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|NZXT Grid+ V2||30|
|Thermaltake Commander FT||10|
|Eximtrade LCD Panel||10|
|NZXT Sentry LX||8|
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In fairness, one can see his point: from a standpoint back then, it would be impossible to predict that, for example, most homes would have some form of home computer by the beginning of the 21st century, yet that is the case. The development of the home computer has been one of the most interesting and impressive areas of technological advancement in recent years – if not of all time. Your laptop, for example, will likely be far more powerful than any computer you were using, say, ten years ago, and with that comes many benefits, but also many problems.
Computers – both PC’s and laptops – use electrical systems that, by their very nature, generate heat. This means they need to be equipped with fans and ventilation to keep them from overheating, which will inevitably cause problems. Gamers, who routinely use very powerful PC’s for the best effect, often fit extra fans to ensure they are safe, and this is where this review comes in. We are going to talk about the best fan controllers for your PC as they serve an essential purpose where computer systems – either at home or in the office – are used on a regular basis.
Let’s have a look at how they work, and what they do.
Best Fan Controller, Our Top 10!
The problem with reviewing items such as this, that is those with one specific purpose, is that they tend to be very similar in terms of what they can do. But, we’re willing to have a go, so here goes! Our first one, the NZXT Sentry, is a very capable control panel that is easy to connect to your PC, and that can control several sets of fans individually. In fact, it has five channels, so is perfect for a network or a gaming set-up. The screen is touch sensitive and promises very fast reaction, too.
It has a screen that is easy to read with LED display, which can be switched off so the display becomes invisible when not in use, and it is a particularly large read-out for added ease of use. You can adjust fan speed as and when you wish, with just a few simple touches of the display, and it is very simple to set up and use. It comes ready to fit, and even if you are barely competent, you will find the instructions easy to follow. This is a quality item from a brand with a large range, and at £35 is not expensive.
One of the market leaders in this sort of technology, NZXT is a brand that you will become familiar with during our review, if you are not so already! They have a full range of fan controllers and other computer peripherals and devices, and all are quality items with much to recommend. This one, the Grid+ V2, is a very capable model that is packed with useful features, and we can’t hesitate to recommend you take a closer look. It has six fan ports – two with splitters – so you can control as many as eight fans with this clever little box.
You get the option to name each fan so you have ease of use all the time, the software is supplied with the unit, and you can preset your fan performance so you don’t have to worry about keeping things cool. The device can also be programmed to follow the temperature, and to raise or lower fan speeds as required. All in all, it’s a very neat device, and at about thirty quid is certainly worth a look.
Industrial design is an interesting field; it tends to happen that, once somebody happens upon a format that works, so the rest follow, hence you get many different items, from various brands, that look and feel the same. This is so here, as this fan controller – from Thermaltake – follows a theme that will become familiar. It has a large digital touch-screen display that allows you to make easy adjustments whenever you want, and at 5.5inches it is a very visible display, and a nicely designed one, too.
It has a choice of performance mode – for optimum cooling – and silent mode, which can be selected when things are running smoothly and you want to eliminate the noise from the fans. You can run up to five fans independently, each with touch screen controls that are easy and instant to use, and you have a choice of automatic – in which the device follows temperature and adjusts as necessary – or manual, for instant adjustment as and when you want. It’s a very capable model, and at around £30 is sensibly priced.
One of the problems with computer equipment is that there are so many different brands, all offering pretty much the same thing. This is certainly so when it comes to fan controllers, which have a limited capability to begin with. As with all markets, it’s easy to find an average price that you should expect to pay, so when one comes along that is very cheap, you begin to ask why. This is one of those items: at little more than £10 it is very cheap indeed, so we have to have a look and find out why that is.
The truth is, we don’t know! OK, so it only controls one fan – but sometimes that’s enough – and it has a simple display that shows the temperature and so on, and it has three speeds you can select so it’s pretty basic. But when all is said and done, if you have one PC, and one fan, what more do you need? It even has an alarm that sounds when the fan is not doing its job, so is perfectly adequate. Don’t be put off by the price – if a simple fan controller is what you want, this could be the one.
We knew it wouldn’t be long before we came back to our old friends at NZXT, and here we are! This one is a neat piece of kit that differs from those we have seen so far in its form of display. It has a large screen that is more square than long and thin, and is designed for powerful use with as many as five groups of fans. It’s perfect for overclocking, then, and will do the job very well thanks to the innovative design and technology that NZXT deals in.
The screen is touch sensitive, you can choose automatic or manual operation, and it is easy to programme and use, and it has a large read-out so you know what you are looking at every time. It’s a very clever piece of kit that comes with the usual attributes of this manufacturer, and has an alarm warning for when temperatures do get too high so you can change the settings. It also has a silent mode, so you can adjust noise as and when you need to. At around £40 it is one of the more expensive ones, but then it is a very capable and high quality model, so worth considering if you need performance cooling.
Sometimes, simplicity is the answer to the problem, and this model – from Eximtrade, from whom we have already reviewed one item, follows that doctrine. It controls four fans individually, but the difference here is that this one is entirely manual. Indeed, you don’t even get a digital display, but if that’s OK by you, we recommend you have a closer look at this one especially as you won’t have to shell out much more than a tenner for it.
After all, automation and fancy gadgets are all great, but what if you don’t actually need a complex device? If you simply want to be able to set the speed of your fans – and you can control four of them individually with this model – whenever you switch on, then this can do it for you. Of course, there will be some who want to be able to forget about the fans and leave it to a programme, but the cost savings here could be quite significant. We won’t write this one off, and neither should you.
Back to familiar territory with this one, which is the same as number 3 but under a different name, so: this fan controller – from Thermaltake – follows a theme that will become familiar. It has a large digital touch-screen display that allows you to make easy adjustments whenever you want, and at 5.5inches it is a very visible display, and a nicely designed one, too.
It has a choice of performance mode – for optimum cooling – and silent mode, which can be selected when things are running smoothly and you want to eliminate the noise from the fans. You can run up to five fans independently, each with touch screen controls that are easy and instant to use, and you have a choice of automatic – in which the device follows temperature and adjusts as necessary – or manual, for instant adjustment as and when you want. It’s a very capable model, and at around £25 is sensibly priced.
We knew it wouldn’t be easy to find many differences between these, and lo and behold, as we arrive at number 8, so it is not! This one is a German-made model that is similar in scope to one of the others we have already reviewed, in that it is a relatively simple one with the power to manage a single fan. That’s no bad thing, but it does put it at a disadvantage if you need to handle a number of fans in one go.
However, it has a nice readout, it’s well made, it’s easy to use, and it does the job it is meant for. It has a wide spectrum in terms of temperature control, and it can be set to handle automatic temperature control if you wish. Where it does score is that it is very cheap at less than £15, so if you have just one computer that you need to cool for light use, it might be worth taking a look at this one again.
So far we’ve said little about the design of these devices, mainly because they mostly follow the same format of an LCD or LED display on a simple panel. This one is different, and we actually like it because of that. It’s actually a very sleek design that looks like it should be part of a high-end Hi-Fi set up, with a nice matt black finish and a no-frills front with six knobs and an indicator light above each one. There is no digital readout.
You can control up to six fans with this one, setting the speeds manually, and it does a very good job with a powerful 20W available on each channel. That is one of the most capable we have so far seen, so it is worthy of mention. It’s easy to use and comes with all the necessary cables and other bits, and although it cannot be set to perform automatic cooling, sometimes having to adjust the speeds yourself keeps you on your toes. We like this one, and at around £25 it is good value.
It was inevitable that we would return to NZXT for our final selection, so here it is! It’s the Sentry Mesh model – so called because it uses a mesh finish on the facia to make it less noticeable – and it is one of the most impressive fan controllers we have seen at the price You get slider controls on the facia for adjusting the speed, there is no automatic function so you are doing it all yourself, and it is surprisingly simple and efficient to use. It’s a very nice piece – well made as you would expect from a leading brand – and one we would look at again.
You also get 30W power for each fan – a more than sufficient amount – and it is simple to set up and use, so you know you can handle overclocking and gaming to the best degree. The only problem we can see with this one is that if you want an automatic programmable model, the same brand can offer you one. However, with change from £25, it is certainly well-priced, and it looks a lot better than some of the alternatives.
So, that’s ten fan controllers, each with its own attributes, and all worthy of inclusion. We hope we have helped you find the right one, but before we go on to sum up, let’s have a quick look at the important features to consider.
How It Works
A fan is a simple device, but it should be known that, in fact, it doesn’t actually cool anything. What it does is move the warm air away from the affected areas, so you don’t get the overheating that can be problematic. Now, if you have several fans operating within your computer system – say in a constant-use office network or a very powerful gaming machine – you need to have a way of regulating them, and of keeping the air circulating so it doesn’t overheat the system. This is where the best fan controllers come into the picture, and they are very clever and easy to use devices, too.
These devices come in many styles, shapes and sizes – as well as varying levels of power and capability – and are very versatile. You will certainly find one to suit among our list, but do you really need one? If you use a PC in an office environment, for gaming, or have one running on a constant basis for whatever reason, it is better to be safe than sorry, as overheating can cause a number of potentially expensive and damaging problems.
These devices are add-ons to your PC, and come in the form of a control panel with the relevant connections and software. They are easy to fit if you are competent with the workings of a computer, and you will find them to be inexpensive and a welcome bonus to your system. So, let’s get down to business and have a look at the ten best fan controllers on the market right now, and see how you can install more safety into your PC or computer network.
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There are always certain functions you need to look for when considering buying items such as these, and we believe it is important to remind you of what to look for, so here goes:
- Channels – are you looking to operate more than one fan – or groups of fans – with your controller? If so, you need one with multiple channels. Some of these do not have that feature, so check out carefully before you make your purchase.
- Auto or Manual – some of these are programmable, so you can set your speeds remotely, and other offer an automatic function that allows you to leave the controller to decide on the optimum speed for the temperature. Others are manual only, and some offer both, so you have plenty of thinking to do!
- Digital Display – if you are set on a digital display then you have a choice of just a few of these. To be honest, it’s not really a necessity, although it looks good.
That’s the main features to consider when choosing one of these, and we reckon we’ve pretty much nailed it, so all that remains is for us to wrap things up.
Let’s Wrap It Up!
There is no easy way for us to single out the best fan controller model here, for while they all do the same thing, some do it in a different fashion to others. It all boils down to what your individual requirements are and, in particular, how many fans you need to control, so have a look again at the ten on our list, and we feel sure you will find one to suit!