120mm Fan Roundup: 17 Fans Compared

Cooling/VGA & Other Cooling by jmke @ 2006-03-24

17-Way roundup of 120mm fans from different manufactures including Scythe, Aerocool, Nexus, GlobalWin, Spire, Coolermaster, Papst, Coolink, Acoustifan, mCubed and AC Ryan. We test their performance both temperature as noise wise - and include sound samples of the fans running at different voltages so you can compare them head to head. Are all fans created equal? Let?s find out.

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Introduction & Features


Today I have roundup of 17 different 120mm fans for you, with a focus on finding a good noise/performance I’ve measured noise production using a dBA meter, a high end microphone and also tested each fan on a large CPU heatsink to see how much air it pushes (low/high CPU temperatures).

This is a to the point roundup offering you many facts and figures and I’ll try to sort through the results with you by splitting up the test results in different sections.

First it’s time to meet the contestants:

Madshrimps (c)


These are the official specifications of the different fans, clicking on the fan name will take you to the product’s webpage.

Airflow (CFM) Noise (dBA) Input (A) Power (W) Bearing Height (mm) RPM @ 12V Mounting Holes
AC Ryan Blackfire4 77.70 28.95 0.23 2.80 Ball 25 2000 Flange
AcoustiFan AF120C 50.00 34.00 0.18 2.16 Sleeve 25 2000 Flange
AcoustiFan AFDP-12025 56.30 24.70 0.13 1.56 Dual Ball 25 1500 Flange
Aerocool Turbine 1000 37.44 19.66 0.25 3.00 Sleeve 25 950 Flange
Arctic Fan 12 56.30 23.50 0.15 1.80 Fluid Dynamic 38 1500 custom
Coolermaster ALU AAF-B12-E1 56.00 23.00 1.00 12.00 Dual Ball 38 1200 Flange
Coolermaster LED Silent TLF-S12 42.73 22.00 0.15 1.80 Sleeve 25 1220 Flange
Coolermaster Ultra Silent SAF-S12-E1 11.27 13.00 0.05 0.60 Sleeve 25 720 Flange
Coolink SWiF-1201 38.30 17.00 0.07 0.84 Dual Ball 25 1200 Flange
GlobalWin 1202512L 41.70 19.00 ? ? Nanometer Ceramic 25 1300 Rib
mCubed X12 55.00 27.00 0.30 3.60 Sleeve 25 1750 Flange
Nexus D12SL-12 36.87 22.80 0.15 1.80 Sleeve 25 1000 Rib
Papst 4412 F/2GLL 41.00 18.00 0.06 0.72 Ceramic Sleeve 25 1300 Flange
Scythe S-FLEX SFF21D 33.50 8.70 0.10 1.20 Fluid Dynamic 25 800 Flange
Scythe S-FLEX SFF21E 49.00 20.10 0.15 1.80 Fluid Dynamic 25 1200 Flange
Scythe S-FLEX SFF21F 63.70 28.00 0.20 2.40 Fluid Dynamic 25 1600 Flange
Spire FD12025C1E3 44.84 22.00 0.60 7.20 Dual Ball 25 1200 Rib

Most fans use either Sleeve or (Dual) Ball bearing, there are a few with rather unique bearings like the offerings from Scythe, Coolermaster and GlobalWin.

The difference between Flange Type and Rib Type can be seen here:

Madshrimps (c)
Image from eminebea


If you are going to use one of these as a CPU heatsink fan you might want to know how much the fan weighs, as there can be quite a difference. If you have large case a longer cable length will give you more freedom. Most fans come with mounting screws and 3-to-4 pin adapter, but not all. To help reduce vibration noise some manufacturers are providing rubber rings, or custom rubber mounting kits. The “life” value for each fan is taken directly from the product page and has to be taken with a grain of salt. Last is the visual aspect of the fan, some come with LEDs and light up when powered.

Weight (gram) Cable Length (mm) Mounting Screws 3-to-4 Pin Anti Vibration Life (Hours) UV/LED
AC Ryan Blackfire4 112 300 yes yes no UV&LED
AcoustiFan AF120C 116 520 yes no no 26000 no
AcoustiFan AFDP-12025 162 410 yes yes no 60000 no
Aerocool Turbine 1000 107 500 yes yes no LED
Arctic Fan 12 120 400 yes no yes no
Coolermaster ALU AAF-B12-E1 375 600 yes yes yes 100000 no
Coolermaster LED Silent TLF-S12 167 305 yes yes no 30000 LED
Coolermaster Ultra Silent SAF-S12-E1 172 220 yes yes no 50000 no
Coolink SWiF-1201 94 405 yes yes no no
GlobalWin 1202512L 124 415 yes no no 80000 no
mCubed X12 116 400 yes yes yes no
Nexus D12SL-12 (black/white) 114 410 no yes no no
Papst 4412 F/2GLL 157 325 no no no no
Scythe S-FLEX SFF21D 164 300 yes yes no 150000 no
Scythe S-FLEX SFF21E 164 300 yes yes no 150000 no
Scythe S-FLEX SFF21F 164 300 yes yes no 150000 no
Spire FD12025C1E3 132 240 yes no no 70000 no

Test Setups and Methodology

JMke's Test Setup
CPU A64 3200+ @ 2200Mhz 1.5v
Cooling Thermaltake Big Typhoon
Mainboard DFI NF3 Lanparty
Memory 1 * 256Mb PC3700 OCZ
  • Antec Sonata II
  • ATI R9000 Passive Cooling
  • Silverstone EFN-300 300W Passive Cooled PSU
  • Maxtor 120GB IDE HDD

  • The tower case was placed on its side and the temperature tests were done without the side panel installed; I placed a small thermistor probe above the CPU cooler to measure in-take temperature.

    Madshrimps (c)

  • in-take temperature was measured at 25°C for all tests, but temp fluctuations, and user error can account up to 1-3°C of inaccuracy in the obtained results. Please keep this in mind when looking at the results. Each fan was tested repeatedly; if I got questionable results the test was restarted.
  • Noise level of each HSF combo was recorded with SmartSensor SL4001A, the sensor was placed ~10cm away from the fan. The lowest dBA reading in the test room was 34dBA without fan running in the system.
  • System was stressed by running K7 CPU Burn for 30min ; this application pushes the temperature higher then any other application or game we’ve yet encountered. Speedfan was used to log maximum obtained temperatures.
  • Noise samples were recorded with a high quality directional microphone approx. 1cm away from the fan’s motor.

    Official Specs vs Own Measurements

    With an ambient noise of 34dBA I recorded the fan noise 12v from ~10cm while the fan was installed on top of a Thermaltake Big Typhoon. The RPM was measured through the fan header on the DFI NF3 motherboard.

    Official dBA Noise@10cm Official RPM Measured RPM
    AC Ryan Blackfire4 28.95 61.00 2000 1918
    AcoustiFan AF120C 34.00 59.30 2000 1962
    AcoustiFan AFDP-12025 24.70 53.30 1500 1520
    Aerocool Turbine 1000 19.66 41.70 950 893
    Arctic Fan 12 23.50 52.20 1500 1592
    Coolermaster ALU AAF-B12-E1 23.00 50.30 1200 1288
    Coolermaster LED Silent TLF-S12 22.00 47.70 1220 1180
    Coolermaster Ultra Silent SAF-S12-E1 13.00 41.30 720
    Coolink SWiF-1201 17.00 47.00 1200 1260
    GlobalWin 1202512L 19.00 44.70 1300 1172
    mCubed X12 27.00 54.00 1750 1607
    Nexus D12SL-12 (black/white) 22.80 41.10 1000 917
    Papst 4412 F/2GLL 18.00 46.70 1300 1241
    Scythe S-FLEX SFF21D 8.70 40.60 800 844
    Scythe S-FLEX SFF21E 20.10 46.70 1200 1223
    Scythe S-FLEX SFF21F 28.00 52.70 1600 1577
    Spire FD12025C1E3 22.00 46.90 1200 1214

    As you can see from the results, the official dBA readings don’t quite reflect those from the manufacturer, this is of course due to the testing environment, theirs is tested in a soundproof room where the ambient noise is <15dba and the dba meter is placed 1 away at a 45°c angle. fan also hung up in mid-air – this makes it not even quite close to real operating environments where ambient noise most definitely higher, as you can see here. my result for nexus comes closest official one, only ~18dba difference ;-).

    RPM wise the difference between my results and official specs is a lot smaller, the mCubed X12 gave the largest fluctuation, close to 150rpm less then officially specified. While the Arctic Fan runs almost 100rpm faster than advertised.

    I’ll try to summarize the results of each fan so this review won’t be a 17-page beast. On the next page I’ll round up the 12v results for all fans, with enough details and sound clips to please the information-hungry.

    name of the fan @ voltage
    Small click-able thumbnails to let you know what the fan looks like as well as show any specialties CPU temp
    dBA reading and RPM monitoring
    a wave chart which can be clicked to download a small .mp3 noise recording
    Subjective noise rating where I placed my ear next to the fan: more “+” means louder and more irritating motor noise

    -- other comments and remarks --

    For the 7 and 5v result I’ll use a table (since you know what the fans look like by then) to display things more clearly.

    So let’s start of by taking a closer look at the fans and see how they do at 12v ->
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