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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  • Finally - Monday, October 22, 2012 - link

    You are preaching to the wrong crowd. I like my PC undervolted, cool and QUIET. Reply
  • TeXWiller - Monday, October 22, 2012 - link

    <quote>some of the European brand fans seem to cost more than two times as much in the US</quote>Those Noctua fans are expensive everywhere. Of course, add the VAT to the prices in Europe. Noctua promises really high MTBF numbers and long waranties compared to most other manufacturers. I personally have been using those lower end Papst fans for some time already. A fan with 80000 hour MTBF is apparently more durable than a hard drive with 800000 hour MTBF. ;) Reply
  • tty4 - Monday, October 22, 2012 - link

    The prices in Europe usually include taxes, the Noctua is ~18EUR online (in Germany), which is about 24USD, which already includes 20% sales tax. So the price in the US should be more like 20USD, while is seems to be 30USD, which is a rather large price difference. Reply
  • DanNeely - Monday, October 22, 2012 - link

    Instead of trying to match up noise/performance numbers from two bar graphs could you do a noise vs temperature scatterplot? Reply
  • maximumGPU - Monday, October 22, 2012 - link

    I second that, It would be so much more useful! Reply
  • Dustin Sklavos - Monday, October 22, 2012 - link

    That...is a really good idea...and I'm ashamed of myself for not having thought of it. Not for this review (I'm seriously backlogged and we have a boatload of stuff coming in), but that's exactly what I've been looking for for my case reviews. Reply
  • DanNeely - Monday, October 22, 2012 - link

    Are the numbers available in textual form anywhere? I'd like to throw them into a spreadsheet to get the plot myself; but would prefer not to have to type them in manually. Reply
  • DanNeely - Tuesday, October 23, 2012 - link

    Ok, I typed everything into Excel; and after the usual inordinate amount of fighting (to include a detour fighting with Google's spreadsheet too) managed to get a temperature vs noise plot. I'm not really happy about its legability, but with most of the points packed into a fairly narrow area of the graph it's really not practical to try and put labels next to each point.

    http://orthogonaltonormal.com/midden/fans.png

    If anyone wants to try and make a better chart, here's the raw data too:
    http://orthogonaltonormal.com/midden/fans.xlsx
    Reply
  • Conficio - Monday, October 22, 2012 - link

    First thanks for the informative review!

    I second that, Google chart tools - https://developers.google.com/chart/ - offers an easy way to present some good graphs.
    Reply
  • 7amood - Monday, October 22, 2012 - link

    finally, a simplified fan roundup review... THANK YOU! Reply

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