Protect Your PC by Understanding ARGB vs. RGB

edited June 2022 in Computer Hardware

There was a time when customization options for building PCs were far more limited. At best, colored components might be available for things like memory modules, graphics cards, or motherboard heatsinks. This made creating a custom PC in a desired theme quite challenging. Plus, if you were able to build a theme, you would be limited by the same color combination until you built your next machine years down the road. As a result, color themes would quickly lose their luster and excitement was stifled. Thankfully, ARGB lighting came along and it’s proven to be an adored aesthetic option for personalizing PCs.

Understanding ARGB

Addressable Red Green Blue (ARGB) signifies that an RGB lighting feature is highly programmable, which means it can emit different colors from individual LEDs dynamically. With ARGB, the entire color profile of the lights can be controlled based on user preferences. This capability of ARGB stands in contrast to lighting that only offers single color switching or fixed color patterns.

ARGB technology leverages microcontrollers that transmit using the signal line from a 3-pin 5V RGB header. While standard RGB only sends color data on all LEDs, the signal line addresses each individual LED within the ARGB array. This unlocks creative potential for PC enthusiasts in the form of custom patterns, timing, color changes, and syncing with other LEDs in the same array through the entire connection.

As is often the case with tech features, ARGB can run a bit more compared to standard RGB. Nevertheless, for PC enthusiasts and gamers who enjoy highly customizable LED color profiles and smoother color transitions, ARGB is a great feature to have.

Understanding RGB

RGB stands for “red green blue”. RGB is the standard model for reproducing colors on displays and screens of many different types of electronic devices. However, when discussing RGB in comparison to ARGB, RGB represents the non-transitional, single-color switching lighting setup utilized by PC building enthusiasts.

When an RGB feature is not addressable, it means customized color patterns and transitions can’t be used. This also means the colors can only change one at a time. With RGB, you can still make profiles, but the patterns are only configured in red-green, and blue intensities to achieve the intended color.

The technology supporting non-addressable RGB is simpler than ARGB. RGB lighting strips and case fans connect using a 4-pin 12V connector. The first pin of an RGB connector supplies the power and pins 2-4 provide red, green, and blue signals with intensity values ranging from 0-255. Different combinations of intensity values are used to reproduce desired colors through the entire LED array.

When it comes to transitions with RGB (if there are any at all), they are not as smooth as ARGB because microcontrollers are not used. Additionally, it’s vital that the 4-pin RGB header be connected in the correct orientation otherwise different colors than you wanted will be emitted. Thankfully, there should be an arrow on the connector designating proper connection orientation.

For users who are content with static color changes and single or dual-color themes, RGB offers a simple setup. Moreover, from a budget perspective, RGB is an area where you can save money to put towards other features of your PC that are more important to you if color aesthetics are not a priority.

The Differences Between ARGB and RGB

At a high level, ARGB gives you control over the color of every individual LED. By contrast, with RGB all LEDs must have the same color. Therefore, when you change a color with RGB, all LEDs change to that same color.

Here is a helpful table that summarizes key differences between ARGB and RGB:

Caution: Connecting ARGB and RGB Can Fry PC Components

There have been reports of folks attempting to plug ARGB headers into RGB connectors, and vice versa. The thought is that the connection would still cause lights to produce some color. However, if you plug ARGB headers into RBG connectors, you lose one pin of connection so only two of the three color pins are connected. Therefore, the color emitted from your lights will be different from what you had in mind. Moreover, since you would be connecting to a 5V connection, you will only be able to power one strip or fan.

While you can attempt to plug RGB connectors into ARGB headers, this is a bad idea. In fact, this should not even be doable because the third pin in the middle would prevent the direct connection from going through. Moreover, if you were to use a splitter, the ARGB header might connect, but you would be passing a 12V connection through a 5V-rated component. The result would be that you would fry the LEDs and/or the motherboard.

If you want to properly combine ARGB and RGB components, you need to utilize a controller hub rated for both RGB and ARGB fans. 4-pin 12V and 3-pin 5V connections are split equally in these controller hubs. Often these controller hubs use supplemental power from an external source such as an extra SATA power connector from your PSU.

Micro Center Is Your Trusted Source for ARGB Components

It’s time to give your PC an aesthetic uplift with ARGB! We have a wide variety of ARGB components to choose from that fit your budget. Visit your local Micro Center today to learn more about ARGB aesthetic options for your next PC build project.

More from the Micro Center Community:

Looking for more information about Building a PC? We’ve got PC Build Guides as well as articles on How to Choose Parts for you Custom PC BuildProduct Reviews, and Part Comparisons. And if you can’t find what you’re looking for, don’t hesitate to post a new discussion and the Community will be happy to help!


  • Scary_Guy
    Scary_Guy ✭✭✭
    First Anniversary First Comment 5 Insightfuls 5 Likes

    I couldn't care less about RGB anything. The coolest feature was when some company had memory that would light up depending on how much of it was being used at the time. Which was a far cry away from that IBM supercomputer that had a red LED matrix display on its front that displayed the actual memory address use.

    Now it's just "red means fast overclocking, green means environmentally friendly, and blue means better cooling," (but not really that's just a running joke.)

    I remember when this wasn't a fashion show. Give me my ugly beige sleeper box, thanks. Even my rackmount "glows" on the inside because pretty much anything not server grade is made to look edgy to get that extra gamer buck.

  • smaddaus

    ARGB increases speed, change my mind.

  • Ian
    Ian admin
    First Anniversary 5 Insightfuls 5 Likes 5 LOLs
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