While many cases these days come with their own built-in fan controllers, it’s also possible to get your own from third-party manufacturers like Lamptron. They’ve made their name with gorgeous controllers with tactile buttons and dials, but you can also get something a little bit more modern: a touch-screen fan controller. That’s the CM512, and we’re looking at it right now!
Specs & Features
- All metal faceplate
- Intelligent temperature control
- Manualand Auto function
- Compatible with PWM fans and stardard fans
The CM512 has a straightforward design, consisting of a metal enclosure in black or silver, with a glassy screen at the front, a touch controller and the main board.
On the board, we have a molex power input, five three-pin fan inputs and a temperature probe input. The package will fit neatly into any 5.25-inch drive bay. Overall, the construction and materials used seem up to specifications, with no weakness or flex evident in the design.
This fan controller from Lamptron has been sitting on our review pile for a while now — not through lack of interest, but because we haven’t had a case with a 5.25-inch drive bay to put it in! However, we can’t let that stop us, so we put it to the test just hanging out of our XSR test rig, MANTAMACHINE. Obviously that won’t be quite as ergonomic and stylish a solution as it’s intended, but it will allow us to check the controller’s functionality.
In terms of functionality, the CM512 works as described. It’s easy enough to install; just connect the temperature probe to the left-most header, up to five fans (PWM or standard) in the centre and a molex power connector on the far right.
From here, you can use the interface (described below) to switch between manual or automatic fan modes, including quiet (40% speed) and powerful (100% speed). The automatic mode didn’t seem to work well in our testing, turning the fan off or to 100%; no in between.
On the display, you can see the total amount of voltage being pulled by the fans you’ve connected, the current temperature and so on. By default, the interface is backlit; you can adjust the brightness or turn this off entirely. The data shown by the display seems accurate, e.g. temperatures matched our own separate readings and voltages were close to specifications.
In our testing, we found that the CM512 wasn’t the most intuitive controller to use. The touchscreen controls lack audible or tactile feedback, so it’s hard to know if you’ve touched the controller in a place that doesn’t do anything, it’s already in the mode that you requested or it just hasn’t registered your input. There are few buttons in the controller’s interface; just a lot of numbers that you can usually press on to bring up some other numbers. For example, you can press on the temperature readout to swap it between Celsius and Fahrenheit, or tap on the label saying ‘manual’ to set it to automatic mode.
What buttons do exist are far too small to read at a glance, with tiny symbols that don’t provide any clue to the button’s purpose. The single-page instruction manual (PDF) provided does help, but Lamptron haven’t done themselves any favours when it comes to crafting a sensible interface.
The Lamptron CM512 is a nicely-crafted piece of technology with good functionality, hampered by a poor interface. It is always a challenge to fit lots of data on-screen at once, but I feel that Lamptron’s approach here doesn’t use the touchscreen’s full potential. For the moment, I would suggest using one of their other fan controllers which offer more logically arranged controls, e.g. the FC5V3.