LED, RGB, A-RGB, let’s face it; PC lighting can be confusing, especially because builders and manufacturers often use these three titles interchangeably. In this blog, we’ll unravel the unnecessarily complicated world of PC lighting. First, we’ll cover the technical explanation about the technology behind LED, RGB, and A-RGB lighting. Then, we’ll go over their different applications when it comes to PCs. Finally, we’ll figure out which is right for you.
LED stands for light emitting diode. It’s a semiconductor device that emits light when an electric current passes through it. If you’re into electronics, you might be familiar with the tiny, round topped LED lights often used as indicator lights in projects. Or, more commonly, LEDs have been slowly replacing incandescent bulbs as the go-to source for lighting in the home, because they’re much more efficient.
Keeping that in mind, most LED fans are a single color, they can’t be controlled or changed, they emit only one color light which is noted on their package. As for the LED lights we use in our PCs, they’ll almost always be a nice white light.
When it comes to understanding the difference between LED and RGB, it’s easiest to remember the old adage; “a square is a rectangle, but a rectangle isn’t a square”. It’s the same for LED and RGB. RGB lights are LEDs, but all LEDs aren’t RGB.
When you look at RGB fans, they also contain light emitting diodes. Instead of being a solid color, they combine red, green, and blue emitters that when independently adjusted, make up a huge range of colors.
Red, green, and blue are the primary colors of light, when you mix them in varying amounts, you can achieve almost any color you can think of. Keep in mind that certain lighting effects don’t appear as well as others due to the nature of light.
Lighting technology gives us the ability to display tons of visible colors on things like case fans or RGB light strips, but it is limited to certain shades because of the way these diodes are created.
The A In A-RGB
Now that we understand LED and RGB, we can examine A-RGB. The A, in A-RGB stands for addressable. This means that A-RGB fans have an built-in interface that allows for data in and out. This gives you much more control and flexibility over the colors these fans display, whereas standard RGB fans have to be controlled by an external interface.
Whether or not you can use A-RGB depends on your motherboard. These types of case fans depend on a 5 volt, three pin motherboard header to make full use of their functionality. These types of headers typically come on more expensive, feature rich motherboards. Connecting your lighting to these headers gives you access to software control. With it, you gain a huge library of lighting colors and lighting effects that you can use to customize your PC, giving you the look you think of when someone says “PC gamer”.
Alternatively, some motherboards will have 12 volt RGB headers. This allows you software control over your lighting effects, though, without all the patterns and colors that are possible with the 5 volt A-RGB header.
In the video below, we cover this topic in further detail, and include a software demo that illustrates the differences between RGB and A-RGB lighting.
RGB at VRLA
If you are a VRLA Tech customer, it’s important to note that our different builds handle RGB lighting differently. The entry level computers, Spark, Aurora, and Legacy will have RGB fans, meaning they are controlled externally. The Spark and Aurora have a button added to the inside of the case that you can use to control the color and speed of your lighting effects. The VRLA Tech Legacy Gaming PC has a button built into the side of the front panel that you can click to change the light color. If this is confusing, please refer to the video above.
The Apollo and Titan typically have RGB, and when we have upgraded motherboards in stock, we will typically provide the upgrade to A-RGB at no additional cost. Occasionally, the lighting on these computers will be controlled by a button labeled LED on the top of the case, near the power button. More often than not, however, the lighting on these systems will be software controlled. The software we install most often for this is called PolyChrome, and you should find it on your desktop.
For our high end machines such as Centaur, Eclipse, Helios, and Phoenix, we use A-RGB fans. These will be connected to the PC utilizing the 5 volt A-RGB header, giving you the most flexibility and customization for your PC setup.
Hopefully your head isn’t spinning too much, and you learned a little something. Now that you have all of the information, you can make a more informed decision about what kind of case lighting is right for you. Maybe you like the clean look of the LED fans, maybe you prefer being able to pick a color and change your fans to match. Or maybe, you want as much customization as your fans will allow. We offer all of these options and more on our PCs. If you’re not already a customer, check out our full line of gaming PCs. We offer incredible options to make your pre-built uniquely yours.
For more examples of PC lighting, visit us on instagram @vrlatech. Our daily updates include some of the coolest computers that we get to build.