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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  • Iketh - Monday, October 22, 2012 - link

    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N8...

    still didn't include a fan with winglets and nanoflux bearings like the one above... this fan is a real gem...
    Reply
  • prophet001 - Monday, October 22, 2012 - link

    "Yes, undoubtedly I have omitted someone's favorite fan." Reply
  • Iketh - Monday, October 22, 2012 - link

    yea i guess when people say things like this that everyone should shutup and never give recommendations... brainiac

    what are you? a sheep?
    Reply
  • landerf - Monday, October 22, 2012 - link

    No it's not. I was crazy about gelid fans for a brief time but I was just being an idiot. Don't let the price fool you, they under perform and make too much noise. Look at any fan roundup with them in it and you'll see how mediocre they are. Move along and your wallet will thank you. Reply
  • Naoe Shigen - Monday, October 22, 2012 - link

    Let me start off by saying that I'm a long-time reader of Anandtech and that I absolutely love the site (even when some of Anand's articles go over my head =P). This will be my first comment ever.

    I have to say that this is a really disappointing review for at least two reasons:
    1) Why test with a Corsair H80? It's a horrid little all-in-one solution whose radiator -- regardless of the fan used -- can't even match the top-ten air coolers.
    2) How do you take the time to test a bunch of fans in order to determine which is the best for use with a radiator and *not* test at least one or two Gentle Typhoon variants? Or even some of the GELID offerings? If the article was done in a week and based upon the stock at a local Fry's or Microcenter, then fine. But when the article was written in two parts and across several months? No.

    In general I have noticed that this is where Anandtech tends to let me down with the quality of its articles. I can only assume that Anandtech lacks contributors who have a serious interest in specific enthusiast genres like water-cooling. I would love to see the level of expertise and attention to detail that I have come to take for granted with SSD/CPU/Mobo articles applied to water-cooling, overclocking, and case reviews. Especially now that things like water-cooling and overclocking are easier and more mainstream than ever. But hey, maybe I'm crazy and I'm the only one that feels this way. It wouldn't be the first time... =D
    Reply
  • Naoe Shigen - Monday, October 22, 2012 - link

    To put this in perspective, this is the caliber of review I would expect from 3dgameman.com. And he's one of the least informed owners of a hardware review website that I can think of. Second only to motherboards.org, which makes me wonder why anyone would take computer component advice from someone that looks and sounds like an ex-wrestler.

    But I digress...
    Reply
  • FaaR - Monday, October 22, 2012 - link

    You're missing the point of the review by complaining about the performance of the H80; it's not the performance of the cooler that is being reviewed, it's how fans used on a radiator perform that is of the matter here.

    That certain air coolers perform better than the H80 really doesn't factor into it, as these air coolers aren't radiators.

    CPU temperatures, while (maybe) higher than other cooling solutions, are merely supplied as an indicator of fan performance.

    Also, in defense of the Corsair H80, it's probably one of the more common all-in-one radiator coolers out there, so people owning one can use this review as an easy indicator of what fan will work well with it. By the way, I am not one of them. I have a Noctua aircooler in my rig.
    Reply
  • Gasaraki88 - Monday, October 22, 2012 - link

    Really? You people want him to test every single fan on Newegg or something? Are you going to buy all those fans for him? If vendors don't give some to him to test or he doesn't have them on hand he's not testing them. Are you paying him to sit there for 2 months taking 100s of fans off and on the cooler just so you're happy that your brand of fan was in the article? Reply
  • sicofante - Sunday, October 28, 2012 - link

    No, but not including the most commonly praised radiator fans (the Gently Typhoons) doesn't seem reasonable at all. Either the writer doesn't know about them (which would be bad) or the review is biased for some obscure reason (which would be worse).

    (To the one complaining about the chosen radiator: the H80 fares typically in the range of the top air coolers and it offers a much more safe mounting than those. If you ever want to ship a computer, don't even think of those top air coolers, unless you want to risk breaking your motherboard. And never forget to ship the fans separately or face finding them bouncing around your case throughout the trip... Ever wondered why factory overclocked systems use Asetek all-in-one watercoolers? Now you know.)
    Reply
  • zalbar - Thursday, July 23, 2015 - link

    That's all right - I'm a little disappointed in you, too.

    1. Fans are being tested, here, not CPU coolers. In this context, the radiator of the CPU cooler is merely acting as a heat source. In order to properly test the fan, it needs to get hot, and quickly. Testing a fan with an overperforming cooler would be like testing an HSF at idle temps - you're not going to see much difference between them.

    2. "Yes, undoubtedly I have omitted someone's favorite fan."

    3. Aside from point 2, the work is very high quality, and it was free for you to read. How about a little sugar?
    Reply

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