All of my controllers require both the controller and daughter card(s), except the 8-universe controller.
The 32-universe controller was my first controller and was designed to reduce the cost per output as low as possible. It was also designed with a standard output header, so that the user could choose how to drive pixels. The pixel drive could be a 5Vdc buffer like most of the controllers, or use power over Ethernet, or a pixel extender. You can mix and match the output buffers as you need or design one that you like.
For the 8-universe controller, was the second controller designed to reach a low-cost design from Ethernet to direct pixel drive in the $20-$30 price range. It included everything from Ethernet to pixel drive, so it includes a 5Vdc buffer. It is a very nice controller, but you really need to be good a soldering to build one.
The 16-universe controller is basically easy to solder, really cheap to build, and a nice size to use at multiple locations around the yard, so it cuts down on wiring. This is really the recommend controller for most applications.