Testing Methodology

If you've been keeping up with our case reviews, our testing methodology for the fans here is going to seem relatively similar in some ways. Our test system may seem a bit unusual in more than a few ways, but stick with me and I'll explain why I put it together and tested it the way I did.

Fan and Radiator Testing Configuration
CPU Intel Core i7-2700K overclocked to 4.4GHz @ 1.4V
Motherboard Zotac Z77-ITX WiFi
Graphics Intel HD 3000 IGP
Memory 2x4GB Corsair Value Select DDR3-1333
Drives Kingston SSDNow V+ 100 64GB SSD
CPU Cooler Corsair H80
Power Supply Corsair CX500
Enclosure BitFenix Prodigy with 200mm BitFenix Spectre Pro intake @ 5V

The processor, with its healthy voltage boost and overclock, throws a pretty substantial amount of heat at our cooling system. Testing with an i7-2700K at stock speeds would defeat the purpose; Intel's own stock cooler can handle that, we want to "separate the men from the boys" so to speak.

So why use a closed enclosure, and a Mini-ITX one no doubt? As it turns out, my experience in testing Origin's Chronos LAN box suggested that this might actually be ideal. Removing the middle drive cage allows for a straight shot between the Prodigy's intake and the radiator fan, allowing us the opportunity to test how quietly and efficiently the fans can run in a closed system with no real acoustic baffling, while the 200mm Spectre Pro attenuated to 5V runs both quietly enough to not significantly impact results while providing enough airflow to ensure the radiator fans can do their job. Using a larger enclosure felt like it might complicate things with too many variables; the small and wonderfully efficient BitFenix Prodigy felt perfect for the job.

Since a dedicated GPU wasn't needed, one wasn't used. This prevents a graphics card from generating additional heat or noise or deflecting airflow.

Finally, for the closed-loop cooler we used Corsair's H80. Our own testing proved this was a solid performer and fairly representative of 120mm closed-loop units. The H80 includes a thick, beefy 120mm radiator as well as having dual fan headers built into the waterblock that run non-PWM fans at a constant 12V. I elected against testing in a push-pull configuration, though, to isolate individual fan performance; test results are in a push configuration only.

Thermal and acoustic test cycles were done the same way as our case reviews. First, the system is left powered and idle for fifteen minutes. At this point the sound level is tested, room ambient temperature is recorded, and idle temperatures are recorded. Then eight threads of small FFTs in Prime95 are run for fifteen minutes, and load temperatures are recorded; since the block runs the fans at a constant 12V, the only fan that changes speed (and thus noise) is the stock H80 fan, so the noise level for that fan is recorded again during the Prime95 run.

Thank You!

Before moving on, we'd like to thank the following vendors for providing us with the hardware used in our roundup.

  • Thank you to iBuyPower for providing us with the Intel Core i7-2700K.
  • Thank you to Zotac for providing us with the Z77-ITX WiFi motherboard.
  • Thank you to Kingston for providing us with the SSDNow V+ 100 SSD.
  • Thank you to Corsair for providing us with the H80, the SP120 fans, and CX500 power supply.
  • Thank you to SilverStone for providing us with the Air Penetrator AP121 120mm fan.
  • Thank you to BitFenix for providing us with the Prodigy enclosure and Spectre Pro 120mm fan.
  • Thank you to CoolerMaster for providing us with the Excalibur and Turbine Master 120mm fans.
  • Thank you to Noctua for providing us with the NF-F12 120mm fan.
  • Thank you to be quiet! for providing us with the Silent Wings 2 120mm fan.
Introduction The Fans We're Testing, Part 3
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  • xxtypersxx - Monday, October 22, 2012 - link

    Add me to the list of users baffled by the omission of GentleTyphoon fans from the testing. This is like excluding a Jeep Wrangler from an off roader comparison. Reply
  • scook9 - Monday, October 22, 2012 - link

    When I switched to water cooling, like any other good geek, I did an obsessive amount of research and reading online to find the best solution. Time and time again, I ended up with the same recommendation - the Scythe Gentle Typhoon 1850 rpm (AP-15) model. I have about 10 of these in my house now and use them on everything (HTPC, server, desktop, laptop cooler). They are expensive fans but they will also last a LONG time while performing very well.

    You may not need to do a 3rd roundup, just a 1 page one-off for this fan to satisfy the masses :D
    Reply
  • Slyne - Monday, October 22, 2012 - link

    Dustin,

    I can't be bothered to chek all the fans but, at least in the case of the Scyte Slipstream and Nexus RealSilent, those are case fans, not CPU fans. It's pointless to include them in this test.

    And I second others in stating that if you're interested in sufficently powerful yet almost silent CPU fans, you may want to check the Gentle Typhoon and Noiseblocker.
    Reply
  • khanov - Tuesday, October 23, 2012 - link

    I can't be bothered to chek all the fans but, at least in the case of the Scyte Slipstream and Nexus RealSilent, those are case fans, not CPU fans. It's pointless to include them in this test.

    And I second others in stating that if you're interested in sufficently powerful yet almost silent CPU fans, you may want to check the Gentle Typhoon and Noiseblocker.


    This exactly. After doing much research earlier this year I bought 2x gentle typhoon's and 2x Noiseblocker NB-Multiframe M12-P fans to add to my collection of Noctua's and other fans such as the excellent TR-TY140's.

    After testing all of them the M12-P's stayed on my overclocked i7-3820 doing push/pull on a TRUE 120 heatsink. They are the business, quiet and powerful. Gentle typhoon's ran a close 2nd and are great fans also.

    The fact that you don't include two of the best fans around for heatsink use seems odd to me. Looking forward to part 3 =)
    Reply
  • BlueReason - Monday, October 22, 2012 - link

    "Corsair's solutions"

    Really? It's a fan. Reconsider your use of the word "solution" as a replacement for everything. Sometimes it makes sense, but often it's just a silly fad word that has gotten out of control.
    Reply
  • Streetwind - Tuesday, October 23, 2012 - link

    hen you are writing a longer text, it is considered good form to occasionally replace often-repeating words with substitutions to improve the reading flow. If every sentence had the word "fan" in it, you'd eventually get dizzy. It's like starting every sentence in a story with "Then", that's just a no-go. Reply
  • Hulk - Monday, October 22, 2012 - link

    I think it would be helpful to isolate fan performance.

    When reviewing cooling fans how about connecting each fan to be tested to a variable speed controller and set the speed of the fan to a predetermined cfm so that the fans can be evaluated on a level playing field. This way noise can be evaluated in an even playing field.

    In the same manner speed can be increased/decreased to a predefined level and cfm and be measured.

    Because in the end what we're really trying to determine is which fan moves the most air while being the most quiet while doing it.

    Or, if you won't want to deal with cfm measurements, just load the test bed and increase/decrease the fan speed until the temperature is at a predetermined level. Then measure the noise.
    Reply
  • JonnyDough - Monday, October 22, 2012 - link

    No mention that CoolerMaster's Turbine is based on the compressor section of a turbofan jet engine? Hmm. Reply
  • nianiania - Monday, October 22, 2012 - link

    You're testing the cooling capacity of fans for a radiator, in an environment this type of solution WILL NEVER BE USED IN. Broken right from the start. If someone's investing 60-120$ in a water cooler, the chances they're building an HTPC without a graphics card in the system are slim to none.

    This should have at least a 650 or 660 in the box to get a more real-world result. It's not often you let us down Anandtech, but this one is a pretty obvious failing on your part.
    Reply
  • gcor - Monday, October 22, 2012 - link

    I would quite like to know how many amps each of the fans actually draw, as it has been my experience that the spec sheets frequently list a value that is not accurate. In future reviews/round ups, would it be possible to measure and list the actual amps drawn please? Reply

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