Which RGB Adapter should I use?
This is something that we hear a lot - which RGB adapter should I use for this or that device? It comes in various flavors and permutations, based on the wide variety of devices out there so we've put together a few guidelines for what you should look for to help you choose the right adapter. There are two major connectors that we see, plus a wide variety of other, minor connectors used by individual manufacturers. In short, there is no "standard" connector (much as some Tech-Tubers might claim that there is). The good news is that while there are a number of different connectors out there, the vast majority of the LEDs use the WS2812B protocol for controlling the lighting. That means that, with the right adapter, it's possible for the different systems to interoperate.
We'll start this with a quick introduction and review of the two major connectors that we see and then a list of some devices that we very often get questions about.
This is the "Aura/Mystic Light" adapter - it connects to what most refer to as a "standard" motherboard connection. It's not standard - there is no international or industry standards body that has ratified it - but it is, by far, the most common connector in use out there. It has been popularized by the adoption by - and the significant market power of - the two biggest names in the enthusiast motherboard space - Asus and MSI. It's a 5050 connection, common with 12V analog RGB, that has a single pin removed. It didn't exist in the industry before it appeared on motherboards. Early Gigabyte Addressable RGB motherboards didn't use this connector - they were the "odd ones out" in the industry but they quickly adopted the same connector. These days, this is the only connector that you'll find for A-RGB on motherboards across the industry.
If your device will connect to a motherboard with a 3-pin connector, the odds are very high that this will work for you. This includes a wide range of cases with integrated RGB, fans, coolers, GPU brackets and more. In fact, these days, just about everything targeting PC lighting will either have this connector on it "natively" or will come bundled with an adapter that connects to it. For that reason, this is a "go-to" adapter.
However, it is not without its issues. First, this connector is friction-based - it's held in place by the friction between the pins and the socket. Just a little variation in either the pins or the socket will make the connection loose and prone to disconnects. Because of that, we recommend that you use some electrical tape to ensure that the connection stays tight. Some devices are even coming with "connection locks" because of this issue - that should give you an idea of how common the problem really is. Second, it is possible to wind up connecting this to a 4-pin, 12V RGB header, which will completely destroy your 5V digital RGB LEDs. Even though the connection is keyed (by the removal of a pin), it's possible to use a 4-pin extension to wind up connecting this to a 12V header. We've seen folks do that.
Before Asus and MSI came along, this was the most commonly seen connector for addressable RGB - a 3-pin JST-SM connection. It's also sometimes referred to as just plan "JST" but that's not accurate. JST is a company - Japan Solderless Terminals - that makes a wide variety of different types of connectors. The SM series is just one type and we also see other types of JST connectors, such as XH and PH, used in some computer RGB implementations. It's a connector that you will often see on inexpensive, off-the-shelf WS2812B strips that you can get from a wide variety of sources that don't specifically target computer system RGB. It's a good, solid connection with a positive lock that doesn't come loose easily. In that way, it's far superior to the "motherboard" style connector adopted by the various motherboard manufacturers. However, it doesn't have a wire-to-board interface and it's a bit bulky, making it somewhat less than ideal for use in computer system RGB, where you need to connect to the board (somehow) and space can often be tight.
This is where things get interesting. Below are some of the devices that we most commonly see questions about from customers and the adapter to use with them, as well as any tips we might have for usage.
- 011-Dynamic Case: The various "flavors" of this massively popular case use a motherboard-style connector to connect the case's built-in RGB with a controller - whether that is a motherboard or a Corsair controller with one of our adapters. Once connected, you'll need to configure it for "motherboard control" mode by pressing the RGB selector button - check the manual for details on this. The case RGB does have its own power source and only needs the RGB data signal from the controller.
- Strimer (Original): The original Lian Li Strimer uses a JST-SM connection (curiously, their marketing calls this a "standard" connection) to both the 24-pin ATX Strimer and the 16-pin PCIe Strimer. The ATX Strimer has a built-in splitter so you can connect the PCIe Strimer to it. These are powered from the controller so you do need to keep your power budget in mind.
- Strimer Plus: The newer Lian Li Strimer Plus comes with a controller and a motherboard RGB connector so you'll want to use the Corsair to Aura/Mystic Light Adapter with it. Once connected, set the controller to "motherboard control" mode by pressing M2 for 2-3 seconds. These are powered from the controller. The output connector from the Strimer Plus' controller will provide data and ground, but no power. This can be connected to an RGB Fan LED Hub using our Aura/Mystic Light to Corsair adapter and a Fan Hub cable.
- Cases (EvolvX, Pro2, etc) : These will use the motherboard-style connector so the Corsair to Aura/Mystic Light Adapter will do the trick for you. In most instances, it does not require any setting but will switch automatically to motherboard control. This does, however, require the presence of the +5V connector so you can't use them with a hub splitter.
- Neon Strips, RGB Strips : These natively have a JST-SM connector on them but come with an adapter for motherboard RGB. You can use either our Corsair to JST-SM adapters or our Corsair to Aura/Mystic Light adapters with them. One note - the motherboard adapter that they ship with will provide you an extra bit of length for installation. Both are powered from the controller so you do need to keep your power budget in mind.
- Halos Digital: These natively have a JST-SM connector on them but come with an adapter for motherboard RGB. You can use either our Corsair to JST-SM adapters or our Corsair to Aura/Mystic Light adapters with them. One note - the motherboard adapter that they ship with will provide you an extra bit of length for installation. Like the strips, they are powered from the controller and these do have a lot of LEDs - so they do consume a good bit of current. Be careful too - the Halos also come in a non-Digital version (Analog RGB) that have 4-pin JST-SM connectors and do not work with our adapters.