The Bottom Line
Introduction, Specifications and Pricing
Fan controllers are nothing new, and to be honest, neither are touchscreen versions of such devices, but that does not mean that companies are still at developing new ways to offer such control for their own brand of cases. Of course, you can go just about anywhere and grab a controller similar to this one, and it may offer the same specifications, but on the flip side, there are a ton of users out there who love it when all of the devices including the chassis all sport the same manufacturer naming, and this is where Thermaltake steps in with their newest fan controller.
With a plethora of new cases that have hit the market from Thermaltake, they have really opened the door to many new customers. Going even further, with the modularity and customizable options these chassis designs offer, it doesn't take long before you are out of fan headers, and not always does a customer want to have to opt to run their fans at 12V using various adapters and splitter cables. This is when most users will opt to move into a fan controller so that they may group fans on channels and customize the amount of flow and noise coming from the fans, and is why this latest device was engineered and placed in the market.
The Thermaltake Commander FT is the latest of fan controlling methods offered from Thermaltake. This isn't your typical plain Jane fan controller either. Of course offering it as a touchscreen keeps the smooth look that many people will appreciate, rather than twist knobs or sliders protruding from the front of the chassis, but it packs in all the bells and whistles that a fan controller can offer as well. Things like thermal alarms, fan alarms when no RPM is being reported from it, the option to disable the LED lighting after the controls are set up, and this controller is offered with a 50 Watt maximum power delivery, just to name a few. All of these, plus many others we will explain along the way will likely lead you as it did us to really appreciate this fan controller, and you will see how nice and sleek this Commander FT is for any Thermaltake chassis, or any chassis for that matter.
The specifications chart provided from Thermaltake leaves very little to the imagination as they cover almost every aspect of the controller in this chart. We see that the Commander FT is 148mm wide, it is 88mm deep, and stands only 42mm tall, fitting inside of any 5.25" bay. While weight is of little concern for most customers, we do see that with wiring included, this controller weighs in at 300 grams. Continuing onward, we see that this offers five individual channels that deliver 10 Watts each, for the total of 50 Watts as we mentioned earlier. This is also where they explain the RPM range of each channel starting with 0 RPM and will show up to 9990 RPMs if you can find a fan capable of such speeds.
The screen on this controller is 5.5 inches when measured on the diagonal. We also see that with this kit, it includes a single thermal probe that will display on the Commander FT in a range of 0 to 90 degrees Celsius, but at the same time, it can be changed to display the temperatures in Fahrenheit as well. As we conclude with the chart, we see that the fan connections have only 3-pins in them, they are made wider to allow 4-pin fans to connect without modification as well. We also see that to power the Commander FT, Thermaltake chose to use a 4-pin Molex plug to do this. Also included within the kit are four screws to make sure the controller gets mounted securely into the chassis, and they also provide a bit of tape to attach the thermal probe wherever you see fit.
Looking around the vastness of the interwebs as we always do, we see that there are only four locations inside of the US that you can obtain this device at this time. The most reputable, outside of eBay, is the listing we found at Newegg. There you can find the Commander FT listed at $36.99 with free shipping being available currently. We have seen many fan controllers in our time, ranging from just under $20 for the basic models, all the way up to near $100 for standalone models, we feel that Thermaltake is not only right on the mark with pricing, but is also below what we initially assumed pricing for such a device would be. For those in the market for a new fan controller, Thermaltake and their Commander FT may be the perfect solution to fit your cooling control needs.
Packed inside of a cardboard box, we find the Commander FTs front panel offers the Thermaltake name and logo at the top, and offers the design of the touchscreen behind the product image in the center. We also see along the bottom that they were sure to point out that this offers five channels, has a 5.5" screen, and can deliver up to 50 Watts across all channels combined.
Moving around to the side of the packaging, we see an image of the Commander FT inside of a Thermaltake chassis to give you an idea of what it will look like in your chassis. The lower image then shows the thermal probe and fan connections offered.
As we move to the back of the packaging, we find that most of this panel is taken up by the specifications chart that is very similar, if not a bit better than what we found on their site. To the right of the chart, we then find a chassis packed with Riing fans, obviously controlled with the Commander FT peeking out through the 5.25" bay at the top.
In case we may have missed a feature or two, Thermaltake was sure to list twelve features that the Commander FT offers. Things like quick switching from auto to manual control, short circuit protection, and an intuitive fan slider names a few we did not cover already.
Since Thermaltake is a global company, this last panel is sure to cover the main four features that should make you at least ponder purchasing this device in eleven languages to cover markets they sell in.
Removing it from the box, we find that the controller, wiring, and accessories are all wrapped inside of a plastic bag. Not only does this help to contain things, but it also offers a layer of protection for the bezel and touchscreen. Outside of the plastic, we see dense foam used on the front and back of the device, rather than on the side as we usually do. Again, this obviously helps protect against any drops that may occur, but it also makes sure that the touchscreen of this controller is very well protected for damage.
Thermaltake Commander FT Touch Screen Fan Controller
To offer such a large touchscreen in the Commander FT, Thermaltake offers a bezel that is only 8.6mm thick on either side, the top section is 4.6mm thick, and at the bottom it is only 3.5mm thick, leaving the rest of the front to be used for the 5.5" touchscreen panel in the middle. Other than that, we also see that the Thermaltake name has been pressed into the left side of the plastic bezel.
Both sides of the controller are made from steel. This allows them to drill out and thread various mounting holes, and the likelihood of said holes stripping out is much less. The pair of holes at the top are also placed there to offer a couple of places to help tie off the wiring to help with the cleanliness inside of the chassis.
As we get to the back of the controller, we see all of the wiring has been bundled here for transit. To use the controller, simply remove the twist tie and extend the wiring. Another nice feature is that all of the wiring is easily disconnected so that you can eliminate unneeded wiring, or make wiring in the chassis a bit simpler to do as well.
With all of the wiring disconnected, we now get a great view of the back of the PCB. On the left side, you can see the row of capacitors along the bottom, the rows of resistors in the middle, and we see that they chose NEC chokes at the top before the power is delivered to the five 3-pin clips for the fans along the top.
On the right side of that same PCB, we find the buzzer at the top, and it also includes a jumper that can be removed to disable the speaker. Below that is the ribbon connection that controls the touchscreen, and at the bottom is the 4-pin connection for power, and to the right of that is the 2-pin thermal probe connection.
In this set of bundled wiring, we find a 25" long thermal probe wire, the fan leads are all 24" in length, and the Molex lead is much shorter at only 17". We do like that all of the wiring is black though, and should disappear in most chassis offerings.
As far as accessories go, this is pretty much it. There is a set of four screws to mount the fan controller in the 5.25" bay of choice, and they also offer a good sized chunk of yellow tape to stick the thermal probe to the base of a CPU cooler, behind the motherboard socket, or anywhere you want to read a temperature to control the speed offered with the Auto setting of this controller.
There are also very well written instructions that will walk you through the functionality of the device. This points out how to pick the channels, how to adjust the fan speeds, and also covers the alarms and temperature settings. They also offer a warranty guide of what to do and what not to do if you wish to claim anything within the one-year warranty.
Fans, Setup, and Use
Along with the Commander FT, Thermaltake also sent along a set of four Riing fans in the 120mm flavor. We are also given four out of the five color choices available, but we did get our samples prior to the release of the orange versions now offered.
With some basic fan connections made, and the Molex connection tied into a PSU, we are just about ready to power things up, but we are also rereading the manual to make sure we know what we are able to do once the Commander FT powers up.
As we initially power the Commander FT, we see that the screen powers up, as well as we now see the fan spinning, and the LED rings on them are glowing brightly. Now it is time to move closer and see what we are able to do.
Going over what we see, there is a tiny light bulb icon that will enable or disable the LED backlighting, and we see that all channels are set to run the Auto setting, where currently the power supplied is cut to 40%. At the bottom on the left, we can set all channels to minimum speed, or maximum speed, by pressing the slider icons. The right side then offers channel selection, temperature and RPM readouts, and a plus and minus to adjust the alarms thermal setting.
When the channels are chosen, if the slider is set to the lowest speed of 30% the channel number is replaced with an "L", just like how when we have the slider at 100%, it shows the "H" we see in this image.
Messing around with the temperature settings, we can indeed change the scale that the temperature is displayed in, but that same display can be used to adjust the thermal alarm, where you use the + and - buttons to move the setting from 40 degrees Celsius at the low-end, up to 90 degrees at the high-end.
After quite a bit of tinkering and testing, we find the Commander FT delivers on all aspects that Thermaltake states it will offer, and is presented in a very easy to use layout. While we addressed that the buzzer will sound if temperatures climb higher than the temperature you have set for it, we also found that if any of the connected channels see that a fan is no longer spinning, the alarm will sound then as well.
Probing the fan wires while using the slider, we found that the fan controller offers 11.77V when set to 100%. Most of the 10% drops on our way to 30% fan speed offers a 0.35V drop from its previous setting, and as we get to 30% set on the slider, we read the voltage then as 5.31V. We also noticed that if you are on channel one, and have it set to manual control, the rest of the channels are still using the Auto settings until physically changed individually. Two other things we want to mention here is that against a thermometer in the room, we saw only a 0.4 degree deviation between the two, and as far as the RPMs reported, it moves in 100 RPM segments, so accuracy is not exact, more of a general idea of the fan speed.
Outside of that, with the textured plastic bezel, and the smooth screen across the front, there is nothing to make this fan controller stick out or look funny when inside of a chassis. We did test fitment, and found no issues with using tool-free clips, or in using the provided screws. Also with three rows of holes, it makes it very easy to align this controller in many cases, where other manufacturers offer only one set of holes, and if it did not line up correctly, it is up to you to mod it to make that issue go away.
The Commander FT has a very solid feel, and even when pressing hard on the touchscreen, there is no flex or noises associated with such actions. We also liked that the wiring is easy to disconnect and plug back in, not only for wire management purposes, but it also ensures that you won't accidentally pull the wiring out of the clips if you do find reasons to remove any of them from the PCB.
Of course, you can find a $20 fan controller, but it won't be a touchscreen controller, nor will it look as clean as the Commander FT. We feel that for all of the functionality and options offered, the pricing is right where it should be. Comparing this to the Sentry 3 from NZXT, Thermaltake is only priced $2 more at $36.99 versus $34.99 for the NZXT. While they do share a lot of the same offerings, Thermaltake's version is cleaner looking, has a slightly larger screen, and is easier to use than what we recall from the NZXT offering.
So for $36.99 and free shipping, as we said earlier, if you own a Thermaltake chassis this is an obvious choice for a controller, but even if you have a chassis from another manufacturer, and like life to be clean and easy, the Commander FT touchscreen fan controller is the way to go currently.
|Quality including Design and Build
|Bundle and Packaging
|Value for Money
The Bottom Line: It is clean looking, easy to install and use, and it offers plenty of power and finite controls that most enthusiasts are after. Thermaltake has delivered once again, and the Commander FT comes highly recommended from this reviewer.
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