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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  • 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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