Thermaltake Commander F5 Multi Fan Controller Review

Waco - 2013-09-22 13:16:55 in Cooling
Category: Cooling
Reviewed by: Waco   
Reviewed on: February 10, 2014
Price: $19.99

Thermaltake Commander F5 Multi Fan Controller Introduction:

BUUUUUUUUZZZZZZZ. WHIIIIIIIIRRRRRRRRRR. These are a few of my least favorite noises. Thankfully, even with high performance fans, overclocking gurus don't have to sit around listening to their computers make a racket when they are not pushing the limits of their hardware. Fan controllers are the solution to this noisy and annoying problem that usually comes along with building a PC that can play anything maxed out with nary a stutter.

Thermaltake, long a supporter of the gamer inside all of us, brings to the table the Commander F5. This five-channel manual fan controller reaches to hit the low price point we all want without compromising where it counts: performance. This 5.25" bay fan controller retails for just $20 and promises to keep your fans quiet and your wallet (or purse) full! Keep reading to find out if the Thermaltake Commander F5 has what it takes to deliver upon its promises!

 

Thermaltake Commander F5 Multi Fan Controller Closer Look:

Not surprisingly, the Commander F5 comes wrapped in a box sporting the red and black regalia of almost every Thermaltake product ever made (not that I'm complaining). The fan controller itself is featured front and center surrounded by an abstract red and blue background. The actual finish of the entire box is matte except for the images of the fan controller on both sides. The rear side of the box highlights the various specifications and features (seen in detail on the Specs & Features page) of the Commander F5. All in all the packaging isn't particularly groundbreaking, but it does successfully highlight what you'd what to know before buying it in a store. The one exception to this, is that it lists compatibility with "4-Pin "Molex" fans" when it really should read "4-Pin "PWM" fans". Standard Molex-powered fans, as you will see in a bit, will not work with this fan controller.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Popping open the box reveals a neatly-packed fan controller tucked inside an anti-static bag nestled up in open-cell fitted packing foam. You could throw this box off of a building and the fan controller would likely survive without damage! Freeing the Commander F5 from its confines also brings to light the included installation guide, warranty policy flier, and four installation screws.

 

 

Free at last! The cables on the Commander F5 come wrapped neatly at the rear of the fan controller to avoid snags and/or damage when removing it from the packaging. This conveniently also bypasses the issue of plugging the various wires into the wrong plugs at the rear of the control board. The sliders themselves are bright red surrounded by black mesh (the box claims honeycomb, but it looks like regular mesh to me). The rear of the Commander F5 is completely black plastic that feels very sturdy.

 

 

 

Taking a closer look at the front of the Commander F5 you can just barely pick out the LEDs next to each of the five channels from behind the mesh. There is also a power indicator that lights up on the far right of the controller, the opposite of the Thermaltake logo. Unfortunately for those wanting to keep their color scheme monochrome, the channel uses indicators that are blue, while the power indicator is red.

 

 

Last but not least we have a shot of the 4-pin PWM compatible connectors for each fan channel. All five connectors are labeled "FAN1" through "FAN5", which correspond left-to-right to the sliders on the front of the Commander F5. The wires here do feel a bit cheap, but not drastically so (and do recall, this is a $20 fan controller). The other important thing to note here is that each channel can only power eight watts worth of fans; you won't be running multiple ultra-high RPM fans off of a single channel.

Thermaltake Commander F5 Multi Fan Controller Closer Look:

Installation of the Commander F5 was as straightforward as it can get with the exception of a single detail: the 100mm (~4 inch) Molex power connector. This plug just barely extended far enough to hide out of sight next to my drive bays and I can't imagine anyone who would rather have it this short versus a more reasonable length. Each of the fan output wires was a much more reasonable 600mm (roughly 24 inches) and should easily reach any fan in any non-monster case.

The fan sliders themselves are extremely smooth and easy to move – a light touch is all that is needed to adjust. The blue LEDs highlight which fans are being controlled (in this case channel four is disconnected) and the red LED indicates that power is being received properly. Overall the installation went through without a hitch with the exception of the annoyingly short power cable! 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thermaltake Commander F5 Multi Fan Controller Specifications:

Part Number:
AC-001-BN1NAN-A1
Compatibility:
5.25" Drive Bay
Weight:
185g
Dimension:
150 x 80 x 42 mm
Material:
Plastic & Mesh
Main Function:
Manual Fan Speed Controller
Color:
Black
Cable Length:
Power cable: 100mm, Fan cable: 600mm
Connector:
4-pin x 5 fan cable; 4-pin Molex power cable
DC Input:
12V
DC Output Range:
4V – 10.5V
Watts per Channel:
8W

 

 

Thermaltake Commander F5 Multi Fan Controller Features:

 

 

Information courtesy of: http://www.thermaltake.com/products-model.aspx?id=C_00002119

Thermaltake Commander F5 Multi Fan Controller Testing:

Testing the Thermaltake Commander F5 fan controller required using it in my normal routines. These routines included gaming, working (what's that?), and general Internet surfing. These various activities allow me to become familiar with how well the fan controller works for various situations and configurations. While the Commander F5 has five channels, I attached fans to only four of the channels for testing. The first three channels on the controller were wired to the three pairs of Yate Loon fans mounted as push/pull exhaust on the radiator top-mounted in my case. The fourth channel was left dormant after confirming that it did indeed work. The last channel was wired to a Corsair AF140 Quiet Edition at the rear of my case also set up as an exhaust fan. The six Yate Loon spinners aren't particularly noisy even at full blast, but they do create a "whooshing" sound of airflow very similar to the noise the AF140 puts out at full speed.

 

Testing Setup:

 

Fan Configuration:

 

 

Thermaltake Commander F5 Multi Fan Controller Results:

So the real test of a fan controller is that it is capable of providing both aural bliss and maximum cooling. Sadly, I must report that while the Commander F5 most definitely provides the former with a minimum output voltage of just over four volts, it fails at delivering anything more than 10.5 volts at maximum speed. This is somewhat surprising as it limits maximum fan speeds to just over 85% of their full potential if being fed 12 volts. The low minimum output voltage is a nice feature, but users must be wary of fans that will not start-up at such low voltage (my Yate Loons were just on the cusp of not wanting to start up at the lowest setting).

Overall I was pleased with the operation of the Commander F5, although the low maximum voltage was a surprise. For those not worried about getting the maximum out of their fans, it isn't much of a problem, but to me it seems like a design flaw to artificially limit fan speed. The other notable issue is the eight watt per channel power limit – I had to carefully check my fans to be sure I wasn't going to overload the Commander F5 and burn it out (or worse!).

Thermaltake Commander F5 Multi Fan Controller Conclusion:

Overall the Thermaltake Commander F5 is a bit of a mixed bag. I had low expectations given that it is an extremely affordable fan controller, but the fit and finish of the unit did exceed those expectations; the Commander F5 doesn't feel cheap once installed. The low minimum output voltage of four volts does allow for fans to spin at extremely slow speeds for nice and quiet computing, although users will have to be careful since most high-performance fans won't even start to spin at such low voltages from a dead stop. This requires one to remember to crank the fans up at boot and then slow them down once they've started. At the other end of the noise spectrum we have the low maximum output voltage of 10.5 volts – which does keep the noise down, but limits fan performance at the same time. As fan controllers are supposed to provide users with both extremes, I was quite disappointed by the upper voltage limit.

Even keeping the low cost in mind I just felt like the Commander F5 missed the mark, if only just slightly. It will provide you with the ability to throttle back your obnoxious fans (assuming they aren't over eight watts) for a measly $20. If you blew your budget buying fast fans and you cannot stand the noise, the Thermaltake Commander F5 might deserve a home at the front of your case. Just don't point it at your bed since the lights will blind you even in your sleep!

 

Pros:

 

Cons: