Lamptron Touch Fan Controller Review

It has been a little while since Lamptron released their flagship, FC-5 fan controller (now known as the FC5V2, which fixes screen contrast issues). In the interim they did release the FC-6, which is just a lower wattage FC5V2. Now they have leaped forward a bit and are releasing the Touch, Lamptron’s first touch-screen controller.

Specifications & First Impressions

While a lot of touch-screen controllers on the market have low wattage limitations (see: AeroCool @ 6 W and NZXT @ 10 W), Lamptron wisely kept theirs at a substantial 30 W/channel. Here are the full specifications & features from their site:

Specifications:

  • Faceplate Color: Black Anodized/Silver Aluminum
  • Dimension:148.5mm X 42.5mm X 64.5mm (5.25inch bay)
  • Screen Dimension:118mm X 31.5mm
  • Power Output:Up to 30W per channel
  • Control Channels:6

Features:

  • CNC milled front panel
  • Clean and streamlined interface
  • Streamlined touch functionality to control your fans
  • Choose between RPM or Voltages and Celsius or Fahrenheit for readout
  • Set the channel in either Automatic or Manual control to control the fans

Definitely more stout than the competition. Plus, it’s a single-drive bay device unlike some other touch-screen options, making it more convenient.

It comes in a nice black box with a sleeve that shows the unit itself on the front with specifications on the back. Inside is a nondescript black box that simply says “LAMPTRON”.

Box Front

Box Front

Box Rear

Box Rear

Interior Box

Interior Box

Like other controllers we’ve reviewed (the FC-5, reviewed by EarthDog and the FC-2 & FC-3 by yours truly), it comes with a product catalog and is well packaged inside protective foam.

Opened Up

Opened Up

Box Contents

Box Contents

The Touch comes with the same array of accessories as the FC-5 did but with two more temperature sensors and fan extension cables. In all, you get six 3-pin extensions, six temperature sensors, a power cable, mounting screws, the alarm jumper and the instruction manual. New to the Touch is a soft felt cloth to clean its screen when our grimy fingers get it dirty.

Accessories

Accessories

Now we get to the star of this show, the Lamptron Touch.

Lamptron Touch

Lamptron Touch

Understated, yet elegant with the aluminum bezel, it’s a good looking fan controller for sure. The electronics are certainly more complicated than your typical potentiometer-controlled manual models.

Controller Electronics

Controller Electronics

Controller Electronics - 2

Controller Electronics - 2

Controller Electronics - 3

Controller Electronics - 3

Controller Electronics - 4

Controller Electronics - 4

Temperature Probe Connectors

Power and Temperature Probe Connectors

The fans channels are arranged starting with #1 farthest from the power connector, ending with #6 closest to the power connector. Temperature probes are 1-6, top to bottom starting at the power connector. You can also see the alarm jumper there. If the jumper is installed and any temperatures breach 70° C or any fans aren’t operating with a voltage greater than 6.5 V, an alarm will sound.

Display and Controls

From power off, to power on -at least as far as appearances go- just pops up a little power-button in the bottom right of the controller. This is, of course, a touch-sensitive power switch that enables the rest of the controls.

Lamptron Touch Off

Lamptron Touch Off

Power Applied

Power Applied

After hitting the power button, you can select which of six fans you want to control. You can also select the screen contrast in the lower left. In our case, we’ll start controlling Fan #1.

"Home" Screen

"Home" Screen

Controlling Fan One

Controlling Fan One

There is a pretty decent amount of info for each fan (they all look identical, only the fan number changes). In the upper left you see the RPM read-out. This is selectable to show either the fan RPM or the voltage being applied. In the upper right, you see the temperature from the corresponding sensor (sensor 1 displays on fan 1′s control screen).

The lower left “M” can be touched to turn it to an “A”, which each correspond to Manual and Automatic control. Controlling the fan is a breeze. You can either move your finger along the bar and it will set the fan where you stop, or you can tap just to either side of the bar for 1%-at-a-time fine tuning.

Automatic control is a nifty feature and relies on the included temperature sensors. You can set the temperature for it to kick in and what RPM you want. Say you set 60% and 45° C (which is the default setting). Below 45° C, the fan will run at 60%. If the temperature exceeds the set amount, the fans will ramp up to 100%. I’m a manual type of guy but for those that would use it, this is a nice feature to have, especially since you can set the parameters.

The little arrow-in-a-circle button in the bottom right is a return key that takes you back to the home screen and the arrows to either side of the speed control take you to the previous or next fan in line.

Fan & Probe Attached

Fan & Probe Attached

Fan & Probe Attached - 2

Fan & Probe Attached - 2

Fan & Probe Attached - 3

Fan & Probe Attached - 3

There you see everything in action. The little fan graphic is animated and its speed of ‘rotation’ corresponds with your fans’ RPM.

Performance

First I connected a single .30 A Thermaltake fan to each channel and measured voltages at 0, 25, 50, 75 and 100% settings. Input voltage for all tests was 12.08 V.

Voltages at Set Percentages

1
2
3
4
5
6
100%
12.04
12.04
12.04
12.04
12.04
12.04
75%
9.22
8.97
9.01
9.03
8.93
8.96
50%
5.99
6.10
5.92
6.05
5.93
6.04
25%
3.00
2.95
3.09
3.15
2.84
3.10
0%
0.80
0.80
0.79
0.79
0.78
0.78

Good results here, with little deviation. Lamptron says the 0% bleed through is a function of a resistor put in place to prevent damage to fans when faced with sudden power changes.

Now we’ll see how well the controller can do what it says – 30 W per channel. To test this, I hooked up four Ultra High Speed Panaflo fans (by NMB-MAT), rated at .65 A each, or 7.8 W. Four of those is 31.2 W, just over the rated wattage.

I measured power ability by setting it to 100% and measuring the resulting voltage output. Then I checked voltage regulation by setting it at 50% and observing that voltage as well as watching its behavior. Input voltage was still 12.08V.

Stress Testing Setup

Stress Testing Setup

Voltages Under Max Load

1
2
3
4
5
6
100%
11.54
11.57
11.57
11.58
11.59
11.58
50%
6.13
6.12
6.11
6.10
6.09
6.06

Not bad at all. With a wattage load that exceeded the specifications, it managed only a 4.5% maximum loss from the applied voltage.

Voltage at 50% was constant and very close to each other through every channel. There is a small issue having to do with multiple high-amperage fans and this controller’s ability to maintain a set voltage.

Approximately once within each 30 seconds, voltage will spike, from ~6.1V to ~6.22V and then go right back down a second or two later. Obviously it’s harder to keep a constant voltage when you don’t have a physical potentiometer controlling the applied voltage.

The spike is audible in these fans because they’re such beasts. It was not noticed with a lower wattage load and no one without a voltmeter will notice using fans that are quiet enough that you can’t hear them in the first place. That said, it’s consistent and reproduce-able on all channels.

Lamptron was consulted about this too and they say there will be corrections made to help reduce that (already small) fluctuation prior to the product release and that it only occurs with extremely large fans.

Another interesting thing to note is a very quick voltage spike when the controller is first powered on, likely to full power, before the controller applies its settings. I say ‘likely’ because the spike is too fast for my voltmeter to even read, it just stays locked on 0.00. The fans attached ‘bump’ for a split second.

This is actually a potentially good thing, because if you have strong fans set to, say, 40%, the bump could be a nudge to get them rotating near their power-on voltage level. My instinct says it just takes a couple milliseconds to initialize the electronics in the controller and until then it passes through full voltage. It definitely isn’t going to hurt anything.

One Minor Quibble

There is one other issue that I’m still talking to Lamptron about (and they plan on addressing if they reproduce it) – RPM readings. This has no bearing on the controller’s Auto mode or on its ability to control fans, it’s just a monitoring thing. When using multiple large fans (with all but one fan’s RPM sensor wire removed from the plug) on an extension cable -in my case, 36″- with splitter(s), the RPM reading goes a bit haywire, showing readings all over the place.

For instance, one of my radiators has two 2,750 RPM Panaflo  fans. The RPM will show anywhere from ~2,400 to ~3,500, jumping around between them. Same thing with my other radiator that has three 3,400 RPM Delta fans.

This does not occur with one fan connected to a long extension and only happens when you connect the second (or third) fan. Lamptron posits there is some induction being introduced along the line. From the way it is acting -inaccuracy comes in when additional high-amperage fans are introduced to the line- I think they may be right. However, this never happened with the FC-5 I used before, so it’s a new issue that should be addressed.

Again, this only occurs when connecting multiple high-amperage fans on long extensions. Lamptron has tested many fan types with up to 60″ extensions and it works fine, as it did in my testing with a single high-amperage fan on a 36″ extension. We are speaking about the issue and, like the other ones, they plan on addressing it on release units.

Final Thoughts & Conclusion

This is an impressive first venture for Lamptron. The functionality of this unit is superb, with a very fast, accurate and responsive touch-screen as well as solid performance results across the board.

The issues raised are relatively minor and just happened to need a lot of text to explain. Impressively, the whole reason Lamptron sent these pre-release units to reviewers was not only to have them reviewed but to get input. They literally encouraged us to “put these units through their paces to ensure that all units are free of defects prior to shipment to the public.” They were appreciative for our bringing these things to their attention and assured us they would address problems before the public release. That’s service for you.

The MSRP will be $69.99 and for what it does, that seems like a very fair price; competitive with other touch-screen models at that price point but with a hefty wattage advantage. All in all, this is a solid fan controller that, with 30 W-per-channel, is more capable for enthusiasts than any other touch-screen model on the market.

-Jeremy Vaughan (hokiealumnus)

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