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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  • 7amood - Monday, October 22, 2012 - link

    finally, a simplified fan roundup review... THANK YOU! Reply
  • Maxal - Monday, October 22, 2012 - link

    How about putting results in chart, with Temp and Noise on X/Y axis? Reply
  • arthur449 - Monday, October 22, 2012 - link

    Thanks for the Die Hard 2: Die Harder reference. It brought a smile to my face. Reply
  • toyotabedzrock - Monday, October 22, 2012 - link

    I have had horrible luck with fans. They all go bad in a year.
    Even expensive ones.
    Reply
  • Finally - Monday, October 22, 2012 - link

    Try Enermax T.B. Silence.
    Excellent price, very quiet and even IF they should fail after only 1 year, you have just "lost" 6€.

    Here a link to put my recommendation in perspective: http://kdb.orthy.de/index.php?tablename=Luefter&am...
    Reply
  • Udit - Monday, October 22, 2012 - link

    It's just a request ... please add scythe gt-1850 & glidestream 120 ... I have 4 gt-1850 on my h100 & really wanna change them Reply
  • scmikes - Monday, October 22, 2012 - link

    We all realize that it is impossible to review all rad fans. I would like to add a vote for the 109R1212H1011 120mm X 38mm from Sans Ace. They have worked great in my setups.

    Take care, and keep up the good work
    Reply
  • Runamok81 - Monday, October 22, 2012 - link

    Dustin, you'll never make everyone happy, but I'm glad Anandtech is making the effort. Props to Dustin for listening to the comment-ers and revisiting this fan round up! Bravo Reply
  • Purpose - Monday, October 22, 2012 - link

    Four years ago I bought 12 Enermax Magma UC-MA12's.

    Within a year of 24/7 use all but four were broken.

    My #1 cautionary recommendation for Magma fans is DO NOT, UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES, try to pop the blades off for cleaning. Of the 8 broken fans, half of them broke because when attempting to remove the blades, the entire motor assembly separated from the PCB, or the PCB came up with the fan blades.

    They do provide good performance at good noise levels...

    I'm wondering why the all-star radiator fan is being omitted. It's a really huge failure to not include the Gentle Typhoon AP-15 so that we can get an apples to apples performance comparison against your data.

    You talk about finding the 'outlier' but the one fan that's actually KNOWN to be *THE* outlier isn't present in your testing...

    Especially since I switched to GT's and know from experience that the difference between them and the magma is NIGHT AND DAY. Top that off with the fact that you can get them for ~15 a pop... That's only 2 bucks more for the *BEST* performing fan out there.

    Swing and a miss.
    Reply
  • xxtypersxx - Monday, October 22, 2012 - link

    Add me to the list of users baffled by the omission of GentleTyphoon fans from the testing. This is like excluding a Jeep Wrangler from an off roader comparison. Reply

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