Conclusion: Who's King of the Hill?

Yes, undoubtedly I have omitted someone's favorite fan. The fact is that while these are fun tests to do, teasing out differences between fans is only really useful when you find an odd outlier that's either an exceptional performer and an exceptionally poor performer. I'm not of the impression that you can really get too much better than the ones at the tippy top of our lineup.

With all that said, with this many more data points, I feel much more comfortable making serious recommendations. For most users, at least of the Corsair H80, the stock fan is going to be mostly acceptable although I'd probably leave it on its "Low" setting. That stock fan is a surprisingly good inclusion and speaks well to Corsair's quality control. On the other hand, if you have a different 120mm radiator or if you want a notable difference in performance, there are some recommendations to make.

First, if you're on the cheap and need a good fan, your buck pretty much starts and stops at Rosewill's Hyperborea. Exactly like I suspected, there was a diamond floating around in Rosewill's rough, so bargain hunters or people who need to replace their stock fan for whatever reason are going to be extremely well served by the Hyperborea. At $6.99 apiece it's really kind of hard to go wrong here, and it may very well be an excellent replacement fan for even a garden variety tower heatsink.

Next, if you want performance at all costs then my recommendation from the last roundup holds true again here: Corsair's SP120 High Performance is basically it. This isn't a quiet fan by any stretch of the imagination, but it's not the noise machine that many of the other entrants are. You can nab a single for $17.99 which is admittedly a little pricey, but Corsair also makes available handy two-packs for just $23.99, and that's a totally reasonable deal.

Finally, if you want a proper balance of noise and performance, I'm mostly pleased to report that some of the common wisdom on forums is actually true: Noctua's NF-F12 and Enermax's Magma are both excellent fans. I think the Enermax Magma overall has to get my best in show award for producing performance that typically takes a much louder fan to achieve, and at $13.99 it's a pretty wicked deal. It's not perfect but it's mighty close.

Now, with that said, which one would I actually choose to put in my own system if money were no object? Honestly I'd probably go with the Noctua NF-F12. The NF-F12 is a more flexible fan with a pleasant noise character and excellent performance. That $29.99 sticker price is vicious, though. For most users, I'd strongly recommend sticking with the Enermax Magma for the best blend of performance and price.

Test Results
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  • soloburrito - Monday, October 22, 2012 - link

    So yeah, there are a lot of fans you guys will obviously miss out on, but if given the opportunity, I wouldn't mind burning $10 or $15 to send a fan for you all to test straight from a distributor.

    That's the easy part. Whether you have enough time to put dozens more fans through their proper paces is another issue entirely.

    Just a thought.
  • Adamantine - Monday, October 22, 2012 - link

    I would like to point out that you at least have an understanding of what specs are important for fan performance and that you spent quite a bit of time doing the review. The fans in the test, don't really have a problem with the results, although the review is not perfect. Hopefully, you're going with more of a database approach and just haven't gotten to the most highly regarded fans for radiators. Also, you should consider going with the higher speed fans since higher speed fans have more versatility when combined with fan controller. There are a couple models out there that make weird or annoying noises when combined with a fan controller, although sometimes the same model at a lower speed doesn't have the noise.

    Some of the highly regarded fans (most are based on Sony's fluid bearing):

    Gentle Typhoon 1850
    Scythe S-Flex
    Gelid NFB
    Cougar PWM 1500
    Cougar 1200
  • DanNeely - Monday, October 22, 2012 - link

    I'd also like to see at least one Yate-Loon fan. They're a popular budget model and seeing how they stack up with higher end fans would be beneficial.
  • Juddog - Monday, October 22, 2012 - link

    Co-signed for Yate-Loon; all the fans in my quiet case are yate-loons and I love them, especially when tweaked with a fan-bay adapter.

    One other thing to note for future fan reviews is that some fans seem to perform ok with fan bay adapters whereas others have issues.
  • Ananke - Monday, October 22, 2012 - link

    I have Yate-Loon. Bought on clearance from Microcenter three years ago for $2 each. That thing is amazing. Absolutely inaudible and OK airflow. In comparison to the 120 mm Yate-Loon, the Antec fans in this review at lowest speed are noisy. All the Cooler Masters I owned sound like jet - absolutely intolerable and tossed immediately.

    I agree, for low noise, people should just buy the SONY fluid bearings based solutions.
  • sicofante - Sunday, October 28, 2012 - link

    Radiator fans don't need to just move air, they need a high air pressure. The Yate-Loons are great case fans, but not that great radiator fans. (Including them would prove that, but the point of a review like this is comparing radiator-friendly fans. Not discard those which aren't.)
  • Streetwind - Monday, October 22, 2012 - link

    Poor Dustin, prodding the bees' nest again :D I think you can produce another 20 roundups like this and still not leave everyone happy. I'm saying this because I know a German reviewer who's so far looked at 130 different fans, only 120mm models, and he still doesn't have nearly all often-requested models either!

    Just shows what a big deal noise and thermals are to enthusiasts, who sadly often forget that the specific ranking among fans is influenced more than anything else by the specific testing method, and that different fans are designed for different jobs (for example, your beQuiet rep was right - the Silentwings series was never really meant to sit on a radiator).

    That said, I still thank you for the review and hope you'll do a few more despite the crazy comments they tend to induce. Like, have you seen Noiseblocker's new bionic loop fan? That might be worth testing just for the sheer "what the heck is this even" factor :D

    As an aside, some of the European brand fans seem to cost more than two times as much in the US, even after adjusting for currency conversion, if they can be found at all. I can only assume it's the same the other way around (for example, we don't get Rosewill fans at all over here). It's really a bit of a shame.
  • DanNeely - Monday, October 22, 2012 - link

    Got a link to his reviews?
  • Finally - Monday, October 22, 2012 - link

    THIS is the German site you mentioned:

    I personally prefer Enermax T.B. Silence.
    It's extraordinarily quiet and I can plaster my whole PC with 3 of them for just 18€.
  • DanNeely - Monday, October 22, 2012 - link

    Thanks. Am I overlooking it, or this reviewer only looking at noise levels and not cooling performance?

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