Four 120mm Fans Compared

Cooling/VGA & Other Cooling by jmke @ 2006-11-20

We test four 120mm fans which aim to provide lots of airflow at low noise levels. In this roundup 2 models from Noctua and 2 from Sharkoon are compared to one of the best from our previous 17-fan roundup.

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Performance/Noise and Conclusive Thoughts

Performance/Noise tests

The CPU was loaded at 100% and maximum CPU temperatures were recorded; noise levels were registered at very close distance, at larger distances of 50-100cm the fans were unable to be picked up when running under volted. While dBA results are quite high in the results below, don’t forget they are at ~5cm from the fan/heatsink. It’s like putting your ear next to the fan.

First the raw data:

Madshrimps (c)

With the results charted on an X/Y scatter graph , X for noise, Y for temp we get the following result:

Madshrimps (c)

You can see that, even when measuring dBA at extreme close distance, some fan/volt combinations are dropping below ambient level. To two slowest turning models (800/1000rpm) would most likely score ~35dBA (Sharkoon 1000) and <34dba (nfs-12-800) if their performance>
Performance wise the loudest fans offers the coolest CPU temps, so far things remain logical. The Sharkoon 2000 running at 5v ties with the 1000 model at 12v. The NF-S12 series which has a lower air pressure due to its fan design is not the ideal for heatsink cooling (where the fins are tightly packet like the Scythe Infinity), but it’s doing far from bad, delivering results on par with the GlobalWin NCB fan.

Subjective listening tests were performed, but I’d be lying if I said I could hear any difference in motor noise, at 5v the low-speed models of Noctua and Sharkoon are completely silent, only by placing my ear right next to the fan I could hear it spin.

Conclusive thoughts

The fans tested today delivered impressive numbers, they were able to match one of the best fans of the last roundup, and even offer improvements. At the end of the day however pure performance/noise won’t be the only deciding factor, price and availability will play a larger role for many.

The Sharkoon fans are quite popular in Germany and neighboring countries. They have recently also penetrated the US market, some shops are carrying their products over there now too. The Silent Eagle 120mm models are attractively priced around €9/$10.

The Noctua products are available at different EU/US shops, the NF-S12 models change owner for ~€19/$19. For that price you get 6 year warranty and guaranteed low noise operation, even if you don’t have a fan controller, thanks to the included low-noise-adapter.

Thank you for reading.

Heads up to Sharkoon and Noctua for making this review possible.

Questions/Comments: forum thead
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Comment from Rutar @ 2006/12/07
hmmm, Sharkons golfball design seems to KICK ***

now if they would team up with Papst and use a better bearing, the amount of ownage they could put on the market is frightening

I wonder how the people at SPCR reacted on those result, seing their Globalwin being pwned.