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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  • Conficio - Monday, October 22, 2012 - link

    First thanks for the informative review!

    I second that, Google chart tools - https://developers.google.com/chart/ - offers an easy way to present some good graphs.
    Reply
  • 7amood - Monday, October 22, 2012 - link

    finally, a simplified fan roundup review... THANK YOU! Reply
  • Maxal - Monday, October 22, 2012 - link

    How about putting results in chart, with Temp and Noise on X/Y axis? Reply
  • arthur449 - Monday, October 22, 2012 - link

    Thanks for the Die Hard 2: Die Harder reference. It brought a smile to my face. Reply
  • toyotabedzrock - Monday, October 22, 2012 - link

    I have had horrible luck with fans. They all go bad in a year.
    Even expensive ones.
    Reply
  • Finally - Monday, October 22, 2012 - link

    Try Enermax T.B. Silence.
    Excellent price, very quiet and even IF they should fail after only 1 year, you have just "lost" 6€.

    Here a link to put my recommendation in perspective: http://kdb.orthy.de/index.php?tablename=Luefter&am...
    Reply
  • Udit - Monday, October 22, 2012 - link

    It's just a request ... please add scythe gt-1850 & glidestream 120 ... I have 4 gt-1850 on my h100 & really wanna change them Reply
  • scmikes - Monday, October 22, 2012 - link

    We all realize that it is impossible to review all rad fans. I would like to add a vote for the 109R1212H1011 120mm X 38mm from Sans Ace. They have worked great in my setups.

    Take care, and keep up the good work
    Reply
  • Runamok81 - Monday, October 22, 2012 - link

    Dustin, you'll never make everyone happy, but I'm glad Anandtech is making the effort. Props to Dustin for listening to the comment-ers and revisiting this fan round up! Bravo Reply
  • Purpose - Monday, October 22, 2012 - link

    Four years ago I bought 12 Enermax Magma UC-MA12's.

    Within a year of 24/7 use all but four were broken.

    My #1 cautionary recommendation for Magma fans is DO NOT, UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES, try to pop the blades off for cleaning. Of the 8 broken fans, half of them broke because when attempting to remove the blades, the entire motor assembly separated from the PCB, or the PCB came up with the fan blades.

    They do provide good performance at good noise levels...

    I'm wondering why the all-star radiator fan is being omitted. It's a really huge failure to not include the Gentle Typhoon AP-15 so that we can get an apples to apples performance comparison against your data.

    You talk about finding the 'outlier' but the one fan that's actually KNOWN to be *THE* outlier isn't present in your testing...

    Especially since I switched to GT's and know from experience that the difference between them and the magma is NIGHT AND DAY. Top that off with the fact that you can get them for ~15 a pop... That's only 2 bucks more for the *BEST* performing fan out there.

    Swing and a miss.
    Reply

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