Besides the fans tested specifically for this review, the summary diagrams contain the results of one of the best 120mm fans from our previous review. It is the Noiseblocker NB Multiframe M12-S2 and I retested it anew using the new methodology.
The first diagram shows the level of noise of all the fans in this test session. As I’ve got a lot of fans, there are two additional diagrams which are versions of the main one scaled up to the level of subjective comfort and subjective noiselessness.
So, the following fans are the best in terms of noise level: Scythe Kama Flow 2, Noiseblocker NB-BlackSilent PRO, Nanoxia DX12, Triebwerk TK-121, Floston Red Impeller 120Q, and the good old Noiseblocker NB Multiframe M12-S2. The worst fans are the two models from Titan, the GlacialTech and, rather surprisingly, the Arctic Cooling.
The following diagram shows the ratio of noise level to airflow (with two scaled-up versions as above).
We’ve got the same leaders here while the group of losers has been joined by the Scythe Slip Stream 120 Slim fans which cannot pump large amounts of air due to their design and slimness.
Now we’ve reached the most interesting diagrams. The following diagram compares the air flow of the fans at the same level of noise. First, at the subjectively comfortable level of 36 dBA.
And second, at the subjectively noiseless level of 33 dBA.
In fact, these two diagrams shows the fans in the same order, from the best down to the worst, except for one change of places in the top part and minor changes in the middle part of the second diagram. The rule is simple here: the quieter the fan is, the higher speed it has at 36 and 33 dBA and, consequently, the more air it can pump at those levels of noise. This rule doesn’t hold always, though. For example, the Noiseblocker NB-BlackSilent PRO PL-2 is rotating at 1250 RPM when producing 36 dBA of noise, but has a weaker air flow than the Nanoxia DX12-1200 whose speed is 100 RPM lower. There are a few other cases like this in the diagrams.
The group of leaders expectedly includes the thick Triebwerk TK-121 model as well as the Scythe Kama Flow 2, Nanoxia DX12 and Noiseblocker NB-BlackSilent PRO. The Floston Red Impeller 120Q should be given credit for being second only to the Triebwerk fan in the below-33dBA category. The Nexus Real Silent is close to the leaders. The Cool Age and Coolink fans are also good enough here. Next goes the group of average products such as the pair from Revoltec, the Scythe Kama PWM, the GlacialTech GT and the Arctic Cooling F12 PWM.
The slim Scythe Slip Stream, the frameless Arctic Cooling F12 Pro TC and the two Titans are in the group of losers. The Cooler Master Ultra Silent and the Nanoxia DS12-600 are good in terms of air flow but have the lowest rotation speeds.
The next diagram shows the peak power consumption of these 120mm fans.
People who try to save as much electric power as they can are going to be satisfied by the junior Nanoxia DX12 or the Noiseblocker NB-BlackSilent PRO which only need half a watt. Moving down the diagram, we can see a lot of economic fans from the Cooler Master Ultra Silent to the junior Scythe Slip Stream 120 Slim which need no more than 1 watt.
The 1 to 2 watt range stretches from the second Scythe Kama Flow 2 120 to the senior model of the Scythe Slip Stream 120 Slim series. Take note that the thick Triebwerk TK-121 is quite economical among the others, outperforming the slim fan from Scythe in this respect, for example.
It is the two fans from Arctic Cooling that need the most power, yet I wouldn’t call them voracious, either. If you install five such fans into your system case, they are going to eat no more than 15 watts per hour. This is negligibly small compared to the power consumption of a mainstream graphics card like the AMD Radeon HD 6870 (about 150 watts in 3D applications). So, although these power consumption results are interesting, they can hardly serve as a factor you should take into account when go shopping.
The next diagram shows the start-up voltage of the fans.
As opposed to the power consumption results, these are more important because many users run their fans at lower-than-specified speeds using various controllers. As you can see, the Arctic Cooling F12 PWM and the midrange Scythe Kama Flow 2 120 are the best products in this respect. They are closely followed by a group of 11 fans, from the Coolink SWiF2 1201 to the Arctic Cooling F12 Pro TC, which can start up at 5 volts or lower. The Cooler Master Ultra Silent, the Nanoxia DX12-600 and the pair of Revoltec fans start at a voltage of 5 to 7 volts. The fans from Nexus and the Scythe Slip Stream 120 are the worst products in this test.
The final diagram shows the recommended prices of the tested 120mm fans.
I guess $10-12 is not a high price for a high-quality fan, so most of the tested fans are quite affordable. The $17 price tag of the exceedingly quiet Scythe Kama Flow 2 120 looks justifiable to me, too. It is the price of the Triebwerk TK-121 – almost $35 – which seems too steep. It is twice as high as the price of the Scythe Kama Flow 2 120 but the Triebwerk doesn’t offer even a 50% advantage in air flow and noisiness. The Noiseblocker NB Multiframe M12-S2 ($23) is more expensive than the newer Noiseblocker NB-BlackSilent PRO PL-1/2 although the latter are but slightly inferior in terms of both air flow and noise. I want to applaud Noiseblocker’s desire to make high-quality fans more affordable.