Lamptron FC-2 Rheobus Fan Controller Page: 1

LamptronIn the world of fan controllers manufacturers such as Zalman, Akasa and Scythe are often the fist port of call for enthusiasts looking to bring some silence to their high end PC systems kitted out with large numbers of fans. However, while most fan controllers do this job perfectly; taming anything from four to eight fans from a single drive bay, certain fans out there such as those available from Delta and Panaflo draw far too much power and can easily burn out a standard fan controller in a matter of seconds.

For this reason, a fairly new player to the scene: Lamptron have brought it upon themselves to produce a rheobus based fan controller capable of taming up to six fans rated at 45w (or 3.75 amps) each. Considering that most standard fans consume less than 0.5 amps and even some of the most powerful Delta fans require less than 3 amps, the Lamptron FC-2 certainly sounds fully equipped to put the likes of the Delta GFB1212VHW and TFB1212GHE monsters back into their cages. However, before we get down to business, let's see what China based Lamptron have to say about their latest creation:

Fan Controller 2
Rheobus Monster is HERE!

Lamptron Innovative Fan Control/Rheobus-FC2 is a working result of Lamptron end users and Lamptron Design Group.
The Control Panel is CNC milled from blocks of 3/4" thick solid aluminum.
Each channel supports up to 45 Watts. The knobs are all LED lit a beautiful blue color.
This is the unit to get if you want smooth speed control and you will be adjusting your fans often.
The Lamptron FC2 is meant for the power user that wants the best!

150mm*43mm*73mm (5.25" Bay)
Power Output: 45 w per channel
Control Channel: 6 Channels
Color Available: Black Anodized/Silver Aluminium
DC Input: + 12V(Standard 4- Pin Connector)
DC Output: 0V- 12V DC
LED Indicator: 10* Super-bright Blue LED
Fan Connectors: 6 pcs

Probably one of the most interesting features about the FC-2 aside from its whopping power output rating is the 3/4" (19mm) thick CNC milled aluminium front. Whereas most manufacturers seem to be following the trend of shiny black plastic, it's good to see that Lamptron have focused on quality and styling that will undoubtedly suit high-end aluminium PC chassis much better than cheap plastic.

Lamptron FC-2 Rheobus Fan Controller Page: 2
Packaging & Appearance

The Lamptron FC-2 is presented in a rather compact single walled cardboard box with a windowed panel that allows the Aluminium front plate and knobs to be displayed in their full glory. The primary colours of the packaging are black and an electric blue which is quite appealing and will undoubtedly make the device stand out on retailers shelves.

lamptron FC-2 Box Front Lamptron FC-2 Box Front

Lamptron FC-2 Box Side Lamptron FC-2 Box Side

While the front and top of the packaging don't really give away many details about the FC-2, the sides of the packaging have been kitted out with feature and specification lists in 'English' language only. Interestingly a blurb not found on Lamptron's website has been placed on the side of the box:

Lamptron Innovative Fan Controller is a working result of Lamptron end users and Lamptron Design Group to address the needs of enthusiasts that need to controlled more than four fans and fans of high wattage like Delta fans. The Control Panel is made from CNC milled from blocks of 3/4" thick solid aluminium. Each Channel supports 45 watts, significantly more than others. The knobs are all LED lit a blue colour. This is the unit to get if you want smooth speed control and you will be adjusting your fans often. The Lamptron FC2 is meant for the power user who wants the best!

Not really anything that we didn't know already, but the specific reference to Delta fans by Lamptron is something that will be of importance to us in the testing phase of the review.

Lamptron FC-2 Unboxed Lamptron FC-2 Unboxed

Opening up the box you are presented with the FC-2 sandwiched in between two styrofoam cutouts. This should be enough to ensure the the fan controller does not get damaged during shipping, but it would have been nice to see the controller its self placed inside a plastic bag to prevent any moisture from damaging the components. Also included in the box are six 3-Pin fan extension leads and a pack of screws. The bare minimum by all accounts.

Lamptron FC-2 Front Lamptron FC-2 Front On

Lamptron FC-2 Side Lamptron FC-2 Up-Close

It's very rare that something as basic as a fan controller could get us all excited, but as we're sure many enthusiasts will agree: the FC-2 looks awesome. It may not have all the bells, whistles and fancy LED readouts found on some of the digital fan controllers, but the simplicity of FC-2's design and that huge lump of milled aluminium at the front just goes to show that not everything exported from China is cheap and tacky.

Lamptron FC-2 Rear Lamptron FC-2 PWM

Lamptron FC-2 Rheobus Lamptron FC-2 Power

Around the back of the FC-2 we can see just how Lamptron have managed to tame those high powered fans. A series of six mosfets are lined up at the rear of the PCB, each with its own small black aluminium heatsink attached. The rheobus controls at the front of the device are merely an interface to the mosfets as they themselves are far too small to take any real current.

As there is potential for a total of 270w to be passing through the FC-2, Lamptron have used binding posts to connect two heavy gauge wires to the molex connector. Considering that the power passing through this connector is well above the consumption of some high-end graphics cards, it will certainly be interesting to see if a standard molex can cope.

Lamptron FC-2 Front LED Lamptron FC-2 Dark Shot

There is however a chink in the FC-2's armor. Switching off the lights and viewing the controller in complete darkness we can see that the outer edges of the fan controller are not lit. Initially we thought this was down to a faulty unit, but after further investigation and indeed re-reading Lamptron's specifications, the FC-2 only features 10 LED's for the 6 control knobs which leaves the outer two knobs only half illuminated. Poor show Lamptron!

Lamptron FC-2 Rheobus Fan Controller Page: 3
Testing & Results

While digital fan controllers can often be 'tested' for their ease of use, temperature reading accuracy and built-in safety features, the Lamptron FC-2 being entirely manual in its operation cannot be subjected to the same level of testing. However as Lamptron have said themselves, the FC-2 is all about being able to control high-powered Delta fans, and it just so happens that we've got knocking about the office.

Voltage Test

But before we start creating our own Delta powered wind tunnel we're going to be checking the voltage output of the FC-2 fan headers with each of the controller turned fully to the left (off) and fully to the right (100%). The reason behind this testing is that some fan controllers fail to provide the maximum voltage to the fans (12v) when set to 100% or fail to completely power off the fans when set to 0%.

Referring back to the specifications for the FC-2, Lamptron state that the power output is adjustable between 0v-12v. However as we can see from above, with each of the controller knobs turned completely to the left, the fan controller still outputs varying levels of voltage to each of the headers. This unfortunately poses a problem in that fans which are able to run on voltages as low as 3.9v will still be turning, while fans connected to other headers running voltages around 1.9v wont.

Once the knobs are turned fully to the right the voltages even out significantly. At this point the voltage INPUT from the PSU is 12.20v, showing that there is very little loss of power in the FC-2 circuitry when running at 100%.

Delta Fan Test

For this stage of the testing we started off by connecting a single Delta TFB1212GHE to one of the fan headers. Rated at 2.45a (39w) the fan comes quite close to the maximum output power of a single header on the FC-2. With the rheobus knob turned fully to the right (100%) the fan worked as expected. However, on trying to slow the fan down at all by turning the knob to the left, the fan entered a constant speed up > slow down cycle accompanied by a high pitched squealing. Initially we put this down to being an issue with the fan not wanting to operate at anything less than 12.0v, but after replacing the FC-2 with a large 50w rheostat, the fan acted as expected thus placing the blame directly on the FC-2 controller.

Not deterred by this incompatibility we switched the single TFB1212GHE out for six Delta FFB1212EHE's rated at 2a (24w) each. Once again, at anything other than full speed the fans would enter a speed up > slow down cycle but thankfully this time there was no high pitched squealing.

This anomaly can most likely be put down to the use of PWM circuitary in the FC-2 which sends pulses of voltage to the fans in order to run them at slower speeds. Unfortunately this also renders the Delta fans we chose unusable at anything other than 100%. A recording of the fans can be heard here. However due to the 50dba+ rating of the fans the quality of the recoding isn't too good.

Lamptron FC-2 Rheobus Fan Controller Page: 4

Lamptron FC-2With its CNC milled aluminium faceplate, uncomplicated looks and promise of being able to tame extremely powerful fans from the likes of Delta, the FC-2 seemed like the perfect fan controller for any enthusiast with a fetish for CFM and an eye for quality. However, as the testing over the previous page has shown, the FC-2 just has too many flaws to be treated as a respectable fan controller.

For starters setting all knobs on the controller to their lowest settings produces varying voltages across each of the fan headers with some reading as low as 1.9v while others as high as 4.1v. This obviously leads to a situation where some fans may stall while others remain spinning. Then there's the cosmetic flaw of only 10 LED's being used across the 6 knobs, leaving two knobs only half lit.

The final nail in the coffin comes from the fact that the FC-2 couldn't even effectively control the two different sets of Delta fans we tested it with. Considering that Lamptron are marketing the FC-2 directly for this purpose, it is extremely disappointing that the fluctuating fan speed and high pitched squealing issues we encountered weren't picked up early on in the design and development stages.

We wanted to like the FC-2, we really did - but even as a fan controller for 'normal' fans the FC-2 has some show stopping issues.

The Good
- Milled aluminium faceplate.
- Quality look and feel

The Mediocre
- 10 LED's instead of 12 leaves two of the knobs only half lit.

The Bad
- With knobs set to their lowest setting the voltages on each of the fan headers varies significantly.
- Couldn't effectively control the two models of Delta fans we used with it.

Thanks to Lamptron for sending the FC-2 in for review. Discuss this review in our forums.

UPDATE 15/12/08

As with all articles on Overclock3D, manufacturers are given the opportunity to respond to any issues highlighted during the course of the review. Lamptron has taken this opportunity,  and has  responded with the following comments:

To Readers,

Overclock3d released the review of Lamptron Fan Controller 2(FC2),and pointed a few questions of FC2, we need to explain these questions based on the review.

The Modulation system of PMW destines the necessity of producing the fan sound, which is not the problem of product quality, but a flaw of PWM technology.

The advantage of PWM technology is that its Output Power is high and its energy-saving,which is pursued by the overclockers who uses the high power needed devices.

As for the process of down regulation, especially for minimum voltage part when the fan starts running, the fan has the evidence of uneven rotating speed. Even for a certain voltage point, the fans may have the evidence of only vibrating but non-working with big noise. For the normal working fan, this position is useless working zone; and its existing has no application value.

There is still voltage on the control knob at the extreme left, it is a no-load situation. When connected to fans, the disappearance of the natural voltage, the phenomenon of spin won’t happen as the Rated voltage will be lower than the no-load force of the fans. (3V fans not available in the market, this testing use of 12V, 0.08A small power fan)

The following file also attached to Lamptron's email shows the difference in voltages across the 6 channels of the controller with fans both connected and disconnected: