Conclusion: Fans Can Matter

So what information are we left with after this roundup? Regarding the Corsair H80 specifically (and presumably the rest of their line), you're probably best off just sticking with the stock fans included with the radiator as they provide a competitive blend of performance and acoustics. Those of you not using the H80 will find yourselves surprisingly well served by Corsair's two dedicated aftermarket radiator fans, as they're both fairly competitive.

While most of the fans we tested did bunch up thermally, they separated a bit more when acoustics were taken into account. The frugal shopper looking for balanced performance from a radiator fan is probably going to want to try and track down the NZXT Performance fan; NewEgg doesn't have it available at the time of this article, but Amazon is selling it for just $6.99. Alternatively, the Nexus Real Silent D12SL-12 is an old standard but still an excellent performer; anecdotally it runs a bit quieter than the NZXT, though you'll pay a bit more for the privilege.

Meanwhile, BitFenix's Spectre Pro proves to be a jack of all trades and master of none. SilverStone's Air Penetrator AP121 is a fine fan but doesn't produce performance consistent with its acoustics. And amusingly enough, CoolerMaster's SickleFlow's grossly exaggerated specifications fall apart in practice as it proves that it's entirely possible to buy a bad radiator fan. I actually nearly burned myself on its plastic housing when I went to remove it.

What may be most disappointing about this lineup, though, is the unfortunate fact that there may be no magic bullet radiator fan that's able to produce stellar thermals with low noise. We can get close, but the reality is that we need to be moving more air at a faster rate to start hitting the limits of the pump and radiator, and that means more noise. If you're comfortable sacrificing a few degrees for a peaceful system, though, NZXT, Corsair, and Nexus all at least seem to have you covered.

Test Results
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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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