BitFenix Spectre Pro

The new BitFenix fans are intriguing. BitFenix doesn't really target them for any specific purpose the way Corsair and, to a lesser extent, SilverStone do. At the same time, their fan blade design is unique in that there's a reinforced, bevelled pattern on the individual blades. BitFenix cites this as a measure intended to increase longevity.

Airflow (in CFM) Static Pressure (in mm/H2O) RPM Rated dBA
56.22 1.24 1200 18.9

Judging from the specifications, though, it seems the Spectre Pro is geared more for quiet operation and case airflow than use as a radiator fan. At full bore it's a very quiet fan that produces a healthy amount of airflow, but the static pressure leaves something to be desired. It will be interesting to see if the increased airflow helps balance the low pressure.

Nexus Real Silent Case Fan D12SL-12

I thought it would be interesting to throw this old chestnut into the mix. This Nexus fan comes highly recommended by SilentPC Review for its excellent balance of performance and acoustics. I'd actually been using this as the fan on my Xigmatek Dark Knight for some time before switching to a closed loop cooler, and at full bore it's still pretty much inaudible.

Airflow (in CFM) Static Pressure (in mm/H2O) RPM Rated dBA
36.87 1.2 1000 18

The Nexus isn't that attractive on paper outside of its remarkable efficiency, but anecdotally I found it to be an excellent heatsink fan due to its incredibly low noise as well as its solid performance. Whether or not it will be a solid radiator fan remains to be seen due to its comparatively low airflow and static pressure ratings.

CoolerMaster SickleFlow 120

The CoolerMaster SickleFlow 120 was a last minute entrant; I'd been wandering around Fry's, saw it on the shelf, remembered that it had been mentioned fairly positively on forums when I'd be researching radiator fan performance, and figured I'd snag one and see how well it performed in practice. Opinions seem to be fairly split, with people citing it as having horrible static pressure but other people being extremely happy with it.

Airflow (in CFM) Static Pressure (in mm/H2O) RPM Rated dBA
69.69 2.94 2000 19

If nothing else, the specifications sure are pretty optimistic. For a whopping 1dB more, the SickleFlow theoretically provides almost twice the performance of the Nexus! Just judging by the spec sheet, CoolerMaster's fan should blow the rest of our fans out of contention, but you'll see word of mouth on forums and rated specs aren't always reliable.

NZXT Performance Case Fan 120mm

On the opposite end of the spectrum, we have one of the 120mm NZXT fans that CyberPower PC shipped attached to a 240mm Asetek radiator some time ago. NZXT rates the fan pretty conservatively, but CyberPower still felt like it was a solid enough contender to deploy in a review unit.

Airflow (in CFM) Static Pressure (in mm/H2O) RPM Rated dBA
47.27 0.95 1300 25.35

If the SickleFlow's ratings are overconfident, NZXT's fan seems positively humble by comparison. Of all the fans we're testing it has the lowest rated static pressure, mediocre airflow, and one of the highest noise level ratings. So why deploy it, other than that it's inexpensive? Asetek ships their radiator kits with fans included, why not use one of those? I'll show you.

The Fans We're Testing, Part 1 Test Results
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  • Hummingbird - Thursday, August 23, 2012 - link

    I don´t think that this fan roundup really helps to decide which fan is the best out there as long as the Corsair H80´s radiator is far away in terms of it´s dimensions (depth and fin gaps/distance) from the standard radiators which are normally used for H2O setups. Reply
  • eric appla - Thursday, August 23, 2012 - link

    Thank you for efforts with the review Dustin. When I seen Anandtech doing fan review I was very excited that I'll see very detailed and scientific approach as I'm used to from AT articles. Unfortunately this review was not fully what I expected

    What I'd find useful in the Fan reviewes is also some CFM mesurements and noise measurements.

    Noise measurements are very tricky as even A weighted dBA noise level is not telling full story. I would suggest to provide noise spectral picture as it can show at what frequencies are the dominant components of the noise. Some fans do hum, some squeek.

    On the CFM and static pressure front it will be interesting to measure them in few scenarios.
    1) open air (case fan scenario)
    2) dust filter (case fan scenario)
    3) low restriction radiator for example XSPC RX series
    4) medium restriction radiator for example XSPC RS series
    5) high restriction radiator for example XSPC EX series

    Pretty much every radiator manufacturer makes few different radiators optimized for different fans based on the static pressure and airflow they can deliver.

    Full review like this will show people that there is no single best fan in the world, there are just best fans for particular usage scenarios.

    Challange is on :)

    For Fan reviews to use with radiators I usually go to websites specialized on this narrow subject such as martinsliquidlab or skineelab as they have the required test equipment. Have a look at what these guys do, I think you'll find it exciting and inspirational and as I know you based on your approach to reviewes you'll surely find a ways to improve their methodologies even further.

    Thanks again for all the efforts
    Reply
  • krumme - Thursday, August 23, 2012 - link

    A spectral plot wont bring us any closer, as there is dynamics involved to, and the charateristics of that dynamics. Besides that its expensive to do.

    Just add a colum with subjective impression/valuation and notes, fx. clicking, high picth tone..., even distributed...

    Its the subjective that matters in the end.
    Reply
  • Robalov - Thursday, August 23, 2012 - link

    Nice article and get's right to the point, however I'd like to see 20+ fans tested.

    They're are so many touting that their 'special' design knocks the socks off the others.

    Fans don't seem to get the air time (ba dum tiss) of other components are are left entirely up to personal recommendations on the forums, as the specs are just massaged or even outright lies.

    As an aside, CoolerMaster really are a horrible brand.
    Reply
  • BlueReason - Thursday, August 23, 2012 - link

    First off, it's nice to see Anandtech making an effort to evaluate fans, a component sorely under-prioritized in rig setups (not to mention extremely difficult to review).

    However, as stated by others, the NF-F12 really should have been tested. I don't even like any of Noctua's other fans, but the F12 is possibly the most specialized, single-purpose consumer grade fan on the market, engineered ground-up for heatsink performance. Whether it delivers on that performance is debatable (in my experience, it does), but its exclusion from the comparison is rather odd.

    Are any of the reviewed fans even PWM?

    On a side note: some F12 units seem to have acoustic issues, hence the occasional "loud" comments. My first F12 suffered from this and was replaced by Noctua, to good effect.
    Reply
  • khanov - Thursday, August 23, 2012 - link

    No no no. You can't say that those Corsair fans win, since they only manage to equal the performance of Noctua's "old gentleman" NF-P12. That is not a win from Corsair as those Noctua's have been available for 6+ years now (but still it is a good first effort from Corsair).

    None of the fans you tested can actually best the performance of a Noiseblocker M-12P at the same or lower sound pressure level on a low profile, high-fin-count rad. (and that is what these high pressure fans are for, right?). So the real winner is Noiseblocker, but you decided to exclude them along with Noctua. Shenanigans, Dustin.

    Noctua's NF-P12 are a good second best for many peeps into water cooling and are usually available at a reasonable price. If you are planning to push/pull a 3x120 or 4x120 rad for example, then the cost of 6x or 8x your chosen fan adds up very quickly. So to be reasonable about it the Noctua's should realistically win simply because the Corsairs are WAY overpriced right now (flavour of the month?).

    Noiseblocker's M-12P's are still the real performance winner (cooling vs perceptible noise) but may cost you several arms and legs to import depending where you live.

    I like that you have a WC setup and are now testing fans vs. rads. I look forward to future fan/rad. tests but just do it properly please. Excluding the real players is like saying the new Ford Fiesta is the fastest car on the Nürburgring because you deliberately excluded any real competition!
    Reply
  • kg4icg - Thursday, August 23, 2012 - link

    Nice review. I'm using the H100 instead of the H80 and yes I am using the stock fans. The thing is, I also have the Corsair Link hooked up inside my system which is controlling fan and pump speed instead of 1 button on the cpu block. Ironically I have more power hookup's for fans than I have room for fans in my case. Reply
  • Iketh - Thursday, August 23, 2012 - link

    Can't believe this fan was not included.

    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N8...

    It has winglets designed specifically for static pressure. The bearing it uses is also 100% silent. At max RPM, the fan will get loud though because of the winglets, but completely silent mid-low.
    Reply
  • Onus - Thursday, August 23, 2012 - link

    So, once again, Crappermaster is caught lying about their products. Amazing. Reply
  • thralloforcus - Thursday, August 23, 2012 - link

    I would have loved to see some Noctua, Noiseblocker, and Cougar fans tested. These seems to be pretty popular for radiators. I'm using the stock H100 fans right now in my H100, with two Noiseblocker M12-P fans for pull.

    Of course I'm always looking for better performance! I was using two Panaflo FBA12G12H1BX fans with the stock fans, but it seemed that the voltages given out by the H100 were too low, and the fans kept shutting off.
    Reply

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