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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  • Streetwind - Thursday, August 23, 2012 - link

    Yes, as far as I'm aware it's based on the Fan Xpert II software that's bundled with the Panther Point boards; it doesn't work directly from the UEFI.

    In fact, didn't Anand post a video earlier the year where an ASUS rep came over to you guys show off the fan control software in action?
    Reply
  • maximumGPU - Thursday, August 23, 2012 - link

    Yes they do, i have 7x Asus board and their fan control software is superb. it'll work with both PWM and non-PWM fans as in my case.
    It provides a lot of useful information too such as min and max rpm for each fan.
    the only thing missing is the ability to create a fan profile that could be linked to temperature other than cpu temp, like motherboard for example.

    Their software is what pushed me to chose their mobo instead of competitors.
    Reply
  • Iketh - Thursday, August 23, 2012 - link

    oh come on, they are not rare at all Reply
  • danjw - Thursday, August 23, 2012 - link

    Yes, I believe that the Z7x's can also voltage control. But PWM usually have a better range then with standard fans, voltage controlled. Also, I believe the Corsair Link controller does voltage control as well. Reply
  • ckevin1 - Thursday, August 23, 2012 - link

    I have an Asus P8Z68-V Gen3, and last night I went through the pain of figuring out how to voltage control a 3-pin fan on it. It *can* be done.

    The CPU and SYS fan headers are PWM only, as I found, but the 4-pin Chassis fan header (near the slots & I/O panel) does support voltage control. Plain old fan XPert that they provide on the download site for my board can control it, and it can also be set up from the BIOS.
    Reply
  • piroroadkill - Thursday, August 23, 2012 - link

    You say this, but I had an MSI board back in the Pentium III era that had completely independant fan control on all headers.

    I also had an Abit board with µguru that had completely independant fan header control, for Pentium 4.

    I also had an Abit board with µguru that had total control for Socket 775...

    Now I have an Asus P8Z68-V Pro, and before I had another 775 Asus board, I've never had worse fan control. The headers are shared, each are a certain type of control.. It's pathetic.

    In summary: abit had amazing fan control for many years, Asus is playing catch up, your comment is therefore amusing.
    Reply
  • piroroadkill - Thursday, August 23, 2012 - link

    Oh, and I wish I could edit, but I can't forget that the ASUS boards also prevent you from dropping the speed below a certain amount, which is awful. I had to fit resistors to my Corsair A70 and THEN fan control it to make it a reasonable noise level. I'd prefer to have the full range of speed available to me. Reply
  • ypsylon - Thursday, August 23, 2012 - link

    InstaFAIL. By far most potent fans on the market. They combine supreme performance (120mm - 138.4m3=82CFM @ 1500rpm/26dB) with low noise and great price for performance. Running exclusively only AC Sharks now. Tested many fans, survived only 1 type.

    For liquid cooling solutions (even for such poor AIO kits) there is easy way to improve cooling a bit. Put spacer (gutted old fan or buy brand new one in shops trading LC things) between radiator and fan(s) on the intake side. That way radiator will be cooled equally on the entire surface. With default setup: fan straight to radiator, center of radiator is warmer than edges, simply because air straight below fan bearing cannot cool and move quickly enough.
    Reply
  • Stupido - Thursday, August 23, 2012 - link

    The idea of the spacer is an excellent one!
    Thanks for that!
    Reply
  • JerWA - Thursday, August 23, 2012 - link

    Any hopes of you guys snagging one of these to add to the test results?

    Gelid Wing 12 PL, P/N: FN-FW12BPL-18.

    http://www.gelidsolutions.com/products/index.php?l...

    I'm using 2 as the push in a push/pull H100 setup, and it'd be nice to know if there's a better option and just how they measure up in comparison.
    Reply

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