Software control of PWM/DC fans, small, cheap. SIV can control fans via multiple temperatures, software regularly updated, low CPU usage.
Not able to turn the fans completely off, software UI takes a little getting used to.
Every review of the Commander Mini (CL Mini) that I have found so far utilised the official corsair software Corsair Link, and concluded that while the hardware of the CL Mini is excellent, the software heavily lets it down. This review will look at the functionality of the controller when used with the third-party software SIV, which can be found here, along with a guide, on the author’s website. This free software turns the CL Mini into a reliable performer that dominates due to its functionality, size and pricing.
At 145 (length) x 58.9 (width) x 13.5mm (height), this controller can find its way into pretty much any case, attachable with the very strong adhesive pads provided. Here it is in the front of my M1, a very small mini-ITX case measuring 338 (length) x 160 (width) x 250mm (height).
Being so much smaller than the 5.25” form factor already places the CL Mini ahead of much of the fan controller competition in this regard, including the famed Aquaero series. The only real competitor in terms of size is the NZXT Grid+ V2 - unfortunately the Grid lacks functionality compared to the CL Mini, as we will see in the next section.
The Potential of the Hardware
With 6 fully controllable (full RPM range) PWM/DC fan headers; 4 temperature probes for measuring case temperatures or otherwise (VRMs, RAM, PSU, etc.); 4 Corsair Link connections for products such as the H100i AIO, AX860i PSU, and Dominator Platinum RAM, and finally a connector for powering and controlling case LEDs, the CL Mini boasts a variety of functions, many of which are hampered or rendered useless by Corsair Link.
So many different uses are excellent and appreciated. The inclusion of PWM control is functionality enough, however, to make this controller shine where so many others have failed. Motherboards commonly only have one PWM header for the CPU, making separate control of more than one type of PWM component impossible without a controller such as this.
The only other fan controllers out there that support PWM can either only control all fans with one fan curve, such as the Phobya 4Pin PWM 8x splitter, or are prohibitively expensive and large, as with the 5.25” Aquaero 6, which starts at £125 in the UK.
Due to firmware, it is currently impossible to turn off components completely with any software, making this controller undesirable for any who absolutely need this functionality.
All things considered, there is currently no better option when taking cost into consideration if individually controlled PWM fan headers are required, as they absolutely are if using a PWM water pump and fans, or any other configuration involving more than one PWM component.
The Functionality of the Software
Software is key for this controller to deliver all of its many features; without usable software, the CL Mini is rendered useless.
Unfortunately for Corsair, this has been the crippling factor for the CL Mini for quite some time, with many users returning the product due to the unreliable and at times non-functional official software Corsair Link. This is where SIV steps in. Here’s a few of the main differences between the two applications:
• Where the Corsair Link’s fan control service can use up a large amount of CPU resources, SIV uses less than 1%. The usage can be so high on Corsair Link that it prevents the CPU from down-clocking properly.
• Where custom fan curves for Corsair’s link-enabled PSUs are not possible with their own software, they are with SIV.
• Corsair Link allows for only one temperature to control fan curves, whereas multiple temperatures can be used to control any one fan with SIV.
• A form of hysteresis (fans not spinning down until temperatures have decreased past a certain point) is present in SIV as a Hold-up time, where there is nothing in Corsair Link.
• Start-up can take half a minute with Corsair Link on my system – it takes less than a second for SIV.
• DPC-latency issues have been prevalent with Corsair Link for some time, no such problem exists for its replacement.
These seemingly massive differences in functionality can be partially explained by the frequency of updates. While SIV is updated regularly, with community suggestions frequently making it into releases, Corsair Link is updated sporadically, with no real regard to issues the community has raised. Issues brought up on their forums years ago are yet to be fixed in the current version.
In my experience, the SIV developer red-ray gives better community feedback and support than any company has ever given me. He is incredibly fast at helping with your issues, and even creates beta builds of his software in response to user feedback. All of this without having to pay a penny.
The one downside of SIV that I have found may be seen in its dated UI. The interface means there is a slight learning-curve before the software is able to be properly used. This issue would prevent many users from using this software, including most likely myself. This is, however, not the case due to both the terrible state of Corsair Link, and the excellent documentation given in the guide available on the website, linked to in the introduction. Once you get to know how it works, it becomes very intuitive and easy to tweak or maintain.
Conclusion & Pricing
Considering the value SIV adds to the Commander Mini when compared to Corsair Link, it turns the £56 (including tax & delivery) product from being a risky purchase to being the most cost-effective, most functional and smallest fan controller out there today.
If you will never need PWM, do not and will not ever have Link enabled devices, LEDs or temperature probes, the NZXT Grid+ V2 is the better and cheaper choice for you. If you don’t need to budget, and have the space required for a 5.25” component, the Aquaero 6 has greater functionality at a significantly higher price point. If you are conscious of money, have little space, and do need PWM control or any of the other multiple features now or in the future, then this is the controller for you.
The reason for not giving it full 5 stars is due to the inability for fans to be completely stopped. This could be the one thing stopping some from buying this product, as it is the only real issue remaining after SIV resolves all the others. The only way this could be implemented is through Corsair updating the Cl Mini's firmware. Considering their track record for responding to the community's needs so far, I wouldn't hold your breath.