120mm Fan Roundup - 35 Models Compared

Cooling/VGA & Other Cooling by jmke @ 2009-02-13

We compare the performance/noise balance of 35 different 120mm fans from AcoustFan, Aerocool, Arctic-Cooling, Cooler Master, Coolink, CoolJag, Delta, Gelid, GlobalWin, mCubed, Nexus, Noctua, NoiseBlocker, Papst, Revoltec, Scythe, Sharkoon, SilenX and Xthermal.

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Fan Close-up: A to G

AcoustiFan S1202512L-3M

The name of this product from Acousti includes Ultra Quiet Fan, but testing reveals this be far from the truth, especially at full speed this fan is quite audible. At 2000rpm you’d expect nothing different, but what were they thinking when they called this fan Ultra Quiet…

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The frame and blades are transparent plastic, an excellent candidate for LED fan, but nothing fancy was done here. Subjective noise ranking when undervolted at 5v puts it in the silent category, scoring slightly below average at 5v; at 7 volt the performance/noise balance gets worse, definitely not a candidate for a silent setup. At 12v very good performance but way too loud for daily usage.

Aerocool Turbine 1000

This fan from Aerocool is a very low noise part, rated at 950rpm at 12v you will be hard stressed to call this one noise.

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This one is equipped with blue LEDs which make the aluminum finish really stand out. There are no less than 16 blades on this fan. Performance wise don’t expect any wonders at 12v, but it’s definitely out of the box silent and offers a good performance/noise ratio. Undervolting at 7v delivers average performance/noise ratio, at 5v the fan stops spinning. Subjective noise tests didn’t really pick out any negatives; at 7v the fan is dead silent.

Arctic Fan 12

The only fan in the roundup without a classic frame, the Arctic-Cooling Fan 12 is a big version of the fans they use on their Freezer 64/7 (Pro) heatsinks.

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The special frame has an incorporated vibration reduction suspensors. At full speed the motor noise is quite low, but performance/noise balance is far from ideal, at 1500rpm there’s a lot of airflow but you do hear this fan running. When undervolting the motor noise becomes more noticeable, running at 5v does put the performance/noise balance close to average, the motor noise however spoils the fun.

Cooler Master A12025-12AB-4EP-M1

A new PWM fan with 4-pin connector from Cooler Master, functionality over looks as this sturdy fan has no special visual specialties.

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Right out of the box this one of the best performance/noise at 12v, scoring well above average; motor noise at 12v is kept to acceptable levels too. Undervolting to 7v possible and further improves the fan’s rating, but here the competition is stiffer and the motor noise becomes more apparent. 5v is not enough juice to get this fan spinning. Something we’ve noticed with different PWM fans from different brands. Now if only Cooler Master could pick a better name for their fan which describes it better, the retail box says “PWM Fan” but doesn’t mention any model or version number.

Cooler Master A12025-7BB-3AN-D1

The second Cooler Master fan in this roundup we have tested before, it’s rated at 700 at 12v, it sports the same looks as the PWM fan, the 7 blades are noticeably bigger though.

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Performance wise this fan reaches its peak at 12v, scoring well above average, even better than the PWM fan. Undervolting doesn’t help here, at 7v it performs slightly below average. At 5v the blades don’t move.

Coolink Breeze

This is an old fan from a company which has disappeared, the current Coolink company you find now has nothing to do with this product, the 120mm was included with another Coolink product back in 2003.

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We included it in the test just to see how it would stack up against current generation 120mm fans. While there are no specifications to be found, the dBA measurements puts in the ~2000rpm bracket, at 12v it cools quite well, but as expected performance/noise ratio is well below average. Undervolting does pay off, at 7v it’s still below average but getting close, at 5v it scores above average and is quite efficient. Unfortunately (or fortunately for us) the subjective motor noise test was very disappointing, the fan remained very irritating, even at 5v; to be avoided for silent operation.

CoolJag EverFlow F121225SL

This fan from CoolJag has the most *bling* from all the products tested as it has an integrated LEDs which can display words on the side, impressive to see, easy to configure (with the included software) as it connects over USB.

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The only location for such a fan is inside a transparent case; and to get the display working it has be running at 12v so no undervolting allowed. Rated at 1100rpm it’s definitely louder than a similar generic fan at 1100rpm; efficiency at 12v is below average, but slightly better than the Coolink Breeze which is definitely less flashy! Subjective motor noise is acceptable at 12v.

Delta FFB1212VHE

Delta mostly known by end users for their high rpm fans, the FFB1212VHE we received from Sidewinder Computers is no different, rated at 3200rpm it’s not quite their most high end product, but definitely not a candidate for silent cooling. What’s quite unique for this product is that the power draw has been lowered enough that this Delta fan can be hooked up to a fan controller.

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From the pictures above you can see that this fan means business. At 12v it cooled down our test CPU 5°C lower than the second best, which is quite a large difference. It also at the top spot in the noise ranking to nobody’s surprise. Performance/Noise balance is the lowest of the bunch at 12v, at 5v the efficiency is better but still way below average; if all you want is super cooling this fan will impress you, but don’t ever consider it if noise is an issue.

Gelid Silent 12 PWM

Gelid is a newcomer to the enthusiast scene, they prepared their product line-up with a definitive focus on silence, the Silent 12 PWM features is their plug and play case/CPU fan we tested first.

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Rated at 1500rpm at 12v this PWM fan is not silent out of the box, performance/noise balance at this speed is below average; motor noise is present but not annoying. Undervolting to 7v offers a better efficiency which is still below average though, motor noise minor. At 5v the fan refuses to start.

Gelid Wing 12

If the Silent 12 was the generic fan, the Wing 12 is the high end enthusiast product from Gelid, it comes with 4 rubber mounts for anti-vibration mounting, it has UV reactive fan blades, and you get fan speed controller.

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That last photo is quite interesting, it seems you can remove the blades from the frame by simply pulling with a little bit of strength, it gives you a clear view of the working’s of this fan which has “Nanoflux” bearing which comes down to a hermetically sealed compartment which is dust and water-proof. This fan is also rated at 1500rpm@12v and thus has very similar (almost identical) noise measurement as the Silent 12 PWM, at full speed efficiency is below average, at 7v it’s a bit better than the Silent 12 but still below average, it does shine through at 5v, there it starts up without issue and delivers a performance/noise balance above average.

GlobalWin 1202512L NCB

The GlobalWin NCB has been a favorite in the last roundup, we re-included it today to see how it compares.

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We removed part of the frame as we used this fan in our CPU heatsink tests and mounting material is usually only provided for flange type fans. Rated at 1300rpm at 12v its performance/noise balance is below average, but once undervolted shows its strengths, at 7v efficiency is on par with the average, at 5v it’s noticeably better. Motor noise remains very low at all voltage levels.
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Comment from Rutar @ 2009/02/15
How comes the Silent Eagle performs so badly compared to the previous roundups, especially in the noise/temperature ratios? Did fan tech advance that much?

It would be nice to have multiple scatter graphs with different groups of performers so differences can be seen better. I still prefer them over the MER.
Comment from jmke @ 2009/02/15
The Sharkoon Silent Eagle is better known as the « golf ball » fan, as the surface of its fan blades look exactly like that. We’re testing the 2000rpm model here, unfortunately the 1000rpm model we no longer have in our labs. Sharkoon does not label their Silent Eagle model so we added our own “2000rpm” tag to the label.

2000 model best effort is starting point of the 1000rpm model... I don't have the 1000rpm model in house anymore, otherwise would have included it

regrading scatter chart: what groups would you make?
Comment from Rutar @ 2009/02/15
Still, here the SE 2000 RPM did excellent vs the Globalwin which beat all other fans in the 17 fan review. The Noctua S12 1200 outperformed it with 51°/42.9 dBa vs 50.5°/43.6 dBa when there were -3.8°/+0.9 dBa difference in the 4 fan article.

I think it could have to do with the fin spacing difference between the Infinity and the Zipang and the fact that it wasn't mounted directly on the heatsink in the first roundups. I think at least the difference due to the fin spacing should be ruled out and the conflicting results explained.

Eventually 2 test methods have to be used to find out which one is the best casefan and which one is the best CPU fan.