So I got back into building custom PC’s this winter as I am still recovering from a motorcycle accident. It’s a perfect little indoor hobby to keep my. It also has reconnected me to some old friends since it has thrust me back into gaming. While I decide to dive into this build the big trend starting last year was RGB LED lighting in custom computers. I mean everyone has started to implement this but no one is doing it right! If they try to attempt to do it right it is usually encumbered by horrible software development.
5050 RGB LED
This standard RGB header which we see all the new motherboards coming out is a 4 pin type. It is not addressable which means you set a color on the chain they are are all that color. It makes for a very limited lighting solution as it is either all on, off, color and brightness for that channel. These types also require 12VDC which is good for lots of high current lighting, not so great for PC lighting as you don’t need a lot of current to run this limited amount of LEDs.
I haven’t had any time to play with these yet and I am not sure if many are still using this dated platform
The WS2801 is a “3-Channel Constant Current LED Driver With Programmable PWM Outputs”. It allows you to adjust the brightness of every LED in 256 steps using PWM. A WS2801 chip controls three channels, so you need one chip for every RGB LED. Theoretically this means the WS2801 strips can be cut next to every LED, but I haven’t seen any strips where this is the case. The chip runs on 3.3-5.5V.
- Smart controller with easy control scheme
- 8 bits, 256 levels per channel, 16.7 million colors total
- English datasheet available
The LPD8806 is a lot like the WS2801 with the following differences: it works from 2.7V up and has six channels allowing it to control two RGB LEDs. The downside is that it only does 7 bit PWM, making 127 brightness levels per LED for up to 21 bit color (2 million colors). There are no LPD8806 Arduino library.
More to come as I dive into this project on advanced LED lighting which this computer I am building is the test bed. Eventually at he end of the day when I start building my next home I will leveraging what I am developing here and doing a hybrid electrical system in the house. My goal will be to light the house off of 99% solar/wind power. Stay tuned!