Introduction - Lamptron's FC-8 Fan Controller
Lamptron is a new company to the Enthusiast world. Today we get to bring you a review of their brand new FC-8 Controller which offers 8 channels with independent LED selection with an almost unprecedented 30 watts of power per channel with a combined total of 240w available. This product also carries a standard 1 Year Parts & Labor warranty like all other controllers on the market. The FC-8 currently retails for $69.99, an apt price for its feature set.
The world of fan controllers is a small sub-domain of the cooling world. Fan controllers are a big hit with water coolers that run many higher powered fans and usually one or two pumps which also demand a large current in comparison to a fan. Fan controllers also have a spot in the heart of those who want silent PC's, giving them the ability to quiet their fans down by lowering the RPM levels.
Here is our Lamptron FC-8 controller in its nice and pretty box. Here we get to see a 3D rendering of the FC-8 black model. As I find out later, we'll actually be doing a review of the silver model; though beyond color there is no difference between the two.
Lamptron also decides to let us know that "Color Brings Out The Best" in their controllers, which is a bit of a marketing point of this controller as each channel has 8 different settings for the LED color. There're a few bullet points on here that I shall outline for you.
- 8 Channel
- 30 Watts Per Channel
- If you do the math, 30w/12v= 2.5 Amps per channel
- This means that each channel offers 8 different LED colors. (White, Blue, Green, Cyan, Red, Purple, Yellow, & Off/No color)
- No actual LED changing is needed. It is done by a combination of pushing in the 1st & 8th channels knobs. Instructions on how to do so are provided.
- This "technology" basically outlines that they use high efficiency MOSFETs that are only working at a fraction of their potential so that they do not over heat, even during full load. They combine this with all Japanese made solid capacitors for the reliability that they offer.
Here is the back of the box; it tells us a few more features along with letting us know what's going to be packaged in the box. I'll retype out that table for you to read, but the top paragraph you can read over if you want; all that information has been laid out before. Here you can also see a nice mark in the Silver Aluminum checkbox denoting that the version we got is the Silver version of the FC-8 controller.
|| 148.5mm*42.5mm*76mm (5.25" Bay)
| Power Output
|| Up to 30 watts per channel
| Control Channel
|| 8 Channels
| Panel Color Available*
|| Anodized Black Aluminum / Silver Aluminum
| DC Input **
|| 3 x +12v Inputs (Standard 4pin Molex Connectors)
| DC Output
| Fan Connectors
|| 8 x 3-pin Connectors
| Recommended PSU Wattage***
|| 600w or Higher
| LED Color Available
|| White, Blue, Green, Cyan, Red, Purple, Yellow
* Both panel styles are brushed aluminum. This should be detailed as aluminum can have various finishes. So it's important to note what kind is available as most aluminum computer cases use a brushed finish.
** DC Input is talking about the connectors "required" for this controller to operate. You can use only 1 molex connector if you do not plan to push this controller to its limit (as in a full 2.5A/30w draw on each channel). If you are using only a single 120mm fan on each channel, or even a single pump, then hooking up all three molex connectors is not needed.
Because of the high potential output of this controller, if you do plan to put a heavy load on it, connecting all three molex connectors is recommended to keep a pin or wire from over heating on your PSU or the controller's input.
*** Recommended PSU Wattage is talking about the size of PSU they want you to pair with this controller; though it is important to note that 600w is not an accurate number to use as this controller is going to pull all but a small portion of its current from the 12v rail of your PSU. A small draw is placed on the 5v rail for the LED's but it is less than a 1Amp draw and miniscule at best. For this reason, I would like to point out that you should pick the right PSU for the job.
This controller will use 240w from the 12v rail if you are maxing out each channel. So that means you should be looking for a PSU with an extra 20 amps available to dedicate to this controller if you plan to max it out.
Alright, that was a bit long winded so we'll move onto an unboxing on the next page and then we shall get to testing and a wrap up.
Unboxing The Lamptron FC-8 Fan Controller
The box the Lamptron FC-8 and accessories come in is a well constructed cardboard box with thick foam inserts. They're almost a half an inch thick. Inside the box we get a bag of screws, instruction manual and 16 unsleeved fan extension wires that are 6" long each.
Here's the manual for the FC-8 along with a set of screws. The manual details how to program the custom LED controls along with a few telling you what should be in the box. Though there is a note I would like to make about the "warning" section; this warning is detailing the "600w PSU Requirement" and "3 Molex Connection Requirement" that I talked about before. So head back to the bottom of page 1 if you skimmed over that section.
For a short recap: you only need to use a high wattage PSU with this controller if you plan to run every channel at 2.5A/30w. You also only need to use all 3 molex connections if you plan to run that scenario. Most users only need to use a single molex connection, and whatever PSU they are already using to power their rig and fans.
I would also like to note that the manual and box both say the accessory pack should include 4 screws and 8 fan cables that are 20" long. My accessory pack came with 16 fan cables & 4 screws, along with 4 bolts. I contacted a Lamptron rep about this and they opened another sample to see if this was similar on all of the products. They found the same amount and size of cable, though only 4 screws. If you put two of these cables together, it did add up to 20 Inches, so it may have been a last second design change.
At this time, it is Chinese New Year; I will have to wait for official word about this discrepancy later.
(Edit) Official word from Lamptron is future controllers will come with 4 Screws and the original set of 8 Cables that are 20" Long. In order to get samples sent to reviewers this substitute was put in place. The models that are currently for sale from vendors feature the noted 8 x 20" cables.
Here are our cables. All 16 of them, in 6" segments. Personally I like this, as previous Lamptron controllers came with 12" Cables and that was usually too much cable for the distance I needed to travel.
I would like to say, for a controller with this price premium on it, I wish they would offer sleeved cables.
Here is the front of the FC-8. You can see the brushed aluminum finish they gave it that looks even more stunning in person. Each "dot" above the control knobs is where your LED shines through. The labeling for each channel, along with the groove cut around the knob is all carved into the aluminum. So there is no chance of it wearing off unless you give this controller an acid bath.
The back PCB of this controller is very clean and soldering work is all very nice and tidy. Those black cylinders you see are solid capacitors from Panasonic rated at 125*C. A very nice showing indeed. I would like to mention that those pieces of aluminum with the holes in them are the MOSFETs. The aluminum backings are built onto them and not actual heatsinks. When Lamptron's "endurance" marketing spoke of no heatsinks used, this is what they mean. These MOSFETs run cool enough that running 2.5A through each of them will not cause them to overheat. I will test this later on to see how hot they get.
Now I've actually run into something I don't like to see; the MOSFET's on the bottom of this controller actually had the product numbers sanded off, so I can't tell what the specifications of these MOSFETs are. You can also see more solid capacitors soldered in-between the PCB's. They are United Chemi Con 85*C capacitors.
You can also see controller IC's connected in-between each PCB. These store your active profile for LED color selection.
Here we have the front panel of the FC-8 with its LED's on, on every channel. It's hard to tell as the colors blend together in the photograph. The set order on my controller is actually white, yellow, blue, green, cyan, purple, white & red. In person these color are actually quite vivid. The LED's behind the panel are bright, while not overbearing, even while looking at them head on, maintaining the classy demeanor of the product. This is because the front panel's LED "holes" actually have very thin bits of aluminum left inside to diffuse the light before it is shown through. That way you do not get an ultra bright LED in your eye when the room is dark, leaving a humble glow instead.
The LED's used on this controller are Tri-Color; red-green-blue LED's that use color mixing to produce other colors like purple, white, or green.
Let's move on and test this controller now.
Testing Methodology & Results
Testing MethodologyBeing a bit of a fan-atic myself, I've tested fans in the past and I easily have a small collection of them. Though for this review I ran into a bit of a problem; how am I going to load up every channel to 30w? Well, I just so happen to have a box of Yate Loon fans (64 to be exact) that are all from servers that I used.
- 8 Yate Loon D12SH-12s per channel
- Fluke 62 Mini Digital Infrared Thermometer
- Fluke 114 True RMS Digital Multimeter
- Sinometer MS2138R AC/DC Clamp Meter
- Output at least 28.4w per channel
- Keep 12v output voltage a close to the nominal value supplied by the PSU used.
- Compatibility with a variety of fans tested
- Compatibility with cases
- Ease of use for included functions
There are the tools I will be using for the job. The Fluke 114 & Sinometer MS2138R are going to be used in tangent to get my power measurements. Volts x Amps = Watts, and since this controller has each channel rated by watts I need to take actual voltage measurements and amperage measurements to get an accurate result of how much stress I am adding onto the controller's channel. This controller also advertises low heat output; because of the design, the MOSFETs on the back of the controller should be the part producing the most heat as that is where the fans are drawing their current from. I will use the Fluke 62 to measure the temperature in Degrees Celsius (#*C) to gauge on a rise above ambient how warm these MOSFETs are getting.
To gather my measurements I will be using Eight Yate Loon D12SH-12 fans per channel over a 24 hour period to see if this controller can sustain its rated output in a continuous operating environment. The ambient testing temperature is 35*C and is artificially kept at that temperature. My Silverstone Strider Plus 750w will be providing voltage and amperage to the controller. All voltage and amperage measurements will be taken periodically, every 6 hours, and averaged together. The Yate Loons will provide a current draw of 0.3 Amps each, for a total of 2.4 Amps (28.4w if the 12v rail holds steady at 12v). This controller is rated for 30w (which divided by 12 is 2.5 Amps), so it will be pushed to its limits as closely as possible by me.
Now let's move onto the actual testing.
With the source voltage measured at 12.01v we are seeing a slight rise on this controller from the voltage output. On normal resistor based controllers, like what has been sold in the past, you normally see a drop in voltage.
These are excellent results that fall well within ATX12v v2.3 Standards, which means both the Power Supply and Controller are functioning properly and doing a good job of regulating voltage. The load regulation on this controller is within 1.6% of the nominal value.
Here we have the measured temps of the MOSFETs of each channel on the controller; at peak we see a 5.6*C rise over ambient. This is a great result indeed. Older controller designs offered the same amount of wattage per channel, but those would have a 15-20*C rise over ambient which is something you do not want with a fan controller. Being wedged in the 5.25" bay of your case means those controllers would not get any airflow. Lamptron's PWM Control method alleviates these worries as it only has a minor temperature rise, giving it that advertised "cool operations."
The results are in and I have made up my mind; let us move onto the next page and wrap things up.
Conclusion & Final Thoughts on the Lamptron FC-8
This is not the first time I've dealt with a Lamptron product; with that regard in mind I did have some high expectations from Lamptron as their early products like the FC-2 did have a few issues which they quickly fixed. Along with taking in consumer input on what we, the buyers, wanted, they have continued forth to bring out new fan controllers to the market and prove their worth in a competitive field.
The Lamptron FC-8 was a spectacular device when it came to the fit 'n' finish of it. The brushed aluminum version exterior, along with the crafted aluminum knobs and engraved markings really made me fall in love with this controller when I pulled it out of the package. It does not hold or even show fingerprints and when you pair this with an aluminum chassis from a company that offers a brushed exterior you will instantly feel that both products were meant to be together. It's a very professional and sleek looking device, worthy of the praise.
The FC-8's performance was great. I had high expectations as their packaging boasted about both high performance in the form of low heat generation and excellent build quality with component choice. Lamptron did not disappoint in this regard. With high quality solid Japanese capacitors and MOSFETs which barely rose above the ambient temperature I can give deep praise to Lamptron in their adherence to their word. Voltage regulation was also phenomenal on this unit with only a 1.6% change from the nominal value.
The only thing I can say about the FC-8 that wasn't to my liking was the included fan extension cables could have been fully sleeved. This is not a huge concern as these wires are easily tucked away. It is something I would like to see changed for future high end products.
Legit Bottom Line: Lamptron made an excellent product that matched and exceeded expectations in all aspects. Coming in at $69.99 at the time of writing with a 1 year warranty, this is an easily competitive product well worth its cost.