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Lamptron has re-worked the FC5 fan controller yet again, and now we sit at version three. This latest iteration drastically increases the LED color choices, controls up to six fans, and also has temperature probing capabilities. With modern motherboards able to control fans and many cases including this as a built-in future, what makes a fan controller worth the added expense? Lamptron thinks they have the answer to that with the FC5V3. Let’s take the FC5V3 for a test run and see if we think they have the answers too!
Specifications and Features
Here are the specifications provided by the Lamptron website.
Lamptron FC5V3 Fan Controller Specifications Dimensions 148.5mm*42.5mm*63mm (5.25″ Bay) LCD Dimensions 136mm*19mm (wide screen) Power Output Up to 30 watts per channel Control Channels 6 Channels Panel Color Available in Black Anodized / Silver DC Input +12v (Standard 4 Pin Molex / “D” Connector) DC Output 0V- 12V DC Connectors 6 X 2510-3pin connectors Recommended PSU 500 Watt or Higher
Let’s give Lamptron a moment to present their marketing spiel for the FC5V3.
The Lamptron FC5V3 fan controller is not only a revision of the FC5V2 but it is a real step forward in the evolution of these kind of products. This fan controller is positioned to become the new reference point in the cooling domain. In fact, the Lamptron FC5V3 has 6 channels and can handle up to 30 W per channel. The new wide LCD display shows all the information (RPM, temperature and voltage) for every channel. Moreover, the display allows a new level of customization providing 16 different colors for the illumination of the LCD display. The FC5V3 integrates all the commands directly on the front of the fan controller for an enhanced and quicker access to all the functions. Moreover, the FC5V3 provides an initial 12 V (startboost) on all the channels in order to make the fans work even if set at the minimum working voltage.
The features are pretty impressive with 16 color choices for the LED display and 30 watts per channel support. I pulled the features from the instruction manual and the items marked with ** are new features when compared to the FC5V2.
- New wide screen with 16 bright colors: you can choose the backlight among 16 colors simply pressing the first knob on the left.**
- 6 independent channels: 6 knobs allow the direct control of the 6 channels and the relative information is constantly displayed on the screen as speed, voltage and temperature.
- 30 W per channel: every channel handles up to 30 W.
- Start boost: the FC5V3 provide an initial 12 V in all the channels in order to make the fans work even if set at the minimum working voltage.**
- Alarm function: the alarm function is programmable directly from the interface.**
- Sleeved cables: all the wires are wrapped with black high texture “snakeskin” sleeving.
- Cool PCB: as all the recent Lamptron products, the FC5V3 features a black PCB for the electronic circuit.
- CNC milled aluminum face-plate.
Packaging and Accessories
The box front gives us a view of all 16 available LED colors to choose from, along with a couple pictures of the controller itself. On the back, we have another marketing blurb, the specifications, and an items list.
Inside the box, we find the controller and accessories well protected in a white Styrofoam enclosure. Included with the FC5V3 are the following items.
- 6x Fan Extension Cables (19.5″)
- 6x Thermal Probe Cables (24″)
- 4-Pin Molex Extension Cable (6″)
- Cleaning Cloth
- Mounting Screws
- Instruction Manual
The Lamptron FC5V3 is certainly an awesome looking piece of hardware. The CNC milled aluminum really gives the unit a classy and defined look that is complimented further by the stylish knobs. The wide screen LED display further enhances the looks; and I really like that it doesn’t have a glossy overlay, which should make it easier to see in a variety of lighting conditions. Below are some pictures that highlight the front face aesthetics.
Lamptron incorporated an all black PCB for the FC5V3, which is a nice touch. Green PCBs are so… well… 1980’s looking after all. A view from the topside down shows the six 3-pin fan connections and the six thermal probe connection points. The jumper you see is for enabling/disabling the 12 V start boost feature. This voltage boost feature actually sends a 12 V burst to all six channels upon start up, thus making sure all the fans will begin rotating and not suffer from the dreaded start up stall.
Looking through the unit from the bottom side up, we get a good look at the potentiometers. The channel one and six potentiometers have the added function of being push buttons to control the display color and alarm functions. To set the desired LED color, simply push the channel one knob, and it will begin to cycle through the 16 available choices. When the color you want appears, just push the knob again to select it.
The alarm function has three settings to choose from, 6-channel, 4-channel, or no-alarm. You can toggle between the alarm options using the channel six knob. Using the 4-channel alarm option works only with channels one through four. The alarm is intended to trigger anytime a channel has 7 V or more being applied to it, and the fan reports 0-RPM.
The two pictures below give a close-up look at the voltage regulation ICs, temperature reporting ICs, and the 4-pin Molex connector. One thing I’d like to see Lamptron include in addition to the 4-pin Molex extension cable is a 4-pin Molex to SATA power adapter. In most cases, I’d assume this device would be mounted in close proximity to a SATA ROM drive of some sort. So, having the ability to use close by SATA power would be nice to have, which eliminates the need to run an additional PSU cable for the sole purpose of powering the fan controller.
- Thermaltake SmartM 750 Watt PSU (jumped for stand-alone operation)
- ModRight 9-way Fan Splitter
- Radio Shack True RMS Multimeter
I rummaged through the box of fans I have and came up with a good combination of three fans to test with.
- Panaflo FBA12G12M (5.4 Watts)
- Vantec Tornado TD8038H (9.12 Watts)
- Delta FFB0812EHE (16.2 Watts)
All told, that’s 30.72 watts and just a smidgen over the 30 watt per channel rating. We’ll call that close enough!
The first thing I wanted to look at was how consistent each channel’s voltage output is in relation to the knob position. In other words, let’s say the knobs controlling channels one and two are at the 12 o’clock (straight up) position, how close is the actual voltage output between the channels? Probably the most important reason you want this reading to be as close as possible is if you’re controlling fans in a push/pull configuration on either a radiator or CPU cooler. This test isn’t near as important as it would be on a fan controller that does not display a voltage output like the FC5V3 does. In all reality, you only care about being able to set voltages where you want, regardless of where the knob position ends up being. Because the FC5V3 also has a RPM display, you have flexibility on how to set fans that you want running at the same speed. You can either concentrate on voltage output or RPM as you manipulate the knobs.
Below are four pictures with the knobs turned to the 1/4, 1/2, 3/4, and full on positions. For this test, I used six identical Masscool FDf8025S1 fans. In this scenario, you have to turn the knobs a bit past the 1/4 position before any voltage begins to be registered by the controller’s display. When the knobs are turned to the 1/2 way position, we begin to see about half of the voltage sent to the fans, which is about right. I did notice that channels one and six lagged a bit behind the others at this setting, but just a tad more of a turn gets them right in line with the other channels. With the knobs set to the 3/4 position, things are pretty much stabilized across all the channels at right around 11 V. With the knobs turned to the full on position, everything reports max voltage just as they should. I double checked the LCDs voltage output readings with a Digital Voltage Meter, and they are spot on. The unit does does an excellent job of reporting accurate voltage output.
The values you see below are only valid for the fans I used and will vary with the wattage/load put on each channel.
Voltage Under Load
The FC5V3 did a fantastic job of providing very stable voltages under different wattage loads. Even with the channel over loaded slightly from the rated 30 watts, it sill held the maximum output voltage within 2% of the PSUs input voltage. If you put a normal case fan on one of the channels (probably 4 watts or less), you’re likely to experience less than a 1% drop in voltage. I loaded each of the six channels, one at a time with the same wattage loads; and the results were all within a whisker of each other. It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to load all six channels to their maximum capacity at once, that’s an insane amount of fans and an even more insane amount of fan noise. Suffice to say, most usage scenarios would include a fan or two on each channel; and with that type of usage, the voltage drop will be very minimal. When looking at the chart below, keep in mind it starts at 11.5 V and maxes out at 12.3 V. The blue line is there just as a reference point for the PSU’s 12 V output under a no load condition.
Some of you may be interested in the raw data used to create the above graph, so here is that information.
|Fan Wattage||PSU No Load||PSU Output to Controller||Controller Output to Fans|
All in all a very nice showing in the voltage load testing.
The next thing I wanted to test is what they call voltage bleed. With every knob turned all the way down, I took a reading on each channels with the DVM. Another good showing here as the results are perfectly normal and expected. Nothing to complain about here.
|Channel||CH 1||CH 2||CH 3||CH 4||CH 5||CH 6|
|Voltage Bleed||0.4 V||0.5 V||0.5 V||0.4 V||0.4 V||0.3 V|
Finally, I installed the temperature probes to see how they behaved. I simply attached the probes to the controller and let them read the ambient temperature in the room, which was 23.9 °C (75 °F). All six probes settled in right where they should and were very accurate. You can choose to display temperatures in either Fahrenheit or Celsius by pressing and holding the channel six knob for a couple seconds. Nothing to complain about here either.
Lamptron continues to push the envelope with new and innovative fan controller products, and the the FC5V3 is a great example of that. The FC5V3 currently sells for anywhere from $84.99 to as much as $99.99. So, make sure you shop around a bit as prices can vary substantially. Currently, availability is a little spotty. If all else fails, contact Lamptron’s support people, and they can sell you one directly.
The build quality the FC5V3 exhibits is excellent, and the looks are sure to finish off any custom system build nicely. While the price may seem a little on the high side at first, when you consider everything the FC5V3 offers, I think the enthusiast crowd will embrace it. The 16 LED color choices make a seamless integration possible, regardless of your build’s color scheme. With the ability to display RPM, temperatures, and voltage output for each channel, it’s easy to see where this controller has advantages over others on the market. Not only are those things displayed on the LED, but the information given is very accurate.
All and all, a job well done by Lamptron. I have no problem recommending the Lamptron FC5V3 to anyone looking for a higher end fan controller.