Testing Methodology

If you've been keeping up with our case reviews, our testing methodology for the fans here is going to seem relatively similar in some ways. Our test system may seem a bit unusual in more than a few ways, but stick with me and I'll explain why I put it together and tested it the way I did.

Fan and Radiator Testing Configuration
CPU Intel Core i7-2700K overclocked to 4.4GHz @ 1.4V
Motherboard Zotac Z77-ITX WiFi
Graphics Intel HD 3000 IGP
Memory 2x4GB Corsair Value Select DDR3-1333
Drives Kingston SSDNow V+ 100 64GB SSD
CPU Cooler Corsair H80
Power Supply Corsair CX500
Enclosure BitFenix Prodigy with 200mm BitFenix Spectre Pro intake @ 5V

The processor, with its healthy voltage boost and overclock, throws a pretty substantial amount of heat at our cooling system. Testing with an i7-2700K at stock speeds would defeat the purpose; Intel's own stock cooler can handle that, we want to "separate the men from the boys" so to speak.

So why use a closed enclosure, and a Mini-ITX one no doubt? As it turns out, my experience in testing Origin's Chronos LAN box suggested that this might actually be ideal. Removing the middle drive cage allows for a straight shot between the Prodigy's intake and the radiator fan, allowing us the opportunity to test how quietly and efficiently the fans can run in a closed system with no real acoustic baffling, while the 200mm Spectre Pro attenuated to 5V runs both quietly enough to not significantly impact results while providing enough airflow to ensure the radiator fans can do their job. Using a larger enclosure felt like it might complicate things with too many variables; the small and wonderfully efficient BitFenix Prodigy felt perfect for the job.

Since a dedicated GPU wasn't needed, one wasn't used. This prevents a graphics card from generating additional heat or noise or deflecting airflow.

Finally, for the closed-loop cooler we used Corsair's H80. Our own testing proved this was a solid performer and fairly representative of 120mm closed-loop units. The H80 includes a thick, beefy 120mm radiator as well as having dual fan headers built into the waterblock that run non-PWM fans at a constant 12V. I elected against testing in a push-pull configuration, though, to isolate individual fan performance; test results are in a push configuration only.

Thermal and acoustic test cycles were done the same way as our case reviews. First, the system is left powered and idle for fifteen minutes. At this point the sound level is tested, room ambient temperature is recorded, and idle temperatures are recorded. Then eight threads of small FFTs in Prime95 are run for fifteen minutes, and load temperatures are recorded; since the block runs the fans at a constant 12V, the only fan that changes speed (and thus noise) is the stock H80 fan, so the noise level for that fan is recorded again during the Prime95 run.

Thank You!

Before moving on, we'd like to thank the following vendors for providing us with the hardware used in our roundup.

  • Thank you to iBuyPower for providing us with the Intel Core i7-2700K.
  • Thank you to Zotac for providing us with the Z77-ITX WiFi motherboard.
  • Thank you to Kingston for providing us with the SSDNow V+ 100 SSD.
  • Thank you to Corsair for providing us with the H80, the SP120 fans, and CX500 power supply.
  • Thank you to SilverStone for providing us with the Air Penetrator AP121 120mm fan.
  • Thank you to BitFenix for providing us with the Prodigy enclosure and Spectre Pro 120mm fan.
Introduction The Fans We're Testing, Part 1
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  • StevoLincolnite - Thursday, August 23, 2012 - link

    I would have loved to have seen the Noctua NF-F12, Noctua are a high-quality (Albeit expensive) brand that allot of enthusiasts go for, myself included on the Corsair H100.
    I spent as much on the 4x Noctua fans as the Corsair H100 cost itself. :)
    Reply
  • jwilliams4200 - Thursday, August 23, 2012 - link

    I was going to say the same thing. The Noctua NF-F12 (not to be confused with the NF-P12) is the perfect fan for cooling a radiator with relatively low noise. Reply
  • kidsafe - Thursday, August 23, 2012 - link

    I own a lot of fans including the NF-F12s, Gentle Typhoon AP-14s, Kama Flow 2s, etc. The NF-F12 has above average static pressure, but it is not even remotely quiet. The plastic stators make the fan noisier than both other fans mentioned above at normalized temperatures. It also makes the fan louder than the S12 and P12. Reply
  • jwilliams4200 - Thursday, August 23, 2012 - link

    Quietness is relative. My guess is the the NF-F12 at 1500rpm would cool as well as the H80 Stock at medium, while being quieter than the H80.

    Also, the NF-F12 comes with a "low-noise adapter" that brings the speed down to 1200rpm. With the LNA, I guess the NF-F12 would perform as well as the NZXT Performance, while being quieter.
    Reply
  • A1phabeta - Friday, March 28, 2014 - link

    Actually, the static pressure of the NF-F12 with the low-noise adaptor is still 1.61 mmH2O, which is amazing considering that the fan's running at just 1200 rpm. Reply
  • StevoLincolnite - Thursday, August 23, 2012 - link

    I actually can't hear my Noctua's over the crappy Asus Sabertooth X79's chipset fan, so they can't be that noisy. Reply
  • sirizak - Thursday, August 23, 2012 - link

    Have a look at Noctuas specifications for static pressure on the NF-F12, its 2.61 mm/H2O. Not even in the ball park of the H80's 7.7 mm/H2O, my bet is the H80 is based on a tried and true Yate Loon D12SH-12, look them up. Reply
  • BlueReason - Friday, August 24, 2012 - link

    True enough, but the H80's fan is also running at 2600rpm as opposed to the Noc's 1500, so that really isn't an accomplishment. Try running the stock fan at 1500 and see what happens. I'll spoil the surprise: It will still be louder than the Noc, and won't cool as well. Also there's more to rad-cooling than SP. Reply
  • Sapiens - Thursday, August 23, 2012 - link

    Same here, disappointed that Noctua was left out of the list. Reply
  • This Guy - Thursday, August 23, 2012 - link

    I like NF-P12's. In push-pull on a heat sink they killed both an exhaust and an intake fan in an Antec Sonata III. In another case, one exhaust fan pulls more air in through the mesh front that the 120mm intake fan down the bottom. Great fans. Reply

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