Late October I was at FortCon for their LAN event and I won a SilverStone FG121. I know the name doesn’t really explain what it is, but basically, it is a clear fan grill with RGB lighting built into it. The grills have SilverStone's snowflake design and this brought up the discussion with how it actually looks like an ornament. Well, one thing leads to another and not long after the event I reached out to SilverStone with a weird idea turning our new Christmas tree into an RGB tree with their grills. The idea is relatively simple, but there were a few things I had to figure out. So today I’m going to show what I did, maybe if you have one or two laying around or other RGB products you can take my idea to another level.
Article Name: SilverStone RGB fan grills, Christmas decorations?
Samples provided by: SilverStone
Written by: Wes Compton
Pictures by: Wes Compton
A look at the FG121 and FG141
So SilverStone sent over 5 Fg121 and 5 FG141 for a total of 10 RGB fan grills for the project. Our tree is going into the corner so I didn’t need too many to get good coverage on it. The model names just designate the 120mm and 140mm sizes, they are the same other than that. The packaging is simple with a printed cardboard backer and a formed plastic front that holds everything. This also means the grill is completely visible from the front, short of it lighting up in its RGB colors while in the packaging you can’t really get a much better look. Even for that, they do have example colors down on the bottom. They did the same on the back of the box with7 different colors lined up next to each other. There is also a small specifications section on the back as well that covers everything about the grills.
So this is what comes in the packaging and I must admit it was even less than I expected. You get the grill in the 120mm or 140mm size depending on which you picked up. That has the cord attached with two connections on it, both female. One is the normal RGB female connection and then the other is also four pin but is a specific connection that SilverStone uses on their RGB products. Then there is a small baggy with fan screws, being more specific they are longer than normal fan screws to help with the extra thickness.
Like I said before, the two different sizes really are no different. The 140mm is just scaled up slightly. The logo in the middle is the same size on both but the 140mm is thicker around the logo and each of the snowflake legs? Is just a little longer to make up the difference.
You can’t see the RGB lighting from the front because the plastic is a little hazy but from the back of the grill, you can see it. It looks like a normal RGB strip only thinner and the distance between LEDs is shorter as well.
Speaking of the LEDs, when doing my initial testing here was a look at the basic red, green, and blue lighting. You can see how bright it is around the outside edge, when using as a fan grill it lights up the fan blades really well.
So before really knowing anything about the grills, my idea was to pick up a basic RGB controller on Amazon, lots of extension cables, and RGB 4 pin splitter cables. After actually putting a little more time into the project I finally sat down and did a little math. Specifically, along with any controller, I would need to make sure I had enough power. The specifications for the FG121 has a rated current of .48 amps and the FG141 is rated at .56 amps. With the plan being 10 grills that would put the total amperage at 5.2 not to mention any taken by the controller. Now honestly those ratings seemed a little high to me, but I wanted to be safe.
So first I had to look for a controller and just about anything would do the job. Initially, I thought about just hooking up a PC under the tree. It would also look like a nice gift, right? But I would hate to ruin a nice motherboard by overloading the RGB header on it and who would want a motherboard without RGB right 😉. I considered something like the controllers SilverStone has, they even had one that had a remote but I figured one of the cheap controllers on Amazon would do what I needed. For example ,T HIS one is one that I considered.
When looking at those I came across one similar but it had Amazon Echo and Google Home compatibility along with an app and even though it was more I thought it would be fun to integrate it in with the rest of the Google home controlled lighting I have. Here is the controller. Its 144 watts at 12 volts max also would support up to 12 amps. A lot more than I needed.
I would, however, need a power supply and this and all of the other controllers basically run off of AC to DC 12 volt transformers. I have a few 2 amp transformers in the office for projects but that wouldn’t be enough. Between you and I, my initial math was just with 10 of the FG121’s so I thought I only needed 4.8 amps of power so I ordered a 5 amp power supply, if you do 10 or more of these you should really look for a 6amp or more model. They even have versions with multiple connections where you can run more than one controller at once. Anyhow THIS is what I picked up.
So I assumed that with the grills being able to be daisy chained together they would have a male and female connection on their cord but when I finally started to get everything put together I found out they don’t have that and they don’t come with those 4 pin male to male adapters that every RGB product has multiple of. I could have gone and pillaged through everything I own to find them but Amazon Prime is a lot easier. I ordered a set of 40 because it was the cheapest I could get in 2 days. THIS is what I ordered, any of them will work though.
The last thing needed to turn the SilverStone grills into one of a kind (well 10 of a kind) ornaments was ornament hooks. You see, one of the best parts of the grill design are the four potential hook mounts all around them. THIS is what I went with. String would really do the job or you could get a smaller set locally for a lower price. I ended up going with this set because I wasn’t sure which hook size I might prefer and I have other ornament projects in the pipeline so the extras would get used.
Hooking everything up and a few small tricks learned along the way
So I initially just hooked up one grill and hung it up to test everything out. Especially the electronics, while Amazon does have good stuff most of the time you really never know when you cheap out and go with brands and products you know nothing about and burning my place down wasn’t at the top of my list of things to get done this winter. Hooking up the power supply to the controller was as simple as hooking the cable to the transformer box and then plugging it into the 12v plug and into the wall on the other end.
Getting the controller completely up and running, on the other hand, wasn’t as plug and play. Well, it did power up and was flipping through the colors right away. But I spent more to get the app-controlled smart home controller right? Well, the QR code provided didn’t work and when I went to the play store there were multiple apps with similar names and logos… Just great. I did find the one that worked, I think. For starters, they require you to sign up for a cloud account and then you have to feed it your wireless sign in info as well. Basically about the last two things I want to do with some random unknown app that might not even be the legitimate app. A safe email and completely random password later I was logged in but I had no luck at all getting things up and running on the wireless. After some time I found that you have to be running a 2.4 MHz wireless network, 5.0 isn’t compatible and that is all I have setup. So I ended up skipping out on that feature and gathered up the remote. Guess I could have saved myself some money there lol.
The remote does require you to pull the battery saver out, but after that, it worked. MUCH easier. The controller has two pigtails on it, one for the RGB connection and the other has an IR receiver on the end. What I learned with this is when you install your controller in your tree or whenever you are using it, be sure to tape that IR cable down somewhere pointing at where you will be using the remote. I thought it would pick up and it didn’t and I had to go back and move this later.
From there I just started hooking up two grills together and hanging them up. The “daisy chain” idea does work for this but what I found was you have to plan out your wiring a little. You only really gain about 4 inches of additional reach for each grill hooked up. Unless you have 50 in your tree you will need to make sure you are leaving room to pull the cable up the middle to reach the top. That leads me to my other lesson. Our 4 pin male to male connection works but it can be pulled apart. You can get everything hooked up and working and as long as you don’t touch it I think you will be fine. But if you have kids or cats you might want to tape those connections together to keep them from pulling apart. I ended up doing about half and half, taking the two grills together as I hung two at a time but not taping the connections I made after hanging them. It pulled apart a few times on me but after that, it has been fine.
So how does the setup look? Well here are the four main colors, the controller had a lot of sub colors available but I wanted to show the four colors it switched between in the flash and fade transition modes.
I think if our tree had the multi-colored lights it would have looked better, especially when I had it in the transition mode. I played around with a lot of colors but settled on blue. The grills were extremely bright as well, it doesn’t really show up in the pictures below but the entire room changed colors along with the transition mode. That is why I had to lock it to one color. I also ended up turning the brightness down and it made a HUGE difference as well. To most people, they are RGB snowflakes but to me I know I was able to add a little geekiness to our tree with more to come.
Would I do anything different? I actually ended up loving the look of the grills being ornaments, as did my wife surprisingly. I think it also opens up other options that could look good with this as well. Maybe just one or two grills and then underglows or back glow LEDs into the corner would be a little more subtle, especially if it was with individually controllable LEDs where I could do more lighting effects and add more than one color at a time. I also would have saved myself money and gotten the basic controller. Maybe I will get this one working later, I just have been stubborn and don’t want to change my wireless network. Not to mention the security risks. Now the obvious thing people are going to mention is the cost of the FG121’s and FG141’s. Both are almost $15 and even for PC fan use that is a little expensive so the reality of anyone picking up 10 of these for $150 isn’t very likely. Really I just thought this was an interesting possible use and I was curious what adding RGB to our tree would be like. In other words, if you have a few of these around go for it, or maybe you have a lighting kit with controller already, you could pick one of these up and have one along with backlighting or underglow for your tree. But don’t go full crazy like I have!