Internal fans play a vital role in cooling your system. As most people know, heat is the death of longevity for computer components (and the universe). The cooler you can keep your PC, the longer you can keep it running smoothly and efficiently.
Most computer cases come with a number of internal case fans, anywhere from just one or two all the way up to ten or more. However, these case fans run on their own and cannot receive information or be modulated. If you are lucky, your case may include an on/off switch at most.
This is where a PC fan controller comes in. It gives you the power to customize and run your fans the way you want to. This has a number of benefits over autonomous case fans.
Tone down the noise levels
Fans can be rather loud, and if all you’re doing is browsing the web, there is no need for them to be going full throttle. This also increases the fan’s longevity and is more energy-efficient. If you switch to a more demanding task, like gaming, though, a PC fan controller will allow you to quickly adjust your fans up to speed with this enhanced cooling system. It’s easy to see why a fan controller can soon become an indispensable item in your system
In this guide, we will cover the best fan controllers on the market today. Then, we’ll go over everything you need to know to make the best purchase for your set-up.
Products at a Glance
How We Picked
We have chosen an array of the best PC fan controllers, covering a number of different form factors – internal devices, ranging to ones that take up drive bays in your PC case. Each has its own merits depending on the type of fan control system you are trying to build.
A fan controller might not be one of the first upgrades you consider adding when you are building a system, but with the help of this guide, adding one a best PC fan controller listed here will help you out more than you think, and help you tame the growling beast of all those shiny RGB case fans you have just spent a small fortune on.
Best Computer Fan Controllers of 2021 (Internal and External)
Easy to install and useAffordable
Gives users control of up to 4 fans
Fits easily in the standard 3.5" PC front bay casing slot making it portable
Controls fan speed and noise effectively
Only allows for three pin fan connections
The Kingwin FPX-001 is an excellent budget fan controller that gets the job done. It has speed adjustment knobs for up to four fans. Unfortunately, this controller only allows 3-pin fan connections.
On the plus side, it comes equipped with nice-looking LED lights that indicate whether or not the fans are on, which is a nice, albeit largely unneeded (you have ears, right?) quality of life feature.
Four thermistor inputs let you monitor temperatures in different spots through system
Accurate and superior hardware control
Can connect with internal CORSAIR LINK devices
Controls three and four pin fans from a complete stop to maximum speed
Slim form factor allowing you to do installations anywhere in your case
RGB LED strips sold separately
While the Corsair Commander Pro doesn’t look like much on the surface, as a PC case fan controller it offers an impressive amount of functionality and customization. Using their Corsair Link software, you are able to fully manage and control your case fans. This does take place of an actual display, but honestly, we prefer just using a powerful, feature-heavy software.
This controller can fit up to six fans, as well as two RGB channels, four temperature inputs, and even a couple internal USB devices. When it comes to connectivity, this fan controller is the king.
It even includes four thermal sensors, along with some other extras. The fan connectors can support both 3-pin and 4-pin fans.
This is undoubtedly one of the best in terms of out and out PC case fan controller on the market today.
Temperature alarm to monitor rising temps
Easy to install and manipulate
Auto/manual modes for easy customization of your fan speed
Able to store all your fan and calendar settings even when the system is off
Easy to read and understand NZXT designed interface
Works with only three pin connectors
The NZXT Sentry LX is a larger dual bay fan controller and comes with a RGB led display to match. It includes automatic and manual modes for controlling fan speeds.
It also has a temperature alarm that notifies you when temperatures go beyond safe levels. It even stores fan and calendar settings when the controller is off. The main downside is that it only supports 3-pin connectors.
There is one other downside, however: it uses two 5.25” bays. On its surface, this might not seem like a big deal, after all, nowadays disk drives are less useful than ever before. But that’s exactly the problem. Because 5.25” bays are less useful, they are gone from many cases altogether and the rest rarely go out of their way to include two of them.
Expansive 5.5" touchscreen for smooth interaction
Monitors fan speeds and temperatures of up to 5 individual three or four pin fans
Silent modes and performance for best cooling operation
Does not connect with PWM
The 5.5 inch touchscreen on the Thermaltake Commander FT looks sleek and provides many options for those in need of choice.
The Thermaltake Commander FT case fan controller can run auto, manual, or silent modes to give you options for any occasion. It works with 3-pin and 4-pin connectors to control up to five fans at once.
Custom fan naming for easy control of individual fans via a cam software
Preset fan profiles for easy control
Combines both non-rational and variable installation options for a simple, un-instructive fan control
Supports both three and four pin fans
On the expensive side
Another simplistic-looking fan controller, the NZXT Grid+ V2 uses CAM software to allow for fine control and modulation of fans. It can control up to six different 3-pin or 4-pin fans. The software itself also comes with preset fan profiles to make getting started faster.
This fan controller is great for those looking for detailed control of their fans, and are not overly concerned with touchscreens or digital displays.
Things To Consider
What To Look For In A Fan Controller
Your case fans are an important part of a computer’s internal cooling system and are necessary to keep your components working in top condition. The three main reasons why someone would get a case fan controller have to do with flexibility, efficiency, and noise.
- Flexibility: Normally, computer fans are not particularly calibrated to respond to the computer’s internal state. As a result, most of the time your fans are running more than they need to be.
- Efficiency: By the same token, a good fan controller helps make your rig more energy efficient by letting you control how much current is being supplied to your fans. You can also get controllers that automatically sense and respond to the temperature of components. This can also increase the lifespan of the fan. Less use = less wear.
- Noise: One drawback of computer fans is that they can be pretty loud, especially if you are running an app that is demanding. Fan controllers let you slow fans down or turn them off when not needed which cuts down on that incessant whirring noise PC enthusiasts are familiar with.
A good fan controller can really help your gaming experience by taking heat stress off your CPU and letting it run more efficiently. Before buying a fan controller for your PC, take into consideration the following features.
The first thing is to check is the size of the case fan controller. Fan bays on computers run the gamut from small to medium to large, so take a minute to measure the size of your bays before looking for fan controllers.
You should also count how many separate fans your computer has. Most fan controllers can supply power to 5-6 fans at once. Each channel on a fan controller can run one fan, so plan accordingly. Most heavy-duty towers rarely exceed 6 fans, though you could have up to 10 if you habitually run very demanding programs.
Pretty much all computers have at least one fan for their CPU, and several people add extra fans for their RAM, storage, and any other components they need to monitor the temperature of their components.
Type Of Fan Header
The fan header refers to the port on your motherboard that you can hook fans up to. Most computer fans come in a 3-pin or 4-pin design, each number referring to the number of connector pins.
- 3-pin headers contain 2 connectors for current and grounding and a third connector that relays information to the user about the RPM of the fans for monitoring purposes. 3-pin connectors can have their RPM modulated by adjusting the voltage sent to the fan, although this method isn’t as precise as 4-pin controllers.
- 4-pin fan controllers have a fourth connector pin that lets them modify fan speed on a software level. This is called “pulse width modulation” (PWM) and works by controlling the amount of current given to the fan at any given time. For example, a 4-pin connector might only give electricity to the fan in short bursts at a time to save on energy.
4-pin connectors are increasingly becoming the industry standard, though some fan connectors still use 3-pin connectors. Most of the time, 4-pin fan connectors are backward compatible with 3-pin fans, though they lose the ability to actively modulate fan speed.
Digital Or Analog
Next, you should figure out if you want an analog or digital fan controller. Digital controllers modulate fan speeds through the use of software and provide options for fan speeds, while analog controllers are operated by hand, allowing you to adjust speeds throughout a range. Both have their perks and drawbacks.
- Analog devices allow you to change fan speed by hand, normally by turning a knob or adjusting some slider. The benefit of analog controllers is that they allow you to continuously modulate the speed of your fan so you have full control over the speed of the fan. The drawback is that you can damage your computer if you do not know what you are doing and set fan speed improperly. The Kingwin FPX-001 is a good example of an analog fan controller.
- Digital controllers, in contrast, give you less direct control over fan speed but do the hard work of calculating and distributing power according to its onboard processor. This makes digital devices more user-friendly and requires less technical know-how to use. Digital devices can suffer from software malfunctions, but in general, they are just as reliable as analog fan controllers. The other fan controllers on this list are all digital.
You should next ask yourself how much you want to monitor your fans’ performance and if you want a display to do that. Most displays on fan controllers are simple and just tell you basic info, like RPM or temperature. Many fan controllers come with software that lets you control them from an app on your computer. Displays are not strictly necessary, but they can be a nice touch to relay basic info to the user.
If you are looking to introduce a degree of fan control into your system and have a ton of case fans in your PC case to hush up then you can’t really go wrong with this from Kingwin, which comes top of our recommendations for our 2021 best PC fan controllers.
The Corsair boards offer both internal convenience and reliability of a great brand but as they are controlled by fan controlled software, it’s just one more program taking up system headroom.