Test Results

Before we get into the performance results, a refresher: all eight fans on one chart for comparison. Note that if we're not taking noise into account, the highest static pressure fan should theoretically be the best performer. Our H80's fan settings are also only active with the stock fan; all others run at the full twelve volts.

Fan Airflow (in CFM) Static Pressure (in mm/H2O) RPM Rated dBA
H80 Stock 46-92 1.6-7.7 1300-2500 22-39
SP120 Quiet

37.85

1.29 1450 23
SP120 High Performance 62.74 3.1 2350 35
SilverStone AP121 35.36 1.71 1500 22.4
BitFenix Spectre Pro 56.22 1.24 1200 18.9
Nexus Real Silent D12SL-12 36.87 1.2 1000 18
CoolerMaster SickleFlow 120 69.69 2.94 2000 19
NZXT Performance 47.27 0.95 1300 25.35

As far as static pressure goes, most of these fans are hanging out in about the same neighborhood. Acoustically, only Corsair's SP120 High Performance and stock H80 fan are even rated to go above the noise floor of our sound meter, though it's clear the stock fan is designed to move heat as fast as humanly possible. Let's see how all of these theoreticals worked out in practice, though.

Ambient temperatures ranged between 24C and 26C, and the margin for error in results is roughly 1C.

Thermal Performance

Thermally, if we ignore the H80's stock fan, the SickleFlow should've eaten the competition alive, but as it turns out CoolerMaster's specifications were more than just a little optimistic, as it was hands down the worst radiator fan we tested by a wide margin. If we organize the fans by rated static air pressure, they'd rank from best to worst: SP120 High Performance, SickleFlow 120, SilverStone AP121, SP120 Quiet, BitFenix Spectre Pro, Nexus Real Silent, and dead last, the NZXT Performance. As it turns out, though, only the SP120 High Performance really performs in line with its specifications; the rest just bunch up while the SickleFlow 120 is clearly the worst.

So how about acoustic performance?

Acoustic Performance

Well, at least CoolerMaster's fan is quiet while it cooks your processor. To get that great thermal performance from the SP120 and H80 stock fan, though, you're going to have to put up with some noise. Note that these are load noise readings; the H80 stock fan idles at or below our sound meter's 30dB threshold at Low and Medium settings while sitting at 34.3 dB at High.

Interestingly enough, despite having among the worst rated specs, NZXT's Performance fan seems to find the best balance between thermal performance and acoustics; Corsair's SP120 Quiet does little to justify itself over the stock H80 fan. Corsair's engineers also turned out to be mostly right on the money: the H80 stock fan by and large seems to be the best choice, at least for the H80 itself. Its Low setting is competitive with the other fans both thermally and acoustically, while its Medium setting is competitive with the SP120 High Performance fan. The High setting is essentially unnecessary.

The Fans We're Testing, Part 2 Conclusion: Fans Can Matter
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  • Kougar - Sunday, September 02, 2012 - link

    I have to second this. The P12's are known for their silence yet, amongst other things, are specifically stated to deliver higher pressure for radiator use.

    Comparing the F12 against the P12 would be even better though, of course.
    Reply
  • JPForums - Thursday, August 23, 2012 - link

    Great review.
    Leaves me wanting more.
    I vote for a follow up.

    I would have loved to have seen the Noctua NF-F12, ...


    I second this. Noctua's fans specify pretty reasonable noise, airflow, and static pressure. By what I've heard, they may live up to their specs.
    Also, like below, I'd be interested to see if Noiseblocker's excellent case fans make good radiator fans.
    While we are at it, throw Thermaltake's Hydrodynamic bearing fans on the list to see if they are really as good as thermaltake claims. The versions pair with Thermaltake coolers should be ideal.
    Finally, an old school Thermaltake Thunderblade would be a good point of comparison to see how far they've progressed.
    Reply
  • Guspaz - Friday, August 24, 2012 - link

    Yeah, the very first thing I thought when I opened this article was "Wait, there's no Noctua fans in that picture, where are they?"

    A 120mm fan review without a Noctua fan in it is certainly incomplete.
    Reply
  • sam1337 - Saturday, August 25, 2012 - link

    i agree, wheres the nf-f12 and scythe GT :P Reply
  • OCedHrt - Thursday, August 23, 2012 - link

    http://www.xbitlabs.com/articles/coolers/display/1...

    The SickleFlow comes nowhere near 69.69 CFM. Though even at 33 CFM it performs quite poorly here.
    Reply
  • jackstar7 - Thursday, August 23, 2012 - link

    I'm using Noiseblocker fans and find that in normal conditions they perform very well and keep quiet. Mine are on an H60. I believe Idontcare might have some stats in the forums about their performance. Reply
  • Grooveriding - Thursday, August 23, 2012 - link

    Really surprised not to see Scythe GTs included. Reply
  • Mr. Pedantic - Thursday, August 23, 2012 - link

    I would have really liked to see how the Gentle Typhoons stack up as well. Reply
  • Rick83 - Thursday, August 23, 2012 - link

    Yes, after all often they are claimed to be -the- fan for radiators (and many other applications) Reply
  • sicofante - Thursday, August 23, 2012 - link

    Absolutely. It kind of discredits the whole review, when the GTs are considered the best for this task almost everywhere. Reply

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