2017 is the year that RGB lighting took off! RGB memory, motherboard, light strips, fans, water coolers, keyboards, mice, headsets, mousepads… is there anything that has not been touched by the mighty hand of RGB? Two words… “Not likely”
Basic primer for this.
1) LED – Light Emitting Diode. Small, super efficient component that creates light through electroluminescence. If you *really* want to get into the weeds of what makes LED’s tick, jump here.
2) RGB – Red/Gree/Blue The 3 primary color values in the visible color spectrum. Combinations of these 3 values in various intensities give us the various colors we perceive as color range. RGB LEDs have 3 light sources within each unit. Depending upon how much intensity a particular color or colors are instructed to display, that light co-mingles/mixes in the small space around the die area, and comes across to our eyes as a specific color. For the sake off this article, we will be talking about surface mount LED packages in the equipment to be reviewed. When viewed up close, the diode appears similar to this
3) Individually Addressable RGB LEDs – the ability to signal to an individual LED in a series, and have it perform a different action that the others in the line. This is how you can have multiple colors moving through a single LED fan/lightstrip/keyboard/etc.
Given the above, the market for RGB LED technology can be a bit daunting to get the effect you want. Are you wanting a single color wash of light? Are you wanting to control brightness? Are you wanting multiple colors within the same devices? Are you wanting your light or your colors changing actively? Do you want to customize your lighting choices, create custom colors, and customize the light patterns? OH! And let us not forget the new question on everyone’s mind, can I sync the RGB solution that I purchased with the RGB on my motherboard? All of these questions have a valid place in your decision process. And you have got to pay attention or else you will end up purchasing something that does not do what you want. And that can get expensive.
Now, how do *YOU* figure out what does what you want? Fear not, oh intrepid reader… *THAT* is what this round up is for! In this article we will break down RGB product offerings into easily digestible chunks, show the commonality between products, and more specifically we will create a matrix that you can refer to where you can see functionality and refine your product decisions to insure you get what you are wanting your hard earned money to purchase.
In this first roundup, Silverstone, Corsair, DeepCool, InWin, Coolermaster and NZXT participated by supplying the lighting solutions we will discuss. Thermaltake did not respond. Let me state from the outset, this is not meant as a review. It is meant as a roundup. That is, that we will be presenting the product as is. What the solution brings to the table as purchased and or supplied by the manufacturer. Case in point, Corsair fan and lighting products have different capabilities depending upon what you purchase. If you purchase a fan kit, you will have some basic light functionality. But if you purchase it with a light strip kit, you gain an LED controller that can be patched in via USB, which then gives you additional LED effects and control via the software. So, in some cases it totally depends on what you purchase as to whether your desired lighting effect will be achieved. And *that* is what this roundup will hopefully help you to successfully implement.
One rule of thumb that I have noticed since starting this, choose a brand and stick with it. You can’t mix and match, hopefully this is resolved in the future. And sometimes… you can have unintended consequences, like certain control software not playing nice with your RAM LED control software. So, in some cases, you may end up having an “either/or” decision to be made. “Do I either customize the light on my memory, or do I light my case?” This will be a legitimate decision required later in this roundup, totally not kidding! That’s why I’m putting this guide together.
We will divide this roundup into two basic groups: Solid RGB solutions and Individually addressable RGB solutions. Then, we will showcase the manufacturers, then talk about separate products under each manufacturer section. They may have more product available than what was sent, and those may be follow-up addendum’s to this roundup. This information enclosed here is meant to be a “living document”, in the sense that as new product or functionality comes out that can be included, or as new products are released, the article can be updated to reflect the new hotness! :)
So… lets get started on this colorful journey.