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Lamptron is back in a big way with their brand new FC9 fan controller. This is quite a deviation from the standard design. I can’t recall a similar controller and after looking at Newegg, Performance-PCs and FrozenCPU, I’m unable to find one like this. As far as its design, the term ‘game changer’ comes to mind.
Specifications and Features
Lamptron touts this as one of their strongest fan controllers. It’s not the strongest overall in their lineup, but it is the strongest four-channel model.
- Dimension: 148.5 mm X 42.5 mm X 75 mm (5.25″ Bay)
- Power Output: Up to 50 watts per channel
- Control Channel: 4 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: 4 X 3-pin connectors
- Recommend PSU wattage: 600 W or higher
- CNC Milled Front Panel
- Up to 50 watts per channel
- Throttle Control Operation
- Seven LED color choices
So far, so good. 50 W per channel totally makes up for the fact that this is a four channel controller. You can parallel up any number of fans, even high amperage fans (within reason) without fear of burning out your controller.
What’s that? You have a radiator with six Ultra High Speed Panaflo fans in push/pull attached to it like I once did? No problem! At 0.65 A each, that’s merely 46.8 W.
As has become their custom on higher-end controllers, Lamptron is going with their box-in-printed-sleeve product packaging. It makes for an appealing package and, more importantly, one that protects the controller very well.
Now we make it to the main event. I told you it was a game changer, no? With slides for control instead of knobs, switches or a touch screen, it’s a huge change. As anodized, brushed aluminum is somewhat difficult to photograph, I went with the many-angles approach, so enjoy your slide show.
Even without being lit up, this is a very nice looking controller. The sliders are large enough for easy control of your fans and the action is smooth from bottom to top. Some caution should be exercised though, don’t go hanging things from them. They’re very solid, but plastic; so they can be broken. It would take quite a bit of force to do so, but it’s always better to err on the side of caution.
The controller looks darn nice, but it’s not absolutely perfect quite yet. Looking at the photo on the left, you can see the sliders aren’t exactly lined up perfectly, with a slight leftward tilt. To be honest, you can’t notice it unless you’re looking for it, but that’s what I’m here for! There is only one other blemish on the controller, a scratch on a part that’s not visible from the outside. However, it is of little consequence because of its location.
Moving on to check out the components, this is obviously not your average four channel controller. With amazingly large coils and MOSFETs that have beastly heatsinks on them, this thing is built for endurance.
One thing that threw me for a loop though was the capacitors. On the FC8, Lamptron touted their “Endurance” tech, which basically meant they used solid capacitors. Yet on this significantly higher wattage (per channel) controller, they went back to electrolytic caps. It’s counter-intuitive and I’m not exactly sure why they did that. These caps should be fine, I wouldn’t expect them to fail on you prematurely or anything, but after bringing “Endurance” to the front as a big deal with the FC8, you’d think they would have kept with the theme.
The colors! The colors! My wife recently acquired a better camera and I’m privileged enough to be allowed to use it. This leads to much more accurate low-light color representation. The colors here are very accurate representations of the colors available on the controller.
The color variations are very nice looking throughout. The only two questionable colors are white and yellow. White has a very blue tint to it and yellow leans more toward the green end of the spectrum.
These are all RGB color combinations, which leads to this limitation. Red, green and blue are going to be your strongest, most accurate colors because they have dedicated LED lamps. The others are more of a bonus, if you will, using the addition or subtraction of those three colors to produce their hues.
In any event, this controller looks great lit up and will match pretty much any system you could put together.
Speaking of systems, let’s install this beast. In our example today, the FC9 will be installed in a Lian Li PC-X900, which also features brushed aluminum.
Stunning is the only way to put it. The blue matches up with the fans and power LED perfectly. It really does complete the front panel of this case like no other controller has been able to.
I have only one (very minor) qualm with Lamptron controllers. Most of their controllers have anodized, brushed aluminum face plates. The only problem with this is that the brushes were applied in the opposite direction from Lian Li’s brushes. Changing that direction would make it perfect. It’s almost perfect as-is and already looks great, but that would be the icing on the cake.
To measure performance we’ll test both slide consistency and voltage loss in several scenarios.
The test setup consists of a Cooler Master Gold 800 W PSU, one Thermaltake 0.30 A fan (for low load testing), three Delta 0.80 A fans, two Panaflo (NMB-MAT) 0.65 A fans and of course the FC9. The multimeter is just your average, garden variety meter.
Slide Control Consistency
On controllers with knobs, I usually subjectively determine the “time” position of each knob at various voltages. That gives an approximation of how consistent the controls are between channels.
It is much harder with a slider to easily relay their position at a given voltage. So, to address the FC9 I’ve gone the visual route. I set all channels to 10 V and 6 V (+/- .02 V) and photographed the slide positions.
Both of the photos show reasonable consistency between channels. The sliders have their minor skew mentioned above in the controller tour, so the differences that do exist are amplified somewhat. Their actual positions in the slides were very close to each other. A+ for consistency.
Voltage Under Load
To test voltages under load, we used three different scenarios. The first is with the 0.30 A Thermaltake fan by itself. Second came one of the 0.80 A Deltas by itself. Last was all three Deltas and two Panaflos combined into one monstrous load of 3.7 A, or 44.4 W. Unfortunately, I only had five splitters and couldn’t add a sixth fan to top out the controller. Within six watts is pretty close though and will give a fair approximation of performance. The input voltage from which loss was calculated was 12.25 V as measured where the MOLEX connector met the PSU.
Solid results all around. If you look back at the FC8 results, the maximum loss for 3.6 W was identical and there was a significant improvement at the 9.6 W level, from 1.14% to 0.81% here. Even under full load, the FC8 lost a little more than the FC9 did, with 2.94% compared to 2.78%, respectively.
The FC9 is definitely a stout fan controller, that’s for sure. Running at full tilt for a few minutes, it didn’t even break a sweat.
Final Thoughts & Conclusion
The Lamptron FC9 is one great fan controller. Consider me hooked. It looks absolutely fantastic; its clean lines and glowing countenance are unmatched. No touch-screen could look as good as this, and no knob-based controller could look like this. It’s definitely one of a kind.
Performance-wise, it holds up admirably. There is nothing to be ashamed of having a fan controller lose a mere 2.78% when pushing almost 50 W out a single channel. The mere ability to push 50 W out of a single channel is impressive in itself. Some would complain about having only four channels…but as an example, how often do you need to change the intake fans on your case to different values? How about your push-pull heatsink – change those to different voltages much? No, four channels is fine. In its current installation, it is running seven fans and only uses three channels: two for the heatsink, two exhaust and three intake. So while some might consider four channels a down-side, in this case there are seven fans and it doesn’t even need all four channels!
Is it perfect? No, not much in this life is. The sliders could use some adjustment so they are all uniform, but aside from that and the scratch that you can’t even see I can find no faults. As far as fan controller designs go, the Lamptron FC9 truly is a game changer. It’s extremely powerful, its looks are second to none and at an MSRP of $49.95, it’s even going to be priced reasonably. The FC9 was technically released August 10th but hasn’t made it to any etailers I can find, so keep your eyes peeled for it. Lamptron definitely has a winner on their hands with this one!
– Jeremy Vaughan (hokiealumnus)