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
POST A COMMENT

112 Comments

View All Comments

  • Dustin Sklavos - Thursday, August 23, 2012 - link

    That at least half of you have a fan you're upset wasn't included, and they're almost all completely different fans. There was no way I was going to be able to cover all of them (although the Yate Loon, Noctua, and Scythe are admittedly pretty big omissions, especially the Noctua), but I seem to have opened Pandora's Box with this one.

    This roundup is a little unusual for us (but then I'm the unusual review guy at this point), so if it does well I'll look into updating it with a second part in a month or two with a second set of fans. Noctua's reached out to me, so the possibility is there.
    Reply
  • NeXTguy2 - Thursday, August 23, 2012 - link

    If you do a second round you might want to consider the following fans, too. Looks like Austria (Noctua) and Germany (Noiseblocker, be quiet!) have a bit of a fan industry going...

    http://www.bequiet.com/en/casefans/270
    http://www.noiseblocker.de/en/BlackSilentPro120.ph...

    The people at Noiseblocker have also just released a new fan series based on research funded by the German ministry of technology. Basically, the blades are connected on the outside to a ring that rotates in the chassis. So far, they don't even seem to have a page in English about it:

    http://noiseblocker.de/eLoop120.php

    I'm using the low-speed ones as case fans, but that's beside the point I guess.
    Reply
  • maximumGPU - Thursday, August 23, 2012 - link

    It was great seeing Anandtech reviewing fans, especially since the which "which fan is best " discussion is certainly fiercly debated by enthusiasts on forums.
    Great first step and definetly +1 for a second round up with more fans!!
    Reply
  • MrSpadge - Thursday, August 23, 2012 - link

    Personally I find Arctic Cooling fans to be a solid choice. Not sure how they're available in the US, though. Reply
  • sicofante - Thursday, August 23, 2012 - link

    Maybe research a little bit what makes a fan have good pressure, then proceed.

    Usually, many fins with little space in between say "high pressure"...
    Reply
  • sanityvoid - Thursday, August 23, 2012 - link

    Dustin,

    I posted another reply as I didn't see your reply right away. I appreciate the hell out of you trying this in the first place. I love reading Anandtech and come here most for builds, advice, or to browse the forums to see what everyone is doing with their rig's.

    I think you did indeed open Pandora's box, but having said that I think a different poster is correct in saying that this is a welcome addition to other articles here at Anandtech. Much needed and many people do prefer water over air. I, myself, just bought and installed a H80 with my recent upgrade to my rig.

    Keep up the good work and I certainly look forward to a part 2 of this.

    Cheers!
    Reply
  • sanityvoid - Thursday, August 23, 2012 - link

    I would also mention based on the sheer numbers of comments there is a definite reason to do a part 2 as so many people seem passionate about this area. Least you could pitch that to your editor that way!!! Reply
  • nubnubbins - Thursday, August 23, 2012 - link

    I think the issue is that you have a random hodgepodge of fans included while passing over fans widely regarded as some of the best for radiators. As a baseline, you should have had a Yate Loon and Scythe Gentle Typhoon AP15. Yates are widely regarded as the best budget fan and AP15s the best lower noise rad fan. After that, the Cougar Vortex, Aerocool Shark, Gelid Wing, Noiseblockers, Noctua NF-P12 and NF-F12, and XSPC Xinrulian fans are all regarded as great radiator fans by the likes of MartinsLiquidLabs and those in the water cooling community.

    It's nice to see some fan reviews, I think people are just disappointed that the staple radiator fans were left out and you had a disproportionate number of Corsair fans instead.
    Reply
  • Streetwind - Thursday, August 23, 2012 - link

    Geez guys, calm down a bit! ;) Testing every fan on the market is more or less impossible. While I personally would have loved to see the Scythe/Nidec Servo GentleTyphoon make an appearance (especially since they're somewhat more obscure than they deserve), but the purpose of this article is not to crown "the best fan ever".

    It is supposed to showcase "a good fan" for the job. Clearly there will be other good fans. Some may even be a little better. But so long as you're giving a customer a recommendation that's in the top 20% of products on the market, backed up by hard data, that's already going to help that customer a whole lot than forum posts stating "I can guarantee you that fan XYZ is the best, I have been using it for years". Because all that a post like that states is "I have not compared my fan to others in years and actually have no idea how good the competition is".
    Reply
  • Aikouka - Thursday, August 23, 2012 - link

    There's nothing wrong with people mentioning fans. In fact, it can be helpful as it gives Anandtech an idea of what people would like to see. They can take the mentioned devices, review their stats (and maybe even existing reviews) and possibly create another line-up.

    Although, frothing rage is never appreciated, but I think people have been pretty civil. =)
    Reply

Log in

Don't have an account? Sign up now