into a plastic tray. We'll take a closer look at that in a few.
Once you remove the plastic tray with the LED strip you'll get the controller and mounting screws.
The front of the controller is flat black with a black steel mesh. You'll notice the three rotary encoder knobs right off the bat. Each one corresponds to s specific color (as shown with the red, green or blue lines) and also control different functions of the controller. These functions are labeled above the knobs and are activated by pushing the knobs in.
The tray of the controller is plastic and surprisingly large for a typical 5.25" bay device. The PCB is mounted at the front and the power and data cables extend out from it. The mounting holes on the tray are reinforced with threaded brass inserts so you can be sure it'll hold securely into your case.
One neat feature NZXT has added are these pair of tabs that can be used for cable storage. The cables that come with the controller are plenty long for just about any application but for those where you don't need the length you can wrap it around these tabs and keep everything neat.
The two cable ends are shown here. The cable on the left is what hooks to the LED strip. The black cap on the lower left is what comes on that connector and on each end of the LED strip. The white arrow denotes the positive power pin. The power connector for the HUE is a SATA power connector rather than the typical 4-pin Molex you see on everything else. NZXT is making a habit of powering their devices with SATA connectors and I for one like it. We first saw it on their highly-acclaimed Switch 810 to power the front panel assembly. It makes perfect sense as the 4-pin Molex is big and bulky compared to its sleek SATA brethren. Also most if not all devices in recent computers are SATA powered - save the occasional Molex to 3-pin fan adapter. It shows that NZXT clearly has a grip on the modding world and not only understand is but is trying to make it better.
The PCB for the HUE is pretty typical. It consists of all SMD components except for the 2 connectors, the 3 rotary encoders and a capacitor. There are 2 chips on the PCB, the larger of which has a coating on it so we can't see the make/model of it.
The smaller chip however is an Atmel 24C02N which is a 2K serial EEPROM storage chip. This chip is what stores the various sequences and effects that the controller displays. More information on this chip can be found here (.pdf).
The front of the PCB houses the three rotary encoders as well as a pair of SMD RGB LED's. These two LED's light up the front mesh of the faceplate in whatever color or fashion the strip is lit up in. The rotary encoders are notched full-turn encoders. This means there is no physical stopping point like you get with traditional trimmer knobs found on fan controllers. They're also notched meaning they've got a definitive "click" feeling when you turn them. This helps you get a feel for your adjustments and it also helps keep the knobs at the desired settings.
A closer look at one of the SMD RGB LED's.
The LED strip is black with a clear epoxy coating and is 2 meters (~6 feet) in length and is backed with 3M adhesive to stick it to your case where you see fit. Both ends come with protective covers as shown. One thing absent from the NZXT strip that's typically seen on LED strips of this type are markings where the strip can be cut to length. This may be a hindrance to some users as the nearly 6 feet of length may be too much for some.
Both ends of the LED strip have female connectors. This allows you to plug either end of the strip into the controller cable. What this doesn't allow for however is chaining multiple strips together. Each end is also clearly marked with "+, R, G, B" which denote the pin-outs for the strip. The "+" needs to be lined up with the white arrow we looked at earlier on the controller cable.
Shown here is the proper orientation for connecting the LED strip to the connector. The connectors slide together pretty snugly so you don't have to worry about it coming apart on you.
Here you can see the LED strip set to white at it's highest brightness. As you can see the strip is pretty bright.
|Mode||Red Control Knob||Green Control Knob||Blue Control Knob|
|Rotate the Knob||Press the Knob||Rotate the Knob||Press and Hold the Knob||Rotate the Knob||Press the Knob|
|Custom Color Modes||Custom Color Display||Adjust the amount of RED||Adjust the LED Brightness||Adjust the amount of GREEN||Device ON/OFF||Adjust the amount of BLUE||Select Mode|
|Custom Color Flashing||--||Adjust the LED Brightness||--||Device ON/OFF||Adjust the blinking speed of the LED's||Select Mode|
|Custom Color Fading||--||Adjust the LED Brightness||--||Device ON/OFF||Adjust the fading speed of the LED's||Select Mode|
|Color Changing Modes||Flashing Color Changing||--||Adjust the LED Brightness||--||Device ON/OFF||Adjust the blinking speed of the LED's||Select Mode|
|Fading Color Changing||--||Adjust the LED Brightness||--||Device ON/OFF||Adjust the fading speed of the LED's||Select Mode|
The video below shows all of the color sequences that the controller can display.
As you can see the features and options on the HUE allow you to customize your accent lighting to your specific needs or tastes.
As you can see the front panel LED's are clearly bright enough to be seen during the daytime and they add just enough extra ambiance without being too over powerful. There's not much worse than front panel LED's that are much too bright.
Here you can see the NZXT HUE installed into our matte black Switch 810. It looks right at home in this case given its color scheme. One thing many of you I'm sure are wondering is if this will fit into cases with a front panel door - i.e. the NZXT Phantom and Phantom 410. Well I'm happy to report that we installed the HUE in both a Phantom and a Phantom 410 and the knobs have no interference issues at all with the front panel door. In fact the knobs don't sit out much farther than your typical optical drive does to begin with. Yet another detail that NZXT took into consideration when designing the HUE.
You can see that the 24 RGB LED's are more than enough to go completely around the perimeter of our gigantic Switch 810 case and provide more than enough light to show off the goods in any color or style you see fit.
NZXT hit the proverbial nail on it's proverbial head dead center with the HUE. Until now case lighting was limited to a single color unless you (or a friend) had some expertise in electronics and a bit of programming. NZXT has gone and made it easy for everyone to instantly change their case's color or style with the push of a button and turn of a knob. The HUE is a snap to install and very simple to use. And with an MSRP of only $32.99 you can add style to your case on the cheap as well. As of the time of this writing the HUE wasn't available for purchase online anywhere but be rest-assured it'll be available for purchase soon (around the end of July from what we hear).
The only downfalls I have with the HUE are that the LED strip isn't trimable (as far as we've been able to tell) and only comes in a 2M length. It'd be nice to see at least a 1M option for the strip length for those who don't need nearly 6 feet of LEDs. Another idea I'd like to see in the future would be a way to integrate the HUE with some 120mm or 140mm case fans with RGB LED's in them as well for a full-case color integration.
The NZXT HUE easily gets our editor's choice award despite the minor downfall with the LED strip itself. This product is going to forever change the way people light and customize their cases.