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.
  • Thank you to CoolerMaster for providing us with the Excalibur and Turbine Master 120mm fans.
  • Thank you to Noctua for providing us with the NF-F12 120mm fan.
  • Thank you to be quiet! for providing us with the Silent Wings 2 120mm fan.
Introduction The Fans We're Testing, Part 3
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  • Adamantine - Monday, October 22, 2012 - link

    I would like to point out that you at least have an understanding of what specs are important for fan performance and that you spent quite a bit of time doing the review. The fans in the test, don't really have a problem with the results, although the review is not perfect. Hopefully, you're going with more of a database approach and just haven't gotten to the most highly regarded fans for radiators. Also, you should consider going with the higher speed fans since higher speed fans have more versatility when combined with fan controller. There are a couple models out there that make weird or annoying noises when combined with a fan controller, although sometimes the same model at a lower speed doesn't have the noise.

    Some of the highly regarded fans (most are based on Sony's fluid bearing):

    Gentle Typhoon 1850
    Scythe S-Flex
    Gelid NFB
    Cougar PWM 1500
    Cougar 1200
    Reply
  • DanNeely - Monday, October 22, 2012 - link

    I'd also like to see at least one Yate-Loon fan. They're a popular budget model and seeing how they stack up with higher end fans would be beneficial. Reply
  • Juddog - Monday, October 22, 2012 - link

    Co-signed for Yate-Loon; all the fans in my quiet case are yate-loons and I love them, especially when tweaked with a fan-bay adapter.

    One other thing to note for future fan reviews is that some fans seem to perform ok with fan bay adapters whereas others have issues.
    Reply
  • Ananke - Monday, October 22, 2012 - link

    I have Yate-Loon. Bought on clearance from Microcenter three years ago for $2 each. That thing is amazing. Absolutely inaudible and OK airflow. In comparison to the 120 mm Yate-Loon, the Antec fans in this review at lowest speed are noisy. All the Cooler Masters I owned sound like jet - absolutely intolerable and tossed immediately.

    I agree, for low noise, people should just buy the SONY fluid bearings based solutions.
    Reply
  • sicofante - Sunday, October 28, 2012 - link

    Radiator fans don't need to just move air, they need a high air pressure. The Yate-Loons are great case fans, but not that great radiator fans. (Including them would prove that, but the point of a review like this is comparing radiator-friendly fans. Not discard those which aren't.) Reply
  • Streetwind - Monday, October 22, 2012 - link

    Poor Dustin, prodding the bees' nest again :D I think you can produce another 20 roundups like this and still not leave everyone happy. I'm saying this because I know a German reviewer who's so far looked at 130 different fans, only 120mm models, and he still doesn't have nearly all often-requested models either!

    Just shows what a big deal noise and thermals are to enthusiasts, who sadly often forget that the specific ranking among fans is influenced more than anything else by the specific testing method, and that different fans are designed for different jobs (for example, your beQuiet rep was right - the Silentwings series was never really meant to sit on a radiator).

    That said, I still thank you for the review and hope you'll do a few more despite the crazy comments they tend to induce. Like, have you seen Noiseblocker's new bionic loop fan? That might be worth testing just for the sheer "what the heck is this even" factor :D

    As an aside, some of the European brand fans seem to cost more than two times as much in the US, even after adjusting for currency conversion, if they can be found at all. I can only assume it's the same the other way around (for example, we don't get Rosewill fans at all over here). It's really a bit of a shame.
    Reply
  • DanNeely - Monday, October 22, 2012 - link

    Got a link to his reviews? Reply
  • Finally - Monday, October 22, 2012 - link

    THIS is the German site you mentioned:
    http://kdb.orthy.de/index.php?tablename=Luefter&am...

    I personally prefer Enermax T.B. Silence.
    It's extraordinarily quiet and I can plaster my whole PC with 3 of them for just 18€.
    Reply
  • DanNeely - Monday, October 22, 2012 - link

    Thanks. Am I overlooking it, or this reviewer only looking at noise levels and not cooling performance? Reply
  • Finally - Monday, October 22, 2012 - link

    Here is the latest Fan roundup (number sixteen!) of Summer 2012: http://www.orthy.de/2012/07/354/

    I found the cooling performance to be irrelevant.
    As long as you have 3 fans in your case (1 for the CPU, 1 at the front and 1 in the back), temperatures tend to stay in the green all the time.

    Sure, I could crank them all up to max RPM, but the few extra degrees I would gain are not worth the increase in noise...
    Reply

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