Introduction

As an enthusiast it can be difficult to just "set it and forget it," to assemble a system and decree "this is as good as it's going to get." There's an inherent need to tweak and continue to tweak, to eke every last ounce of performance (within reason) out of our systems. Over the past few years, liquid cooling has become less the province of the extreme enthusiast and more accessible to the average user thanks to closed loop coolers manufactured by Asetek and CoolIT and brought to market by companies like Thermaltake, Antec, and Corsair.

The pump and radiator are only part of the equation, though; part of what makes even a decent closed loop cooling system tick is having a good fan configuration. Reading specs on the fan boxes helps a little, and visiting forums can certainly help, too, but we wanted something a little more definitive. After a couple of weeks of testing, we have results to share.

When dealing with fans being used for radiators, it's important to note that what makes a good case fan may not make a good radiator fan, and vice versa. We've gotten used to reading fan specifications that only list the maximum airflow of the fan, rated in CFM or "Cubic Feet per Minute." In the past couple of years, though, more and more manufacturers have been listing an additional specification, and this is the one we're interested in: static air pressure. Fans which produce high static air pressure are able to better focus and direct airflow, making them more ideal for forcing air through the densely packed fins of a liquid cooling radiator.

The propensity for manufacturers to list the air pressure specification over the past few years coincides with the increased popularity of closed loop liquid coolers, but during the same period of time we've also seen a gradual shift towards quieter computing. Builders place greater emphasis on having their systems run quietly, and why shouldn't they? If you can have good thermal performance with a minimal impact on ambient noise, why wouldn't you?

With these things in mind I've tested a collection of eight fans from Corsair, BitFenix, Nexus, NZXT, Cooler Master, and SilverStone to try and find the best balance between thermal performance and acoustics.

Testing Methodology
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  • wiyosaya - Thursday, August 23, 2012 - link

    Personally, I was surprised not to any Scythe fans. IMHO, they make the best fans of manufacturer. I've been buying Scythe exclusively for several years now with a focus on quiet computing, and IMHO, their dbA ratings are spot on whilst providing excellent cooling. Reply
  • DarkStryke - Thursday, August 23, 2012 - link

    Sorry, but this review was very lackluster, and is void of explaining the most important factor that affects fan performance on a radiator, the fin density (Fins Per Inch). That H80 unit uses a very dense FPI setup (roughly 20), which will greatly affect the performance of a fan, and thus render your results totally meaningless to users of less dense radiators.

    That's not even commenting on the omission of Scythe Gentle Typhoon AP-14/15's, which no thorough radiator review would be without, as they are considered one of the best rad fans available.

    I have to ask the Anand review editorsf, was this just a marketing filler review?
    Reply
  • prophet001 - Wednesday, September 05, 2012 - link

    If you're concerned about a fan's performance when used in conjunction with a radiator or heat sync then you look at the fan's maximum static pressure.

    You don't review fans based on fin density.
    Reply
  • Jibcutter - Thursday, August 23, 2012 - link

    Should have tested COUGAR CF-V12HP Vortex Hydro-Dynamic-Bearing (Fluid) 300,000 Hours 12CM Silent Cooling Fan with Pulse Width Modulation. I purchased these to run on the Corsair H100. The temperature differences and noise reduction over stock have been orders of magnitude different. Reply
  • Ti-Da - Friday, August 24, 2012 - link

    can't Agree more !!!
    I've bought 5 of these baby COUGAR CF-V12HP w/PWM for my H100 + 1 exhaust on White Corsair 600T - Doing push/pull and the temps/noise is really great.
    Reply
  • **USA** - Monday, August 27, 2012 - link

    Am using 5 as well...terrific performance! Very low temps and low noise! Using the USAdystopia method of mounting as seen on utube. Reply
  • fausto412 - Thursday, August 23, 2012 - link

    I have seen comparative fan tests before done by SPR.
    I have none PWM fans and I can control their speed using Speedfan. You telling me the Corsair cooler doesn't allow that? a fixed speed fan sucks.

    I would like to see this test of fans repeated and including more fans. test for how much air the fans move at different RPM's(600, 1100, 1800, Max rpm) and at what point is the air/noise useless because the temp won't go any lower and the db tradeoff. Now that is something i have been wanting to see for some time. Also include a breakdown of fan components and whether they matter. diff types of bearings and suck plus why should people care to have pwm and why isn't every motherboard i run into has only 1 pwm header.
    Reply
  • danjw - Thursday, August 23, 2012 - link

    With most of Asus's Z77 motherboards having all PWM fan headers, that, I think, is the way the industry is going. I would like to see a similar shootout with PWM fans. Also, I would like some 140mm fans in there, as a lot of cases can mount 140mm fans these days.

    It is nice to see you do a fan review, though. I hope you will do some more!
    Reply
  • Streetwind - Thursday, August 23, 2012 - link

    The nice part about the ASUS 7x boards is that they can handle any type of fan.

    Connect a 4-pin PWM fan, and it will be PWM controlled. Connect a 3-pin classic fan, and it will be voltage controlled. You can mix and match however you like, too. They've really done a great job on the fan control, an area that other manufacturers have sadly chosen to ignore for many years. Hopefully that will change in the future.
    Reply
  • Dustin Sklavos - Thursday, August 23, 2012 - link

    The 7x boards do this? Because my Z68-based ASUS board has a load of fan headers and they're all PWM, it's utterly pointless right now. PWM fans are rare as hen's teeth, most of the popular ones are three-pin right now. Reply

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