Lamptron FC8 Fan Controller Review

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When we last looked at a Lamptron fan controller, it was their flagship/bling model the Lamptron Touch. They’ve gone the brute force route this time and sent us their new powerhouse, the Lamptron FC8 fan controller.

Specifications and Features

Here they are, straight from the Lamptron site:

Specifications

  • Dimension: 148.5 mm * 42.5 mm * 76 mm (5.25″ Bay)
  • Power Output: Up to 30 watts per channel
  • Control Channel: 8 Channels
  • LED Color Available: White, Blue, Green, Cyan, Red, Purple, Yellow
  • Panel Color Available: Black Anodized/Silver
  • DC Input: 3 X +12v (Standard 4 Pin Molex)
  • DC Output: 0V- 12V DC
  • Fan Connectors: 8 X 3-pin connectors
  • Recommend PSU wattage: 600w or higher

Features

  • CNC Milled Front Panel
  • Laser Etched Logo and Channel Lettering
  • Customizable Channel LED’s
  • Up to 30 watts per channel

The FC8 isn’t quite Lamptron’s strongest fan controller. That award still goes to the FC2, which has a combined potential 270 W of fan pushing power. Still, with 240 W this controller is spec’ed strong enough to push enough fans on all but the most outrageously massive systems out there.

Controller Tour

Like the Touch, the FC8 comes in an inner box with a sleeve. Well-packaged, it will have no problems surviving its trip to you.

Lamptron FC8 Box

Lamptron FC8 Box

Lamptron FC8 Box Rear

Lamptron FC8 Box Rear

Box Inside the Sleeve

Box Inside the Sleeve

Solid Packaging

Solid Packaging

We were actually graced with two versions of the FC8, both the silver and black versions. Not all was sunshine and rainbows though; the silver version unfortunately had a defective 1st channel. The black version was flawless and had no issues what-so-ever.

Lamptron FC8 Silver

Lamptron FC8 Silver

Lamptron FC8 Silver

Lamptron FC8 Silver

Lamptron FC8 Silver

Lamptron FC8 Silver

Those that need the silver model will definitely not be disappointed. The finish was impeccable on the brushed aluminum. Surprisingly, eight channels didn’t make the controller feel cramped at all. There isn’t enough space to get your fingers between the knobs of course, but it’s not difficult to use at all.

Lamptron FC8 Black

Lamptron FC8 Black

Lamptron FC8 Black

Lamptron FC8 Black

Just like he silver version, the black version’s brushed aluminum looks great. The silver outline on the knobs makes them ‘pop’ nicely, much better looking than the FC2 if you ask me.

The FC8 is unique among Lamptron’s lineup in that you can select any of seven colors individually per channel. The first five angles are with all of the colors selected, then there is one with just blue and green so you can see what it’s like to go with a uniform selection.

So Many Pretty Colors!

So Many Pretty Colors!

Lamptron FC8 Lighting

Lamptron FC8 Lighting

Lamptron FC8 Lighting

Lamptron FC8 Lighting

Lamptron FC8 Lighting

Lamptron FC8 Lighting

Lamptron FC8 Lighting

Lamptron FC8 Lighting

Blue & Green Lighting

Blue & Green Lighting

I like it! Colors to match pretty much any lighting for any build is definitely a good thing. You may notice all of these colors are also available on the FC5’s / Touch’s screen, but you can only do one at a time. This can have any combination of colors you want. It’s a simple matter to change the color too, using the far left and far right knobs as push buttons to select the channel to change and change the colors. All in all, a very nice looking and intuitive implementation.

Now we’ll see what these things are made of. Using a PWM-control for the output voltage, these are a bit more complicated than your average potentiometer/resistance-based controllers (i.e. the Sunbeam Rheobus).

These controllers are the first to use Lamptron’s new “Endurance Tech”, which they describe as being “…made with the finest components available to give them extra endurance!” It’s unclear from the image (linked above), but it really seems to mean they use solid capacitors.

Lamptron FC8 Silver Electronics

Lamptron FC8 Silver Electronics

Lamptron FC8 Silver Electronics

Lamptron FC8 Silver Electronics

Unfortunately, as mentioned previously, there was a problem with the first channel on the silver sample we had. If you look at these photos, it looks like the capacitors they tout were resting squarely up against the solder mounting the potentiometers in several places. That appears to be the main thing that (visibly) changed from the original to the new version below, so that’s where my (admittedly unscientific, unverified) instinct says the problem may have laid.

Lamptron FC8 Black Electronics

Lamptron FC8 Black Electronics

Lamptron FC8 Black Electronics

Lamptron FC8 Black Electronics

Lamptron FC8 Black Connections

Lamptron FC8 Black Connections

So there you have it, a very good looking fan controller. Elegant looking simplicity at its best.

Performance

There are two methods to test performance when I look at fan controllers (with the Lamptron Touch being an exception) – how consistent the potentiometers are across the controller and the voltages the controller holds under load. Tests were conducted using a Cooler Master Silent Pro Gold 800W PSU that gave a supply voltage of 12.25 V. I measured voltages with a run-of-the-mill multimeter. Voltages were measured at the connector where it plugged into the controller.

Regrettably I didn’t take a photo of testing the black (non-malfunctioning) version, but I did snag one earlier when testing the silver version.

Testing the Lamptron FC8

Testing the Lamptron FC8

One item that should be noted and was evident across the board, as it has been in every PWM-controlled Lamptron controller, is voltage bleed-through. When the controller is turned all the way down, on all channels, it bleeds through 0.77 V. It’s just a function of the design and not a ‘flaw’ per se.

This will not be a problem for 99.9% of you who actually use the fans connected to your controller. It’s more important so that you’ll take note when installing it to double-check and ensure you aren’t accidentally shorting out any connections / connectors, which could kill that channel (and possibly the controller).

Potentiometer Consistency

This test is less than scientific. It’s meant to judge how similar the controls are between the various channels – i.e. if you set the controller at the 1/2 way mark, can you expect it to be relatively similar voltage to each fan. Accuracy here is useful if you have, for instance, push-pull fans on a radiator. You don’t want one working against the other.

To judge, I set each channel at four different voltages and eyed its position as best I could. The results are expressed as locations of a hand on a clock, i.e. if the control knob pointed straight up, that’s 12:00. Straight left and right are 9:00 and 3:00, respectively.

Channel 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
10 V 2:45 3:00 2:45 2:45 3:00 3:00 3:00 3:00
8 V 2:00 2:00 1:30 2:00 1:45 1:45 2:00 2:00
6 V 12:30 12:30 12:00 12:15 11:45 12:00 12:15 12:15
3 V 10:00 10:00 9:30 10:00 9:30 10:00 10:00 10:00

Overall, the FC8 does a good job with consistency of control. With a couple exceptions, most of the controls were within 0:15 of each other. Only a couple were greater than 0:30, and even then when you’re looking at such a small “clock”, it’s hardly perceptible. Definitely no cause for concern across the board.

Voltage Under Load

Now we have the more objective test. This chart shows how the controller held its voltage levels under various loads. The 3.6 W load was applied with a single Yate Loon 0.30 A fan. The 9.6 W load was a single Delta 0.80 A fan. Lastly, the 32.4 W load was three of those Deltas plus the Yate, for a total of 2.7 A. Input voltage was 12.25 V.

Channel 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 Max Loss
3.6 W 12.23 12.23 12.22 12.22 12.23 12.22 12.22 12.22 0.24%
9.6 W 12.13 12.13 12.12 12.12 12.11 12.12 12.11 12.11 1.14%
32.4 W 11.95 11.94 11.93 11.92 11.92 11.93 11.89 11.89 2.94%

Definitely nothing to be upset about here. The controller passed through the vast majority of its supply voltage through all single fan testing. With a maximum loss of under 3% when run slightly over specified load wattage this is definitely a strong performer and will be able to power plenty of fans without worry. Not that a 3% loss would be a massive concern anyway. No one in their right mind would run 240 W of fans at full tilt all the time. The noise would drive them insane!

Final Thoughts and Conclusion

The Lamptron FC8 definitely delivers. It’s a very stout, solid fan controller that would be well worth investing in. Speaking of investment, the FC8 currently retails for $69.95 at Performance PCs and at Frozen CPU.

While it’s certainly not the cheapest controller around, it is also very unique. Browsing through Performance PCs catalog, you won’t see another 8 channel fan controller with anywhere near the wattage this beast can put out. At this price though, you will need to think about just how many fans you need to control and what sort of aesthetics you are going for. The Lamptron Touch is available for just $5 more, so consider long and hard which product suits your taste better.

Me? I like the FC8. The touch is very nice and does its job admirably. That said, I like the looks and simplicity of the FC8 more. Plus it has two more channels for even more fan controlling goodness! The FC8 is without a doubt Overclockers Approved.

– Jeremy Vaughan (hokiealumnus)

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Discussion
  1. frank anderson
    Power Output:Up to 30 watts per channel

    That is some uber "pwn-age" there :clap:


    If memory serves me correctly, when the Sunbeam Rheobus Extreme came around, it was also rated at 30W per channel. I do have to say the 2 extra channels and the fact that the LED colors can be changed in a much easier fashion than the Rheobus seem to give this one the upper hand. Too bad this wasn't around when I modded my Rheobus 4.:p
    bcsizemo
    It does look nice. I really like the PWM setup vs.the old resistance based stuff. I'm not sure the solid cap stuff is as needed as say on a motherboard, but for a few extra cents it's nice to see. I'd also be interested in the make/model of the transistors used for the switching, but it's also a nice touch they have diodes for spike protection (should help the life span a decent bit).

    All in all it might be one of the few fan controllers I'd be willing to invest in.


    Unfortunately, nobody outside of the inner workings of the company knows what brand parts they use, all the serial numbers and brands are removed from the parts during production to prevent theft of the design.
    It does look nice. I really like the PWM setup vs.the old resistance based stuff. I'm not sure the solid cap stuff is as needed as say on a motherboard, but for a few extra cents it's nice to see. I'd also be interested in the make/model of the transistors used for the switching, but it's also a nice touch they have diodes for spike protection (should help the life span a decent bit).

    All in all it might be one of the few fan controllers I'd be willing to invest in.
    muddocktor
    This looks more like the kind of fan controller I would want in my build. Something more basic and without all the fancy LCD readouts and such. Just a good, solid, good looking, high wattage fan controller.


    Indeed, most of the time the temp readings on the lcd units are so inaccurate. Mostly for aesthetics no functionality. I would give up a high end touch screen controller @5w/channel for a simple 10w/channel controller any day.

    OP: Nice review!
    This looks more like the kind of fan controller I would want in my build. Something more basic and without all the fancy LCD readouts and such. Just a good, solid, good looking, high wattage fan controller.