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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  • sanityvoid - Thursday, August 23, 2012 - link

    I agree the Scythes AP-15's and Noctua F12's should have been included. I just spent 1 week going over different forums reading up on which worked best and which didn't. I'm also angling for low noise but even so the Noctua and Scythe still come up time and time again. Any google search on H80 best fans will return those two fans in the tops threads a real shame they were not included.

    Expensive and somewhat hard to find I agree but I just bought the F12's off Amazon last night.

    Disappointing that a Google search could bear more fruit than a article about this subject.
    Reply
  • versesuvius - Thursday, August 23, 2012 - link

    "....to eke every last ounce of performance (within reason) out of our systems."

    Shouldn't that be (without reason) ?
    Reply
  • todlerix - Thursday, August 23, 2012 - link

    another vote for noctua Reply
  • sirizak - Thursday, August 23, 2012 - link

    Great review, for the products tested and for the scope I thought it was a good article.

    I can understand some wishing for other fans to be tested but the amount of fans on the market today make this mostly impossible.

    If you would like to see a massively broad range of fans tested in a controlled environment I recommend this thread. Slightly different application, being a Megahalems air cooler, but the range of fans and thorough testing can't be faulted.

    http://www.overclock.net/t/724577/the-well-dressed...

    Highly recommended if a little dated article, check out the Yate Loons.
    Reply
  • Runamok81 - Thursday, August 23, 2012 - link

    As others have pointed out, this review is lacking some key contenders for the rad fan crown. This will not stand Dustin! I demand a recount! Please do either another rad fan article, or atleast an update to this article. I trust Anandtech, and I'm desperate for my favorite review site to put its... spin on the rad fan debates swirling across the internet forums. Rad cooling is indeed a hot topic.

    I'll admit, having purchased an H100 and fans yesterday, your article was perfectly timed but educationally lacking. I don't know how you can do a rad fan roundup without the enthusiast champ - Scythe AP15s, the ugly betty - Noctuas, or the newest darkhorse - Cougars peppering in a comparison. C'mon man, you are better than that! I want.. no .. I NEED Anandtech's opinion on these fans!
    Reply
  • macmuchmore - Thursday, August 23, 2012 - link

    I definitely would have liked to see the Noctua fans included. However, this leads me to request a follow up article that includes a more comprehensive review which has additional fans from other manufacturers as well as a "quality of noise" rating. I know some people say that noctuas are not silent - and I don't disagree. I do believe that they are "nearly" silent and that the sound they make is the least annoying of any fan I have used. Thanks! Reply
  • will1220 - Thursday, August 23, 2012 - link

    why would you test such under-performing 120mm fans? At least include the highest rated 120mm fan on the market: Scythe Ultra Kaze Reply
  • iceveiled - Thursday, August 23, 2012 - link

    I'm a little confused how these fans will work with the H80 unit. The stock fans are rated at 3 different RPMs which the system designates as low/med/high, yet most of the fans here are rated at only a single RPM value.

    Does that mean that the fans will only spin up at their rated RPM regardless of how hot or cool the liquid in the H80 gets? So for example regardless if the H80 fan profile setting is set low, medium or high, the corsair quiet editions fans will only spin at 1450 RPM, or can the corsair unit actually make them spin faster or slower?

    Great article BTW..a little disappointed to see you only test in push configuration. The H80 is meant for push/pull and I'm sure the test results are completely different in push/pull. How many people get the H80 and only use one fan?
    Reply
  • mantikos - Thursday, August 23, 2012 - link

    If you haven't included a Sanyo Denki San Ace fan in your testing, your fan test is incomplete. These fans will blow your socks off. Reply
  • Runamok81 - Thursday, August 23, 2012 - link

    I've heard the Sanyo Denki San Ace is one of the best performing fans on the market. If you have NO concern about the noise level.

    Video and sound of a Sanyo Denki Ace
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y0bvShNDT4M
    Reply

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