We get it…
Choosing the best fan controller for your setup can be tricky. Luckily for you, I’ve created the ultimate list of the best fan controllers money can buy so you can make the best decision when purchasing your next fan controller!
After lots of testing, I’ve concluded that the NZXT Sentry 3 is the best external fan controller on the market.
Keep reading to find out about the best internal fan controller, and the best budget fan controller!
Best Fan Controller Options
Not only are they responsible for cooling your components, they also have to be quiet during operation!
Some case fans have a PWM function which allows you to control their speed – however, this is usually only the case for premium (and more expensive) case fans.
Moreover, what if you want to daisy-chain your fans together, controlling all of their speeds at the same time?
That’s where a fan controller comes in. With the NZXT Sentry 3, you can daisy-chain up to five case fans together, allowing you to control all of them at once. Conversely, you can also hook each fan up to its own channel, controlling each individually.
In any event, here are the three best fan controllers of 2019:
|NZXT Sentry 3||
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|Corsair Commander Pro||
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This NZXT fan controller ships with an included temperature sensor which can be mounted anywhere in the case. You can choose between controlling the fan speeds manually, or letting them adjust themselves automatically based on the case’s internal temperature. This is the best way to minimize noise, as your fans won’t spin faster than they need to.
Corsair Commander Pro
Internal Fan Controller
Corsair's Commander Pro is the best internal fan controller on the market. It supports up to six 4-pin fan connectors, in addition to two connectors for RGB lighting, two USB 2.0 headers, and four individual thermistor inputs for anyone interested in monitoring their case's temperatures.
You can use the Corsair Link software to control all of the connected fans and RGB lights. The Corsair Commander Pro is an awesome PWM fan controller that offers a combination of versatility, functionality, and simplicity. Moreover, Corsair’s excellent control software makes it easy to manage your case fans and RGB lighting, all in one place.
Cheap Fan Controller
The Kingwin FPX-001 is an affordable fan controller than can effectively control your fans' speed and noise without breaking the bank. It's easy to install, fitting well into standard 3.5" drive bays. It can control up to four fans at once.
Unfortunately, this fan controller only supports 3-pin fan headers. However, it does allow you to control the speed of all of the 3-pin fans that otherwise would not have a PWM function. It doesn’t have any fancy features or crazy software, but it’s also less than $20. If you’re on a low budget – say, a $500 budget gaming PC, for example – this fan controller gets the job done. It’s simple, reliable, and best of all, it’s cheap.
What is a Fan Controller?
A fan controller is a device used to manage the rotational speed of a PC case fan. Various types of case fans are used to provide adequate cooling to components, some of which without the ability to regulate their own speed.
Fan controllers are used to adjust – either manually or automatically – case fans’ speed according to temperature and noise production.
However, not all case fan controllers were created equally. Some are loaded with plenty of awesome features, modes, and connections, whereas others are barebones controllers without even an interface.
You can find internal fan controllers and external fan controllers. External fan controllers like the NZXT Sentry 3 can be mounted in your case’s 5.25-inch drive bay and controlled via a physical interface. The Sentry 3 has a nice touch screen that allows you to easily adjust your fans’ speed, and you can link them together too.
Internal fan controllers, on the other hand, live inside of your case. After connecting them to your motherboard, you can adjust your fans’ speed via your fan controller software. I personally prefer external fan controllers that allow you to physically adjust fan speed, but that’s just my opinion.
With all of these different options, which fan controller is best for you? Do you even need a fan controller?
At least when it comes to your case fans, a fan controller isn’t entirely necesary. Your case fans have to constantly circulate a stream of cool air to your components. If they’re doing so while running at the same preset speed, they’ll do just fine.
Nevertheless, running your fans at the same speed at all times is not the best way to cool your PC – by adjusting your fans’ speed according to temperature, you’ll save electricity while simultaneously reducing noise. There’s no point in having them run at full speed at all times, even when you’re not performing intensive operations.
Being able to control the speed of your fans, either with fan controller software or via a physical interface, is always nice. Fan controllers don’t have to break the bank either. Of course, there are expensive, premium fan controllers on the market, but you can easily find a cheap fan controller that gets the job done for less than $20.
If you’re having trouble deciding which is best for you, check out our fan reviews below. Each of the three fan controllers on our list are superb – you can’t go wrong!
Things to Keep in Mind
With so many different fan controllers available, each with their own features and specifications, it can be difficult to know which is best for you. Some may not even know if a fan controller is compatible with their system.
Don’t worry – if you keep the following things in mind, you’ll make the right choice:
Speed control options: Fan speed is controlled by adjusting the fan’s voltage. Figure out how the fan controller adjusts speed. Does it only allow you to choose between a few settings? Can you choose any rotational speed from 0 RPM to the fan’s maximum rotation speed? Both of are questions you should be asking before you buy a fan controller. You should make a decision based on your own specific needs. It’s also important to remember that faster rotation speeds result in more wear and tear and, as a consequence, a shorter lifespan. Fan lifespan is not determined by speed alone; a fan’s bearing type and build quality has the most significant impact on lifespan.
Compatibility: A good fan controller should be compatible with different operating systems. Ideally, a fan controller is compatible with 3-pin and 4-pin fan connectors, although most budget fan controllers are only compatible with 3-pin connectors. By the way, 4-pin fan connectors have a PWM feature, whereas 3-pin connectors don’t. Supporting the wrong type of fan connector is the biggest fan controller compatibility issue, so make sure your fan controller of choice supports 4-pin fan connectors if you have PWM case fans.
Temperature monitoring: Many premium fan controllers these days can automatically adjust fan speed by monitoring the system temperature. Automatic fan controllers save electricity and reduce noise by running your fans at the appropriate speed at all times. It’s an awesome feature, but not all fan controllers have it.
External or internal: Some fan controllers are external – they can be mounted in the case’s 5.25-inch drive bay or outside of the case altogether. They usually have a user interface like a touch screen, control knobs, or buttons. On the other hand, internal fan controllers live inside of the case and are controlled with fan controller software on your computer. At the end of the day, choosing between an internal or external fan controller comes down to a matter of personal preference. Some popular case manufacturers are starting to remove 5.25-inch drive bays from their cases altogether, especially in smaller Micro-ATX and Mini-ITX cases. Even some small ATX cases don’t have 5.25-inch bays anymore. With that being said, if you buy a fan controller like the NZXT Sentry 3 that’s mounted in a 5.25-inch bay, you need to make sure your case actually has one first.
Best Fan Controller Software
Most motherboards’ BIOS allow you to control your fan speed, but if you have a dedicated fan controller you’ll probably want to download a fan controller software. Many fan controller softwares even allow you to control your case’s RGB lighting color scheme as well.
Some fan controllers come with a fan controller software created by manufacturer, such as Corsair’s Link software that comes with the Corsair Commander Pro. Even if your fan controller doesn’t have its own unique software, it should be compatible with free software.
Best Fan Hub
Sometimes you’ll want to install more case fans than your motherboard supports, for whatever reason.
You could use fan splitters, which allow you to connect two case fans to a single motherboard fan connector. However, this isn’t always the best solution.
If you have a bunch of fans, you may be drawing too much power from a single fan connector on your motherboard, resulting in a power surge which could potentially damage or destroy your motherboard altogether.
Alternatively, you could use a fan hub, which has plenty of case fan connectors and is powered by an external power source, usually from your power supply.
This way you can connect as many case fans as you need to cool your system without having to worry about how many fans your motherboard supports or damaging your system.
Here are some popular fan hubs to consider:
- Electop Chassis Fan Hub (10 Port)
- Silverstone PWM Fan Hub CPF04
- Deepcool FH-10
- Thermaltake Commander FX
Fan Controller Reviews
Now we’re going to take a closer look at each of the three fan controllers. We’ll talk about the specifications of each fan controller, their pros and cons, unique features, and other details that we didn’t touch on earlier.
- Easy install
- Touch screen
- Monitors temperature
- Link fans together
- Incremental speed adjustment
- Poor screen viewing angle
Mounted in your case’s 5.25-inch drive bay, the Sentry 3 has a large touchscreen display that is used to control the device. From an aesthetics standpoint, the Sentry 3’s interface is far better than its predecessor, the Sentry 2, and it’s easier to use as well.
You can link up to five fans to this fan controller, controlling their speeds either individually or all at once. This is one of the Sentry 3’s coolest features. Rather than having to individually program each fan’s speed, you can simply adjust a group of fans all at once.
Moreover, the Sentry 3 includes a temperature sensor which can be attached directly to your CPU or any other part of your rig, allowing the fan controller to monitor the temperature of the case. You can view the temperature of the case’s interior in Degrees Celcius or Fahrenheit, and you can view the the speed of your fans in RPM or as a percentage of their maximum capacity all on the Sentry 3’s touchscreen control panel.
The fan consumes a maximum of 75 watts, delivering up to 15 watts per channel to each connected case fan. This is especially useful for powering bigger case fans that need higher wattages to operate at their maximum speed, such as 120mm and 140mm case fans.
Check out this quick video overview of the NZXT’s Sentry 3:
The fan controller has three different control modes:
Performance Mode: The fans automatically operate at their full capacity for maximum cooling.
Quiet Mode: The fans run at roughly half of their maximum speed to reduce noise. This is particularly useful when you’re not performing demanding tasks that generate a lot of heat, such as watching movies or surfing the web.
Manual Mode: In this mode, as the name would imply, you can manually set the speed of each fan individually, or a group of fans that you’ve daisy-chained together.
Setting up the Sentry 3 is easy – simply plug the fans in and power the fan controller with your PSU and you’re all set. The touchscreen is responsive, but the viewing angle could be better. On the other hand, it’s not like you’ll have a bunch of people crowded around the fan controller screen watching it, so it isn’t a big deal.
The fan has an alarm which goes off when a fan fails or becomes disconnected from the controller. The channel experiencing the issue will blink until the problem is solved. This feature is especially useful when you need to diagnose an issue with your system.
The alarm has three volumes – mute, medium and loud. When a fan fails or gets disconnected, it will trigger the alarm and the number of the channel from which that fan(s) is/are connected will blink continuously together with the alarm.
If you want to be able to control your fan speed precisely from 0 to 100, you may want a different fan controller, as this one starts at 0%, then 40% and moves up from there with 10% intervals.
In summary, the NZXT Sentry 3 is a superb fan controller – that’s why it’s number one on our list. Its alarm won’t shut off until power is disconnected which is a bit annoying, the viewing angle isn’t stellar, and fan speed cannot be adjusted exactly. These issues will hopefully be improved upon in the next generation.
Nevertheless, the controller is still a solid product overall with a great and easy-to-use interface, as these are only minor complaints. The NZXT Sentry 3 comes with plenty of awesome features, including the Link feature which allows you to group together multiple fans at once.
All in all, the NZXT Sentry 3 is a great product with a fair price. If you’re interested in a touch-screen type fan controller, the Sentry 3 is for you.
- Easy install
- Touch screen
- Monitors Temperature
- Link fans together
- Incremental speed adjustment
- Poor screen viewing angle
The Corsair Commander Pro is an all-in-one hub that makes it easy for you to control both your case fans and LED lights in the same place. You can connect up to six 3-pin or 4-pin connectors to the hub, four temperature sensor headers, and it even has two USB headers.
It is powered via a SATA power connector, and connects to your motherboard via one of the USB headers. Then, you use Corsair’s Link software to control your fan speed and lighting setup easily from your desktop. The other USB header allows you to connect the Corsair Lighting Node Pro, if you want to add that to your setup.
Although the Commander Pro supports both 4-pin and 3-pin fans, it only supports 3-pin RGB LED strips. The controller itself is slim and can be mounted in tight spaces inside your motherboard, which is perfect if you have a small case. It can even be placed behind a motherboard tray.
Once your fans and lights are connected to the Corsair Commander Pro, you’ll have to download Corsair’s LINK software. It lets you monitor and control your fans’ speed, monitor your case’s internal temperature thanks to the Commander Pro’s included thermal sensor.
The software is fantastic and easy to use. It lives up to its name, linking all of your case accessories together in one convenient place. If you’re using a lot of Corsair components, you can monitor everything with Corsair’s LINK software.
The quality of Corsair’s Commander Pro is excellent and, although the controller is expensive, you certainly get what you pay for. The Corsair Commander Pro is mainly a fan controller. If you want to have total control over several 3-pin and 4-pin lighting strips, you’ll have to get the Lighting Node Pro as well.
All in all, it’s a solid product from a reputable company, and it’s a superb fan controller!
- Comptaible w/ any case
- Easy install
- Only supports 3-pin connectors
- No monitoring features
The Kingwin FPX-001 is a four channel fan controller.
It doesn’t have any fancy controls or crazy added features, nor can it control PWM case fans with 4-pin connectors, both of which are drawbacks to this device.
However, on the other hand, it also happens to be incredibly cheap – you can find this controller on Amazon for less than $20.
It’s pretty simple to install, as it is designed to fit in any 3.5-inch hard drive bay. Once installed, you can connect up to four fans to the controller.
You can adjust the fans’ speed with each knob on the fan controller, which control the voltage directed to each of the four fans.
The controller does its job – nothing more, nothing less. If you’re looking for a cheap and simple fan controller, this is the one for you.
Fan controllers are a great way to monitor your system’s internal temperature, fan speed, and even its lighting display.
If you’re looking for a high-end, easy-to-use fan controller with loads of features, the NZXT Sentry 3 is for you.
On the other hand, if you’re on a budget and not looking for anything crazy, check out the Kingwin FPX-001.
Lastly, the Corsair Commander Pro is great for people who want an all-in-one control center for all of their fans and LED lighting.