Cooling REVIEW : CORSAIR COMMANDER MINI (fan digital controller)

MarcParis

Spatial Philosopher
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Apr 1, 2016
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Hi all,

I'm still working to improve my Nano² setup. My current axis of research is on fan controller, as somehow, my motherboard (Gygabte Z170n Gaming 5) doesn't seem to properlly control fan (even pwm). I don't know if it's linked to variant of MB, or simply a bug on mine.
However, I don't really care, because I want to control fan speed mainly on GPU temperature not CPU.

In that purpose, till a couple of days, I was using Nzxt grid+ v2, but it has several flaws :


  • Control fans only through DC
  • Fan voltage variation is done by step (not smooth ramp up curve)
  • There is a "turn off" mode, BUT, when fan is starting, it's starting at 12V..so it's pretty noisy
  • CAM software is pretty long to load on windows startup
  • When CAM software is not loaded (or during boot process), fans are somehow 9v by default
  • I noticed also some power delivery inconsistency at 40% or below power. I mean fan keep turning off and on, whereas it should have voltage to run. For example, on Noctua NF-A9 PWM, I cannot go under 40% on CAM without noticing this issue. @40%, this fan was about 1100 rpm, far above starting voltage/rpm @800rpm in DC mode...strange. I noticed same issue on Gentle typhoon AP15 and NF-B9 redux-1600 PWM
  • Removing fan header of the grid is simply ridiculous difficult, even with proper flat screw driver
Taking into consideration all that, I decided to look for an alternative fan controller, that could handle properlly fans in DC or/and PWM, with usb control.
I guess I found 2 of them :

Aquaero 6 lt seems too large for my Nano² setup, so I went first for this Corsair Commander mini (firmware 1.1.6) :


As you can see, it can handle :
  • 6 fans (PWM or DC control)
  • 1 LED
  • 4 temperature sensors (included in the package)
  • 4 Corsair link devices (to monitor them)
Here is the packaging :

Corsair Commander mini was released in 2014, HOWEVER, it was a complete failure at the starting point, as the related software (Corsair link 3) wa completely BUGGY like hell...:(

We should wait for early 2016, with release of corsair link 4, to witness power of this Corsair Commander mini.

So I installed it in my Nano², but I was still skeptical as review were not quite stating both cold and hot...and I was simply really well surprised how it was working fine, and even above my expectations!

Let's start with Corsair Link 4 (revision 4.3.0.154). At startup, I was pleased by 2 stuffs :
  • it's really fast to launch (nothing compared to CAM)
  • i received a notification from HWINFO64 that was able to monitor everything linked to Commander mini...damn good feature!
As many others reviewed, you can configure your layout with personal picture...here is the result, with HWinfo64 running on the right, very pleasant, user friendly design, isn't it?


To setup fan, I mainly use RPM target custom curve, but it required you know properly your fans...not too difficult..:)
One of the few limitations appears there :
  • On custom rpm target mode, you cannot go below 500rpm (whereas you have some fans able to spin only @400rpm)
  • On fixed % pwm mode, you cannot go below 40%, whereas you have fans able to go to 10%
  • what ever, custom curve are only done by rpm choice, and corsair commander mini is controlling the fan either by pwm or DC mode
In my personal case, I used on all cases fans a GPU temperature relation, as it's a gaming computer. My curve is rahter simple, but clearly effective to bring/exhaust air inside Nano². Another important point is that fan ramp up/down curve are smooth (dislike grid+ v2).


Nice (and very convenient) feature is to copy fan setup to other fans :


OOOO, one last VERY NICE, COOL, (almost genius) feature is that Corsair Commander Mini is applying all the fan setup as soon as USB port are powered (that means 3-5 seconds after I push power button, during bios startup)....that's again GREAT!

To conclude, I'm really well surprised and pleased with this Corsair Commander Mini. Let's sum up its positive and negative points :
Corsair Commander Mini + Corsair link 4 - POSITIVE Points :
  • Apply all fan setup during bios boot (as far as USB port is powered, somehow 3-5sec after pressing power button on cold star)
  • Fast startup of Corsair Link 4 software
  • Easy and nice looking fan configuration
  • All monitoring of Corsair Commander Mini is shared with other application, like HWInfo 64
  • Controls easily & properlly both DC or PWM fans/pump (1A power delivery per channel and 4Amax in total)
  • Fan control could be related to many temperatures (CPU package, CPU core#1/2/X , GPU, MB, SSD, etc)
  • Regroup several functions (corsair link, led, temperature sensor), but I don't use them
Corsair Commander Mini + Corsair link 4 - NEGATIVE Points :
  • Lower limit of fan speed (500rpm) could be improved
  • No turn-off fan mode (ideally it would be turn-off mode + smooth starting mode..:))
  • Quite expensive (90€ in France), even it's really great

I hope you enjoyed this review and let me know if you want to know anything else about it!
 
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ricochet

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Oct 20, 2016
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Hi all,
I'm still working to improve my Nano² setup. My current axis of research is on fan controller, as somehow, my motherboard (Gygabte Z170n Gaming 5) doesn't seem to properlly control fan (even pwm). I don't kno if it's linked to variant of MB, or simply a bug on mine...

Yeah, the bios on Gigabyte Skylake 1151 socket boards (Z170/H170) is super unfriendly in regards to fan control and sensors in general... hell these boards barely give lmsensors any temperature output with absolutely no fan information and/or control. Fan control must be done via the bios menu which sucks but it does work.
 

MarcParis

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Apr 1, 2016
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Well I was using, at first, my MB bios to control pwm fan of cpu cooler (NF-A9 PWM)...but they were like switching from full speed (1800) to target (800) speed...really noisy and disappointing.
Then I tried gigabyte software...but it was the same.

It's pretty strange because on my second gaming computer (asrock MB), the same NF-A9 pwm just works perfectly..
 

ricochet

SFF AFFLICTED
Oct 20, 2016
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Well I was using, at first, my MB bios to control pwm fan of cpu cooler (NF-A9 PWM)...but they were like switching from full speed (1800) to target (800) speed...really noisy and disappointing.
Then I tried gigabyte software...but it was the same.

It's pretty strange because on my second gaming computer (asrock MB), the same NF-A9 pwm just works perfectly..

Yeah, definitely a Gigabyte hiccup... frustrating as hell as you need to leave bios and boot to even see the changes made to fan speeds in bios.
 

MarcParis

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Apr 1, 2016
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I guess yes. Other than this bug, MB is working just fine. My core i7 6700k is working well @4.6Ghz @1.30v..:)
 

MarcParis

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Apr 1, 2016
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For info, I've updated Bios of my Gigabyte Z170n Gaming 5 (rev 1.0) to F20 (Kabylake upgrade).

This Bios F20 is a major update, introducing also a complete new menu. Amongst additional feature, there is smart fan 5, than allow better control on PWM fan. I've tried it, and at least, PWM fan are now reacting normally compared to bios F4. I still prefer, by far, Corsair Commander Mini, but at least my MB is not broken...it was, most probably, a bios issue (especially a I noticed there a rev 1.1 of this MB.:))
 
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MarcParis

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After further use of Bios F20, I discovered now that Fast boot (not ultra fast) was compatible/working well with my nvme SSD...now my computer is damn fast from cold start..:D
 
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MarcParis

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Major update : With corsair commander mini, it's far better to use it with SIV than Corsair Link as the later one is clearly badly optimized and very slow in terms of update.
 

MarcParis

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yes and no...my Crosshair have numerous pwm header/thermistor also...BUT, management of these header are not that great as you are forced to follow a misleading cpu temperature with a limit to 100% PWM fixed at 75°C (at this threshold, my R7 1700X is in reality at 55°C...)
 

GuilleAcoustic

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yes and no...my Crosshair have numerous pwm header/thermistor also...BUT, management of these header are not that great as you are forced to follow a misleading cpu temperature with a limit to 100% PWM fixed at 75°C (at this threshold, my R7 1700X is in reality at 55°C...)

I can't remember how the BIOS setup worked, I always used pwmconfig on Linux. Never had CPU temp report issues, either with i7-4785T or my previous i5-4570.

I wish that, at some point, there could be a normalised transport bus (serial like) to report sensors reading. This should work nicely with an USB header and some RAW HID data. Corsair have their Corsair Link on several devices (PSU, RAM, etc) but this is proprietary.
 

MarcParis

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As Corsair Link is faulty, that's why SIV is really great..:)
Commander Mini is great hardware, but software is the weakest link on Corsair side.
With SIV, you have best of the hardware and software..:D
 

MarcParis

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Apr 1, 2016
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Yes and also there is usb hub...but siv is not compatible with commander pro right now..:)
 

MarcParis

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It will work with corsair link...simply this software is not at level of corsair hardware..:)
 

TheHig

King of Cable Management
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Oct 13, 2016
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The best board I came accross, regarding sensors, was my Asus Z87 Gryphon (mATX). Tones of voltage and temperatures, 6x PWM fan headers, 3x headers for additional thermistors.


To this day some very real sellers remorse. Great board.

Ok maybe not keeping my first build ever -- slot A Athlon-- as well. :cool: