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: Specifications
These are the official specifications of the different fans, clicking on the fan name will take you to the product’s webpage.
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:
Image from eminebeaFeatures
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.
Test Setups and Methodology
| ||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|
JMke's Test Setup
|CPU ||A64 3200+ @ 2200Mhz 1.5v|
|Cooling ||Thermaltake Big Typhoon|
|Mainboard ||DFI NF3 Lanparty|
|Memory ||1 * 256Mb PC3700 OCZ|
|Other ||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.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 ->