Test Results

Before we get into the performance results, a refresher: all eight fans on one chart for comparison. Note that if we're not taking noise into account, the highest static pressure fan should theoretically be the best performer. Our H80's fan settings are also only active with the stock fan; all others run at the full twelve volts.

Fan Airflow (in CFM) Static Pressure (in mm/H2O) RPM Rated dBA
H80 Stock 46-92 1.6-7.7 1300-2500 22-39
SP120 Quiet

37.85

1.29 1450 23
SP120 High Performance 62.74 3.1 2350 35
SilverStone AP121 35.36 1.71 1500 22.4
BitFenix Spectre Pro 56.22 1.24 1200 18.9
Nexus Real Silent D12SL-12 36.87 1.2 1000 18
CoolerMaster SickleFlow 120 69.69 2.94 2000 19
NZXT Performance 47.27 0.95 1300 25.35

As far as static pressure goes, most of these fans are hanging out in about the same neighborhood. Acoustically, only Corsair's SP120 High Performance and stock H80 fan are even rated to go above the noise floor of our sound meter, though it's clear the stock fan is designed to move heat as fast as humanly possible. Let's see how all of these theoreticals worked out in practice, though.

Ambient temperatures ranged between 24C and 26C, and the margin for error in results is roughly 1C.

Thermal Performance

Thermally, if we ignore the H80's stock fan, the SickleFlow should've eaten the competition alive, but as it turns out CoolerMaster's specifications were more than just a little optimistic, as it was hands down the worst radiator fan we tested by a wide margin. If we organize the fans by rated static air pressure, they'd rank from best to worst: SP120 High Performance, SickleFlow 120, SilverStone AP121, SP120 Quiet, BitFenix Spectre Pro, Nexus Real Silent, and dead last, the NZXT Performance. As it turns out, though, only the SP120 High Performance really performs in line with its specifications; the rest just bunch up while the SickleFlow 120 is clearly the worst.

So how about acoustic performance?

Acoustic Performance

Well, at least CoolerMaster's fan is quiet while it cooks your processor. To get that great thermal performance from the SP120 and H80 stock fan, though, you're going to have to put up with some noise. Note that these are load noise readings; the H80 stock fan idles at or below our sound meter's 30dB threshold at Low and Medium settings while sitting at 34.3 dB at High.

Interestingly enough, despite having among the worst rated specs, NZXT's Performance fan seems to find the best balance between thermal performance and acoustics; Corsair's SP120 Quiet does little to justify itself over the stock H80 fan. Corsair's engineers also turned out to be mostly right on the money: the H80 stock fan by and large seems to be the best choice, at least for the H80 itself. Its Low setting is competitive with the other fans both thermally and acoustically, while its Medium setting is competitive with the SP120 High Performance fan. The High setting is essentially unnecessary.

The Fans We're Testing, Part 2 Conclusion: Fans Can Matter
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  • StevoLincolnite - Thursday, August 23, 2012 - link

    I would have loved to have seen the Noctua NF-F12, Noctua are a high-quality (Albeit expensive) brand that allot of enthusiasts go for, myself included on the Corsair H100.
    I spent as much on the 4x Noctua fans as the Corsair H100 cost itself. :)
    Reply
  • jwilliams4200 - Thursday, August 23, 2012 - link

    I was going to say the same thing. The Noctua NF-F12 (not to be confused with the NF-P12) is the perfect fan for cooling a radiator with relatively low noise. Reply
  • kidsafe - Thursday, August 23, 2012 - link

    I own a lot of fans including the NF-F12s, Gentle Typhoon AP-14s, Kama Flow 2s, etc. The NF-F12 has above average static pressure, but it is not even remotely quiet. The plastic stators make the fan noisier than both other fans mentioned above at normalized temperatures. It also makes the fan louder than the S12 and P12. Reply
  • jwilliams4200 - Thursday, August 23, 2012 - link

    Quietness is relative. My guess is the the NF-F12 at 1500rpm would cool as well as the H80 Stock at medium, while being quieter than the H80.

    Also, the NF-F12 comes with a "low-noise adapter" that brings the speed down to 1200rpm. With the LNA, I guess the NF-F12 would perform as well as the NZXT Performance, while being quieter.
    Reply
  • A1phabeta - Friday, March 28, 2014 - link

    Actually, the static pressure of the NF-F12 with the low-noise adaptor is still 1.61 mmH2O, which is amazing considering that the fan's running at just 1200 rpm. Reply
  • StevoLincolnite - Thursday, August 23, 2012 - link

    I actually can't hear my Noctua's over the crappy Asus Sabertooth X79's chipset fan, so they can't be that noisy. Reply
  • sirizak - Thursday, August 23, 2012 - link

    Have a look at Noctuas specifications for static pressure on the NF-F12, its 2.61 mm/H2O. Not even in the ball park of the H80's 7.7 mm/H2O, my bet is the H80 is based on a tried and true Yate Loon D12SH-12, look them up. Reply
  • BlueReason - Friday, August 24, 2012 - link

    True enough, but the H80's fan is also running at 2600rpm as opposed to the Noc's 1500, so that really isn't an accomplishment. Try running the stock fan at 1500 and see what happens. I'll spoil the surprise: It will still be louder than the Noc, and won't cool as well. Also there's more to rad-cooling than SP. Reply
  • Sapiens - Thursday, August 23, 2012 - link

    Same here, disappointed that Noctua was left out of the list. Reply
  • This Guy - Thursday, August 23, 2012 - link

    I like NF-P12's. In push-pull on a heat sink they killed both an exhaust and an intake fan in an Antec Sonata III. In another case, one exhaust fan pulls more air in through the mesh front that the 120mm intake fan down the bottom. Great fans. Reply

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