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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  • landerf - Monday, October 22, 2012 - link

    Look at enermax 120mm fans on newegg. Plenty of batwing fans and some pwm options. I'd look too at the non-batwing TB fans. Their noise-performance ratio seems even better. I replaced my gentle typhoons with them because I've decided I can't take the ball bearing noise.

    Speaking of still no GTs? Surprised you don't have them laying around. Seems like everybody has one by now.
    Reply
  • Udit - Monday, October 22, 2012 - link

    Could you add the Gentle Typhoon 1850rpm to the test please? Reply
  • Naviblue - Monday, October 22, 2012 - link

    I second this, where is the REAL King of the hill at on the charts? At least let us make a comparison to these other fans... Everyone knows Gentle Typhoons are benchmark! Reply
  • Earthmonger - Monday, October 22, 2012 - link

    You two are kidding, right? That wouldn't be fair at all. This article is intended for tourists, not enthusiasts. Including an enthusiast fan like the GTs in this.. test.. would be plain silly. If you want real testing, this isn't the place for it. Hell, this test doesn't even mention bearing types. Reply
  • DarkStryke - Monday, October 22, 2012 - link

    Yeah, don't include one of the best performers when you can hawk a load of mediocre overpriced junk instead!

    Good reasoning there bud.
    Reply
  • lbeyak - Monday, October 22, 2012 - link

    I must third this. From my research the Gentle Typhoons are basically the best 120 mm fans on the market. They are the ones I bought for my personal build. Reply
  • Sea Shadow - Monday, October 22, 2012 - link

    Amateurs, the Gentle Typhoon is child's play. If you want to see a real enthusiast fan go look up Delta or Panaflo. 100-250CFM+ with pressures ranging from 10-30mm+. I use a set of 3 Delta AFB 1212VHE fans for my watercooling loop (which readily double the specs of the "best" gentle typhoon). At 5 volts they are livable and have no trouble forcing the air through the entirety of my case, heatercore and all! Ahh, makes me miss the old days of overclocking my opty 165....

    Anyways, I enjoyed the review. It is nice to see what the rest of the market is doing.
    Reply
  • iamkyle - Tuesday, October 23, 2012 - link

    This man speaks the truth.

    Panasonic and Delta Electronics have been putting fans in computers since all before most of you were born.

    If they're good enough for IBM XT's, YOU CAN BET they are good enough for a modern rig.
    Reply
  • Earthmonger - Tuesday, October 23, 2012 - link

    When I think of the "best balance between thermal performance and acoustics", neither Panasonic nor Delta come to mind. Those are fans with an exclusive focus on performance, and a blatant disregard for acoustics.

    This test may lack a lot of relevant data, but at least the GTs are in proper context here.
    Reply
  • lyeoh - Tuesday, October 23, 2012 - link

    Whaaat? Sorry I can't hear you! Reply

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