BitFenix Spectre Pro

The new BitFenix fans are intriguing. BitFenix doesn't really target them for any specific purpose the way Corsair and, to a lesser extent, SilverStone do. At the same time, their fan blade design is unique in that there's a reinforced, bevelled pattern on the individual blades. BitFenix cites this as a measure intended to increase longevity.

Airflow (in CFM) Static Pressure (in mm/H2O) RPM Rated dBA
56.22 1.24 1200 18.9

Judging from the specifications, though, it seems the Spectre Pro is geared more for quiet operation and case airflow than use as a radiator fan. At full bore it's a very quiet fan that produces a healthy amount of airflow, but the static pressure leaves something to be desired. It will be interesting to see if the increased airflow helps balance the low pressure.

Nexus Real Silent Case Fan D12SL-12

I thought it would be interesting to throw this old chestnut into the mix. This Nexus fan comes highly recommended by SilentPC Review for its excellent balance of performance and acoustics. I'd actually been using this as the fan on my Xigmatek Dark Knight for some time before switching to a closed loop cooler, and at full bore it's still pretty much inaudible.

Airflow (in CFM) Static Pressure (in mm/H2O) RPM Rated dBA
36.87 1.2 1000 18

The Nexus isn't that attractive on paper outside of its remarkable efficiency, but anecdotally I found it to be an excellent heatsink fan due to its incredibly low noise as well as its solid performance. Whether or not it will be a solid radiator fan remains to be seen due to its comparatively low airflow and static pressure ratings.

CoolerMaster SickleFlow 120

The CoolerMaster SickleFlow 120 was a last minute entrant; I'd been wandering around Fry's, saw it on the shelf, remembered that it had been mentioned fairly positively on forums when I'd be researching radiator fan performance, and figured I'd snag one and see how well it performed in practice. Opinions seem to be fairly split, with people citing it as having horrible static pressure but other people being extremely happy with it.

Airflow (in CFM) Static Pressure (in mm/H2O) RPM Rated dBA
69.69 2.94 2000 19

If nothing else, the specifications sure are pretty optimistic. For a whopping 1dB more, the SickleFlow theoretically provides almost twice the performance of the Nexus! Just judging by the spec sheet, CoolerMaster's fan should blow the rest of our fans out of contention, but you'll see word of mouth on forums and rated specs aren't always reliable.

NZXT Performance Case Fan 120mm

On the opposite end of the spectrum, we have one of the 120mm NZXT fans that CyberPower PC shipped attached to a 240mm Asetek radiator some time ago. NZXT rates the fan pretty conservatively, but CyberPower still felt like it was a solid enough contender to deploy in a review unit.

Airflow (in CFM) Static Pressure (in mm/H2O) RPM Rated dBA
47.27 0.95 1300 25.35

If the SickleFlow's ratings are overconfident, NZXT's fan seems positively humble by comparison. Of all the fans we're testing it has the lowest rated static pressure, mediocre airflow, and one of the highest noise level ratings. So why deploy it, other than that it's inexpensive? Asetek ships their radiator kits with fans included, why not use one of those? I'll show you.

The Fans We're Testing, Part 1 Test Results
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  • Ragesystem - Monday, August 27, 2012 - link

    Terrible

    Ignoring the questionable quality of the single pass radiator, or that of an all in one rad, I'm not sure where you pulled those results for the sickleflow, because it's well known that those fans are excellent for radiators. Something isnt right here.

    I would stay away from the noctua nf-p12 if youre going for a heavy oc, they are okay in dual or triple pass rads or in non-oc sitations, they just dont cut it.
    Reply
  • Similicuir - Tuesday, August 28, 2012 - link

    I found a (french unfortunatly) test here : http://www.hardware.fr/articles/867-15/noctua-nf-f...

    of NF-F12 PWM, it seems they are also testing it on radiator...doesn't look so great compared to others, especially when you consider their price.
    Reply
  • maxcellerate - Friday, March 15, 2013 - link

    I loved the French article or rather the translation: much more fun not quite knowing what's meant.

    But numbers are the same in any language and the clear winner was the Cooler Master Excalibur; which left favourites like the Cougar Vortex, Arctic Cooling, Scythe and Noctua for dust. And yet it doesn't appear on anybody's list of 'best fans'. It's number 1 position is also borne out in this very pertinent review http://www.techreaction.net/2011/12/20/water-cooli...
    Which goes one step further than the French article, rather than just measuring air flow through a radiator (or not) measure the resultant temperature drop. Which after all is what it's all about (Yes, I go for performance over noise, within reason, I don't want to sit next to a hoover).
    But what's most interesting to me about the techreaction article is that ALL the fans are within a 3 Celsius of each other.
    Which tells me that there's really not much difference fans.
    OK, there's only 15 fans reviewed, and there's no 1.99 'fan-u-like' fan reviewed; but there is a 3.99 Yate Loon which holds it's end up admirably.

    So bottom line is: it's no disaster which fan you stick on your cpu cooler.

    But as we all know, a 3 degree cooler cpu is a happy cpu.

    Though yet again the 3.99 Yate Loon D12SM-12, has to be a no-brainer (if you can find someone who will sell you ONE).

    Then again the Cooler Master Excalibur is 1.8 degree cooler...
    Reply
  • Daggarhawk - Wednesday, August 29, 2012 - link

    i agree with other commentators. this is a really interesting article, and helpful. dustin is on point again.

    would love to see the scythe, noctua and thermalright fans reviewed. particularly interested in thermalright since their silver arrow has led the pack in air cooling, and they are known for performance w quietness throughout their line.
    Reply
  • jabelsk - Saturday, September 01, 2012 - link

    Specs given by fan manufacturers (just like specs on flat screen TV's) are COMPLETELY MADE UP. I'm glad this story was written so more people can learn the truth. Here's another source of information on the subject:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9uUXt7mE6Qg&fe...

    Also another way they mislead the consumer is by perpetuating the idea that fans are built for CFM *OR* static pressure. Physics says as CFM goes down pressure goes up and vice versa. So a good fan will be good at *BOTH* CFM and pressure, not one or the other, just more misleading marketing.
    Reply
  • jabelsk - Saturday, September 01, 2012 - link

    Fan specs given by manufacturers (just like specs on flat screen TV's) are COMPLETELY MADE UP. I'm glad this story was done so more people can learn the truth. Here is some more info on the subject:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9uUXt7mE6Qg&fe...

    Also another way they mislead consumers is by perpetuating the idea that fans are only good at CFM *OR* static pressure. Physics tells us as CFM goes down pressure goes up and vice versa. A good fan will be good at *BOTH* CFM and pressure, not one or the other, just more misleading marketing.
    Reply
  • jabelsk - Saturday, September 01, 2012 - link

    sry double post. someone delete pls. Reply
  • LoneWolf15 - Sunday, September 09, 2012 - link

    Both Noctua and Scythe apparently didn't make the cut. People here have already commented about Noctua, so I'll talk about Scythe. What, no Gentle Typhoons? They aren't cheap, but they're darned fine fans. I use Scythe S-Flex (FDB) fans as well, but the Typhoons are probably better for radiator use. Seeing as both Noctua and Scythe are highly regarded in the enthusiast crowd, I'm disappointed to see them missing in action. Reply
  • cronos1013 - Friday, September 28, 2012 - link

    Dustin,

    OK so by doing this article and ignoring the 2 fans widely recognized as the best radiator fans on the 120mm market, you are showing how little credibility you have in this area, and how you didn't really do ANY research before going about testing these.

    It's time to suck it up, buy 2 more fans and rerun these tests...because come on...nobody wants to know what the best of the under performing fans for radiators are.

    -Chris
    Reply
  • JonnyDough - Monday, October 22, 2012 - link

    but what about fans that aren't mounted against one? Surely they will produce different noise than one pressed against a radiator. Reply

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