Test Results

These are going to be...big charts. For comparison's sake I'm including a basic table first that has the stats for the previous fans I tested along with the ten new fans I tested in this roundup. That should give you a pretty solid refresher. Note that the PWM fans will be tested at the Corsair H80's low, medium, and high fan settings while the standard 3-pin voltage-driven fans are stuck at their highest setting. The exception is the Antec TwoCool 120 which has a built in speed switch that toggles between low and high speeds.

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
Enermax Magma 69.15 1.4 1500 18
CoolerMaster Excalibur 26.4-85.6 0.75-3.53 600-2000 13-30
CoolerMaster TM MACH 1.8 80.3 1.96 1800 30.5
Noctua NF-F12 55 2.61 1500 22.4
Scythe Slipstream 40.17 N/A 800 10.7
Thermaltake TT-1225 41.6 N/A 1400 21
Antec TwoCool 120 21.3/42.6 0.24/0.96 600/1200 17/23.7
Rosewill Hyperborea 57.53 2.64 600-1300 6.9-16.05
Rosewill RFX-120BL 87.5 N/A 2200 38.15
be quiet! Silent Wings 2 50.5 1.63 1500 15.7

As you can see, a lot of the vendors...like to flatter themselves. In fact, of the entire lineup only five are rated for noise above the noise floor of most commonly available consumer and even prosumer sound meters (that being 30dBA.) The best fan just from looking at the ratings would be the CoolerMaster SickleFlow 120 with its high static pressure, air flow, and low rated noise, but that fan turned out to be the worst fan in our last roundup by a long shot. Bottom line: don't believe everything you read on the packaging.

Ambient temperature during testing hovered between 23C and 25C. California has very strange weather. The margin for error on results is roughly 1C, and I'd strongly encourage you to mostly ignore the idle readings, which seem to show a little more variance and less reliability than the burned in load readings. I include them only for completeness' sake.

Thermal Performance

Corsair's solutions continue to be among the best performing if you're not at all concerned with noise. The H80's stock fan at its highest setting still remains essentially unstoppable and in fact offers excellent performance even at its medium setting. Interestingly, it turns out my wonderfully quiet Scythe Slipstream 800rpm fan barely moves any air; there are other fans that are nearly as quiet but produce substantially better thermal performance. Ultimately what we really need to beat is the H80 stock fan, though, and that seems to be easier said than done. Now let's see the noise levels under load.

Acoustic Performance

As much as I'd like to say there's a pretty clear relationship between noise and thermal performance, there are still nuances to tease out. The CoolerMaster fans, for example, perform louder than the H80 stock fan while being less efficient.

There are a couple of data points I do want to tease out. First, the Enermax Magma is for the most part readily available in retail, reasonably priced, and may actually be the best balanced fan in the roundup. It lacks PWM control, but it offers performance near the top of the performance chart at only 32dB; that's about 5dB lower than all of the other fans above it. The Magma is popular on forums and with these results in hand it's easy to see why.

Out of the sub-31dB club, though, there's a surprise victory: the Rosewill Hyperborea PWM fan. The Hyperborea isn't really capable of producing much better performance at higher speeds, making its PWM capability mostly for show, but if you're looking for an aftermarket fan it's basically competitive with both the stock H80 fan and the NZXT Performance fan.

And what about the much ballyhooed Noctua? As it turns out, if you run the NF-F12 at a low speed it's able to produce nearly competitive performance with Enermax's option. The draw here is that the NF-F12 is much easier to get to run quieter and the character of its noise is actually less intrusive than many of the other fans; it's a fancier fan with more control, but you do pay handsomely for the privilege of owning one.

Past these notables, everything kind of blurs together.

The Fans We're Testing, Part 5 Conclusion: Who's King of the Hill?
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  • Sea Shadow - Tuesday, October 23, 2012 - link

    While I concede Delta's are loud (they can scream like a banshee), Panaflow and Papst still beat the GT any day of the week in all regards. Reply
  • sicofante - Sunday, October 28, 2012 - link

    I hope you can back that up with some sources. (And it's Panaflo, without the last 'w'). Reply
  • jed22281 - Tuesday, January 8, 2013 - link

    Absolutely wrong, all the community tests say otherwise, all the major cooling enthusiast forums can't be wrong, whilst you're right.
    Noise to perf ratio GT is better than the Panaflow or Pabst, I cant recall even one of their models being near the top in fact.
    Reply
  • jed22281 - Tuesday, January 8, 2013 - link

    The only amateur here is you, nidec-servo (the OEM of the gentle typhoons, not Scythe) is most certainly not an OEM for children...
    If you'd spent any time doing some "real" research, you'd see that the GT's have been without Qn the dominant rad fan for at least 3yr now, that's only started to wane in recent mths, & even that's still up for debate.
    Read all the major threads, in all the major cooling enthusiast communities, where very detailed comparos have occurred, & you'll quickly find that it's constantly at the top, alongside a small handful of others.
    Reply
  • jed22281 - Tuesday, January 8, 2013 - link

    Correction, it's Nidec & Nidec-Servo, I can't recall the difference between the two groups OTTOMH, I've done business with them in the past for industrial applications. Reply
  • Synomenon - Monday, October 22, 2012 - link

    Aside from the color, is the Enermax Magma the same fan as the Enermax Cluster (white with white LEDs)? Reply
  • Impulses - Monday, October 22, 2012 - link

    The Cluster is a PWM, Magma's fixed 1500.

    You should test some Noiseblockers sometime, not the flashiest (pretty plain fin design) but they've consistently been some of the best performers on Xbit's fan roundups.
    Reply
  • Impulses - Monday, October 22, 2012 - link

    Hmm, the Cluster I saw reviewed elsewhere was a PWM anyway, apparently not the one Newegg carries tho. Reply
  • pdjblum - Monday, October 22, 2012 - link

    Though I was very pleased with my magma's for a time, four of the five I bought within the past year has had to be replaced.

    Recently picked up some cougars. I had my eye on them for quite some time. When yet another of my magma's started to make a disturbing noise, I bought some of these. So far, they are fantastic in at least two ways: noise, air movement. So far i like them better than the noctua's I recently purchased.
    Reply
  • garadante - Tuesday, August 19, 2014 - link

    Though this is a reply to an absolutely ancient (in tech forum terms) post, I just wanted to share my experience with my 3 Magmas. I've had 3 running nearly 24/7 at full speed for almost 2 years with zero issues. The fans are very quiet too, nearly inaudible inside my Corsair 750D. The only noise that bothers me is some rattling that I haven't yet found the cause for, that goes away when I tap the case hard enough. Reply

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