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
Comments Locked


View All Comments

  • Finally - Monday, October 22, 2012 - link

    Here is the latest Fan roundup (number sixteen!) of Summer 2012:

    I found the cooling performance to be irrelevant.
    As long as you have 3 fans in your case (1 for the CPU, 1 at the front and 1 in the back), temperatures tend to stay in the green all the time.

    Sure, I could crank them all up to max RPM, but the few extra degrees I would gain are not worth the increase in noise...
  • DanNeely - Monday, October 22, 2012 - link

    The main reason for water cooling instead of using an air cooler is to push your CPU to near the redline. In that area a few degrees of additional cooling do matter.
  • Finally - Monday, October 22, 2012 - link

    You are preaching to the wrong crowd. I like my PC undervolted, cool and QUIET.
  • TeXWiller - Monday, October 22, 2012 - link

    <quote>some of the European brand fans seem to cost more than two times as much in the US</quote>Those Noctua fans are expensive everywhere. Of course, add the VAT to the prices in Europe. Noctua promises really high MTBF numbers and long waranties compared to most other manufacturers. I personally have been using those lower end Papst fans for some time already. A fan with 80000 hour MTBF is apparently more durable than a hard drive with 800000 hour MTBF. ;)
  • tty4 - Monday, October 22, 2012 - link

    The prices in Europe usually include taxes, the Noctua is ~18EUR online (in Germany), which is about 24USD, which already includes 20% sales tax. So the price in the US should be more like 20USD, while is seems to be 30USD, which is a rather large price difference.
  • DanNeely - Monday, October 22, 2012 - link

    Instead of trying to match up noise/performance numbers from two bar graphs could you do a noise vs temperature scatterplot?
  • maximumGPU - Monday, October 22, 2012 - link

    I second that, It would be so much more useful!
  • Dustin Sklavos - Monday, October 22, 2012 - link a really good idea...and I'm ashamed of myself for not having thought of it. Not for this review (I'm seriously backlogged and we have a boatload of stuff coming in), but that's exactly what I've been looking for for my case reviews.
  • DanNeely - Monday, October 22, 2012 - link

    Are the numbers available in textual form anywhere? I'd like to throw them into a spreadsheet to get the plot myself; but would prefer not to have to type them in manually.
  • DanNeely - Tuesday, October 23, 2012 - link

    Ok, I typed everything into Excel; and after the usual inordinate amount of fighting (to include a detour fighting with Google's spreadsheet too) managed to get a temperature vs noise plot. I'm not really happy about its legability, but with most of the points packed into a fairly narrow area of the graph it's really not practical to try and put labels next to each point.

    If anyone wants to try and make a better chart, here's the raw data too:

Log in

Don't have an account? Sign up now