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.

"Motherboard" Adapter

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.

JST-SM Adapter

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.